Updated to add: We’ve had some issues accepting comments for this post (blame Eben, who, unbeknown to the rest of us, was doing something he thought was clever to the WordPress database). Comments are open again: please pile in!
Liz: Here’s a post from Rob Bishop. Read it thoroughly if you’d like to be a NOOBS v1.3 beta tester – and get downloading!
Earlier in the year we released our New Out of Box Software (known as NOOBS), which was designed to make it easier to install operating systems for the Raspberry Pi without having to worry about manually imaging your SD card unless you explicitly wanted to. After a really positive response to this from the community, we’ve been working hard to make NOOBS even more powerful without compromising on its ease of use and intuitive interface.
The ultimate aim for NOOBS is to make it simple for anyone to get going on a Pi – regardless of their level of prior knowledge. We hope to do this through providing intuitive options for setting up everything from language and keyboard layout through to getting your display working and installing an OS. NOOBS isn’t about “dumbing down” the Pi: it’s about unlocking its potential and making computing even more accessible by breaking down the effort barrier that stops people from ever getting started.
I’m really pleased that today we are ready to show the work that we’ve been doing to move us closer to that aim, and can announce the beta release of the next version of NOOBS.
Given that NOOBS is aimed at those who are complete beginners to both computing and the Pi, we know that it’s imperative that the software is as reliable and robust as possible. This means that we need your help! In order to ensure that we only recommend stable, tested software to beginners, we’re initially launching this release of NOOBS in beta to the community, and will continue to recommend using the v1.2.1 release for those new to the Pi. That’s why the v1.3 beta release can only be downloaded using the links below, and why the v1.2.1 release is still shown at raspberrypi.org/downloads. Pending any major issues arising during this initial feedback period, we can then transition to using the v1.3 release as the default version that we recommend to all users.
So, without further ado, here’s a short description of the awesome new features to be found in NOOBS v1.3:
- Multiple OSes can now be installed simultaneously and easily switched between at boot. Unlike BerryBoot, NOOBS allows each OS to use its own kernel meaning that non-Linux based OSes such as RISC OS are also supported.
- OSes can now be installed via the internet from our central OS repository (located at downloads.raspberrypi.org). Note that this requires a wired Ethernet connection at present.
- OSes are now available in multiple “flavours” – including a “Boot to Scratch” option for Raspbian at launch. Additional flavours adding support for features such as Google’s Coder are also planned for the future. The ability to create different OS flavours means that OS maintainers can now provide tailored versions of their OSes that are designed to support a specific use case or user group. A great example of this is the “Boot to Scratch” option that provides a quick, easy and distraction-free route to running MIT’s Scratch program on the Pi with minimal set-up or prior knowledge.
- Creating a custom version of a NOOBS OS distribution that can be installed via NOOBS is now significantly easier (as is producing a NOOBS restorable backup of an existing OS install). This is due to NOOBS now populating partitions using compressed tarballs of filesystems rather than having to handle images directly. For instructions on how to do this please see: https://github.com/raspberrypi/noobs/blob/master/README.md.
- The keyboard layout can now be set via the NOOBS interface in the same way that language selection is currently handled.
- Language, keyboard and display mode settings now persist between subsequent NOOBS sessions and into installed OSes. This means that if, for example, you are wanting to set up a Pi to use to teach Primary school children in Germany while using a CRT monitor and German keyboard, you would simply boot into NOOBS, press “3” on your keyboard, select “Germany” from the language selector and then install “Boot to Scratch”. This would result in your Pi booting directly into the German-language Scratch interface with the display being output via composite PAL – no complex configuration file editing required.
About NOOBS v1.3
On first boot, NOOBS will format your SD card and allow you to select which OSes you want to install from a list. This OS list is automatically generated from both locally available OSes (i.e. those contained in the /os directory on disk) or those available from our remote repository (wired network connection required).
Only the latest version of each OS will ever be displayed meaning that you can be sure that you have installed the most up-to-date release of your selected OS.
On any subsequent boot you can then press the SHIFT key to enter the NOOBS interface and easily reinstall your choice of OSes.
The NOOBS interface provides the following functionality:
Install: Installs the selected OSes onto your SD card. Note that changing this selection erases any OSes currently installed.
Edit Config: Opens a text editor allowing the cmdline and config for the installed OS that is currently highlighted in the OS list to be edited.
Online Help: [Networking Required] Opens a browser that displays the Raspberry Pi Forum (http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/ ), allowing you to quickly access help and troubleshooting.
Exit: Quits NOOBS and reboots the Pi into the OS boot menu.
Language Selection: Allows you to select the language to be displayed.
Keyboard Layout Selection: Allows you to select the keyboard layout to be used.
Display Mode Selection: By default, NOOBS will output over HDMI at your display’s preferred resolution, even if no HDMI display is connected. If you do not see any output on your HDMI display or are using the composite output, press 1, 2, 3 or 4 on your keyboard to select HDMI preferred mode, HDMI safe mode, composite PAL mode or composite NTSC mode respectively.
Note that all user settings (language, keyboard layout, display mode) will persist between reboots and will also be automatically passed to the installed OSes. This means that if you can see the NOOBS interface on your display device then you should be able to see the OS CLI/GUI when it boots too! We’re very excited about this as it should make configuring the Pi to support your display device as easy as pressing 1,2,3 or 4 in the NOOBS interface rather than having to worry about changing config options.
Simply select the checkbox next to each OS you want to install using either a mouse or keyboard (arrow keys to traverse the list, enter to toggle the selected OS’s checkbox), then click the “Install” icon (or press “i” on your keyboard) to install the selection. The icons shown on the right of the list indicate whether the OS is being installed from the SD card (SD card icon) or from the online OS repository (Ethernet icon).
Online Help via Web Browser
The built-in Arora web browser allows you to easily get help via the Raspberry Pi Forums (wired network connection required).
Easy Config File Editor
The built-in config file editor allows you to edit the config file of the OS currently highlighted in the OS list. This allows you to easily add licence keys to different OS installs through the same interface.
Note that the output mode selected by the user through pressing one of number keys 1 to 4 (for HDMI preferred, HDMI VGA, Composite PAL and Composite NTSC respectively) will be automatically set in the config.txt files of your installed OSes. This means that you shouldn’t have to worry about manually changing your display settings to get your installed OS to display correctly on your display device.
An installer slideshow guides you through your first steps with each OS while it installs.
OS Boot Selector
After multiple OSes have been installed, you can select which OS to boot through this selection window that is automatically displayed. NOOBS will remember your choice and boot this OS by default unless a different option has been selected within 10 seconds.
Note that if only one OS is installed then the boot selector will not be displayed and the OS will be automatically booted.
How to Download the NOOBS v1.3 Beta
NOOBS v1.3 Beta (pre-packaged with OSes ready to install) – Larger download (1GB), works offline
NOOBS v1.3 Beta ‘lite’ (network OS installation only) – Smaller download (20MB), requires Ethernet connection to internet
Note: There is a known issue with the network install failing in rare cases with an error message reporting that the disk is inaccessible. If this occurs please restart installation after a reboot and let us know that it occurred.
We would ask for any testing feedback to be given via this forum thread. Please also feel free to ask questions concerning the new features in the comments below. As ever, please read the documentation before posting your question!
If you’re an OS maintainer and would like to see your OS included in our online repository please email me at email@example.com so that I can provide the necessary documentation.
[Liz notes: huge thanks are due to Rob, who has been wearing his fingers to bloody nubbins to get NOOBS v1.3 ready. He’s been busy writing the rest of this post and is far too elegant and self-effacing to point out all the work he’s done, so I'll do it for him. Thanks Rob!]
Special thanks go to all of the OS maintainers for working hard to support the new system, Floris Bos and those who helped with the alpha release testing. We also want to thank Liam and Pete at Mythic Beasts for helping us to make the network install functionality possible.