Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes the title of this article is something that pops up in my head almost immediately when I heard about Elementary OS. It turned out that I wasn’t wrong, everything about this Linux distribution is simple and clean, hence elementary. In the first glance, it’s quite clear that the project aims to be as lightweight yet stylish at the same time.
About 2 years ago when I first heard about this new flavour, I dismissed it as I thought it was just another skinning of Ubuntu with Gnome Desktop. This changed when I had to rebuild my linux desktop so that I can use it for other purposes. See, the Linux desktop was using Ubuntu 15.04 , this was a home server which does nothing but hosts a whole bunch of VMs. Now that I’ve offloaded the important VMs to the cloud, I can actually use this for other work or fun. The problem with is of course 15.04 was end of life, therefore I couldn’t really upgrade it properly. I tried upgrading to 17.04 then 17.10, then I realized that Unity support is about to end. I personally don’t really like the stock Gnome 3 (the whole hidden desktop menu just doesn’t sit with me).
Therefore, it was time to find a new Linux Distro. Enter Elementary OS.
The User Interface
As I mentioned in the beginning, Elementary OS is very simple. Installation process from the beginning was smooth and the desktop loaded real quick. The user interface is very straightforward and clean, something that doesn’t exist in a lot of other Linux desktops.
I found that navigating through the file explorer, finding installed apps and navigating through the app store was easy. I also use OSX a lot, perhaps that’s why I found the design very familiar.
Default Applications and More
Suffice to say that the default applications that came with Elementary are very well… elementary. There was definitely no bloatware at all. Only the most basic apps came with the OS such as web browser, mail, scratch (text editor), music player and of course the AppCenter.
While we are here, let’s talk about the AppCenter. This is Elementary OS’ take on App Store and I think this is a promising start. The store is easy to navigate and the curated apps have good screenshot and descriptions. Even though the App Center may not have everything that Ubuntu Store can offer, it’s definitely looking better and has good potential.
One thing that I like with this App Center is that it’s actually a “Pay what you want” store. I think this is a good incentive for software developers to contribute to this project. I am a software developer myself and while I support open source software (my JIRA tool is open source), I know that writing software takes a lot of effort and time. Therefore a “pay what you want” model like this is a good middle ground between totally free and totally commercial app.
In fact, my first “pay what you want” purchase from App Center was the SSH bookmark manager. The payment went smooth as well.
Other Apps and Games
I did mention that some of the app or the versions that I needed wasn’t there. There were a few extra steps that I had to do to get it going, so I’ll share it here as well.
Eddy is actually an Elementary OS curated app for installing debian packages. This was one of the first things that I installed as this gives me easier way to install deb packages. Other important apps that I install via deb package downloads are skype, google chrome, jetbrain toolbox, steam, etc.
Out of the box, Elementary OS has dropbox installable from the App Center. However it is marked as non-curated and when I installed it, the applet icon (the tray icon) did not show up, hence I can’t really adjust the dropbox settings.
Thankfully someone already created a great script to add Pantheon support to the Dropbox applet.
Visit this page to do so: https://github.com/zant95/elementary-dropbox
The version that comes from the App Center was the older stable version 5.3.6. Which is okay for most people. I wanted to try their new experimental features though such as the ribbon bar.
What I did was add the LibreOffice PPA and install the package via terminal.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/libreoffice-5-4
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install libreoffice
GOG (Good Old Games) Dependencies
Yes, this is probably not directly related to Elementary OS, but I’ll mention it anyway as I wished I had this information handy. It seems that GOG does not ship with the required library to run the games, therefore those had to be installed manually. The specific dependencies are in the game description pages in gog.com by the way. Below are the generic ones that would run most GOG games.
sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
sudo apt-get install libc6:i386 libasound2:i386 libasound2-data:i386 libasound2-plugins:i386 libsdl2-2.0-0:i386 libfreetype6:i386 libqtgui4:i386 libcurl3-gnutls:i386 libglew1.13:i386
You may not need this of course, however if you do, the way to install Docker might be a little different. The problem is that the the default command that the official docker document uses Loki instead of Xenial to add the repo.
Thankfully, this gist helped me out: https://gist.github.com/cristofersousa/a3f111f8254a722c683d6d3a65d4099a
Docker was up after that in no time.
There’s only one thing that I had to do speed up desktop load. I don’t really notice this the first couple boots though. It seems that there is a bug where at-spi-dbus-bus takes a while to load up on start up and this is something that I personally don’t really need as this is an enabler for accessibility features.
So based on the discussion here: https://elementaryos.stackexchange.com/questions/7897/significant-lag-loading-panel-and-dock-after-login-loki I decided to disable the at-spi-dbus-bus on start up.
sudo mv /etc/xdg/autostart/at-spi-dbus-bus.desktop /etc/xdg/autostart/at-spi-dbus-bus.disabled
The Verdict so Far
Aside from the little troubleshooting above, everything has been smooth sailing so far. There’s really no reason to complain. The OS feels polished even though it’s only version 0.4 and the different way of offering “pay what you want” App is commendable.
I will be using Elementary OS for my main work and entertainment desktop.
To those who are looking to switch operating system, check this one out.
To those who want to support an open source project, this is one of the worthy ones.
desktop, development, elementary, gaming, linux