Raspberry Pi OS Gets 64-bit Support

The Raspberry Pi lineup of single-board computers has had a few improvements lately with a new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 that ended up being similar in performance to the Raspberry Pi 3. Finally, the Debian-based Raspberry Pi OS (previously called Raspbian), is getting official 64-bit support despite the hardware being capable of 64-bit instructions since 2016’s Raspberry Pi 3.

The post on the official site breaks the update down in a little bit more detail, but as someone who uses Raspberry Pi devices for a ton of odd jobs, it is nice to know they’re finally a little bit more up-to-date and applications will be able to address more than 4 gigs of RAM with this update. I’ve run into a few pieces of software that I want to run on a Raspberry Pi 4 that require a 64-bit ARM operating system, and compatibility workarounds aren’t always available unless you’re willing to spend hours of time recompiling things like this is Slackware in 1998 so this should be a welcome change for anyone else who has run into these corner cases and wants one less barrier to doing all the weird crap you can do with a Raspberry Pi, though it ultimately may not help emulated or native games on the Pi that much.

video games

Microsoft Breaking Java Minecraft on Raspberry Pi with Microsoft Accounts

Minecraft was acquired by Microsoft about 7 years ago, but 2021 is the year where Minecraft is finally switching to Microsoft’s account system and an updated launcher that will leave out players who have gotten the Java version to work on the Raspberry Pi platform in the transition.

There is a free version of Minecraft for the Raspberry Pi called Minecraft: Pi Edition and while that version is in some ways more accessible to modifications the Pi Edition isn’t compatible with Minecraft Java or Minecraft Bedrock worlds and servers. Minecraft: Pi Edition can’t even run in fullscreen and hasn’t received updates since 2016.

Because Minecraft Java can run on any platform that can handle Java, users of the Raspberry Pi have been able to run it in the past as long as they had Minecraft Java claimed on their Mojang account.

Players have also noticed that any new Minecraft Java purchasers today get Microsoft accounts to log into the Minecraft website instead of Mojang accounts. All Mojang accounts will also be forced to switch to Microsoft accounts that don’t work with the old Java system and only work in Mojang’s new launcher that uses the Microsoft login system. The newest Minecraft launcher is a native app on Linux, macOS, and Windows that isn’t cross-platform.

Not everybody can afford hundreds of dollars to purchase a gaming computer in 2021, but it doesn’t take a lot to run Minecraft Java, and the low-cost Raspberry Pi 3 and 4 have been powerful enough to unofficially run Minecraft Java for a long time now. Unfortunately those users will be locked out of the platform unless players can convince Microsoft and Mojang to bring the new launcher to the Raspberry Pi or developers with projects like the alternative launcher project MultiMC can figure out a workaround. There is one other possibility, x86 emulation on the ARM-based Raspberry Pi might get fast enough to run the official Java editions of Minecraft and their Microsoft-account-supporting launcher but that probably won’t happen on the Raspberry Pi 3 or 4.

I bought a Raspberry Pi 4 for my son earlier this year to run Minecraft, but I was surprised to see that the Microsoft account was an insurmountable barrier to playing the game. Java is supposed to be cross-platform but Microsoft has found a way to remove that cross-platform support by tying it to their login system and launcher.


Raspberry Pi 4 Released Early

Rasberry Pi 4

Last year the Raspberry Pi foundation announced an iteration to their Raspberry Pi 3 platform with a faster processor clockspeed and faster wireless. Here in 2019 there’s a new version of their popular hobbyist computer, the Raspberry Pi 4 has different ports, a faster processor and more memory. A blog post from Eben Upton has more details.

The Pi 4 doesn’t look to be 100% case-compatible with the Pi 3, but you might be able to work around that with a little bit of sanding. The Pi 4 now uses USB-C for power, but still has two Type-A USB 2 ports with the addition of two Type-A USB 3 ports.

Maybe the most important part of this Raspberry Pi 4 is the foundation’s claim of something closer to desktop computing performance. The single HDMI port has been replaced with two micro HDMI ports that the foundation says can support 4K resolutions. For the first time, there are price tiers based on the system’s memory, a 1GB Pi 4 is still $35, and then the 2GB model is $45, and the 4GB top-end model is $55. They’re even bundling their own keyboard & mouse and beginner’s guide with the 4GB Pi 4 for about $120, which doesn’t sound like that great a deal when it has just a 16GB SD card. I’ve seen competing kits with older Pi models around $200, but those more expensive kits also included a screen. The Pi 4 desktop kit leaves finding a 4K screen up to you.

Originally, the Pi Foundation had planned to release the Raspberry Pi 4 next year, but they’ve said the Broadcom ARM chip they use turned out to be ready earlier than expected:

In the past, we’ve indicated 2020 as a likely introduction date for Raspberry Pi 4. We budgeted time for four silicon revisions of BCM2711 (A0, B0, C0, and C1); in comparison, we ship BCM2835C2 (the fifth revision of that design) on Raspberry Pi 1 and Zero.

Fortunately, 2711B0 has turned out to be production-ready, which has taken roughly 9–12 months out of the schedule.


There’s a Slightly Better Raspberry Pi 3 Available

The Raspberry Pi single-board computer has a slight update in the form of the Raspberry Pi Model 3 B+. It has the same processor, but this new + model is clocked 200 Mhz faster at 1.4 Ghz, unless it gets too warm in which case it’ll throttle back down to regular Model 3 speeds of 1.2 Ghz. The wireless networking is improved, as well as the wired ethernet which is supposed to be 2-3 times as fast as the old 3. This model also has a new add-on board in the pipeline for power-over-ethernet. It’s still $35, just like the old Model 3, which is being sold at the same price, so if you’re buying one, make sure to get the B+.

The official Raspberry Pi blog has some charts and graphs with more details on the 3 B+.

video games

SNES Classic Edition Announced with Star Fox 2; Out September 29th in US for $80

SNES Box image via Nintendo

Rumors have been pretty clear that Nintendo would announce a Super Nintendo Classic Edition as a successor to the Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition, and it turns out that the reports were true. The SNES Classic Edition will be available at the end of September on the 29th for $80, $20 more than the NES Classic Edition. It’ll have 21 games built-in total, 9 fewer than the NES Classic Edition.

Just like the NES Classic Edition, the SNES Classic Edition will hook up via HDMI, and won’t support cartridges or any other official method of loading new games onto the system. This time Nintendo are including two controllers and one of the games on the system will be the previously unavailable Star Fox 2. Although Star Fox 2 was never released, some footage was available and some versions of the ROM leaked, but this will be the first legitimate release of the game. There’s an old interview on Arwing Landing with Dylan Cuthbert who worked on both Star Fox 1 & where he discusses why the game was never released:

Starfox 2 was fully completed. I was lead programmer and whilst Giles made Stunt Race FX, myself and the rest of the original Starfox team (ie. Nintendo’s artists and designers) expanded Starfox into a full 3D shooting game. We used state-of-the-art technology such as arbitrary plane clipping (which has only been seen recently in such games as Crash Bandicoot 2 & 3) to create some rather spectacular effects. (for the time)

The reason for non-release was the then impending Nintendo-64 which of course was intended to be released a lot sooner than it actually was. Miyamoto-san decided he wanted to have a clean break between 3D games on the SNES and 3D games on the new superior 64 bit system. In retrospect, he could have released Star Fox 2 and there would have been over a year and a half before the N64 came out. But hindsight is always 20/20.

Starfox 64 incorporated a lot of the newer ideas we created in Starfox 2 but it didn’t, in my view, take the genre a full step forward. Starfox 2 really was a different direction of gameplay.

Here’s the full list of games that’ll be in the SNES Classic Edition:

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • EarthBound
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-ZERO
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Course
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Mega Man X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox
  • Star Fox 2
  • Street Fighter® II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Yoshi’s Island

This collection looks great to me, Super Mario RPG is still my favorite RPG, but just as I said when the NES Classic Edition was announced you could buy a Raspberry Pi for $36 today. Load up that Pi with all kinds of emulators and use whatever controllers you want. Which feels even more reasonable when Nintendo plans on ending SNES Classic Edition manufacturing at the end of the year, which will probably make it just as difficult as it was to get an NES Classic Edition when that was discontinued.