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July 20th, 2016

Four Alternatives to Raspbian and Ubuntu MATE

While Raspbian and Ubuntu MATE remain the go-to distros for many Raspberry Pi users, our Pi guy reminds us that there are others, and offers us a look at four alternatives.

The Raspberry Pi Report

It seems like every article one reads about the Raspberry Pi always makes a reference to Raspbian. If not, then the writer will probably write about how wonderful Ubuntu MATE is on the Raspberry Pi. Which begs the question: Are there any other OS options for the Raspberry Pi? While there’s nothing wrong with either distro, we should remember that the main appeal of using Linux is the freedom and amount of choice that is offered to the user. With that being said, here are four other distros that offer a great user experience on the Raspberry Pi.

ROCKOS screenshotROKOS: Based on Debian Jessie, ROKOS caters to those Raspberry Pi users who use or are interested in cryptocurrencies. While bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency, it is by far not the the only one. Since its latest release of V6, ROKOS allows its users to work with up to nineteen crytocurrencies and that number is climbing steadily. I tried out ROKOS when we interviewed Oktoshi, the creator, on the Pi Podcast episode #21 and was surprised at how good the distro performed. Overall the distro works extremely well and looks really good. It’s main selling point is that it integrates well with the wallet of your chosen cryptocurrency. ROKOS is a one-of-a-kind distro that I plan to use when I become more active in the cyptocurrency realm.

Manjaro-ARM: The well-known derivative of Arch Linux is now available for the Raspberry Pi. Users are able to choose from four different editions of Manjaro-ARM that cater to every aspect of using a Raspberry Pi. The Media Edition, which comes preloaded with Kodi; the Server Edition, perfect for any LAMP stack server; the Base Edition, the de facto OS for the average user; and the Minimal Edition, which gives a user free reign over the complete build. I used the the Base Edition for a few weeks and was very pleased at what the Manjaro camp has produced. If you have ever used Manjaro Linux on your desktop or laptop and were happy with it, then you won’t be disappointed using this distro on your Raspberry Pi.

Kali Linux: Everyone’s favorite penetration testing distro is another great option to use on your Raspberry Pi. While Kali Linux is probably not exactly the distro to go with for most daily operations, it is hands down the distro to use for putting your network to the grindstone. I’ve used Kali Linux on and off for a couple of months now to learn the basics of penetration testing. I have to say that the knowledge gained from using Kali is something I couldn’t have gained with any other Linux distro. If you have an extra micro SD card lying around and are wanting to learn something new about technology or have an interest in network security, then you really should download Kali Linux and try it out.

RaspBSD: If you looking to try out something other than a Linux distro on your Raspberry Pi, then RaspBSD might be what you are looking for. Based on FreeBSD, this OS allows you to flex your BSD skills through your Raspberry Pi. Though I haven’t used RaspBSD much, I highly recommend giving it a spin. One of the reasons I’m such a fan of the Raspberry Pi, is that it allows me the opportunity to experiment and work with environments outside my norm, which makes RaspBSD an excellent choice for the Raspberry Pi. I’ve tried RaspBSD a couple of times, and though it’s not likely to become my full time distro, I do appreciate that it allowed me to level up my BSD knowledge.

In addition to hosting a Raspberry Pi meetup in Washington D.C., Isaac Carter is a co-host on mintCast. He's also a software engineer who enjoys working with Java, JavaScript, and GNU/Linux. When he's not coding, you can find him reading on any number of subjects or on the golf course.

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