Ubuntu MATE 16.04 LTS......

Yes, you can run Ubuntu on the Rasp­berry Pi, but does it of­fer a real al­ter­na­tive to the Rasp­bian dis­tri­bu­tion? Les Pounder takes it for a spin.

Linux Format - - CONTENTS -

Les Pounder pops desk­top Ubuntu on this Pi to see if it still starts and it does! He’s amazed.

Ubuntu has been with us for many years, but only since the Rasp­berry Pi 2 was re­leased in 2015 have we seen Ubuntu ap­pear on this small, sin­gle board com­puter. The wait was largely thanks to the ARM v7 pro­ces­sor and in­creased mem­ory needed to run the pop­u­lar dis­tri­bu­tion.

Now, with the Rasp­berry Pi 3’s more pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor at hand, we take a look at Ubuntu 16.04.2 us­ing the light­weight MATE desk­top en­vi­ron­ment —a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Gnome 2 project, which re­mains a pop­u­lar desk­top en­vi­ron­ment well suited to older and less-pow­er­ful ma­chines.

In­stal­la­tion of the im­age is ex­actly the same process as you’d use for Rasp­bian, re­quir­ing that you write the im­age to a blank SD card. The Ubuntu MATE team recommends a class 6/10 SD card for best re­sults.

Once in­stalled and in­serted into our Pi you en­ter the first boot and con­fig­ured your user ac­count. Once com­pleted you’re pre­sented with the desk­top. It’s un­re­mark­able but very pro­fes­sional look­ing, with the usual menu in the top left of the screen with short­cuts to ap­pli­ca­tions and lo­ca­tions on our SD card and ex­ter­nal drives. There are also Blue­tooth and Wi-Fi menus in the top right of the screen. Ubuntu MATE is com­pat­i­ble with the Pi3 Wifi and Blue­tooth pack­ages, but we no­ticed a bug just af­ter con­fig­ur­ing the user ac­count: the Wi-Fi menu wouldn’t list an SSID. A re­boot reme­died this, but it shouldn’t re­ally hap­pen.

What kept Ubuntu MATE in the shadow of Rasp­bian were lit­tle things such as Python re­quir­ing sudo ac­cess for the GPIO. But this was the first test on our list and we’re happy to say that you can code your Python projects us­ing the IDLEPython edi­tor in the same man­ner as you would with Rasp­bian. The pop­u­lar GPIO Zero and Sense Hat Python li­braries are pre­in­stalled and work for Python 2 and 3; in fact the new Sense Hat Emu­la­tor is also in­stalled and fully com­pat­i­ble with Ubuntu MATE, mean­ing you can play around with a vir­tual ver­sion of the sci­en­tific sen­sor plat­form. To make sure that Python was fully op­er­a­tional we also used the pip3Python pack­ag­ing tool to in­stall another li­brary, GUI Zero, and this worked flaw­lessly.

Our next tests were with Son­icPi and Minecraft. Both work well—with Son­icPi there was a slightly an­noy­ing issue where the vol­ume con­trol was non-func­tional, but we just used the sys­tem vol­ume con­trols in­stead, and Minecraft worked just as it does for Rasp­bian. We were able to write code to al­ter the Minecraft world with no is­sues.

Our next test was to use the of­fi­cial Rasp­berry Pi cam­era with Ubuntu. In pre­vi­ous re­leases this hasn’t been pos­si­ble, but af­ter en­abling the in­ter­face us­ing the raspi-con­fig tool (another great ad­di­tion from Rasp­bian) we were able to cap­ture im­ages and video us­ing the ter­mi­nal and via the Python li­brary. As men­tioned the raspi­con­fig tool is on board, and used to con­fig­ure many dif­fer­ent pro­to­cols and in­ter­faces on the Pi. One of th­ese is a one-wire in­ter­face, used with sen­sors such as the DS18B20 tem­per­a­ture sen­sor. We tested this with a Python 3 li­brary and again it worked in­cred­i­bly sim­ply, just as with Rasp­bian.

Ubuntu MATE has fi­nally stepped out of the shadow of Rasp­bian. Here we have a dis­tri­bu­tion that not only caters to the tin­ker­ers and mak­ers that make up so much of the Rasp­berry Pi com­mu­nity, but it also caters for the av­er­age user: some­one who wants a cheap com­puter to ful­fill a ba­sic task. Rasp­bian is still the main choice, but Ubuntu MATE for the Rasp­berry Pi has fi­nally come of age.

It looks and feels just like Ubuntu MATE on other ma­chines, but what makes it dif­fer­ent are all the Pi-spe­cific fea­tures.

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