You get your Raspberry Pi for a few dollars, then you drop into your SD card whatever Raspberry Pi supported Linux distribution you can possibly get in there. No hands tied. Commoners stick with one of these more or less official distributions; Raspbian “wheezy”, Arch Linux ARM, Pidora, RISC OS, switching from one Linux distribution to the other from time to time. To make things easier for the noobs, if they aren’t already, the Raspberry Pi foundation has released New Out Of Box Software, NOOBS, a new installation system for Raspberry Pi that allows “noobs” to jump from one Pi supported operating system to the other using a simple boot menu.
“When you boot up for the first time, you’ll see a menu prompting you to install one of several operating systems into the free space on the card”. “Once you’ve installed an operating system, your Pi will boot as normal. However, NOOBS stays resident on your card, so by holding shift down during boot you can return to the recovery interface. This allows you to switch to a different operating system, or overwrite a corrupted card with a fresh install of the current one”. NOOBS also has an editor for the currently installed operating system’s config.txt and the Arora web browser to allow users to get support on the internet.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation is working with its partners to offer SD cards pre-installed with NOOBS in the nearest future, but users can download and try NOOBS right now. The download comes with instructions on how to unpack the NOOBS zip file into a freshly formatted 4GB or larger SD card. NOOBS code is published under the MIT license.