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pi-topOS (Polaris) vs other distros

Hello, everyone. I have read about a few folks building and promoting linux distros besides Pi-TopOS ("Polaris" as it's known), and I was just wondering why anyone would prefer somethine else.  It seems that Pi-Top has gone through the non-trivial tasks of porting the video and keyboard drivers for the Pi-Top's hardware.  To move to a different distro seems like that work would need to be done again, and I guess I don't know what the benefit would be.
On my previous Pi I installed and used a bunch of other software (oscilloscope, Audacity, GNURadio, nodejs, etc.) and I never had any problems.  So, why would anyone bother switching to different distro?
Thank you,
Paul C


Fist of all, there are no special video or keyboard drivers for the pi-top computers. Standard Raspbian, for example, works on all pi-top models without modifications, and supports a very large number of international keyboards. You do need additional software for watching the battery, and handling pi-topSPEAKER and pi-topPULSE, but for Raspbian this is available and easy to install (see

pi-topOS has some very nice features for many users, but a fairly large number of users has other needs (I can see this from the statistics of my github repos). These include for example the following:

- direct boot to desktop

- less unnecessary software installed

- no suspicious background access to commercial internet sites

- latest software version available immediately (similar situation as with Android)

- larger community

For me personally, for example, it is very important to be able to use the same operating system on all Raspberry Pi systems I am working on, not only my pi-top laptop.

I think it is one of the big strengths of the Raspberry Pi platform that it supports many different operating systems for everybody's need. The more such platforms can be used on the pi-top computers, the larger the installed base of pi-top will become.

I hope this answers your questions. Keep using pi-topOS, if you are happy with it.

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Thanks, Rene for your reply.  I went ahead and installed Raspbian and have not regrets -- especially since I also installed your pi-top-setup package.  Mighty nice piece of software, that is.  It gave me the battery status icon, plus it allowed me to fully shutdown my pi-top.  Prior to installing pi-top-setup, when I issued a 'shutdown -h now' command, my machine would *mostly* shutdown, but the RPi itself would be in a kind of sleep mode with the PWR LED still illuminated and the hub board green LED still illuminated.  I believe my screen was not all the way off either.  Now I get a complete shutdown, just like Pi-Top OS would do.  

I tried this only once and it worked, so assuming this is a permanent fix, I'm quite pleased.  I did have to reboot before any of these improvements went into effect.

So, now I'm running Raspbian on my Pi-Top and loving it all except that the bridge gets warmer than I prefer.  So, I've been running it open mostly.  

And I appreciate your explanation of why someone would want to install something other than Pi-Top OS.  I'm trying to make a lean system which fits my needs as I suspect a lot of others are doing, and for me this is Raspbian.  Take care,

--Paul C

Thanks, Paul. I would‘t worry too much about the temperature. The software keeps that within safe limits automatically, and it is designed that way. With the bridge installed you get higher performance in heavy usage situations, because the bridge helps to dissipate the heat off the processor. If you want to watch the temperature, you can right click in the menu bar, and then add a temperature monitor plugin. Personally I believe that it is best to keep the bridge installed all the time in order to ensure that the Raspberry Pi and the hub board can talk to each other. This is required for a complete shutdown as you described in your post. If you want to access the Raspberry Pi pins, the better way to do this is to use a pi-topPROTO or pi-topPROTO+ board. In my previous post I just tried to answer your questions. But it is probably also important to say why one would want to stay with pi-topOS. The latest version is indeed done very well, includes CODER and CEED Universe. I feel it is a very good starting point for people who are new to the Raspberry Pi world, or even first time computer users, and people who want to learn to code. Also, the dashboard helps those who have up to now only used a smartphone.
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