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26 October 2020
With the release of Ubuntu 20.10 the Raspberry Pi now gets an official desktop version of the popular Linux desktop. In the video below I go through the install and initial experience running Ubuntu desktop on the Raspberry Pi.
Before you rush out to install there are a few caveats. You will need a Raspberry Pi 4 with at least 4GB of RAM. In the video I have an 8GB version. You also need to have a fairly large capacity micro SD Card. It needs around 9GB of usuable space on the SD-Card so effectively that means you need a 16GB or larger card.
Although the initial setup is through the standard Raspberry Pi imager it then continues much of the setup when plugged in to the Raspberry Pi which is slow (I've had to speed up many parts of the video by x10). Once the install is complete then it is not as fast as running Raspberry Pi OS (as you would expect with a full Gnome desktop environment). It takes a long time to boot and login, and launching applications feels quite slow as well. Although it is fast enough to be perfectly usable once you get past the boot and login.
There is no VNC server installed as standard (RealVNC is included with Raspberry Pi OS which is excellent, but that is commercial software provided free for individual use on the Raspberry Pi). Instead I installed X11VNC which works well, but you need to launch it on the Raspberry Pi first.
There don't appear to be any of the Raspberry Pi specific libraries installed by default. It does look like these can be installed separately (such as Python 3 gpiozero), but I haven't yet had time to test these. Hopefully I'll add that to a future video.
If you have a Raspberry Pi 4 with lots of memory and you want a 64-bit operating system, and you want to run the full Gnome environment then Ubuntu 20.10 is now available. If you are more interested in running the same operating system as other Raspberry Pi models, want to get the best performance, or want the programming support for the GPIO "out of the box" then the Raspberry Pi OS still has the edge. It's good to have a choice and it's free so if you already have the hardware then it's worth giving it a go.
If you don't want the full desktop experience, but want to run it as a web server then I've already created a review of Setting up a webserver using Ubuntu 20.10 server edition (beta). I've included that video below:
If you are interested in seeing more on Ubuntu for the Raspberry Pi then please visit the PenguinTutor YouTube channel. Please leave a comment on one of the videos if there is something you'd like me to cover in a future video and please subscribe to find out more about my posts on maker topics including the Raspberry Pi.