Give your Raspberry Pi a makeover with Twister OS. It is a Linux distribution with a built-in one-click theme that mimics Windows and macOS operating systems. There are modern and retro options: you can choose Windows 1
The incredible Raspberry Pi
What measures 3.5 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.7 inches (85mm by 56mm by 17mm) and has sold over 30 million units? It is the third best-selling general computer behind the PC and Mac, and also the most successful British computer of all time. It’s the Raspberry Pi single board computer.
It was launched in February 2012 as a means to an end. Ebon Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, wanted to produce something that would make British school children switch to computers and code in much the same way as the BBC microcomputer in the 1980s.
The BBC Microcomputer was a collaboration between the British Broadcasting Corporation and Acorn Computers Limited. The BBC produced educational programs on computers and programming with the BBC microcomputer under the title of the BBC Computer Literacy Project. In British schools, the BBC microcomputer was the standard educational computer.
The first two models of the Raspberry Pi were named Model A and Model B in homage to the two variants of the original BBC microcomputer. In fact, Acorn went on to design the ARM processor, the most widely used processor in the world and the heart of the Raspberry Pi.
Where the Raspberry Pi would differ from the BBC microcomputer was in price. A BBC Model B cost £ 399 ($ 563) in 1981. The price of a Raspberry Pi Model B in 2012 was £ 22 ($ 31). The cheapest Raspberry Pi model retails for $ 5 (£ 4).
The low price and open, craft-friendly design of the Raspberry Pi makes it perfect for hundreds of uses outside of education. It is used by hobbyists as well as the industry, and it is fueling a thriving aftermarket add-on industry.
Choose your Raspberry Pi operating system
The official Raspberry Pi operating system is a modified version of Debian Linux, the Raspberry Pi operating system. But you are not bound by that. There are more than 20 Linux-based operating systems available for the Raspberry Pi, as well as numerous non-Linux operating systems. For example, you can use Windows 10 IoT, Haiku or RISC OS Open on your Raspberry Pi.
But what if you want something similar to macOS or some version of Windows? Windows 10 IoT doesn’t come with a desktop GUI, so you’ll have to find a different solution. Twister OS is the solution you are looking for.
Twister OS is a modified version of Raspberry Pi OS with an extensive selection of themes, right down to the icons, which provide the general look and feel of different versions of Windows and macOS. Twister OS includes a small utility that allows you to switch back and forth between themes very easily.
It works best on a Raspberry Pi 4, but will respond almost the same to a Raspberry Pi 3+. Out of curiosity, we tried it on a Raspberry Pi Model B + and it worked, but at an icy pace.
Install Twister OS
Download the Raspberry Pi version of Twister OS from the Twister OS download page. Locate the downloaded file and right-click on it. Select “Open with archive manager” from the context menu. If that option does not appear, select the “Open with another application” option and from there select Archive Manager.
In the Archive Manager, right-click on the single file in the archive and select “Extract” from the context menu.
You will be prompted for a location to save the extracted file. Open a terminal window and change the directories to the location where you saved the extracted file.
We need to burn the image to an SD card. The extracted image is 10 GB, so you will need a card with at least 16 GB, but 32 GB is recommended.
lsblck command to identify the hard drives on your computer.
Connect your SD card to your computer. We will use
lsblck again. The device not previously listed is your SD card.
On the machine used to research this article, the SD card appeared as a device
sdc . Write down the device name of your SD card. It is vital that you do this right. Restoring the Twister OS image to the wrong device will overwrite one of your existing hard drives.
The command to burn the image to the SD card is:
sudo dd bs=4M if=TwisterOSv2-0-0.img of=/dev/sdc conv=fdatasync status=progress
There is a lot in that command. This is what the different bits mean:
- sudo: You must be a super user to issue dd commands.
- dd: The name of the command we are using.
- bs = 4 million: The
-bs(block size) option defines the size of each block that is read from the input file and copied to the output device.
- if =: The
-if(input file) option is the path and name of the Twister OS image file.
- of =: The
-of(output file) is the critical parameter. This is the device we are going to write the image to. In our example it is
/dev/sdc. Make sure you have correctly identified the correct device on your computer.
- conv = fdatasync: This ensures that the write buffers are properly and completely flushed before marking the creation process as complete.
- status = progress: This provides some visual feedback that something is happening.
You will be asked for your password and the copying will begin.
The process may take some time. It took more than 10 minutes on our modest test machine. When the process is complete, the total number of blocks read and written is displayed.
You can unmount the SD card and insert it into your Raspberry Pi.
Start Twister OS
Once Twister OS has booted, you will see the default Twister OS desktop. It uses the xfce desktop environment.
It is a perfectly functional Linux installation. By opening a terminal and looking in the “/ etc / os-release” file, it appears that it is based on the Raspberry Pi Os (formerly known as Raspbian), which in turn is derived from the Debian Linux Buster- release.
The “ThemeTwister” icon is located on the desktop. This is the theme selection tool.
Double-clicking the icon opens the theme selection window.
Click the blue “Next” button to view the selection of operating system themes.
Some themes have a dark mode. You can choose from the following options:
- Twister OS light mode.
- Twister OS dark mode.
- Twister 95, a Windows 95 theme.
- Twister XP, a Windows XP theme.
- Twister 7, a Windows 7 theme.
- Twister 10 light, a Windows 10 theme.
- Twister 10 dark, a Windows 10 theme in dark mode.
- iTwister light, a macOS theme.
- iTwister dark, a dark mode macOS theme.
- iTwister Sur light, a macOS Big Sur theme.
- iTwister Sur dark, a macOS Big Sur theme in dark mode.
There are no Windows Vista or Windows 8 themes.
We have to point out that once you click one of the buttons below the theme thumbnails, the theme process will start. There are no “Are you sure?” -Warnings. Changing themes also requires a restart. A message will tell you when to press “Enter” to reboot your Raspberry Pi.
We tried Windows 7, Windows 10 and macOS Big Sur themes. This is the Windows 7 desktop:
It does a pretty good job of evoking the classic Windows 7 look and feel. The start button calls up the familiar system menu. When active, applications appear in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. The color scheme takes you 10 years back in time.
The icons have been brutally reused. The Internet Explorer icon opens the Chromium browser and the Word and Excel icons open LibreOffice Writer and Calc. The Outlook icon opens the Evolution mail app. The Start button is adorned with a Microsoft colored Twister OS whirlwind logo.
Windows 10’s dark mode does an equally convincing job. The desktop has a Twister OS logo instead of a Windows logo, but the look and attention to detail strongly evoke the Windows 10 experience.
Nice little details abound. The Office menu item in the system menu uses the Microsoft Office logo but directs to the LibreOffice applications.
The icons on the taskbar are in the form of the current Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook icons.
The Twister Sur theme tries to copy the look of the macOS Big Sur operating system as well as the placement of desktop elements. There is a dock at the bottom of the screen and a menu bar at the top.
The icons on the dock will be very familiar to Mac users. They open the equivalent Linux desktop applications.
The Raspberry Pi is meant to be fun
Twister OS is a solid Debian-based Linux, and the xfce desktop is a lightweight and reliable GUI. There are many mainstream Linux distributions built on these two well-known Linux pillars. Your Linux user experience is in no way degraded by using Twister OS.
The various themes can help a newcomer acclimatize to Linux by giving them a familiar interface to work with. But I suspect the majority of Twister OS users will enjoy the levity and the ability to tell someone that they do have a Mac Raspberry.