EndlessOS is a distribution of Linux I have been watching from afar and almost dabbled with several times. Unfortunately for me and my biases, I didn’t take the time to get to know this distribution sooner. This is an incredibly interesting project that has been given a lot of time and care with plenty of thought. In no way should Endless ever be confused with a casual passion project. This is a serious, well designed and well thought out distribution of Linux that should be part of any Linux user’s growth in an open source enthusiastenthusiest.
Bottom line up front: Endless OS is a very interesting Linux distribution that has a specific target. I am not that target that I can appreciate. To refer to Endless as a Linux distribution does not do it justice as this is so much more. This is a Linux product. The “offline internet” and especially the Cooking application with the loads and loads of recipes built into it. There has obviously been a lot of thought that went into the user interface as this is incredibly polished. The presentation and holistic thoughtfulness in the user interface is not lost on me at all. The interface and the design intent is quite clear but is clearly not for me. I will stick with my more customizable KDE Plasma with my comfortable, leading-edge base that openSUSE Tumbleweed provides. Bottom line up front: Endless OS is a very interesting Linux distribution that has a specific target. I am not that target that I can appreciate. To refer to Endless as a Linux distribution does not do it justice as this is so much more. This is a Linux product. The “offline internet” and especially the Cooking application with the loads and loads of recipes built into it. There has obviously been a lot of thought that went into the user interface as this is incredibly polished. The presentation and holistic thoughtfulness in the user interface is not lost on me at all. The interface and the design intent is quite clear but is clearly not for me. I will stick with my more customizable KDE Plasma with my comfortable, leading-edge base that openSUSE Tumbleweed provides.
Installing Endless OS is a rather pleasant experience, the splash screen that introduces Endless OS felt like the same gravitas you would get from starting up a commercial, highly anticipated game.
The logo, coloring and the effect of it’s appearance, told me right away, I am not working with a Linux Distribution, I am working with a Linux product. The installation process was really quite simple. It begins with setting your language than determine if you want to “Try or Buy” this experience. Since I wanted to install it so I went for the “Reformat” option.
Next you are which version you’d like to use. Since there was only one option and no explanation as to how to download another, this did seem like a pointless step. The next step makes sense to me. I offered to select which disk to select to install EndlessOS. In this case, I am running this on a Virtual Machine so there is only one selection available.
Once you select Next, the reformatting will commence and you will be prompted to power off which was just a bit odd as I would think a reboot would be the next step.
Regardless, it rebooted and the installation continued where you were asked to select your language then the keyboard layout.
I realize this is a very litigious world we live in so this is the reality of life today, which is unfortunate but since, even after reading through it, I didn’t see a problem with it, I chose to accept and continue. I also selected to Automatically save and send usage statistics and problems. Spoiler alert, I didn’t have any problems.
If you are looking to add any online accounts, you can do so now and then you are asked to give information about you. The default sunflower avatar didn’t really seem to fit me so I changed the icon to just something else.
The last step asks for a password and then you are done.
Once you select to Start Using Endless the setup is complete and you can begin wondering around in the vastness that is EndlessOS.
First Run and Impressions
Right from the beginning, EndlessOS presented itself unlike any other Linux Distribution. I wouldn’t say that this isn’t a desktop in the strictest of senses. It is very much more like using a mobile operating system such as an Android Tablet or Phone and I wouldn’t say that it has a desktop either. In fact, I don’t know what to call it. Whatever it is called, that is what Endless has.
Although it is very different, it is also familiar at the same time. Along the bottom there are the familiar desktop features you would expect in a desktop… but they don’t all behave like you would expect… entirely. The menu button in the lower left corner behaves more like a “show desktop” than a menu but in this case the “desktop” is the menu… which is more like an Android device.
The neat feature of this desktop is the ease of beginning a search. Using Plasma, I would activate krunner to search for something. In my case, I wold press Alt + Spacebar or press the Meta key and start typing to pull up the menu and get the same search function. By contrast, on Endless OS, just start typing.
I started to type “games” because I was at a momentary loss as to what else I should type and it immediately brought up related items to games. This would include anything on the system to curated items in the App Center. There is an option to “Search Google for” your search term as well. This is another great example of the notion that the this is a product, not just a Linux distribution.
I wanted to explore some of the applications on Endless and I think my favorite of the applications I tried is the cooking application. Not only does it look great and feel welcoming but is very intuitiveeasy to navigate.
Some other noteworthy applications that I don’t have the time of which to give you a full review are what’s included, certainly aimed at education, one section, Games to Hack has some neat tutorials for working on games and the tools you need to start doing some coding. Seeing that Arduino and Raspberry Pi made the cut is simply fantastic.
The only thing that made me scratch my head was that I didn’t understand why the terminal wasn’t forefront in the menu system. Not a big deal though, that aforementioned search system allows for the same discovery option and you are able to search “Terminal” and find the terminal. I had to check and it was interesting to know that a freshly installed Endless OS system used 27 GiB of disk space and when settled, only uses 713 MiB of RAM. I find that impressive, considering it is a modified GNOME system.
I can see a lot of value in Endless OS and I only just began to scratch the surface of it. I can see a lot of value in this finely polished product. After touring around for a while. The only issue I had was finding out how to log out. Since the “menu” wasn’t a menu and didn’t have my session management options, like logging out. I eventually did figure out after clicking around that my avatar image in the lower-right corner was where I was able to shut the system down.
What I Like
It is of no debate whatsoever, Endless OS is a highly, highly polished and well thought out distribution. The whole package from initial boot, the installer to the running operating system is a unified product. Although called a Linux distribution, this is very much more than that, it is indeed a Product.
Some of the default applications are pretty fantastic to have. The number one on that list for me, the Cooking application is pretty great. The interface is very intuitive but that is not the impressive piece of it. What really stands out is the massive amount of recipes to try. I also really enjoyed seeing the selection of applications under the “Learn to Code” collection. Arduino Projects, Raspberry Pi Projects and Video Games stick out the most to me.
I appreciate the goal of Endless OS. They are working to bring the “internet experience” to less developed regions of the world and makes a single computer a lot more valuable. It makes me think… I wonder if other sites and resources could be rolled into this in a similar fashion. If so, that could make for a great offline repository of resources.
What I Don’t Like
Access to a terminal emulator is not immediately obvious. At least, I couldn’t find it in the “menu” of programs. I was able to find it by just typing “terminal” and it popped up. This wasn’t a huge deal… just kind of annoying. It would have been a bit nicer to have had it on the forefront… but that is likely not the intent with the target audience.
The “menu” in the lower left corner doesn’t exactly “play” the way I would expect but I do have to concede that the reason is to give a more Android / Mobile OS feel than the traditional desktop feel. This is totally my preference but I find the mobile phone application menu handling cumbersome. The clustering of applications, the Android way, is also a bit jarring too. Though I can very easily type to search for something, there is something to be said for browsing through a menu, grouped in logical categories.
It took me a bit to figure out where the session management tools were, I couldn’t find the logout or shutdown icons for a little bit but once I did, it made sense to me. I just wish there was some more obvious indicator as to where those selection exist.
Pause For Noteworthy Hardware
I am always a fan of interesting hardware and Endless has, for sale, some products that look like nothing else. These are not your average plastic and metal beige or black boxes with a couple LEDs to tell you that the thing still has a “heart beat”. They are works of art.
These simple yet elegant designs have a cleanly warmth to them that would look good, about anywhere in any room. These are by no means a power house of computing power but they would get the job done, for sure. For more information, check out the computers here.
Endless OS is a finely polished product that has a specific target market. I am not in that target market but I can think of many that would fit in this. I am initially thinking that this would be a pretty great interface to get kids into Linux. It is just set up perfectly for exploring Linux and learning how to use computers. The Learning to Code section is absolutely something that I would love to push my kids to do as they get a bit older.
I highly recommend trying Endless OS, just to try it. Even running it in a VM and playing around with it, is a great use of time. It will most certainly spark the imagination as to what you can do with it. I wish I had more time to explore all the different applications, especially under the Learning to Code and Games to Hack sections. I actually think that there could be several articles related to Endless OS and all the remarkable applications they have bundled into this product.
In the end, as refined as Endless is, it is just not the distribution for me. Although I believe there are many things to be gained by using Endless OS, the user interface design is just not compatible with the way I prefer to use the desktop. I also, personally, do not have a need to have several gigabytes of internet data on my machine. While I certainly see the utility in that, it is not what I personally want. I will stick with my comfortable, like old leather, distribution of openSUSE Tumbleweed and the Plasma Desktop where everything is tailored to me personally.