Raspberry Pi OS gets an update: Here's what's new

New menu, shortcuts, Picamera2 Python camera interface, and more.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The latest update to the Raspberry Pi OS brings a bunch of new desktop enhancements that improve text-based search, network management, and access to the Pi's camera system.      

Raspberry Pi OS also gains a new text-based search box for finding apps like File Manager, the OS Imager, and Image Viewer. It can be accessed by pressing the Raspberry key on the keyboard or the Windows key on other keyboards. The existing menu remains in place. 

There's also now an audio icon for output and another icon for input. Also, a microphone icon will appear after a USB or Bluetooth audio device is connected.   

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New shortcuts include Ctrl-Alt-B for opening the Bluetooth menu, and Ctrl-Alt-W for opening the Wi-Fi menu. 

This release includes the NetworkManager software, popular in other Linux distributions for Wi-Fi network management. Until now, Pi OS used dhcpcd to manage connections to Wi-Fi networks. NetworkManager is another option that users need to enable over the default dhcpcd. However, it will become the default in future. Connections do not automatically carry over between the two systems. Users also need to reconfigure any network customizations.  

"Why switch? Mainly because NetworkManager adds a bunch of extra features which you may find useful. It allows you to easily connect to wireless networks with hidden SSIDs. It makes managing VPN connections more straightforward. And it allows you to easily configure a Raspberry Pi as a Wi-Fi access point," explains Raspberry Pi's Simon Long. 

The new image is available for download from the Raspberry Pi's downloads page and can also be flashed straight to an SD card using Raspberry Pi Imager.

The in-house developed and open-source Python Picamera2 camera interface now ships with the OS. The library is based on the existing libcamera framework, but is easier to use. It replaces the former Picamera library that was deprecated in the Debian Bullseye release of Pi OS.

Raspberry Pi engineer David Plowman explains that the Pi OS platform, in this case, is moving away from Broadcom's proprietary and closed camera APIs. Raspberry Pi devices, which run on Broadcom silicon, ship with a binary blob containing its proprietary code, which has frustrated some open-source fans.

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This is a beta release of Picamera2 that developers can use with AI frameworks, such as Tensorflow for image analysis and detection. 

Picamera2 is installed with dependencies Qt and OpenGL. However these dependencies aren't installed with Raspberry Pi OS Lite for lower-powered devices as they struggle with X Windows-based applications.

Beyond video encoding and recording and drawing overlays, key features according to Raspberry Pi include: 

  • A command-driven paradigm, which means you can type Picamera2 commands straight into a Python interpreter, or into your Python scripts
  • Preview windows that use OpenGL acceleration for hardware-assisted rendering or DRM/KMS for efficient rendering when X Windows is not running
  • Additional support for embedding ready-made Picamera2 widgets into Qt applications
  • Native use of numpy, "making it very natural to use with OpenCV, TensorFlow and other Python libraries".

All the source code is available on the Picamera2 GitHub page, or as part of the libcamera project

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