Raspberry Pi OS 5.2 is here, with pleasant tweaks to Wayland-based desktop

Kernel 6.6 and small refinements, plus less visible, but meaningful adjustments

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has updated its Debian 12-based OS for the pocket-sized powerhouse, with the newest LTS kernel.

Although there's no version number in the release notes, the new installment of the official Raspberry Pi OS calls itself version 5.2 on the startup splash screen. Like version 5, which we checked out last November, it's still based on Debian 12 "Bookworm", and that's what it calls itself in the /etc/os-release file, but it continues to diverge further from its parent.

If you're not tempted to explore some alternative distros for the pint-sized marvel, there are new goodies here too.

Pi OS 5.2 uses Linux kernel 6.6, which late last year became the new LTS version. Specifically, it comes with kernel 6.6.20, alongside Chromium 122 and the optional Firefox 123, as well as a new version of the Pi firmware. The raspi-config program can now also update the Pi 4 and later's onboard EEPROM.

Release 5.2 brings an assortment of small improvements and refinements to the new Wayland-based desktop. The mouse pointer changes during drag-and-drop operations, the network and Bluetooth menus are faster, and when you log out it terminates all user processes.

The release notes also list a number of less-visible improvements and bug fixes, including several relating to headless operation and remote control using VNC. These are relatively small things, but it underlines the amount of work in building a whole new desktop under Wayland: it's very much not just a case of replacing the old X.org display server with a new one.

We upgraded our Pi 400's SD card, which worked perfectly – but the OS is getting bigger all the time, as most software tends to do to, and it's a tight fit on a 16GB card these days.

We only had a couple of gigs free before we started, and afterwards, we're down to under 800MB of free space. This is not only a little nerve-wracking, but running flash media at over 95 per cent full like this means that there's little room for the storage card's on-board controller chip to shuffle stuff around. It increases the risk of the medium failure.

To be fair, the Reg FOSS desk's Pi card is not heavily used – and we have installed a few extra things, such as a Markdown editor and Firefox. The latter perhaps eats most of the extra space.

As an experiment, we took the SD card out of our Pi 400 and put it into a Pi 5, and it started perfectly and worked exactly the same – just rather faster. This version has improved support for the Pi 5 hardware.

On this model, the power indicator LED is also a power button, and if you press it, Pi OS 5.2 displays a dialog box offering to shutdown, reboot, or log out.

We are writing this article in Ghostwriter on Pi OS 5.2, running on an 8GB Pi 5 (using a 1993 IBM Model M keyboard that weighs 20 times as much as the Pi, and is at least 20 times better than the keyboard of the Pi 400) and it's working very well.

Even so, we'd say that a 16GB card isn't really enough for a general-purpose desktop Pi any more. Budget for an extra fiver for a 32GB card, and spare a sigh that a lightweight Linux for schoolkids is now a 2,812MB download, in heavily compressed form. We went badly wrong somewhere.

The Pi OS 5 desktop is still one of the most pleasant Wayland-based environments to use, in this vulture's humble opinion. We really hope that at some point soon the team can find the time to update the PC version of the software, which hasn't had a major update in nearly two years now.

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