Endeavour OS | Review from an openSUSE User

Endeavour OS is the unofficial successor to Antegros, I’ve never used Antegros so I cannot make any comparisons between the two. It should also be noted that I think Arch Linux, in general, is more work than it is worth so this won’t exactly be a shining review. Feel free to bail here if you don’t like the direction of my initial prejudice.

I am reviewing Endeavour OS as a rather biased openSUSE Linux user that is firmly entrenched in all things openSUSE. I am going at this from the perspective that my computer is my companion, my coworker or assistant in getting my digital work done and some entertainment sprinkled in there as well.

Bottom Line Up Front: If you want to run main-line Arch, Endeavour OS is absolutely the way to get going with it. They take the “Easy Plus One” approach to Arch by allowing you to install what I would consider a minimal but very usable base and learn to use “genuine Arch” with all the triumphs and pitfalls. If you want to go Arch, I can most certainly endorse this as the route to do so. However, even after playing here for two weeks, I find Arch to be more trouble than it is worth but a great educational experience.

Installation

Installing Arch using the “Arch Method” from the Wiki is pretty obtuse. Following it, step by step is not clear and leaves to many aspects ambiguous and unclear. It should NOT be a “beginners guide” at all. Thankfully, Endeavour OS installer bypasses the nonsense so you can get going with Arch.

The media will boot quickly and you are given a shiny desktop with a window open. There are two tabs, the first tab has two selections: one access to offline information and the second for information the Endeavour OS website. The second tab will allow you to create partitions and to install Endeavour OS to the disk.

Should you choose to make modifications to the existing file system. You can do so from here using the Gparted tool.

Since I set this up to be on a virtual machine, I intended on using the entire disk so no partitioning was necessary. Selecting Install EndeavourOS to disk initiates the installer. It will start out requesting language then Location.

Next is the Keyboard layout and your partitions preference. Since this is a simple setup, I selected to erase the disk to meet my testing requirements.

Lastly, the User, computer hostname and passwords will be entered. The last step being the summary and a final sanity check. Not a single step was difficult in this process. It was all very straight forward.

The installation proceeds rather quickly and gives some rather enjoyable propaganda is presented. One questioning your disposition towards the terminal.

Once the installation is complete, I restarted the system to boot into the newly installed Arch Linux based operating system.

First run and Impressions

Something that is most noteworthy was the speed at which Endeavour OS went from boot screen to login prompt. It wasn’t just fast, it was as expeditious as the time it takes to flip the switch of a Commodore 64 having that momentary pause and be greeted with that comforting blue glow on a 1084S CRT.

Upon logging in, you are presented one of the finest looking Xfce desktops I have ever seen. The only issue I had with the start up is that this Kalu applet spews out important system “news”. It was a little like going to a relatives house and being greeted by that over excited nephew

The first thing I thought I would do would be to perform some updates. After all, I had just been informed, quite clearly that there are lots of updates pending. After punching in my root password, the installer commenced with such an incredible display of detail that it tickled every nerdy nerve ending.

After the updates completed there was not a single issue with the system. It all booted with the latest and greatest Arch has to offer and just as stable as before. That meant it was time to check out the customization options. Make some tweaks to remove that piercing white from the User Interface.

After clicking through a few themes, the appearance that sat the best with me was the Arc-Dark theme. Adwaita-dark was a close second and would make me just about as happy.

The default file manager is satisfactory. It’s not quite as good as Dolphin but for basic use, it will work well. The icon theme looks real nice and makes for a real pleasant and complete experience.

When it came time to install software, it was time to see what Endeavour had installed for me to accomplish that task. The good news is, they gave you everything you need… the terminal and the Pacman package manager.

Since I am mostly aware of how to use Pacman, this isn’t a big deal but the Endeavour OS Pacman basic commands list page is lacking the search function but I do have that solution in hand. Since I am not a complete dolt, I am able to figure these things out but as I learn the Pacman commands, I find them to be an adhoc mess. After sifting through the Arch Wiki the search command is performed like this:

pacman -Ss <package name>

Once you determine the package you want to install, it can be done as such.

sudo pacman -S <package name>

…Because it is completely intuitive to have -S be install and -Ss be search… I’m sure it makes sense to someone, somewhere.

I was able to search for and install many of the applications I would need except one. Surprisingly, I was not able to install osc the Open Build Service Commander command line tool. I find it odd that it is in the Debian repositories but not Arch which seemingly has everything.

I is probably available in the Arch User Repository (AUR) of which is something I would avoid as it is kind of the wild, wild west of software. Some say they love it, others tell me to avoid it and some tell me I have to read through everything carefully to make sure I am not installing anything dangerous. All of which makes me sigh.

What I Like

The installer is easy to use. It is quick to get going with Arch and not have to muddle around with the nearly useless “Basic Installation Guide” provided on the Arch Wiki. The basic installation with Endavour OS gives you a fine looking Xfce Desktop Environment and tweaks it well enough that one can comfortably get going with it and accomplish basic tasks… that is… after you’ve installed your desired applications

The boot up time for Endeavour OS is fast, not just fast, but strap in, hang on, we are jumping to warp speed kind of fast. Granted, I haven’t set up the loads on this that I do on my regular machine so I can’t say if it would fare any differently but out of the gate, Endeavour will not leave you impatiently tapping your foot at any point.

Most importantly, and this is quite subjective, but the community is quite friendly. When it is all said and done. Linux is not just an operating system of components but one of people and community members. Just in observation alone, the project seems to foster a sense of community that is extremely helpful and quite engaged. That feature alone makes Endeavour OS worth all the hassle of using Arch tools.

What I Don’t Like

Pacman has a real obtuse syntax. I don’t care what the justification might be but understanding how to install software on an Arch distribution should not be as such. This is ridiculously unintuitive and doesn’t feel like it was well planned out at all. It absolutely feels like they added features and chose a letter in the same way you would pick one playing Scrabble.

Since this is Arch based, there are some rather dubious quality assurance practices. There isn’t that automated testing as you would see in openSUSE, openQA to minimize the likelihood of new software breaking systems. In my opinion… let me underscore, bold and italicize opinion, this would not make for a good server or production machine environment. Many people will say they run it just fine. I would submit that these individuals are intimately acquainted with their systems and know it inside and out. There is merit and utility in this but I don’t have the time for another relationship with a computer (insert Commodore Amiga jokes here).

Not as big of a deal but there isn’t a good description of how to get software for Endeavour OS on your system. There isn’t a graphic installer or instructions on the Endeavour OS website for searching for packages. You kind of have to fend for yourself. This is, adamantly a minor issue and easily rectified.

As wonderful as the AUR is and how likely it is that the software has no malware, it is still the wild, wild west of software. There is no guarantee that the software will be maintained or tested against the current versions in the official repository. There is no guarantee on proper testing or any level of quality assurance either.

Final Thoughts

If you are going to jump with both feet into the murky, shark infested waters of Arch, Endeavour OS provides a great life raft, or maybe an actual dingy to shield you from some of the hazards of using Arch. I wouldn’t put any stock into it holding up long term but that is quite likely my experiential bias of using Arch and perhaps my lack of fully understanding how to use the Arch tools… but that brings me to my next point. I am not a Linux noobie. Using and managing numerous Linux machines on numerous devices has been mostly effortless and automatic. Arch is like taking numerous steps backward. The machine doesn’t work for you, you work for the machine. Although I didn’t have any issues with Arch in the two weeks I used it, I have had previous installs go wonky on me. I do admit, it may be due to my lack of understanding and experience on Arch.

The Endeavour team has made huge strides in getting Arch Linux closer to what I would consider sustainable but it is still too much like flying a helicopter with a wonky tail rotor through a derecho on half a tank of fuel. It’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong. I see the utility in Arch but not the benefits, at least, not any benefits that outweigh what openSUSE gives me.

References

Endeavour OS Download

Endeavour OS Pacman basic commands list

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Zorin OS 15 | Review from an openSUSE User

One of those distributions there is a lot of buzz about and I have mostly ignored for a significant number of years has been Zorin OS. I just shrugged my shoulders and kind of ignored its existence. None of the spoken or written selling points really stuck with me, like a warm springtime rain trickling off of a ducks back, I ignored it.

I think that was a mistake.

Instead of just acting like I know something about it, I made the time to noodle around in this rather nice Linux distribution. My review on Zorin OS is from the perspective of a deeply entrenched, biased openSUSE user. I won’t pretend that this is going to be completely objective, as it absolutely is not. So take that for what it’s worth.

Bottom line up front and to give you a quick escape from the rest of this blathering, I was pleasantly surprised by the Zorin OS experience. It is a highly polished experience molded with the Gnome Desktop Environment. It is such a nicely customized and smooth experience, I had to check twice to verify that it was indeed Gnome I was using. Although I am exceptionally satisfied with using openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop, the finely crafted distribution gave me pause and much to think about. So much so, I had to think about some of my life decisions. This was such an incredibly seamless and pleasant experience and I could easily recommend this for anyone that is curious about Linux but doesn’t have a lot of technical experience. I would put this right up next to Mint as an approachable introduction to the Linux world.

Installation

The installation media can be acquired here where I went for the “Free” edition called “Core”. I chose to run this in a virtual machine as the scope of this evaluation is is to test the ease of [basic] installation, how usable the interface is and the [subjective] quality of the system tools.

The Core edition gives you three options. All of which are to Try or Install. For my case, I am choosing the top option which is simply, “Try or Install Zorin OS”.

The system boots with a very modern or almost look to the future font, simply displaying, “Zorin.”

You are immediately greeted with two options, to “Try…” or to “Install…” for my purposes, I have chosen to Install Zorin OS. Following that choice, your next task is to set your keyboard layout and your preference on Updates and other software.

Next you are to select the Installation type. Since this is a simple setup, I have chosen to erase the disk. You are given one sanity check before proceeding. Selecting Continue is essentially the point of no return.

After you have past the point of no return, select your location and enter your user information and the hostname of the computer.

Following the final user-required input, the installation of Zorin OS 15 will commence. This process doesn’t take very long and if you are interested in all the nerdy details, there is an arrow just to the let of “Installing system” that will reveal the interesting bits.

That is all there is to it to install Zorin OS. It’s super simple to get the installation completed and get onward with your foray into this shiny new Linux installation.

First Run and Impressions

Upon the reboot of the system, you are presented with a bright, fresh, desktop that gives you the renewed and rewarding feeling of waking up, overlooking a great expanse from a precipice following a long, hard day of hiking through winding, steep, thickly wooded, mountainside trails. This, this is finest smelling desktop that absolutely brings life to your finger tips!

Although I am not big fan of the bright themed desktop, somehow, this is tolerable. I can’t put my finger on it, but I like it. Maybe it the subdued panel along the bottom or the the well-thought out icon set but this is a nice white theme. This is also likely the only time I will ever write this.

The settings present themselves quite nicely in Zorin OS. Unlike many other Gnome experiences, the options are readily available, there isn’t the mess of settings you get with a typical Gnome Desktop. There are no myriad of extensions that need to be installed and digging through separate settings systems just to get simple things turned on like a minimize button. There is no “Gnome Tweaks” requirement to make it functional. This is functional right out of the gate, like a Desktop should be. This is a truly mature desktop experience that takes user preference into account, this is fantastic! This makes Gnome great and I take everything bad I ever said about Gnome back.

After darkening the theme to something more palatable, as the white fatigued me a bit I was liking this desktop even more. It should also be noted, there is an option that allows you to have the desktop auto-magically change from light to dark theme based on the time of day.

The Software Update Utility has a nice little feature to it. It was something I didn’t notice initially but on a second round of updates, there was a notification on the lock screen that there are updates available. I don’t know if this is a normal Gnome thing, I don’t recall seeing this before but I do think that this is pretty fantastic.

The update process is easy enough. Selecting “Install Now” will kick the process off. Enter your password and you are off to the update races.

I wanted to dig into the system a bit as I was unsure what exactly Zorin was based upon. I knew it was Ubuntu based but what exactly. In the terminal, I ran the command.

uname -a

It gave the following output

Linux ZorinOS-VM 4.18.0-25-generic #26~18.04.1-Ubuntu SMP Thu Jun 27 07:28:31 UTC 2019 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

That tells me that this is based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, Bionic Beaver.

I was interested in what wonders the software center brought to me. On the very top was a very enticing banner to tell me to try OnlyOffice, I resisted just long enough to look at all the recommended software choices, many of which are Snaps.

When I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer, I had to see what this “OnlyOffice” was all about. Scrolling down to the bottom, I see that it is also a snap so I installed it and launched it.

Although LibreOffice is installed by default, I found this to be an interesting alternative. Sure, LibreOffice satisfies my needs but maybe I am a bit of an Office Suite Hopper. Perhaps a bit more of a dabbler but I just wanted to kick the tires a bit. My initial impressions are that it is much like the latest of the Microsoft office suites but with only the three main parts: word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications.

I like what I see, it is responsive and would be a great safety blanket for someone used to the Microsoft Office suite of tools. Also, knowing it is a Snap, I may have to revisit this application at another time. At this time, I still prefer LibreOffice because of the dark openSUSE Breeze theme that keeps my eyes happy.

What I Like

The experience is very well polished. So well polished I almost couldn’t tell I was using Gnome. The menu was incredibly well laid out and a very approachable designed. The customization options were easily accessible to changing it to a dark theme that suited me well was effortless. I was able to install most of the core set of applications I would need to get along fine if I chose to live here. The Zorin Connect application, based on KDE Connect, is a well done execution.

What really makes Zorin stand out is the implementation of Gnome. This has significantly altered my perspective of Gnome. Zorin has fixed the mess of controls you would normally find in Gnome by integrating the Gnome Settings, Gnome Tweaks and maybe some other things in a sensible fashion and providing some layout options that may be to your liking.

What I Don’t Like

Unsurprisingly, there was one terminal based application I was not able to install from the Software Center, which is the openSUSE build service command-line tool. Not a big deal, easy enough to install from the terminal using apt install osc.

Since the Desktop is Gnome, it is going to be encumbered by the Gnome shortcomings. The higher memory usage, the single process thread of Gnome Shell and that it is demonstrably the slowest of the desktop options. The Zorin team, however, has done a lot to make Gnome shine better than I have ever experienced and perhaps this is proof that all of the encumberments can indeed be eliminated.

Final Thoughts

Zorin OS has rocketed itself to the top of my list of distributions to recommend to new users. From my perspective, this one is tied with Mint on easiness to deploy and familiarity in the interface. I now give it a number one in the implementation of Gnome as they seemed to have fixed the glaring user experience shortcomings. I give this two thumbs up! …but it still wouldn’t rip me from my precious openSUSE Tumbleweed. As well done as this is with all the options, something still felt confining, probably my own biases. Regardless, if you have never tried Zorin OS, give this a spin.

References

Zorin OS Home
OnlyOffice Home