Pop!_OS | Review from an openSUSE User

PopOS Logo

As part of a kind of challenge, I have decided to kick the tires on Pop!_OS Since I don’t have the extra hardware to install it on “bare metal” so I have chosen to put it in a Virtual Machine. Pop!_OS can be downloaded from here. I chose the 2GB sized Intel/AMD version for this test. The Requirements are on par with nearly every other 64-bit distribution out there. It requires 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage.

Installation

The installation process Pop!_OS is a fantastic experience. The instructions are clear and  the presentation is uncluttered with a clear course of action. Very good for a new user to Linux.

After the installation and reboot of the machine, you are prompted to set up your user. It’s all pleasantly straight forward and easy to understand.  It is at this point you can choose to encrypt or not encrypt your home directory.

First Run

After you log in, you are greeted with this friendly, multilingual, interactive welcome dialog. Like the installation experience, clean and simple.

PopOS-09-Welcome

Your First task is to set your privacy settings

PopOS-12-Privacy

Nothing confusing, simple wording and asks you questions very simply; Do you want to allow applications to know your location. No techno babble, no long winded explanations. Plain, simple and clear language.

Next your asked if you want to set up any online accounts. I was not particularly interested in this feature so I did not test it.

PopOS-13-Online Accounts

Should you skip this step, it is easy to get set up accounts later. This is in the settings menu. Searching “Online Accounts” in the menu will bring it up.

That is all that will be needed to get started.

PopOS-14-Ready

And you are ready to get Pop!_OS-ing

PopOS-05-Splash Screen

Adding Software

The cleverly named Pop!_Shop which is a re-skinned ElementaryOS App Center, not the Gnome Software Center, which I originally thought.

PopOS-06-Pop Shop

I searched for and installed Telegram with the expected outcome. I searched for specific libraries to install what is needed for the Smart Card but nothing would show up. When the GUI doesn’t do as asked, there is still terminal to bail you out. Using my instructions here to make the installation.

PopOS-07-Set Up CAC.png

The process of going back and forth became a bit irritating but more on that later. Installing and testing out the Smart Card system was successful. It worked just as my instructions specified for Ubuntu and its derivatives.

What I Like

PopOS-16-Lock ScreenFor starters, this is an Ubuntu derivative, so I know I have access to… basically everything. Also, knowing this is built on a well tested base, plus the extra polish from System76, I would have no distrust of any system running this.

The installation interface is beautiful and friendly. It has fun artwork, straight forward installer. The look and the artwork in Pop!_OS is absolutely stellar. It has a fun, clean and modern looking interface. The contrast is perfect and give the Environment the same kind of welcoming, pleasant, here is a hot cup of coco, go sit by the fire and warm up, after shoveling the snow off of the sidewalks.

The Pop!_Shop is not only cleverly named but looks great. The care and attention to detail made by the designers make this application fit into their finely crafted desktop environment is noticed and appreciated.

The base set of applications chosen by the designers is a nice fit. It has all the basics you need without having to install anything. You can get by just fine with what’s available and not be burdened by the confusion of excessive application selection.

What I don’t like

I want to make it clear that I have a pretty huge bias as I am entrenched in a particular workflow and I happen to like, how openSUSE structures itself. I also want to make perfectly clear that I think this is a very fine piece of art and technology for which I have great admiration in all those involved.

PopOS-17-Extra ClicksFor starters, I do not like having to click on “Activities” on the top of the screen to do pretty much everything. It is my opinion that this exercise is nothing more than unnecessary wear and tear on my mouse button and a general waste of time. This particular design choice is clunky and inefficient. The lack of buttons on the window and the lack of any way to add them, at least one that is not obvious. It would be a fantastic feature to minimize the screen at the click of a button or maybe keep windows above others with a single-click of a button. Much like the additional unnecessary clicks to do anything through the “Activity” button, I have to add a right-click than select what I want to do with the window.

There is no Task Bar no way of knowing what is going on at a glance, to look at all your windows open, extra clicking is required by going back to that “Activities” button. Alternatively, the Alt+Tab will allow you to switch windows, which works fine if you only have a few applications running. If you have a lot going on, switching between applications is going to be a mess.

Not a big deal, but I don’t particularly care for the way you have to use authentication to do updates from the GUI. I say this with my openSUSE bias as doing an upgrade through the update tool requires no authentication when using openSUSE Leap. This is a small potatoes thing… really…

Last thing… and this too falls back on my bias… Due to the lack of package selection from the Pop!_Shop, I needed another package manager since as much as I like GUIs, so I installed Synergy to see how it compared to openSUSE YaST Software Manager.

sudo apt-get install synaptic

Synaptic is pretty decent. It has a lot of the great features of which I am accustomed to with openSUSE but there was one glaring missing feature I was not able to find.

PopOS-08-Synaptic

There isn’t any way to select a repository to switch system packages into. Perhaps this is not a necessary feature in Ubuntu based systems but for openSUSE, this is a nice feature. There is value in switching system repositories to a more bleeding edge KDE or Gnome and switching them back, if wanted.

Final Thoughts

Would I use Pop_OS! for a daily driver? As nice as it is, the spectacular polish, the beautiful art, sensible selection of default applications and so much more, I still would not. There are too many user interface issues with it that make it too slow and clunky. The lack of minimize and task bar in the desktop plus the required extra-clicks to get to the menu, although it is not a serious productivity loss, it just feels slower. I am aware that there is a work around for that using Gnome-Tweaks and Keyboard Shortcuts but I just don’t find it an acceptable out-of-box answer.

I am certain that Pop!_OS is a fantastic interface for many and for those in which it works well, they should continue to use it. It looks fantastic and feels incredibly well polished and I have no doubt whatsoever that it is stable and works reliably for the long haul. It just doesn’t fit my needs. Part of the beauty of Linux and the open source is the ability to choose what is best suited for your particular needs, desires and unique flair. Use the best tool for the job and I have no doubt that Pop!_OS is a fine tool for many jobs.

Further Reading

Pop_OS! Download

DoD CAC Reader | Ubuntu, Derivatives and Linux Mint

ElementaryOS App Center

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7 thoughts on “Pop!_OS | Review from an openSUSE User

  1. Well presented and honest review. I have gone through many others related to Pop!_OS (I’m deciding to purchase a laptop from them) and while they try very hard not to offend, the system clearly requires much more work from the user.

    I honestly don’t understand how their UI design decisions (which also relates to out-of-the-box gnome) makes it easier for the end user. They have added some fine additions (installer, full disk encryption, graphics drivers for their “not so completely” linux-friendly laptops) and I applaud them for that.

    The effort on wallpapers, fonts, themes are passable. The focus on curated list of programs have a very “closed-garden” aspect to it – seriously… is the system designed for engineers, scientists, etc (as they tout on their pages) or for complete newbs who have barely touched a mouse?

    The UI interactions – what we have to work with…. Every. Single. Day – unforgivable. They are somewhere between iOS and Microsoft’s Metro. The worst of both worlds. Thanks but no thanks. If I order a laptop from these guys, I’ll install my own distro.

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    1. I respect their choice as they have determined it makes sense for their goals. They have fine looking hardware with great specifications, although, I am not one to buy the latest and greatest hardware as I do prefer to go slightly older and less expensive. I do agree with you, I would wipe it and put on my own distro… of course being openSUSE.

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    2. After installing Pop OS on an Asus ROG laptop, I started reading through some of the posts from people who developed the Gnome desktop. They seem to have very strong opinions about the way they have done things, and as someone who’s been using computers since the 1970s, their opinions don’t make a lot of sense (look into why they turned off the “system tray” feature, for example.) My essential problem with Gnome 3 is that it violates the principle of least surprise; things don’t work the way you expect them to work.

      That said, I did decide to stay with it as a primary OS on this system, for several reasons: the NVidia support is very smooth compared to other linux distros, and virtually all of my UI complaints were fixed by (a) installing Gnome tweeks, and (b) visiting the gnome desktop extensions site and installing a few extensions. In my case, Pop OS beats the alternative I had at my disposal (Windows 10 Pro) hands down for everything except Steam games, and even there, most of the games I tried that are available for Linux performed acceptably, even in the one or two cases where performance wasn’t quite as good as under Windows.

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      1. The Gnome team does seem to have some odd design choices. I do not particularly care for their decisions but I hope they continue to develop down whatever path they are choosing. They are contributing to the Linux desktop in the way they see best and I applaud their efforts. It just so happens that their direction does not align with my personal preference.

        I’m glad you have a system that works well for you and I do hope it continues to meet your requirements. Though… If it doesn’t, there is always another distro. 🙂

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