After my long struggles to set up the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B as a Linux-based productivity solution and backup to my desktop PC, I finally hit on a recipe that meets my needs – which are, to run Google Docs and Evernote, with some Google Drive access, as well as LibreOffice and basic email. Ubuntu MATE, the fork of Ubuntu tailored to run the Gnome 2-derived MATE desktop, offers a version optimized for Raspberry that allows all of these web apps and extensions to run, though sometimes slowly and haltingly. So now my Raspberry is no longer a defunct credit-card sized circuit board, but a properly functioning mini-computer.
To set this up, you have to download the image of Ubuntu MATE 15.04 for Raspberry, then extract it, then use a disk image writing utility like Win32 Disk Imager to write the image to a microSD card, which ideally should be a Class 6 or 10 card. Once Ubuntu MATE 15.04 is on the card, you slot it in to the Raspberry’s microSD card slot and boot up, then follow through a setup procedure familiar to anyone who’s been through this on regular Ubuntu. The MATE desktop gives a different experience to the Unity desktop in current versions of Ubuntu, but since the latter has been controversial and hasn’t appealed to everybody, this shouldn’t be a drawback.
With Ubuntu MATE set up, you can download Chromium, the Linux version of Chrome, through the Ubuntu Software Centre, which is the same as the regular Ubuntu version, then add on the Google apps for Google Docs, Google Drive, and whatever else you use regularly. The Raspberry’s memory and performance limitations make them somewhat slow and clunky sometimes, but they do work. So there you go: how to get a mini-computer that allows you to get reasonable work done, for just $35.