Ubuntu (Finally) Officially Lands On The Raspberry Pi. But Will Anyone Notice?

The Raspberry Pi has been with us for over eight years now, and during that time it has seen a myriad operating system ports. It seems that almost anything can be run on the little computer, but generally the offerings have seen minority uptake in the face of the officially supported Raspbian, or as it’s now called, Raspberry Pi OS.

Maybe that could change, with the arrival of an Ubuntu release for the platform. For those of you pointing out that this is nothing new, what makes the new version 20.10 release special is that it’s the first official full Ubuntu release, rather than an unofficial port.

So Raspberry Pi 4 owners can now install the same full-fat Ubuntu they have on their PCs, and with the same official Ubuntu support. What does this really do for them that Raspberry Pi OS doesn’t? Underneath they share Debian underpinnings, and they both benefit from a huge quantity of online resources should the user find themselves in trouble. Their repositories both contain almost every reasonable piece of software that could be imagined, so the average Pi user might be forgiven for a little confusion.

We don’t expect this news to take the Pi desktop world by storm then. Ubuntu is a powerful distribution, but it’s fair to say that it is not the least bloated among distributions, and that some of its quirks such as Snap applications leave many users underwhelmed. By contrast Raspberry Pi OS is relatively lightweight, and crucially it’s optimised for the Pi. Its entire support base online is specific to the Pi hardware, so the seeker of solutions need not worry about encountering some quirk in an explanation that pertains only to PC platforms.

It’s fair to say though, that this release is almost certainly not targeted at the casual desktop user. We’d expect that instead it will be in the Ubuntu portfolio for commercial and enterprise users, and in particular for the new Raspberry Pi 4 Compute Module in which it will no doubt form the underpinnings of many products without their owners ever realising it.

[via OMG Ubuntu]

50 thoughts on “Ubuntu (Finally) Officially Lands On The Raspberry Pi. But Will Anyone Notice?

    1. I installed the 64 version and it’s also quite slow on my 2Gb pi 4. I know it says minimum 4gb but it will install on the 2gb version also. It’s usable.

      For browsing and r it works fine. Also tried the doc and calc applications and they start up fine. No clue how big a document that can handle.

      If you throw YouTube into the mix, it gets really bogged down. The raspberry os was also slow with YouTube, it’s not an Ubuntu thing.

      It all depends on use cases. Browsing and not video intensive applications, you’re good. Maybe the 32 bit version would run better. Haven’t tested it.

      1. I’ve been playing with Pi4 for a while now, mostly with a MATE desktop and its been pretty much smooth as you like. The one thing that is really noticeable is a tail on windows being dragged around. But videos play smoothly from the web, loading times are reasonable – not as snappy as my workstation of course, but for less than 1/10 the price of just a half decent x64 cpu you can’t expect it to do that… The only things it can’t just do (as effortlessly at least) are things like run something via WINE – the stuff for which being ARM based causes trouble.
        (Mostly been using 64 bit ubuntu-mate, but some playing on raspian too)

        So its definately not a Raspberry pi thing, the pi 4’s really can do everything just fine if the OS does not drag them down too badly. Heck I’ve run a VM or two on an 8GB one and the performance has been just fine on host and VM at the same time (nothing spectacular but way better than you would expect for such a cheap and small machine, useable or better)- its certainly both more powerful and energy efficient than my old toughbook (which is my daily driver laptop), and functions well.

        The software stack is a little rougher round the edges, and being ARM based a few programs you want might not exist (so unless you can compile them from source for ARM you will have to find something else). But Pi4 with the right software can just do what you would expect a ‘real’ computer to do reasonably well or better.
        The only thing I do regularly that it won’t really cope with is really complex cad stuff – its only got a few gb of memory and less developed gpu software so thats not a huge surprise, but it does still work for anything that isn’t overly complex.

        So if this ubuntu release is that problematic its this release needing better optimiseations, I’ll have to try it out at some point.

        Oh also if you really want to use a Pi4 as a desktop you do need proper cooling – that SOC is a monster if its able to run unfettered but push it hard without and the thermal throttling is pretty severe (not quite macbook severe but in the same sort of area run flat out for less than 10 seconds) – so the Pi4 can be used for most embedded applications without and still get the best out of its CPU – as most interacting with the real world is sudden spike loads when it has to react and idling along the rest of the time.. But no way will it run properly without some cooling for more intense use.

        1. I’m not so sure about 1/10 the cost, but then I ran into a liquidation of m720q with g5400t for $150. NVMe and SATA native, plenty of usb3 etc etc. Even added a p600 card for less than $100, including the rear bracket and a new lid for cooling fan

          Unless its a portable build or severely power constrained, probably not the best desktop choice.

          But then I have an i7 Chromebox Cn62, scored for peanuts ( <$100), had a bad eeprom chip. Running UEFI bios now

          1. Oh absolutely, as you say possessing power efficiency advantages, and is very useable but desktops can be acquired cheaply – just not new. Personally I have a Pi 4 that is my day to day computer now – I figure I’ll probably save enough on electric keeping the power hog of a workstation off to buy a new pi 4 every 3-6months (Even through the winter I can probably manage to run the house and pi off the solar so not pay for much elec at all) – Hard to argue with a max power draw on the pi being just less than 1/10th of idle on the workstation (Dual CPU and some fairly power hungry GPU and ECC RAM means it can’t idle down quite as much as some)..

            If you compare purchases NEW so its like for like £300 processors are not unusual (heck £3K isn’t even the top end) so 1/10 the price is in the ballpark, but so is 1/5th and you can just about argue 1/2…

    2. Also too slow for daily use on the 4GB version. Granted I was running it on a 1440p monitor, but even at 1080p it’s just sluggish and pretty much unusable compared to RPiOS. All of this is, of course, with the unaccelerated UI and running off of a fast but ultimately limited SD card. If they can work out the UI kinks and button up running off of USB3, it might be a contender as a daily desktop on par with a low end laptop.

      1. Running off USB is doable, just a project. I have a Pi2 that I set up to run from USB and have no issues. Still need an SD card for the first stage of boot of course but after that it doesn’t get used.

    3. I have tried Gentoo, Arch Linux ARM, and Ubuntu 20.10 (plus previous versions), and the best performance by far was Arch Linux ARM. Although it has some deficiencies, I am able to use it as my desktop running Thunderbird email client, Chromium, Firefox (for Netflix playback), Scribus, Openshot, Remmina, and other desktop and development apps very well. What was great about Ubuntu 20.10 was the integrated vcgencmd I needed for my SlideShow app to turn off the screen when it slept at night. Other Ubuntu version were not as well equipped to handle the screen nor run Kivy without crash after running out of memory. So, I’m pleased with the latest release running on both RPi4B: 2GB (SlideShow) and 4GB (Desktop).

  1. I installed it on a Pi3 as an intended replacement for my pi2b weather station. I need to upgrade from a really old version of raspian and switch to python 3 so its a rebuild rather than a upgrade. I just installed the os yesterday and nothing’s running on it yet so we’ll have to see how it goes.

  2. I think people are missing the point behind the significance to an official Ubuntu distro (presuming Ubuntu stays with it long enough).

    Many distros & tool\software projects use Unbuntu as their base\foundation; so this will benefit the larger rPi community, as it will bring more downstream contributions and energy to other rPi OS initiatives.

  3. Works nicely for me, nice write up. There’s discussion on a lot of the problems called out here on the Ubuntu Discourse: https://discourse.ubuntu.com/t/ubuntu-desktop-on-raspberry-pi-feedback/

    To clarify “what makes the new version 20.10 release special is that it’s the first official full Ubuntu release, rather than an unofficial port.” it’s the first official full Ubuntu *Desktop* release, rather than a port. But there have been official images for Ubuntu Server and Ubuntu Core for a long time.

    1. Totally agree, I wasted a lot of time today installing Ubuntu 20.10 on my 4GB Pi, and found it very slow as compared with the RPi OS. Cound not easily figure out how to get audio output over aux either. I am not going to waste any more time trying to fiddle with Ubuntu, I am pretty happy with my own customized version of Rpi OS.

  4. I had the same question in my mind when I read about Ubuntu RPI OS support. What is the benefit? Yes, I run KUbuntu on all my desktops/laptop/server (all AMD Ryzen based machines, no Windoze in sight), so could just put Ubuntu on a one of my RPIs …. But why? As I use my RPIs for mostly ‘projects’ and run headless (SSH access), PI OS/Raspbian (32 or 64 bit) has all the hardware access tools built in. The base OS is basically the same as pointed out above. Bottom line I didn’t see any reason to use Ubuntu here (unless PI OS goes away) .

    I’ve experimented using a PI-4 as a simple file server and possible desktop. As a server I think it does just fine having native GB network speed, and USB 3.0 for HDDs and SSDs. Running mine on PI OS 64bit. As a desktop it is ok. Do the job for email, browser, office apps and such. Used the 4GB model for testing and a standard sized monitor. The one item that made it quite a bit more snappy was boot from a USB3.0 SSD (or boot from SD card and then use file system on SSD). I use a Samsung 500GB T5 for the SSD which I would recommend for its small form factor. I don’t ‘need’ another desktop around, so turned the desktop experiment into a experimental file server which it works well at (have the OS on the T5 drive, and a 4TB HDD external drive for storage). Now have a 8GB model for fun too. Never can enough RPIs sitting around!

    1. Not duplicating all the release engineering and QA resources. That’s what nobody running weird fruity “remixes” of Ubuntu seem to understand. You’re relying on a far smaller team of individuals to handle everything.

      For most of those sorts of projects, “just keep current with upstream” is a challenge, or they fail at even that.

      This is the problem with a lot of firefox-based browsers. Waterfox? Largely one dude. The auto updater is busted, he’s stuck on an ancient ESR release, a lot of site just mysteriously don’t work, the bug tracker is full of bugs. He’s completely overwhelmed.

    2. I’m using a pi4 4gb as a desktop right now, booting from an SSD using a USB3nvme adapter board. I have a killer AMD Ryzen7+Nvidia setup hooked to the same 2 1080p monitors, but being off-grid solar, there are times when I’ll tolerate the slower pi, especially if all I’m really doing is browsing the web (including youtube) or editing some code and stuff like that – the big monster is turned on for things like DaVinci Resolve and major simulation stuff.

      I’m running the Twister 32 bit distro, which even emulates dos a little faster than the old 286 pcs were. Not too shabby.
      I did overclock it to 2 ghz, and use that cute cooling tower…

      You know, it’s really not too bad, I was surprised by that. The only thing that really bogs is actually gmail’s page in chrome, which becomes unusably slow (10’s of seconds to respond to a keystroke!) after sitting there awhile.
      Perhaps it’s a good thing to reveal who writes horrible scripts that eat machines up.

      I tried ubuntu on some odroid Xu4’s and HC2s…their spin on MATE stinks – it’s no where near as nice as the real Clem version. Armbian is better there.

      When I start hearing that raspi os supports 64 bit really really – video acceleration – I’ll move to that. I don’t need the full fat ubuntu for anything – I run Mint/Mate on my big boxes and have for a really long time.

      1. Nice to know I’m not the only one using a Pi for the power saving. Not off-grid here, but any time we don’t have to pay the grid money is a win (heck they might even have to pay me).
        Will say that the Ubuntu MATE distro (you can find it on the raspberrypi website) does 64 bit, and is working for me really well.

        1. I’m using it for powersaving on Server devices. Easy to make a single purpose/function server like a mailserver or a PBX… Consumes teacupfuls of power and gets similar results to using the more power hungry Celerons and Atoms.

    3. You benefit by using the same OS everywhere. I tried Raspbian, but it sucks as an OS. Ubuntu is much better (and MATE is better still).

      So this is great news for me. I’ve avoided Pi’s because they didn’t have Ubuntu. Now I bought my first (a Pi4 4GB)

    1. That’s ABSOLUTELY not even remotely accurate. X-D

      https://www.manjaro.org/downloads/arm/raspberry-pi-4/arm8-raspberry-pi-4-kde-plasma/

      Ooops.

      https://david.wragg.org/blog/2020/01/installing-64-bit-debian-on-rpi.html

      Ooops.

      https://www.suse.com/products/arm/

      Ooops.

      https://git.yoctoproject.org/cgit/cgit.cgi/meta-raspberrypi/ Of course, if you want to do the full monty there, you’ll have to add a few extra metadata layers past this and the key, core ones for Yocto off of madscientist42’s GitHub repos for something other than XFCE4 (EFL, E, etc. is available there…) or something other than sysvinit or systemd (meta-runit’s there and can be extended if there’s a needed run file there. All 64-bit aarch64 for a LONG time now…even on Pi 3’s AND 4’s.

      Ooops.

      You don’t “need” Ubuntu for 64-bit or for Pi 4’s…unless you’re just an Ubuntu fan.

      1. Heh… You can speak for yourself, to be honest. Most actually hold HIS position. What’ve you got, a mouse in your pocket?

        In the end, Ubuntu’s “good” for a desktop (There’s better than they now…) and not much else. You don’t want/need Snaps for embedded devices or even appliance servers. And it’s fragile compared to other answers that leverage Container tech or just simply doing sensible things like limited package distribution for JUST your application. It’s a high risk item for anything other than desktops to be blunt with you there. Ubuntu’s been a solution looking for problems to solve. From trying to do phones to “fixing” something that wasn’t broken in the first place (If it was, Ryan Gordon’s FatELF was a cleaner solution and would’ve been adopted…)

        For the space, it’s a bit of day late, dollar short. They could’ve been in the game and a lot more relevant. Now? And for the other uses, for like a CM4, or similar…unless you’re trying for basic education on the CM4, Ubuntu’s, well, like a spare tire at best- you can’t, in your right mind ship a commercial project with that…with Ubuntu. Too many attack faces, etc.

        We don’t need a bloated up Desktop solution except maybe FOR just that- and there’s better solutions than Ubuntu of late that were official, supported, and in some cases, even supporting aarch64 out of the box.

        1. “We” have members like me and my employer who are using the system as an embedded server where desktop performance is irrelevant and Ubuntu compatibility is a big deal.

          But sure go ahead and pretend that desktop performance mattes to everyone, it just makes you look bad.

          1. If you’re doing “embedded” and “Ubuntu” I’d contend you’re actually **NOT** doing Embedded. (Hint: I was one of the first 24 to ever DO, “Embedded Linux,” and rolled it all by hand. I think I would know what I’m talking about. And know you’re a lot less clueful than you’re puffing up to.)

          2. “embedded” in the enterprise server world means a computer with no display and no keyboard even if it is running Oracle server and an nginx instance., both get priority tech support from canonical as opposed to the desktop where you can clearly see that they do not care so much, hence your bitching. Ubuntu on rasp pi means that raspi becomes an embedded server option for many orgs.

  5. Meh. It won’t even provide an impact for the CM4, folks. To misquote something from a movie…

    “Try looking into that place where you dared not support! You’ll find Yocto there, staring out at you!”

    The cruel truth there is Ubuntu was ideally suited for desktops and somewhat lessly servers. For many, most likely most, of the things the CM4 would be put to, you want/need a bespoke Embedded Linux distribution to do the work there so you can harden the thing against all sorts of stuff. In the end, that equates to Buildroot, OpenWRT, LTIB, and Yocto.

    I’ve been building 64-bit bespoke stuff for almost as long as the Pi 4 was out for the Pi 4 and doing it for Pi3’s nearly as long as they’ve been shipping- along with cranking out stuff for other ARM boards. Just pick the machine and build- out pops an image file for the target.

    Ubuntu’s gotten to the game waaaaay late. And it’s just artificially propping it up there, trying to claim they’re usable or matter for the space in there. Hell, they don’t even really matter for NVidia and if NVidia would quit propping them up as well- they’d likely get more traction than they’re currently getting with their Jetson stuff.

    1. Who knew that hackaday readers would be so ignorant of enterprise software where Ubuntu has been well established since 16.04??? They are making a lot of money selling server licences to banks, brokerage firms and hospitals. This is where they make their money and they could really care less about what “you” think.

      1. “Enterprise” != Embedded. Get that straight. Oh, wait, you know it all since you cowpiled stuff on an Octane back in the late 90’s. I was doing it on Alphas. Get over yourself.

        1. Ecc ram is only needed on database servers not necessary or helpful on web servers and other systems that only handle transient data.

          Also there are redundant clustered databases systems in the. enterprise world where bit errors are detected and corrected. Not all bit corruption happens in RAM., robust systems must allow for bit errors in NIC cards and other places where ECC RAM will not save you

    2. By the way I was building 64 bit apps and filing bug reports on an SGI Octane in 1996 so you do not impress me. In fact your clean compiles today are happening because early 64 bit adopters like me found lots of issues and reported them

      1. Heh. And again PUFFERY. I was doing the same things then as well. Ooops. You don’t impress me in the slightest. You can’t make a minimal solution using Ubuntu. No possible way to do so. The fact that you’ve the temerity to claim it’s “embedded” is laughable. How many MB/GB are you flinging at the problem and not doing “fancy” stuff like ALPR where you’ve got gigs of neural nets done in deep learning?

        I can still make routers that fit on floppies with all of this. Ubuntu embedded? You’d be entertaining if it weren’t for how embarassing that actually IS to claim there.

        1. Ubuntu image is a tiny amount of storage compared to modern database files. Today we have SQL tables with 4 billion rows that consume terabytes so Ubuntu is very tiny in comparison. With proper indexing these enormous tables still give excellent performance on DEC alpha and itanium (still in use in many places) so they will scream on modern ARM.

      2. Well said. Amen. These wet behind the ears youngsters probably don’t know what an SGI Octane even is. This youngster does. My dad has the entire Indigo, Tezro and Octane line. Well the entire Octane line except for the Octane III which he refers to as being the pseudo Octane! Represents a considerable investment back in the day. I grew up using SGI beginning with IRIX and later Linux. I’m 24 and been using Linux for 20 years! Not an expert, judging by comments here, but I know a thing or two. The level of ignorance here is annoying. Quite juvenile.

        1. All software is terrible, but some of it is useful for specific tasks.

          Raspbian has always been a shipwreck of old untested packages with known issues, blob overlays, and shipped Betas inflicted on the users. I have chatted with some of the engineers about this very real challenge, and it is almost certainly a management issue due to shifts in the foundation’s focus away from the Debian OS work.

          Gentoo and Ubuntu/Debian were the first 64bit ARM environments available for pi4. Given the opportunity to standardize the same software on the servers as the embedded linuxRT systems meant fewer problems cross-porting libraries, cross-compiling and debugging complex systems. Ubuntu needs a lot of polishing to get it usable (stripped-down kernel, purged netplan, and neuter most of systemd network control), but can work well if your know what you are doing. Memory is cheap now, so the argument about saving space is less meaningful these days.

          Yocto is fine for simple minimalist single-task applications like routers, but a cost-optimized hardware choice also means you pretty much abandon forward growth/security of the systems. The butchered library/driver environment also means a whole different set of issues the main user-base will never encounter. Yocto will keep a team busy doing everything except shipping code, and when the build master moves on it usually implodes your product line too. Build your brick house out of grains of sand when it makes sense, but do not assume it is appropriate in every situation.

          Note distributed systems are a different class of problems than embedded systems. The people who don’t understand why this is true, are almost certainly on a doomed project. Now I am not saying my own projects aren’t terrible too, but at least future people can adapt it to fit their needs using a standard Linux user space.

          Try to be kinder to each other,
          the age of minimalist 32bit Linux stuff is deprecating whether we like it or not.
          ;-)

  6. Ubuntu on anything is a never-ending train wreck. It took forever for Ubuntu to finally realize mobile and desktop “convergence” was a really dumb idea and give up on the horrible “Unity” user interface. With Unity gone I started looking at Ubuntu with interest again, but that didn’t last long, I met Snaps!

  7. I have a 512 GB SD card and want to re-write it but I’m not sure if I should get Raspberry Pi OS (32 bit) (recommended by Pi), Ubuntu Desktop 20.10 or download the Raspberry Pi OS (64 bit) from the links in the comments. The SD card recommends a 64 bit image. Which one should I use?????? Help?????

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