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Which Linux Distribution Should You Use on Your Raspberry Pi?

There are several different Linux distributions available for the Raspberry Pi, and you can find an officially endorsed list on the Raspberry Pi site. As you might expect, with such vibrant communities around the Raspberry Pi and Linux, there are lots of other distributions in various stages of development and availability too. You can find a longer list with brief notes on each one on the Linux Wiki website.

The officially recommended distribution for beginners is called Raspbian Wheezy. It’s a version of a distribution called Debian, and it has been optimized for the Raspberry Pi by two developers, Mike Thompson and Peter Green. It includes the LXDE graphical desktop software, the Midori web browser, and various development tools. This is the quickest way to get up and running with your Raspberry Pi.

There is also a distribution called Arch Linux ARM. The guiding principle in the design of this distribution is that the user should be in full control of the software, so it only includes the bare essentials. It has no graphical desktop although you can choose to install one. This distribution is relatively unfriendly, so although it might suit Linux power users, it’s not a good choice for beginners.

Unless you have a good reason to try something else, or you’re an experienced Linux user wanting to use a distribution you prefer, stick with the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s recommendation to use Raspbian Wheezy.

That said, this isn’t a permanent decision: You can easily reuse an SD card with a different Linux distribution, or keep a couple of SD cards with different distributions on them. Before you power up the Raspberry Pi, just take your pick for which distribution you want to use today and insert the appropriate SD card.

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