Minimal setup for a modest daily driver Raspberry Pi based development PC

During the pandemic lockdown I had a few unfortunate instances where my mac book charger died on me and then the a couple of keyboard keys got stuck, adding to this, online purchases and delivery was not available at the time. I had to look for an alternative for my development activities and as a daily driver till I sort out issue with my main PC.

My goal was to setup a good looking yet snappy operating system with all the usual software goodies needed to use as a daily driver. As you will see I was not able to get my entire development setup running, but had a satisfactory result with most of the setup.

customised raspberry pi desktop screenshot

Initial Setup

I installed the Raspberry Pi OS Lite variant on a sd card using raspberry pi installer found at https://www.raspberrypi.org/software/ .

I chose the lite version because I wanted to install selected light weight softwares for each use-case.

Networking

Next setup is to configure internet using raspi-config

sudo raspi-config
  1. Network Options -> N2 Wireless LAN
  2. Please enter SSID : Your WIFI username
  3. Please enter passphrase : Your Wifi password

Update and Upgrade

After connecting to internet, issue and update and upgrade the OS

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

Installing Desktop environment

Off all the desktop environments I tried, the light weight options available were LXDE, PIXEL and XFCE, with LXDE being the lightest.

I choose XFCE because it is lightweight and had a lot of modern customisation options. At about 135 mb in installation size it was not going to add up too much to sd space.

sudo apt install xfce4

Softwares

Terminal Emulator

Since the default terminal emulator xterm was terrible to use, I installed the light weight terminal emulator lxterminal which is part of the another desktop environment LXDE but was the snappiest one I found.

sudo apt install lxterminal

Text Editor

Text editor is the next most used software and again leafpad from LXDE was the fastest I could find.

sudo apt install leafpad

Browser

Optimised by raspberry pi team themself, I don’t think we should be looking for other options.

sudo apt install chromium

Media Player

VLC simply works always and covers every video and audio formats and codecs possible.

sudo apt install vlc

Image Viewer

I found nomacs image viewer to be with most feature rich and again faster than other options.

sudo apt install nomacs

SCM

For some software installations which build from source code and for software development install git

sudo apt install git

Office Suit

Libre Office is the most feature rich option available from the options I explored.

sudo apt install libreoffice
Installed applications screenshot

Beautification

Light weight desktops like XFCE or even the raspberry pi creator’s official desktop PIXEL are sometimes a bit underwhelming.

Let’s try to spice it up a little without compromising on performance.

Preparations

Before we being we need to make a few initial preparations. Under user profile folder create 3 folders named themes, icons and fonts for storing window themes, cursors , icons packs and fonts.

mkdir ~/.themes
mkdir ~/.icons
mkdir ~/.fonts

Light Display manager

LightDM will allow us to customize the welcome screen

apt install lightdm-gtk-greeter-settings

To customise login manager run and make changes like setting login screen background, theme font etc.

sudo lightdm-gtk-greeter-settings

Icon Pack

Flat Remix Blue Dark – https://www.xfce-look.org/p/1012430/


click download

cd ~/Downloads
tar xf 02-Flat-Remix-Blue-Dark_*.tar.xz
mv c/ ~/.icons/

Apply Icon

  • Setting -> Appearance -> Icons -> Flat-Remix-Blue-Dark

Other Icon packs to consider

XONE II ICON PACKOriginal https://www.xfce-look.org/s/XFCE/p/1323882

Uos [Deepin V20]Mod https://www.xfce-look.org/s/XFCE/p/1349376

Reversal icon theme Original
https://www.xfce-look.org/s/XFCE/p/1340791

Theme

White Sur Gtk Theme – https://www.gnome-look.org/p/1403328/

click download

cd ~/Downloads
tar xf WhiteSur-dark.tar.xz
mv WhiteSur-dark ~/.themes/

Apply theme

Setting -> Appearance -> Style -> Dark-Olympic

Apply Window theme

Settings -> Window Manager -> Style -> Dark-Olympic

Other theme options to consider

Victory Gtk Theme https://www.pling.com/p/1080254/

Dark-Olympic https://www.pling.com/p/1302313/

Fonts

System Font : Overpass – https://fonts.google.com/specimen/Overpass

cd ~/Downloads
unzip Overpass.zip
mv Overpass* ~/.fonts

Settings -> Appearance -> Fonts -> Default Fonts -> Overpass Regular ,11

Terminal Font: Ubuntu Mono – https://fonts.google.com/specimen/Ubuntu+Mono?preview.text_type=custom&query=ubuntu

click download

cd ~/Downloads
unzip Ubuntu_Mono.zip
mv Ubuntu_Mono-* ~/.fonts

Settings -> Appearance -> Fonts -> Default Fonts -> Overpass Regular ,11

Open LxTerminal -> Edit -> Preferences -> Terminal Font -> Ubuntu Mono, 12

theme customization

Dock Panel

Right click on dock

Panel -> Panel Preferences ->

  1. Appearance -> Alpha -> 80%
  2. Display -> General -> Automatically hide panel -> Intelligently
  3. Items -> Add -> Waste Basket Applet
  4. Items -> Add -> seperator
  5. Items -> Add -> Window Buttons

And then

  1. Right click on Window buttons
  2. Appearance -> Uncheck Show button labels and flat buttons -> Show handle

Top Panel Customisation

Right click on panel

  • Panel -> Panel Preferences -> Appearance -> 25%
  • Panel -> Items -> Window Buttons -> Remove

And then go to

  • Window Manager Tweaks -> Compositor ->
  • Uncheck “Shadow under dock windows”

Wallpaper

And here is the wallpaper that I used

https://free4kwallpapers.com/nature/flowers/flower-pink-petals-bud-close-up-wallpaper–Q230

Once all these customisations are done the tiny machine should work and look better at being a secondary PC or even as a daily driver.

Further in upcoming posts we will setup development environments for

  • Java and spring boot development
  • Nodejs for UI development

I will update links here when they are ready. That’s it for now