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Microsoft repo silently added to Raspberry Pi OS, folks begin the freak out

Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Raspberry Pi OS is the official Linux image provided for the Raspberry Pi single board computer
  • The most recent update seemed to add a Microsoft repo with no warning.
  • The official explanation seems to be an endorsement of Visual Studio Code.

Microsoft has been embracing Linux more and more in recent times but it's fair to say many a user still view the company with trepidation. And this latest news adds a little fuel to that fire, as it seems a Microsoft repo has been added to Raspberry Pi OS with the latest update.

As reported by Hot Hardware, the latest update adds a Microsoft apt repository to Raspberry Pi OS without admin consent. Default repositories are pinged every time the user runs a simple

apt update

command, and as such, the Microsoft repo will "phone home."

The official reason seems to be an endorsement of Microsoft's open source IDE, Visual Studio Code, which recently became officially supported on ARM-based Linux devices, like the Raspberry Pi. It's less Visual Studio Code folks have a problem with, and more the fact this was done without warning or consent, and that many still have concerns over Microsoft building profiles with the telemetry it collects.

Many Linux users don't want their machines pinging Microsoft every day. Whether their concerns are founded or not, that's their choice. And as one particularly vocal commenter pointed out, modifying the sources.list in Linux without consent just doesn't happen. It also doesn't just apply to new images, it has been built out to be added to existing machines, too. Even Lite images of Raspberry Pi built for headless deployment. They all have the Microsoft repo now.

While it could make working with Visual Studio Code much easier, it's clearly an unwelcome move among the Raspberry Pi community. Especially the seemingly underhanded way it was handled.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

26 Comments
  • 🤦‍♂️ This can snowball into a PR disaster if it's not handled well i.e. promptly removed.
  • Yeah wouldn't bother me personally, after all, I use Windows, but it's not cool the way it has been added. Not at all.
  • I'm surprised this was given the go ahead as multiple parties had to be involved in get the repo pushed out in first place. There should have been an announcement from both sides and a opt-in when released... so yeah, totally agree not cool at all. Not to mention, it also gives the naysayers another thing to bash Microsoft with lol.... every company should get flack when they do something wrong and applauded when they do something wrong. However, most of the techsphere still have a negative bias against Microsoft. Albeit some of it is justified due to past actions but the scrutiny is way higher than Google and Apple. Hopefully, the repo is removed asap.
  • So I'm going to take a nuanced stance on this. The Raspberry Pi foundation has multiple goals. I think the one nearest to their hearts is to provide an educational device for children. VS Code is a great editor, and there's probably some desire to make it more accessible to that audience. I kind of doubt there would be any mass move from raspberry pi to another similar SBC because of how much momentum they have. If the result of this tempest in a teacup is that the adult hobbyists keep buying raspberry pi's and flashing something other than raspberry pi OS, I'm sure the raspberry pi foundation will be fine with that.
  • It is incredibly unlikely the Raspberry Pi Foundation had any nefarious intentions. But equally, it's a pretty poor move to just silently add something like this and not make it either opt-in or explicitly mentioned somewhere. What they did isn't a very Linux-like thing. Adds a sour taste where frankly, there was never a need for one.
  • Yeah, definitely not cool. Have Microsoft forgotten that many Linux veterans may still don't have a good impression to Microsoft due to its history. Doing this just not helping the Microsoft embracing open-source community. For some reason, it feels like somebody at Microsoft just want to see the world burn. This kind of behaviour is sadly felt like deliberate and sleazy.
  • I think it won't be. I've avoided the official forums for years now because of the bone-headed attitudes of some of the moderators, and I suspect they will well and truly dig in now. Happy to be proven wrong.
  • I agree. If Microsoft stated what it was for and we could install it ourselves, just like most other stuff I'd be fine. If it helps rub some thing to develop for Windows, and I felt like developing something on Windows, I'd snatch it right up. If I felt like making it into a mirror, I wouldn't. If I wanted to use it as a desktop, with some Windows features and it helped, maybe. I wanna do it myself.
  • oh puh-lease. I'm pretty sure these people concerned about MS "building profiles" also use Chrome or Google on their phones and/or pcs. Talk about irony.
  • There are some historical reasons for the animus. Microsoft was for a very long time deeply opposed and antagonistic toward open source and Linux. You and I know that this is not the same company it used to be, but some people don't see the distinction.
  • He’s right. The “cost conscious” types who love the Pi and rail against MS probably give their entire existence up to Google. Mass hypocrisy
  • Is it hypocrisy to want a choice in who you give up your entire existence to?
  • Funny, for years Linux fans have been wanting everyone including Microsoft to get rid of Windows and to use Linux. Now they are getting this, and they want it undone. While the repo should have been communicated, that is not Microsoft's fault, nor has anyone said that having it there is a problem (from my limited reading). They should issue an apology and move on, end of story.
  • Something got 'silently added' to the OS and yet they're complaining about something that it's added and not the fact that it was silently added.
    Am I the only one that sees the irony here? If you were in control of the OS, you'd know full well what was being added (or removed), and wouldn't run admin commands without knowing what you were doing to the system. Just remove the repos from from the list before you run apt updates.
  • Well no, folks are mad about both. Doesn't seem as though you can remove it either. It doesn't seem to be in the list, looks like a hard coded source in one of the defaults.
  • "folks" = people on Reddit you don't even bother quoting in your piece. "doesn't seem"... Have you asked anyone who would know?
  • Much ado about nothing.
  • Why comment then.
  • Why worry if i comment?
  • Because there's too much manufactured outrage and not enough actual reporting confirming the basic details about a story.
  • I don't mind it being a Microsoft addition but what people rightly get mad about is that their choices are reduced, in something that is really a community device. Also we all know that Microsoft has a less than community minded approach to business, as is to be expected from a profit and dividend hungry company.
    So, I'd like to encourage the group that determines what happens with Rpi to have a fully open version (e.g no calling home, no lock-in software etcetc), and make a branch in which all the commercial vendors can put their (often useful) software. Make it clear to a newbie what's what. In this way people can choose, which is part of the joy of these platforms. We'll also see which version is most popular.
  • Is this the first repo to be added without consent or forewarning? Has anyone confirmed that Microsoft was in charge of the release? Was Microsoft even aware that it was being released at this time? Could someone have pulled the trigger too soon?
  • Generally speaking stuff doesn't just get added this way without some kind of warning.
  • Could a reporter have made even the slightest attempt to inquire into any of these details?
  • It doesn't matter if homebrew hackers were asked for consent. Visual Studio is a fantastic way to code; if people want to continue blindly hating Microsoft like its 1999, then code in notepad and air gap your computer because nothing is as secure as you think, not that it matters.
  • "However, it's claimed this even gets installed on headless devices that used a light image without a GUI. As a result, every time you do an "apt update" on your Pi device, the OS pings Microsoft." Who has actually checked this? How many outrages on Reddit are actual news?