Raspberry Pi Trading has announced the latest release of Raspberry Pi OS, the default Debian-based operating system that ships on SD cards for Raspberry Pi devices. Raspberry Pi OS has now been updated with Chromium version 84, the open-source foundation of Google Chrome.
The Raspberry Pi OS team says it's done a lot of testing and tweaking in Chromium 84 to ensure Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom videoconferencing apps work well on it.
The move is part of efforts by the team behind Raspberry Pi to help users participate in the online video meetings that are now essential for work and family, almost a year after China acknowledged the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
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"They should all now work smoothly on your Raspberry Pi's Chromium," says Simon Long, a user experience engineer for Raspberry Pi.
The other big change is that Raspberry Pi's version of Chromium is dropping support for Adobe's Flash Player software. This will be the last version of Chromium on Raspberry Pi that supports Flash.
Adobe, along with Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla, jointly announced in 2017 that they would end support for Flash at the end of 2020. Flash historically has been a favorite target for cybercriminals but its capabilities have largely been replaced by open web standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly.
Adobe will no longer issue free security updates after December 2020, but enterprise customers can still buy patches via Samsung-owned Harman.
"Flash Player is being retired by Adobe at the end of the year, so this release will be the last that includes it. Most websites have now stopped requiring Flash Player, so this hopefully isn't something that anyone notices," said Long.
Raspberry Pi OS is also moving to the PulseAudio sound server, which deals with a lot of the complexities with audio on Linux systems.
The biggest problem, according to Long, has been the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA), a low-level interface that Raspberry Pi hardware has needed but restricted audio output to a single app, such as YouTube. That meant no simultaneous sound from VLC, the software that Raspberry Pi devices otherwise rely on for playing audio files.
"Similarly, if you want to switch the sound from your YouTube video from HDMI to a USB sound card, you can't do it while the video is playing; it won't change until the sound stops. These aren't massive problems, but most modern operating systems do handle audio in a more flexible fashion," explained Long.
The PulseAudio update places a layer between the audio hardware and applications that send and receive audio and allows the output to shift between different devices while it is playing.
The feature furthers Raspberry Pi's ambition to be seen as a proper PC – a claim the UK company has been making since the release of the Raspberry Pi 4, which is available with up to 8GB of RAM or in the new Raspberry Pi 400 computer keyboard with 4GB of RAM.
The Raspberry Pi 4 boots pretty quickly and apps start consistently swiftly but it's not as fast as most laptops, and that's not surprising given the OS is loading from an SD card, according to ZDNet reviewer Jamie Watson.
On the other hand, starting from a low position, the only way is up and the latest improvements to Raspberry Pi OS push it in the right direction.
Long notes that PulseAudio runs by default with audio controls using PulseAudio rather than ALSA.