I’ve had a chance to play with eOS (Elementary OS) and compare it with Linux Mint 15.
Mint is my current default operating system. I do like Debian-derived distros – having binary compiled and dependency checking. I have tried RPM distros, and they always seem to be slower and clunkier than the apt-get system. I have tried Arch Linux, but that kept breaking. I haven’t tried Gentoo. That seems too much work. I used to like Ubuntu, but now I don’t. It’s slow, bloated, has excruciating visual aesthetics (words can not convey just how bad it is), has usability that is RETARDED BEYOND BELIEF, and has too many levels of abstractions. This makes it difficult to administer, because trying to find out where something should be changed it like peeling back the layers of an onion. All you find is more onion. Oh, and you cry during the process.
I have a huge affection for Slackware, and I class it as my second-most favourite distribution. If I was setting up a server, then I would think very seriously about using Slackware. it’s a bit too much work to set up as a desktop environment, though. Slackware is very simple, and very fast. I find it easier to administer than Ubuntu. If run Ubuntu, the system feels sluggish, and there’s plenty enough disk thrashing. Contrariwise, I’ve had KDE running on Slackware, which felt fast and smooth and it didn’t even use swap space. I have tried a couple of Slackware derivatives in the past, but have never stuck with them. I always figured that if you want a slimmed-down version of Slackware, well, just don’t install all the packages.
Mint Cinnamon is, to my mind, everything that Ubuntu should have been. It has a very well-chosen sense of aesthetics – a kind of refined blend of unobtrusiveness and style. I love the font rendering. There days, I think that Linux desktops actually beat Macs and Windows on their font rendering. It took a long time coming, but it finally made it (mostly).
Here’s the thing … Windows actually got most of its desktop usability right. I’m not talking about Windows 8, of course, that one pretty much seemed to have screwed the pooch. Windows has a single task panel, from which I can launch apps, dock my favourite apps, see the date, and maximise any open program. It is, basically, an idea that’s never been bettered.
So here are my positive and negatives on eOS:
* gorgeous desktop. I think it even comes out ahead of
Cinnamon – which in itself is one of the most refined desktop environments I have seen.
* Docky wastes screen real estate. I’m not sure I like the whole Docky idea. Functionality-wise, the Cinnamon approach is just
better, as I discussed above
* fast. Mint seems to chug away at my disks, whereas eOS didn’t * aerosnap. Cinnamon has that too, though.
* no minimise button on Windows. That seems an omission to me. * Midori, the web browser, doesn’t seem to have a proper menu. This is something that I have been lamenting of late. Designers have decided to throw away a perfectly good paradigm in favour of inferior designs. Ribbons, for example. It is much harder to find
functionality using Ribbons than it is using traditional menus. Also, I don’t like the way that designers are trying to do away with menus altogether. Why? You see, the problem is in Midori, is that if I want to select a bookmark, I have to go to the widget thingy at the top right, click it, and open the bookmarks are a panel. From the panel, I can then select the bookmark I’m interested in. Personally, I think this wastes time and screen real estate.
So that’s my take on eOS. It’s a very nice system, and I can see a lot of people using it to oo and ahh over. I think that, ultimately, though, Mint edges out overall. Just my 2c.
Update 12-Nov-2013: I know that I have been critical of Ubuntu in the above post, often finding it very bloated. After having tried Ubuntu 13.10 for about a month now, I can honestly say that I quite like it. It is now my main operating system. Here are some of my thoughts:
- font rendering is excellent. Fonts were a weak point for Linux distros for a very very long time. I now think the font rendering on Linux is the best I have seen, beating Windows and OS X (although the last time I used OS X was Leopard. I now no longer own a Mac)
- the theming in Ubuntu is now very professional. Again, I think it is better than Windows 7 and OS X. Windows 7 still looks a little Fisher-Pricey out of the box, and I think that OS X actually often looks “over-worked”. The icon set for Ubuntu is good, and I like the window decorations. The two-toned monkey-faeces borders of the past never really did it for me, I’ll have to admit. The default background is pretty good, too. Purple is a difficult colour to pull off, but I think they managed it. My own attitude to theming in general is that it’s both harder than it looks, and easier than it looks. I think theming is about subtlety – it’s a very Fung Shei yin yang thing – you need to strike a balance between simplicity, minimalism, and colour co-ordination. On the other hand, you don’t want to make it look like some ugly-assed throwback from the 90’s. That’s why I think you shouldn’t keep redesigning themes. Themes should be refined, not completely redesigned every 6 months.
- the Ubuntu seems quite responsive to me, with none of the disk-crunching of the past. This was a major sticking point for me, and one of the chief reasons I became fed up with Ubuntu in the first place. I do like responsive systems
- Unity – and by extension the whole Gnome 3 thing – isn’t “too bad”. I think it’s a step back in usability, and they’ve definitely thrown away some of the lessons of the past. It seems likely that they will improve the usability if their current paradigm, though.
So, there we have it. I’m now more of a Unbuntu believer than I was before Saucy Salamander.