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Raspberry Pi Operating System Alternatives

Last Update 04 January 2017

This page will be used to chronicle tests of alternate distributions and operating systems on Raspberry Pi computers. Simply playing with more and more options for my PIs and decided to log my antics. This page will morph as I experiment and will likely be notes to self, tailored to my world, but may be useful to others.  Expected to be long/slow/low priority project - similar to my AAO OS Alternative quest, will probably be more active in the winter.   Suggestions Welcome

January 2018 

December 2017 
October 2017
  • New Activity, page setup in process

  • Q4OS tested - Works great on RPI3!  A few notes.  
    Excellent potential for another RPI project (Desktop replacement)
  • Kali Linux on a RPI 2.  Security/Pen Testing tool, works VERY well!
    Built a Pi based KRACK test gizmo, but tested a number of Kali tools too

Latest Tests

 Ratings:  A=Perfect (out of box),
B=Little Tweak, C=Big Tweak, D=Works/Flaky, F=Total Fail
 Parrot OS!        
General  In Process        
 Distro Source/Vendor        
 Ongoing Evolution/Support   Active Project 
- Wiki/Doc
- FAQs
- Open Source Community
 Cost/$$$  Free: Donate        
 License   GNU/GPL v3        
 Download  Parrot-rpi-2017.11.15_armhf.img.tar.xz        
 Image Size      1.5g Compressed Zip        
Release info (/etc/os-release)          
 Name Parrot GNU/Linux
 Version 3.10 (Intruder)
 ID_Like debian
 uname -a
 Linux parrot-armhf 4.4.38-v7+ #938 SMP Thu Dec 15 15:22:21 GMT 2016 armv7l GNU/Linux
  RPI Model used for tests  RPI 2 Model B*
  SD Used for testing   6.5g after FS expand *and* upgrade!
  SD - Disk Available  685k (91% used)
  Special Hardware/Peripherals          
     3.5" TFT TouchScreen*  n/a        
     Edimax Wi-Fi USB Adapter*
  USB  A        
  Audio output (HDMI)  DN        
  Audio output (3.5mm Jack) DN
  Ethernet  A        
  Built-in WiFi  n/a (PI 2)
  Built-in Bluetooth  n/a (PI 2)
  HDMI  A        
  Power Management  F        
  General usability   B        
  Install effort      B        
  Documentation/Help  B        
  GUI/X  A        
  Network Participant2  A        
  Stability   B        
  Performance/Responsiveness  B        
 Apps/Add-ons Availability  B        
 Automatic Updates 
This table likely to change!
N See Notes below
2 Home Network (samba, mac + win workgroup)

Latest Test Notes

Parrot OS

  • Overall on Parrot:  Looked GOOD on RPI 2!  
  • Parrot Security Project @ 
    GNU/Linux distribution based on Debian designed with Security, Development and Privacy in mind."
  • I've been waiting for this one!  Switched to Parrot for security testing a while ago on my netbook
    nice selection of security tools - better than Kali, IMHO
  • Install notes
    • Initial tests on RPI2 w/ Edimax Wifi adapter and 8g SD, will redo on PI 3 if I decide to keep it around
    • Automatically expanded filesystem on initial boot
    • Firefox kept rolling over (crash) when it first came up 
      • upgraded to see if FF would settle (apt-get upgrade) - Took hours!
      • Firefox still crashing, installed FF ESR (atp-get install firefox-esr)
      • Firefox settled down after reboot - not sure if reboot or ESR install or combination fixed it
    • Updates/Software
      • Had to set a root password - strange authentication errors during AutoUpdate & some app startups
        (sudo passwd root).  Default password supposed to be toor, but I had to set it
      • Strange warning when software installed, supposedly simply an FYI sort of warning
        W: http: aptMethod::Configuration: could not load seccomp policy: Invalid argument
      • Looks like a well stocked software repository - Synaptic Software MGR is easy
    • No sound via hdmi or 3.5mm jack - didn't fiddle with it, but noticed that alsa stuff was installed
    • Performance was respectable - even on RPI V2!  Very responsive/usable
    • One little glitch/hang that forced a reboot late in install - when futzing with Firefoxes.  No details
    • Pretty tight on 8g SD card!  I'd say 16g minimum if you are planning on capturing traffic
  • Apps
    • Appears to be subset of tools that normally come pre-installed w/ Parrot ... will dig more
    • Rats!  No OpenVAS vulnerability scanner, it was nice to have it preinstalled on Parrot
    • Quick test of a few apps that would be handy on this thing
      • Wireshark seemed to work.  Watched net traffic on ethernet and wifi (edimax usb)
      • Nmap/Zenmap worked fine
      • Etherape OK
      • many more to test here

2017 Tests

 Ratings:  A=Perfect (out of box), B=Little Tweak, C=Big Tweak, D=Works/Flaky, F=Total Fail  

 Q4OS  Retropie
General Very Usable on RPI 2!
Works great
Worked fine
Works fine
 Distro Source/Vendor  Kali-PI via Re4son  Raspbian via Adafruit
 Ongoing Evolution/Support    Good
- Active Project
- Forums
Active Project
- User Forum
- Active 
- User Forum
- Reddit Chatter 
Forum Chatter
- Adafruit forums
- RPI Forums
 Reviews/Reputation  DistroWatch    DistroWatch     
 Cost/$$$      Free  Free  Free/Donation  Free/Donation  Free
 Download  kali-2017.2-rpi3-nexmon
retropie-4.3-rpi1_zero.img.gz  2016-11-08-pitft-35r.img
 Image Size      903.3 MB compressed  
 350 MB zipped  641 MB zipped disk image
 1.7g zipped 
disk image
Release info (/etc/os-release)    Kali upgrade
 Name  Kali GNU/Linux
 Kali GNU/Linux  Raspbian GNU/Linux
 Raspbian GNU/Linux  Raspbian GNU/Linux
 Version  2017.2  2017.3  8 (jessie)  8 (jessie)   8 (jessie)
 ID_Like  debian  debian  debian  debian  debian
 uname -a
 Linux kali 4.4.50-v7+ #1 SMP Wed Aug 30 11:08:41 CDT 2017 armv7l GNU/Linux  Linux kali 4.4.50-v7+ #1 SMP Wed Aug 30 11:08:41 CDT 2017 armv7l GNU/Linux  Linux raspberrypi 4.9.35-v7+ #1014 SMP Fri Jun 30 14:47:43 BST 2017 armv7l GNU/Linux
 Linux retropi 4.9.35+ #1014 Fri Jun 30 14:34:49 BST 2017 armv6l GNU/Linux  Linux raspberrypi  4.4.27-v7+ #2 SMP Wed Oct 26 19:09:12 UTC 2016 armv7l GNU/Linux
  RPI Model used for tests  RPI 2 Model B*   RPI 3 Model B*  RPI 3 Model B* RPI Zero W*  RPI 3 Model B*
    3.5" TFT TouchScreen*  skipped
   n/a  n/a  B
    Edimax Wi-Fi USB Adapter*
 A n/a
 n/a (built-in)    n/a (built-in)  n/a (built-in)
  USB  A     A A
  Audio output (HDMI)  F    A A A
  Audio output (3.5mm Jack)      BN n/a A
  Ethernet  BN    A n/a A
  Built-in WiFi  n/a (RPI 2)
  Built-in Bluetooth  n/a (RPI 2)    BN C   BN
  HDMI  A    A  A A
  Power Management  F    DN   C
  General usability   B    A C  C
  Install effort      B    A C  B
  Documentation/Help  A    A B  C
  SD Used for testing     Samsung
16g EVO
  SD - Disk Available
10g after FS expandN     28g after FS expand 
 13g after 
FS expandN
 11g after 
FS expand
   Trinity (Nice!)
Game Console
     RPI Pixel
  Network Participant2  F    A  A  A
  Stability   B    B  B  B
  Performance/Responsiveness  B    BN  A  B
 Apps/Add-ons Availability  B    A  C  B
 Automatic Updates 
   A  Manual?  C
This table likely to change!
N See Notes below
2 Home Network (samba, mac + win workgroup)

2017 Test Notes


  • Overall on Kali:  Works great, very usable, even on RPIV2!
    • Tested 2017.2 and 2017.3 releases 
  • Kali is a Security (Pen testing) distro with many useful security tools
  • My Project-at-hand:  A test device that can be plugged into local net to check our IoT 'things' for KRACK vulnerability.
  • Random observations/notes
    • Performance on RPI2 is remarkably good - testing via GUI, browser with 3-4 tabs and 2 terminal windows.  Very responsive
    • Have used Kali (PKA Backtrack) in the past, excellent pentesting/security distro.
  • Image Name = Kali Raspberry PI w/TFTTried twice and failed to get it to boot - Aborted  
  • Image Name = RaspberryPi 2 / 3:  retried with kali-2017.2-rpi3-nexmon.img image 
    • Much better!  It Booted!  It works!  
    • Default U/P=root/toor, using default config
    • Singing along with
      • Remember to reset root password - passwd
      • reset ssh host keys:
        root@kali:~ rm /etc/ssh/ssh_host_*
        root@kali:~ dpkg-reconfigure openssh-server
        root@kali:~ service ssh restart
      • Important:   apt-get update && apt-get upgrade 
    • Goofy situation after reboots:  All windows restored (Filemanager, wireshark, term, etc), but no menu bar
      • To get panel working again:
        • <alt>F2 to get to application finder, then run "Panel"
        • Settings in Menu
          • Session and Startup, Session Tab -> Clear Saved Sessions
      • Royal pain in the butt
    • Expand Partition to fill SD @
    • Network
      • WiFi worked right out of the box
      • Ethernet:  I had to set up a connection (Settings->Network Connection)
    • Software: 
      • update/upgrade added quite a few kali tools
      • Wireshark works!

StickyFingers Kali-PI 

  • Overall on Kali-PI:  Aborted
    • Originally attempted using pre-installed-image, failed after a couple of attempts, strange TFT display
    • Decided to upgrade my Kali rather than using the image, failed again
  • Objective:  "Kali Linux on Raspberry Pi 1/2/3/Zero with 3.5″ or 2.8″ Touch Screen and touch optimized interface"
  • Install @
    • Updated my Kaili to 2017.3 (apt-get update && apt-get upgrade) - took a while on RPI 2
    • Switched to RPI 3 for this project, RPI 2 seems a little sluggish, also interested in bluetooth!
  • Didn't get very far on RPI 2 or RPI 3.  After a number of attempts decided to take a step back and test the touchscreen using Adafriut image.  Worked fine, will revisit this one.
  • Sister project, DV-PI added to my ToDo List.  "Damn Vulnerable Raspberry Pi runs on all Pi’s
    The touch friendly “driving range” for IoT penetration testing with your Kali-Pi."
  • Will play more with this at a later date ... TFT display is now part of another project


  • Overall on Q4OS:  VERY NICE!   I like it A LOT ..... 
  • Tagline from - "Q4OS Raspberry Pi port is a free operating system based on Raspbian distribution, optimized for the Raspberry Pi family hardware, the series of credit card-sized single-board ARM computers. Q4OS is now one of a few distributions offering the full desktop environment on the ARM architecture."
  • My project:  Replace desktops (XP and/or Linux/Lubuntu) for aging parents/friends w/ a Desktop PI
  • Install/Setup Instructions @
    • SD setup using Disk Image Writer, DD would work fine too  
    • Very Smooth install! 
      • Forces PI password change
      • Automatically expands file system to fill SD
      • Offers a couple of software 'profiles' that install base set of applications 
  • Very little tweaking to get hardware/software working
    • Network - WiFi, Ethernet, even samba shares worked right out of the gate
    • Power MGT - flaky, but may be raspbian/PI.  Can't seem to get monitor to power off or full suspend
    • Little hiccup trying to change audio source from HDMI to 3.5mm Jack - had to reboot
      • Switched Audio using raspi-config / Advanced Options, worked fine
    • Bluetooth seemed OK, but I had to install blueman to test.  
  • Performance/stability is VERY good .... but ....
    • RPI 3 was heating up (temp warning) with couple browser tabs open+terminal activity+youtube 
    • Odd startup error periodically - "Sound server fatal error:  cpu overload, aborting" 
    • Automatic check for updates!


  • Overall on Retropie:  It works fine, little rough to configure, but it was fun one
  • Tagline from "Retropie allows you to turn your Raspberry Pi or PC into a retro-gaming machine"
  • Holiday project - had an extra sd card laying around ...
    • Not for me tho - not much of a gamer now, easier to hookup the old N64 for xmas funtime
    • Tested mostly with PI Zero, seemed pretty responsive and workable.  PI 3 seemed to be working too
  • Official install guide was pretty good - easy to sing-a-long
  • Attempt #2 due to PI Contention:  Switched to a PI Zero, should be plenty of power for old games!
    • Had to re-download, pi 0/1 image is different - Starting from scratch ....
    • Came up fine ... but not what I expected - no standard interface, it's a game console (of course!).
    • Need to configure a controller when first boot - I had only a keyboard
      • REMEMBER how you map up/down and A/B buttons!  Used to navigate UI!
        • Use "A" button to select, use "B" to go back
        • My keyboard was a little confusing due to mappings and in/out of textmode config screens
      • Stumbled my way to raspi-config and changed PI password & enabled SSH!
        • Doing as much config/setup via SSH as possible
    • Needed better controller - Keyboard is clumsy.  Started with a Wiimote, because I had one here
      • If the gizmo is fun, usb controllers are pretty cheap ... alternatives I will explore
      • In meantime:  ssh'ed in and started working through 
        • I set locales and keyboard to US via raspi-config - was en-GB (not sure it will matter)
        • Update was special (see writeup): updated via RetroPie-Setup/ script
        • Took a loong time ... appears to do raspbian apt-get update too
        • Wiimote setup was breathtaking - got it to work, but struggled with button assignments
          (also very confusing if you start with keyboard controller as I did) 
        • You CAN skip button assignments during wii controller setup using keyboard arrow keys
    • Back to official install (almost forgot where I was!) - Transferring ROMS
  • My standard PI Tests
    • Audio worked out of the box
    • Usability - simply not what I had expected. I now understand default GUI - slowly growing on me!
      • I ended up using ssh to configure as much as possible, lots of struggles w/ native UI.  probably would have been better if I had a real game controller
    • Bluetooth itself worked fine, I fumbled because of my Wiimote controller, which DID work!
    • Pretty solid/stable - one odd ssh issue - could not connect - but I may have overused ssh (seemed easier)  

Adafruit PiTFT 

  • Overall: Adafruit TFT image (Jesse w/ custom kernel) came up fine, will work great for TFT development 
  • My objective:  Step back to make sure my 3.5 TFT screen works due to chronic struggles w/ Kali-PI
  • Random install notes
    • Preliminary tests on RPI 2 - seemed to work fine, switch to RPI 3 for my testing
    • SSH was enabled, making initial tweaks a bit easier
    • Had to create /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-fbdev.conf & boot to switch to HDMI screen 
      • Some sort of hiccup with mouse when initially switched to  HDMI, had to touch screen to navigate
        (I THINK this was fixed via reboot)
    • Networking worked right out of box, but had to manually enable wifi when I unplugged Ethernet
    • TFT appears to power save! Turns off - wish I could get HDMI monitors to do that!
  • Helpful hints @
    • From FAQ:  Created /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-fbdev.conf to GUI on hdmi (used to use FRAMEBUFFER)
    • DON'T 'apt-get upgrade' or 'rpi-update' - it will blow away custom kenel
  • Will be using this one for Touch Screen development, will try to note additional observations as I go

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