Raspberry Pi Launches "Legacy" Operating System for Those Finding the Shift to Bullseye a Challenge

Available for existing devices only, with a forked kernel and firmware, Raspberry Pi OS (Legacy) aims to ease the transition to Bullseye.

Gareth Halfacree
7 months agoHW101

Raspberry Pi has announced a big shift in the way it offers its eponymous Raspberry Pi OS Linux distribution, moving away from supporting a single version with the addition of a new "Legacy" variant.

Raspberry Pi announced the release of the latest Raspberry Pi OS, based on Debian "Bullseye," early last month. As well as newer software and a refreshed look and feel, the upgrade brought with it a speed boost to Raspberry Pi 4 models featuring the latest power management circuitry - but also a selection of compatibility problems, many centering around the introduction of a new software stack for camera hardware and video acceleration.

While work is underway in resolving those issues — including the development, currently ongoing, of a Python library for camera access under the new stack — Raspberry Pi has opted to continue development of the older Raspberry Pi OS based on Debian "Buster."

"We've decided to create a legacy version of the Raspberry Pi OS based on the Debian Buster release (or, to be more specific, the Debian oldstable release)," Raspberry Pi's Gordon Hollingworth explains. "The firmware will be branched to avoid de-stabilizing its functionality as it continues to support future hardware. Although we will not support new products on the legacy image, we will make sure any new revisions of older products continue to be supported."

Raspberry Pi OS (Legacy), as the new-old version is known, isn't an exact duplicate of the old release. The biggest change is the removal of hardware acceleration in the Chromium web browser, in favor of software rendering — a shift which will slow things down. Those still running the original Raspberry Pi OS "Buster" release, from before the introduction of the legacy variant, will retain hardware acceleration - but will stop receiving security updates, leaving the browser open to attack.

Those having trouble with the new camera software stack can revert to the old stack in Bullseye. (📹: Raspberry Pi)

The software development team is also coming at the issues from the other side, releasing an update for the Raspberry Pi Configuration tool, which allows the old camera software stack - including the PiCamera Python library — to be used in Raspberry Pi OS "Bullseye." "These camera interfaces are deprecated," Hollingworth notes, "and we are not supporting them going forwards."

A promised 64-bit version of Raspberry Pi OS "Bullseye", meanwhile, is still in progress: "That's coming next," Hollingworth says, "we're just fixing some issues in Bullseye before we release it."

The new-old Raspberry Pi OS (Legacy) is available, in desktop and lite variants, on the official software download page now. More information, meanwhile, can be found in the official announcement.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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