Last month, elementary OS (small ‘e’) came out with the first official, non-Beta release of it’s operating system that’s been in the works for almost 2 years. I just happened to notice it on DistroWatch the day it came out. I’ve heard about elementary OS for quite a long time. I’ve checked out the Beta version (called ‘Jupiter’) in the past, and though I liked the concept behind it, I wasn’t all that impressed with the earlier version. But many Linux enthusiasts have been waiting a long time for this, and I just had to give it a try! It’s based on the Ubunbtu 12.04 Long Term Release core.
After downloading the ISO and booting elementary OS 0.2, ‘Luna’ on our main computer, I found myself very pleasantly surprised! The elementary OS developers have a philosophy that ‘it’s not ready till it’s ready’, and though it was quite a long wait for the final product, I can see how much love and effort they put into every detail of their distro.
My first impression: “Peppy”. Navigating the desktop, using the custom-made application launcher (top left on the panel bar) and opening apps felt instantaneous! And this was running from a CD! Even desktop animations like opening and closing windows was very quick and smooth, without a proprietary driver installed. Other impressions: Clean, Light, Beautiful! There was something very refreshing about using this darn distro. It’s fun!
After using elementary OS for about twenty minutes from the Live CD, I was hooked! I was impressed enough that I also tried it out on the kid’s old computer with a Pentium 4 processor, and it ran just as fast on that! So I installed elementary, very quick and easy, and it’s been running on that PC for over a month now with zero problems.
The elementary team began a few years ago with a fresh, simple icon theme; then a visually-appealing, streamlined version of Gnome’s Nautilus file browser called ‘nautilus elementary’, which was very popular. The operating system they’ve created is based on the concept of simplicity, with a few basic applications for the things most people use a computer for; a clean visual style and a consistent look and feel throughout the OS.
elementary OS uses it’s own desktop environment, which obviously is based on Gnome 3, but reduced to the bare essentials. They’ve also made their own music player app, movie player, Instant Message App and a Calendar app which, for now, is quite basic, along with Plank, a simple Dock launcher at the bottom of the desktop. The OS also comes with the Midori browser and Geary Mail application. There’s an App Store installed, because you’ll most likely want to install more than the minimum of apps that comes with elementary OS. But with all the applications for Ubuntu available, you can find anything you’re likely to need.
I forgot to mention earlier: while testing elementary from the Live CD, I tried out the Music application to play an mp3 file from my hard drive. A dialog box popped up telling me I didn’t have the appropriate codec to play it, but offered to download and install it for me. I clicked OK and in moments the mp3 codecs were installed and my music file played! You can’t get more user-friendly than that! (Of course, once I had installed the OS to my hard drive, the proper plug-ins and codecs were good to go).
CONS: For computer users who are new to Linux, I think elementary OS is a pretty good choice. It’s clean, simple to use and things just work. However, for more advanced users there is a certain lack of configuration ability that may be a little frustrating. elementary OS comes with a System Settings control panel that is very similar to the one in Gnome 3, but it’s limited. The dock app Plank has no right-click configuration options; themes are limited; the OS does not come with a firewall or back-up software installed.
But fear not! There is an essential website that supplies much-needed information for filling out the functionality of elementary OS right HERE, called elementary update. Even more essential, just go to Top 10 Things to do After Installing Luna. Adding elementary Tweaks to your System Settings will allow many more options (similar to Ubuntu Tweak). Also this User Guide is quite helpful. A few more tips: to access options in the File Browser, right-click on the browser window background (but only in ‘Icon’ view, apparently) to show hidden files, etc. (See below).
I also installed Synaptic Package Manager, just because I like it, and GUFW for my simple firewall, as well as Firefox (Midori has some problems with Flash, which can be rectified through previous link). As for backup software, I initially installed Grsync, which always works great for me. But in elementary OS it would not run my backup once I set it up! I Googled around some more and found Cronopete, by Rastorsoft, which is made to run on elementary OS. It’s a clone of Apple’s Time Machine app, and it works beautifully!
So in closing, I would highly recommend elementary OS for a clean, fast and attractive operating system that works well and gets out of your way to use your computer. It may not appeal to some Linux power users, but for the average person looking for a free alternative to Windows or Mac, this one is a beauty!
If anyone out there uses Luna and has any more tips, please share them!