updating raspberry pi 4 8gib to raspberry pi os

It’s been a good eighteen months since I worked with anything other than Pycom and Arduino in support of my paying project. I’ve certainly benefited from this effort, both intellectually and financially, but right now heading into Christmas and 2022, I need a diversion to help recharge the creative battery, and I need to go back and check the state of a number of my older projects. I combined the two efforts into one by checking on my Raspberry Pi 4 systems.

First thing to note is that the last time I logged into the Pi was back in June 2020. As soon as the Pi powered up and I logged in I tried the usual sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade dance. And it failed. To make a long story short, I did manage to do a full upgrade to the latest 64-bit version of Raspberry Pi OS, the version built with Debian 11/bullseye. But it was seriously squirrelly in operation.

I backed up the pi account and development areas from the older card to a thumb drive, downloaded the latest image from  https://downloads.raspberrypi.org/raspios_arm64/images/ , performed a clean install of Raspberry Pi OS 64-bit using balenaEtcher ( https://www.balena.io/etcher/ ) onto a Sandisk Extreme 128GB micro SDXC card, rebooted with the new card, then copied everything back over, and carried on from there.

In the middle of doing all of that I took some additional time to try a few new distributions aimed squarely at the Raspberry Pi 4. They were Ubuntu 21.10 for IoT, Fedora 35 for IoT, and Pop!_Pi for Raspberry Pi 4. Here’s what happened with each to keep me still on Raspbian.

  1. Ubuntu 21.10 for IoT was perhaps the cleanest install of the three. It was no problem to flash and boot into Ubuntu. The critical feature on boot is for the OS to automatically resize the boot partition. Raspbian does it, and so does Ubuntu for IoT. My problem with Ubuntu on the RPi 4 8GiB is sloppy performance. At one point I attempted to drag-and-drop an application icon onto the Ubuntu dock. It’s a habit I developed using macOS and Windows (10 and earlier). Under Ubuntu you have to right-click on the app icon and select on the resultant menu to add the icon to the dock. My drag-and-drop attempt locked the Ubuntu desktop up solidly. After waiting a few minutes to see if it would ever come back, I pulled power and then the card and wiped it clean for the next experiment.
  2. Fedora 35 for IoT wouldn’t boot into a graphical desktop. I have a feeling that Fedora 35 for IoT hasn’t a decent driver to use my LG 34UM61-P, a 34″ diagonal 21:9 UltraWide® monitor. All the other distributions can find and use this monitor, but apparently Fedora 35 for IoT can’t. Once again, wipe and reload.
  3. Pop!_Pi for Raspberry Pi 4 was an interesting alternative I hoped would work out. It booted just fine, had reasonable performance, but it lacked one vital feature. It currently won’t resize the boot partition and it has no tool like raspi_config to allow you to manually do it yourself. I liked the way it looked and worked. I would have loved to have kept it, but it was not to be.

I’m back to doing some personal work on the current Raspberry Pi OS. The tools are up-to-date, especially Python3, and Python2 is not completely gone. I’ve got the last Go and Rust, and between those three I’m keeping busy. In fact, right now I’m moving all my little Go work over to modules. So far I’ve not hit any roadblocks. Once done I’ll check that in, and then move on to more physical computing.

2 thoughts on “updating raspberry pi 4 8gib to raspberry pi os

  1. Is it just me, or do distros for Pi have a tendency to not function well if asked to do anything “big and fancy” such as run a large monitor or perform system functions using a GUI? Maybe I’m too far out of it to understand anymore, and just glad my 12-year-old laptop can still crank along in Linux.

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    • Raspbian/Raspberry Pi OS is tuned to the hardware. It’s taken the one guy doing this a long time to reach this point. First you start with baseline Debian; if you cat /etc/os-release you’ll see it’s based on Debian GNU/Linux 11 (bullseye). Then pick a light-weight graphical desktop to base your desktop on, such as LXDE (lxde.org), not the Gnome desktop.

      All that care in preparation seems to be missing elsewhere. It seems to me is that all the other distributions want to do is check the “runs on Raspberry Pi” checkbox. I can’t believe all the other distributions are more than just cursorily tested before these other distributions are sent out into the world.


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