The little Raspberry Pi is one of the best loved hobbyist basic PCs and programming kits, running cut-down versions of Linux on a board around the same size as a credit card – and at an incredibly low price. It’s been through various iterations, and the latest Raspberry Pi 2 Model B with its ARMv7 processor has serious enough specs to be the core of a genuine desktop system, including a full suite of Ethernet, monitor, and USB ports. And if you’re not seeing the ereader possibilities of this, think of a desktop you can carry around in a business card case.
Earlier generations of the Raspberry were too compromised by the hardware to run much in the way of Linux distros, let alone other OSs. But the latest version now has enough horsepower to run almost any desktop OS. As the Raspberry Pi 2 blurb says, “it can run the full range of ARM GNU/Linux distributions, including Snappy Ubuntu Core, as well as Microsoft Windows 10.” And sure enough there is a race to put Windows onto the Raspberry, with Microsoft rolling out its own tailored version of Windows 10 for developers to explore the platform. That seems to be the version of Windows 10 for the Internet of Things rather than the full desktop OS, but we’ll see how much can be actually loaded onto the Raspberry Pi 2.
Meanwhile, Russian developer Eltech has upgraded their ExaGear Desktop software version now supports ARMv6, in addition to ARMv7, letting users run x86 apps on all models of the Raspberry Pi. With the ExaGear Desktop, you can “run Intel x86 application on your ARM-based Mini PC simultaneously with common native applications. ExaGear is a virtual machine that implements virtual x86 Linux container on ARM and allows you to run Intel x86 applications directly on ARM.” This does require installation of Wine to run Windows apps, but the creators include pretty impressive screenshots of it doing just that. And for the true hobbyists, there’s rpix86, “a PC emulator for the Raspberry Pi computer. It’s purpose is to allow you to run old DOS games on your RPi.”
So can the Raspberry Pi eventually be a full Windows machine? Could be interesting …