My grandfather was a programmer back in the day, and lately he's been hearing about the RPi in the news and he's expressed a desire to try one out. He can remember computers filling whole rooms and punching his programs on to cards, so it's safe to say that his computing knowledge, while extensive, is a little outdated, and the idea of something the size of a credit card with orders of magnitude more processing power than his old refrigerator-sized mainframes is equal parts exciting and daunting.

So, in the interest of making him feel at home and getting him using the system as quickly and painlessly as possible, I'm looking for a distro that supports as much of his old knowledge as possible. He worked with UNIX when it was brand new, and Linux when it arrived, so he's comfortable working from the command line (in fact, it took quite a bit to get him to STOP using the command prompt in Windows 7...).

The main priorities are:

  • Relatively hassle-free setup, including networking if possible
  • Lightweight low-clutter desktop
  • Support for C and FORTRAN compilers

That last one might seem odd; essentially, he used to give lectures on FORTRAN, and wants to try building some programs that he always wanted to write - including one to do a Fourier-transform-based calculation that he did by hand with a slide rule (!) when he was a mechanical engineer, before he got into computing.

2 Answers 2


Linux, like unix, is fundamentally a C based system, and gcc, the native C compiler, is probably the most widely used C compiler in the world today.

The GNU Fortran compiler is gfortran. It is also part of GCC (the CC is for "Compiler Collection", the G is for GNU, and gcc is the usual name of the C compiler executable). It used to be called g77. There are at least 5 versions of it available on raspbian as reported by apt-cache search fortran.

Raspbian seemed pretty easy to install to me and if gramps has previous *nix experience he shouldn't have a problem. You want a distro that is compiled with hardware floating point support for the pi's processor.

Raspbian is derived from Debian; likewise, there is a hardware float version of Fedora, pidora, which should also contain everything you need (Debian and Fedora are the upstream packagers for Ubuntu and Redhat respectively, and hence, the two most significant linux distribution streams). There is also an Arch linux pi distro, but it probably will not meet the "easy to install" criteria.


NOOBS is probably going to be the easiest thing to just setup and go. It ships with gcc/g++ for writing in C and C++ and you could install gfortran by typing sudo apt-get install gfortran in the command line.

For lighter programming, if he's interested, he could try scripting languages. Python comes with NOOBS and ruby is a personal favorite.


I forgot to mention you'll want to select raspbian on install with NOOBS.

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