The Raspberry Pi line of computers are small, inexpensive single-board PCs that are most commonly used to run GNU/Linux distributions. But while Raspberry Pi devices have been shipping since 2012, it took more than eight years for one of the most popular Linux distributions to add support – and even then, the developers of Ubuntu only officially supported Raspberry Pi 4 computers with at least 4GB of RAM.
Now the developers of Ubuntu say the next release of their desktop operating system should be able to run on Raspberry Pi hardware with as little as 2GB of RAM.
In a blog post, developers say that one of the goals for the upcoming Ubuntu 22.04 LTS release, due out in April, is “targeting a viable Desktop experience on Raspberry Pi 4 2GB models,” which typically sell for $45, which makes them about $10 cheaper than models with 4GB of RAM.
They’ll do that by using a Linux kernel feature called zswap, which compresses data stored in RAM before moving it to an SD card or other storage space designated for use as swap memory… and which can quickly check to see if you still actually need to actually move those files to swap memory after they’ve been compressed or if they’ll take up less space and run more quickly if they remain in RAM.
The end result is that you should be able to get a full Ubuntu desktop experience even on Raspberry Pi 4 devices with as little as 2GB of RAM. And while this feature will be enabled by default in Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, it’s already possible to enable it in older versions of Ubuntu if you want to try them out on a Raspberry Pi by following instructions outlined in a recent Ubuntu blog post.
Note that enabling zswap should also improve performance for Raspberry Pi 4 devices with 4GB or 8GB of RAM. And in addition to the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, zswap will be enabled by default when you install Ubuntu 22.04 LTS on a Raspberry Pi 400 computer-in-a-keyboard, which has similar hardware (and 4GB of RAM).