The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced a visual overhaul for Raspbian, which now comes complete with a custom-built desktop environment dubbed PIXEL.
Based on Debian, Raspbian has been the recommended Linux distribution for the Raspberry Pi since its launch more than four years ago. Over that time, though, it has shifted considerably in appearance and capabilities, with its biggest change now live: a shift to the Pixel desktop environment. A backronym formed somewhat painfully into 'Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Lightweight
,' Pixel - no relation to Google's rumoured Pixel phones, also based on the Linux kernel - is designed to offer a more modern user interface while also boosting the operating system's usability.
Aside from the tweaked appearance, Pixel brings a few functional changes. The old-fashioned console boot screen has been replaced with a graphical splash screen, which can be disabled by the user if preferred; the Infinality font rendering package comes pre-installed, making typefaces appear smoother and cleaner; it's now possible to toggle power to the Raspberry Pi 3's on-board Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios, as well as selected USB-connected wireless devices; and the system comes with the RealVNC server and client pre-installed, along with the Foundation's emulator for its SenseHAT hardware add-on.
The final change may be less welcome to those running older Raspberry Pi models: a switch from the Epiphany web browser to the Chromium browser on which Google's Chrome is based. Although this significantly improves web functionality on the device, including allowing for hardware-accelerated video playback directly within the browser, Chromium is considerably more resource-intensive than Epiphany and may run poorly on single-core Pis including the Raspberry Pi Model B+, Model A+, and the ultra-cheap Raspberry Pi Zero. For these systems, Epiphany remains installed and can be run manually through the command line.
Instructions for downloading the new operating system image or updating an existing Raspbian installation to Pixel can be found on the official announcement