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What's changed in the Raspberry Pi 2 and the new Raspberry Pi desktop?

08 February 2015


There was much excitement this week as the Raspberry Pi Foundation released the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, boasting 1GB of memory and a four-core processor. The box for the Pi 2s sold by Element14 proudly declares that the new Pi is six times faster than the previous Model B, although I've heard that for some highly optimised applications performance could exceed that. I got a Pibow case to go with mine, in a different colour from my previous ones, so I can tell the new Pi apart from my previous Pis.

photo of my new Raspberry Pi 2 and pibow, arriving in the box

The new Raspberry Pi 2 is 6x faster, says the box!

Today, I had time to plug mine in and try it out. The first thing to note is that you won't be able to use your existing Raspbian/NOOBS MicroSD card. Even if you update it (and upgrade it), it won't work when you plug it into the new Raspberry Pi. You need to start over, reinstalling Noobs on the card, otherwise the Pi will freeze on the rainbow screen at the start. If you can't get your new Raspberry Pi 2 to boot properly, make sure you've installed the latest software on your card. Note that reinstalling the operating system wipes the card, though, so make sure you have a backup of your data (or better still, start over with a new card). The new Pi is compatible with the same files and applications as your older Pis, but you will need to copy files to your new SD card and re-install your applications. The Raspberry Pi 2 is the same as a Model B+ in terms of hardware, so it is compatible with any add-ons or GPIO software written for that (and also features the extra GPIO pins and USB sockets).

It was immediately obvious that it was faster. When I was writing Raspberry Pi For Dummies, I tried a number of applications on the Raspberry Pi, including LibreOffice (a word processing, spreadsheet and presentations suite) and GIMP (a photo editing package). They're both covered in the book, but I cautioned that they might run a bit slower than you're comfortable with. Well, not any more! You can edit images without lag, and use LibreOffice without pushing the processor to the point where things slow down. The Pi is starting to become viable now not just as a second computer, but also as a primary Linux desktop for basic home and school use.

photo of the Raspberry Pi 2, showing the model name on the board

The new Raspberry Pi 2

Since we published Raspberry Pi For Dummies, 2nd edition, a new version of the desktop software has been released too, giving the Pi a much classier look, whichever model of the Pi you are using. There are a few changes from what's in Chapter 4 of the book, as a result, although I don't think there's anything that's likely to cause real confusion.

Screenshot of the new desktop software

A picture of the new desktop, courtesy of RaspberryPi.org

Here are the changes I've spotted from what's written in the book:

Will you be getting a Raspberry Pi 2? How will you use it? Leave a comment below!

Find out more about Raspberry Pi For Dummies, 2nd edition.

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Books by Sean McManus

Scratch Programming in Easy 

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