Give your Raspberry Pi a makeover with Twister OS. It’s a Linux distribution with built-in one-click theming that imitates Windows and macOS operating systems. There are modern and retro options: For example, you can choose Windows 10-, Windows 7-, Windows XP-, or Windows 95-style themes.
The Incredible Raspberry Pi
What measures 3.5 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.7 inches (85mm by 56mm by 17mm) and has sales in excess of 30 million units? It’s the third best-selling general computer behind the PC and the Mac as well as the most successful British computer of all time. It’s the Raspberry Pi single-board computer.
It was launched in February of 2012 as a means to an end. Ebon Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, wanted to produce something that would get British schoolkids switched onto computers and coding in much the same way that the BBC microcomputer had in the 1980s.
The BBC microcomputer was a collaboration between the British Broadcasting Corporation and Acorn Computers Limited. The BBC made educational programs about computers and programming featuring the BBC microcomputer under the title of the BBC Computer Literacy Project. In British schools, the BBC microcomputer was the default 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 sells for $5 (£4).
The low price and the open, tinker-friendly design of the Raspberry Pi make it perfect for hundreds of applications outside of education. It’s used by hobbyists and industry alike, and it fuels a thriving aftermarket add-on industry.
Choose Your Raspberry Pi OS
The official Raspberry Pi operating system is a customized version of Debian Linux called the Raspberry Pi OS. But you’re not stuck with that. There are over 20 Linux-based operating systems available for the Raspberry Pi, and plenty of non-Linux operating systems, too. For example, you can use Windows 10 IoT, Haiku, or RISC OS Open on your Raspberry Pi.
But what if you want to have something that looks like macOS or a version of Windows? Windows 10 IoT doesn’t come with a desktop GUI, so you’ll need to find another solution. Twister OS is the solution that you’re looking for.
Twister OS is a customized version of Raspberry Pi OS with an extensive selection of themes—down to the icons—that offer the general look and feel of various versions of Windows and macOS. Twister OS contains a small utility that lets you hop back and forth between themes very easily.
It will run best on a Raspberry Pi 4, but will be almost as responsive on a Raspberry Pi 3+. Out of curiosity, we tried it on a Raspberry Pi Model B+ and it worked, but at a glacial pace.
Installing Twister OS
Download the Raspberry Pi version of Twister OS from the Twister OS download page. Locate the downloaded file and right-click it. Select “Open With Archive Manager” from the context menu. If that option doesn’t appear, select the “Open With Other Application” option and select the Archive Manager from there.
In the Archive Manager, right-click on the single file in the archive and select “Extract” from the context menu.
You’ll be prompted for a location to save the extracted file. Open a terminal window and change directories to the location where you saved the extracted file.
We’ll need to burn the image to an SD card. The extracted image is 10 GB, so you’ll need a card with a minimum of 16 GB, but 32 GB is recommended.
Before you connect your SD card to your computer, use the
lsblck command to identify the hard drives in your computer.
Connect your SD card to your computer. We’ll use
lsblck again. The device that wasn’t listed previously is your SD card.
On the machine used to research this article, the SD card appeared as device
sdc . Take a note of the device name of your SD card. It’s vital that you get this right. If you restore the Twister OS image to the wrong device, you’ll 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’s a lot packed into that command. Here’s what the different bits mean:
- sudo: You need to be a superuser to issue dd commands.
- dd: The name of the command that we’re using.
- bs=4M: The
-bs(block size) option defines the size of each chunk that’s 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 that we’re going to write the image to. In our example, it’s
/dev/sdc. Make sure that you have correctly identified the correct device on your computer.
- conv=fdatasync: This ensures that the write buffers are flushed correctly and completely before the creation process is flagged as having finished.
- status=progress: This provides some visual feedback that something is happening.
You’ll be prompted for your password, and then the copying will begin.
The process can take quite some time. On our modest test machine, it took over 10 minutes. When the process completes, the total number of blocks read and written are displayed.
You can unmount the SD card and insert it into your Raspberry Pi.
Starting Twister OS
Once Twister OS boots up, you’ll see the standard Twister OS desktop. It uses the xfce desktop environment.
It’s a perfectly functional Linux installation. Opening a terminal and looking inside the “/etc/os-release” file reveals that it’s 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 launches the theme selection dialog.
Click the blue “Next” button to see the selection of operating system themes.
Some of the themes have a dark mode. You can choose from the following:
- 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 macOs theme in dark mode.
- 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 should point out that as soon as you click any of the buttons underneath the theme thumbnails, the theming process will start. There are no “Are You Sure” warnings. Also, changing themes will require a reboot. A message will tell you when to press “Enter” to restart your Raspberry Pi.
We tried the 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 brings up the familiar system menu. When they’re running, applications appear in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. The color scheme takes you back in time by 10 years.
The icons are cheekily repurposed. The Internet Explorer icon opens up 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 decorated with a Microsoft-hued Twister OS whirlwind logo.
The Windows 10 dark mode does an equally convincing job. The desktop boasts a Twister OS logo instead of a Windows logo, but the look and feel and attention to detail strongly evoke the Windows 10 experience.
Nice little touches abound. The Office menu entry in the system menu uses the Microsoft Office logo but leads to the LibreOffice applications.
The icons in the taskbar take 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 its placement of desktop elements. There’s a dock at the bottom of the screen and a menu bar at the top.
The icons on the dock will look very familiar to Mac users. They open up the equivalent Linux desktop applications.
The Raspberry Pi Is Meant to Be Fun
Twister OS is a sound Debian-based Linux, and the xfce desktop is a lightweight and dependable GUI. There are many mainstream Linux distributions built on these two well-known Linux mainstays. Your Linux user experience isn’t degraded in any way by using Twister OS.
The different themes might help acclimatize a newcomer to Linux by giving them a familiar interface to work with. But I suspect that the majority of Twister OS users will enjoy the levity and the opportunity to tell someone that yes, they have a Mac Raspberry.