It’s been quite a while since my last project update here. Most of my activity is behind the scenes (when I have time) and I do frequent the CoCo Discord server, specifically the #coco-pi channel. For current users (or anyone interested) in the CoCo-Pi distribution, I highly encourage you to join the Discord server and the #coco-pi channel. There’s a lot of good information in there, including development updates, etc..
As a reminder, here’s the CoCo Discord server invite:
As some of you know, I initially released the CoCo-Pi project in 2016 (just prior to attending my first CoCoFEST). Since that time, I try to refresh things with a new SD image (base OS) every 18 to 24 months (while providing many updates in between). The most recent “refresh” was just a couple of months ago where I migrated the project to 64 bit using the lastest Raspberry Pi OS at the time (Bullseye v11). I stopped providing updates for the previous (32 bit) at the end of December. If that distribution keeps working for you — great! There’s no urgent need to move to the latest version unless running current versions of MAME are a priority. I could no longer provide updated versions of MAME on the 32 bit platform (one of the primary reasons I decided to migrate to 64 bit). In addition, as the base Raspberry Pi OS gets older, the ability to continue to provide updates to the various emulators, applications, etc., dimishes. This is not something negative about the project, rather the fact that software building requirements adjust over time. New libraries and toolkits are needed and OS updates have expiration dates. The applies to the CoCo-Pi distribution as well.
In the meantime, I’ve been getting more and more requests for an installable version of CoCo-Pi (rather than provide a “ready to run” SD card image). To me, installable (rather than “ready-to-run”) would seem to have the rather unpleasant side effect of the need to wait for all the emulators, development tools and many other customizations/tweaks to built/installed rather than just write the latest image to an SD card, boot and enjoy. Just because something is installable doesn’t necessarily mean it can work to upgrade an older, existing installation of CoCo-Pi. As mentioned above, a newer base Raspberry Pi OS is required.
This is one of the biggest reasons I started this project – remove all the manual steps needed to obtain (perhaps modify/patch), build, test and package all of this software and leverage a (relatively) low cost hardware platform to run it on. This project was mainly targeted for those with minimal Linux experience.
Regardless of my perceived downsides to an installable version of CoCo-Pi, I decided to move forward with working on it just to see how it may look in reality. After all, creating an install process might be beneficial to me if it reduces the time needed to create a new CoCo-Pi distribution. That work started about 2 weeks ago.
With the Rasperry Pi 5’s just becoming available and the latest Raspberry Pi OS (Bookwork v12) recently released, I figured working with those two things for this installer experiment would be a good idea. I’m happy to report that I have about 90% of the CoCo-Pi distribution set up as a (mostly) automated process. It does requires Bookworm (64 bit), but will work on a RPi5, RPi400 & RPi4. I have done some testing on the RPi3 B+ platform and it does work, but the install process is quite slow. Once installed, it does seem to run OK. I would, however, not recommend using the CoCo-Pi Installer for the RPi3 B+ platform and stick with the older “ready-to-run” SD card image.
After seeing how this installer works, I may move to this method for future CoCo-Pi releases. While there is more work needed on the user’s part, there are big benefits by having automated installers for all the emulators, development tools and other components that make up the CoCo-Pi project. I would not have to package and provide updates for these things since the user could just run them “on demand” whenever something had a newer version available. 95% of the components used for the CoCo-Pi project are compiled/built from source now.
Another realized benefit was the fact that this installer worked on the latest Debian Linux (12) for the x86_64 platform as well as inside WSL2 using the same Debian 12 release. All the same CoCo-Pi menus, emulators, DriveWire/pyDriveWire, etc., work great. There are a few exceptions, of course, like anything Raspberry Pi (ARM) specific, but that is to be expected.
There’s many more things I’d like to cover, but I see how long this post has become and will end it here for now. Again, I highly recommend joining our Discord channel for up-to-the-minute updates.
Thank you for your continued interest in the CoCo-Pi project.