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.
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.
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.
Here are the changes I've spotted from what's written in the book:
- There's just one browser now. It's Epiphany, the one covered in depth in the book.
- The programs menu and taskbar have moved from the bottom of the screen to the top. The menu button now says 'Menu' on it. To find out how much you're maxing out the processor, you now look to the top-right. If you have a Pi 2, you're going to be pleasantly surprised!
- There are no icons on the desktop any more, unless you put them there. You access everything through the menu.
- The WiFi Config tool can be found in the Preferences section of the menu.
- To change your desktop appearance, you now choose Theme and Appearance Settings, under preferences in the menu.
- There is no Other category in the menu now. It was always a bit of a 'dustbin' of things that should have better homes or be hidden from the user. But if you install software that expects to go there, you might have difficulty finding it in the menu. XInvaders 3D, one of the ten recommended software packages in Chapter 19, installs into Other and so doesn't appear to be in the menu any more. To run it, use the Run option from the menu, and type in 'xinv3d'.
Will you be getting a Raspberry Pi 2? How will you use it? Leave a comment below!