Elementary OS, Reviews

Elementary OS 0.2 “Luna” review

Events can be added to the calendar that span multiple days and that lasts all day. One problem I found is that once an event has been added, I could not edit it. The edit button, which is on the far left of the event addition button, is greyed out. So also is the event deletion button. The Calendar is a good effort, but it looks like it still has some edges. More features could yet be added, like the ability to export a calendar to a PDF file.
Elementary OS Luna event Calendar Linux

The installed Web browser is Midori. It tends to be the default browser on desktop distributions that used the Xfce desktop environment. It’s a beautiful piece of software, but one default setting I could not find a good reason for is you can’t manage (list, view and delete) cookies until you enable the Cookie Manager extension. And you cannot set site-specific cookie policies until you enable the Cookie Security Manager. Why? These are tasks that we know the vast majority of users will perform, so why not enable the tools by default?
Midori Cookie Managers

For me, the most significant issue with this distribution has to do with the window titlebar button. And it is that the Minimize titlebar button does not exist. Only the Maximize and Close buttons are accessible. Concerning this, Cassidy James said in The Road to Luna, that:

Certain apps, like Music, were made to intelligently continue to run in the background when closed. For users, this meant a negligible difference between “close” and “minimize” with the side-effect that apps that weren’t in use wouldn’t be sitting around consuming resources.

So because certain applications start up faster than Speedy Gonzales can move, the Minimize button was banished. What the developers failed to consider is the effect on user experience (UX). For a user like me who is accustomed to using the titlebar buttons for what they were designed for, it puts a crimp in the overall UX. I know that I can still right-click on a windows’ titlebar and select Minimize, but that takes an extra click to get the same task done.

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Still on the subject of titlebar, the distribution of the remaining titlebar buttons does not make sense to me. To a user, what is the benefit of having the Close and Maximize buttons on opposite ends of the titlebar? In what way does this enhance the UX? I can’t think of any.
Elementary OS Luna default settings

Ubuntu’s Software Center is the graphical interface for installing applications on Elementary OS, and given the small number of installed applications, this is one system application that will see frequent usage. It’s one of the better graphical package managers available for Ubuntu-based distributions, next to Deepin Software Center of Linux Deepin, and the Software Manager of Linux Mint.
Elementary OS Luna Software Center

The part of using it that I don’t like is that it is loaded with stuff that’s not supposed to be in a graphical package manager. Or is there a particular reason that most of the search results for a package are books and magazines?
Ubuntu Software Center books magazines

Security Posture: Aside from the option to encrypt users home directory during installation, there is no other physical security feature on this distribution. So the physical security posture is nothing rave about. It’s not the distribution you want to use if encrypting the target hard disk drive is important to you.

The default network security profile is even worse. Ubuntu and those distributions derived from it usually have ufw, the firewall application, and AppArmor, a mandatory access security tool, installed by default. However, on this edition of Elementary OS, AppArmor is installed and working in enforcing mode, but ufw is not even installed. I’ve made the case elsewhere for why a firewall needs to be installed and enabled out of the box on a modern, Internet-connected operating system, so I can’t think of a good reason it is not installed in this edition of Elementary OS.

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At a time when people are becoming more security aware, I think Linux distributions should be pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a secure system forward, not taking steps back. With a firewall application missing from a default installation of Elementary OS, the developers appear to be moving in the wrong direction.

To Sum, from a purely end-users perspective, Elementary OS is too bare-bones, and I fail to see the justification for another one of these bare-bones desktop distributions. At a time when a few experienced Linux users are switching to Mac OS X and touting how it just works, I think we should be aiming to do better.

Elementary OS has the foundation to be a very good desktop distribution, but it still has some ways to go. Like I wrote in a precious article, we need desktop distributions with sane and sensible default system settings and applications.

Resources: For a not-so brief history of this distribution, read The Road to Luna. Installation ISO images for 32- and 64-bit architectures are available for download here.

Screen Shots: View a few more screen shots from my test installation of Elementary OS 0.2.

This screen shot shows the first window that opened after I logged into the desktop. I should report that clicking the Language Support module in System Settings and following the prompts took care of the problem.
Elementary OS Luna error

The default desktop showing the calendar.
Elementary OS Luna Desktop Calendar

Another view of the desktop showing the menu with application categories.
Elementary OS Luna Desktop menu

Shown here are the three applications in the menu’s Office category.
Elementary OS Luna Desktop menu

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  1. Did this command in terminal was able to get the workspaces down to 1. I’m using this OSe in VM and hate the extra workspaces.

    gconftool-2 –set -t int /apps/metacity/general/num_workspaces 1

  2. Oscar Granada

    If you want to know how to change the virtual desktops or workspaces should see http://elementaryos.org/journal/keyboard-shortcuts-luna-beta-one

  3. My last comment was in respond to Rob’s 10:05 comment.

  4. The advocates of elementary OS does say that is what you must do, resort to the documentation. I did install the distro and the basic functionality is there as you said, but we are not talking about the basic functionality. We are talking about basic items that are present in most other Linux distros. I really get tired of people saying “RTFM” if you don’t like what the distro is doing or how it works. You need to remember that I’m speaking not from my perspective but from that of a newbie to the Linux world. They are more apt to give up and try something else. The phrase that I stated at the end of my other comment was taken from the elementary OS website from the article “We Moved The Cheese.” Maybe I was a little harsh in my other comment but one thing a reviewer should do in my opinion is install and test the distro the same way a generally competent person would and give his opinions. To his credit he did mention about the online source for the distro’s instructions. The criticisms he took for not reading all the documentation on the website before he did his review was not earned. So yes, you do need to go to the documentation to find the hidden extras, extras I believe should be there to begin with. This is just my opinion and as such is not worth anything.

    • “So yes, you do need to go to the documentation to find the hidden extras, extras I believe should be there to begin with.”

      And those “extras” that “should be there to begin with” are what makes an OS to just work. Is it any wonder that even geeks like their MacBooks!

  5. The bit about not having multiple workspaces is incorrect. In GNOME3, you have as many workspaces as you put at least 1 window on, plus one. The keyboard shortcut ctrl-alt-up and ctrl-alt-down change between workspaces. For Elementary OS Luna, I suppose those could also be -left and -right.

    So, to get 3 workspaces, activate the second one, start a program, and activate the third one.

    • Yes, addition of workspaces is dynamic, but not readily apparent to those not in the know. And the thing with the default behavior of dynamic workspaces is that if there is an active window on workspace 1, you wouldn’t know that you could have more than 2 if there is no open application on the second workspace.

      The point I’m trying to bring out about features like this is that I shouldn’t have to read a doc or visit a forum just to know how to take advantage of them.

    • Yeah, I stopped reading the review at the point where the author couldn’t figure out how to add additional workspaces. It is dynamic, and while it could be made clearer, I suppose, the fact that the author didn’t figure it out tells you just how little time he spent with the distro. I don’t really like these kind of “first impression, and I didn’t really bother to do anything” reviews.

      • You miss the point of my reviews. I’m not daft.

        I’m looking at this from the POV of a new user, somebody new to the Linux desktop, who has never used the system before. Do we expect such a user to go join a forum or IRC channel just to figure out how to do basic stuff?

        Isn’t why even experienced Linux users, when they switch to Mac OS X, says the system just works. The OS just works. That’s should be the “feature” that distro developers should strive to achieve.

        Making users jump through unnecessary hoops is why new users often say that Linux is difficult to use.

        • Aleve Sicofante

          You maybe trying to look at this distro with the eyes of a new user (which you are not). Let me tell you one thing: you failed at that.

          A new user will have zero problems using elementary OS. Of course, assuming s/he’s just made an informed decision to use the distro. A casual distro hopper will find elementary OS “difficult” because it’s certainly different. That’s not the target of the distro, though, so it hardly makes it “bad”.

          • You’re right, it is a decent distro. But he’s not wrong; I’m far from casual, but the decisions that the eOS team made with respect to the UX baffle me as well. I do graphic design and front-end web development, and their choices don’t make any sense, in some cases.

            For instance:
            – they put the maximize and close buttons on opposite sides, making it easy for neither mac nor win users
            – they omitted a minimize button, which is available in both other major OSes
            – there is no way to view more apps in the launcher if you aren’t using a mouse with a scroll wheel unless you click on the number – the list style should be the default here
            – why did they get rid of normal scrollbars???

            I get that they’re trying to ‘simplify’ which I certainly appreciate the visual aesthetic of. However, like the review points out, simplicity for the sake of it goes overboard. It still has to be functional, in the most basic of ways.

            On a side note, I don’t agree that every distro needs to be brimming with software. Windows effectively ships with nothing (only bare bones stuff) and everyone generally knows they have to go off and find the software anyway. So that’s okay by me.

  6. I too think you should have read a little bit more about elementary OS before writing the review. When you use an OS for a longer period you tend to try to get rid of the stuff you don’t like. And most of the “problems” you described are easily fixed…if you actually took the time to do so. I won’t get into details but for people interested – take a look here:
    http://www.elementaryupdate.com/ e.g. takes 30 secs to get back the minimize button 😉

    • And if you read the entire review, it’ll have occurred to you that I did read Cassidy’s article about the project, and went through the project’s site.

      It’s the classic problem for Linux distributions. get rid of basic stuff that people need, then ask them to learn how to fix them by visiting a 3rd party site.

    • In this review, the author had to visit the project’s IRC channel to discover how to tweak the desktop to his liking.

      That’s the effort we want new users to take, just to use an OS. Awesome.

    • DON’T PANIC!

      open the terminal and enter:
      sudo apt-get install dconf-tools

      press Alt+F2:

      Navigate to org.pantheon.desktop.gala.appearance
      Edit the ‘button-layout’ String on the right

      for right button layout enter:

      for left button layout enter:

      for eos button layout enter:

      Tip: To minimize opened apps, just click the icon on dock.

      Thats all…

  7. Aleve Sicofante

    If you’re going to make a review about anything, it should be an obvious task to read about that thing first. Your “review” shows so much ignorance about elementary OS that is hard to take you seriously.

    “To a user, what is the benefit of having the Close and Maximize buttons on opposite ends of the titlebar? In what way does this enhance the UX? I can’t think of any.”

    Really? Have you even tried to actually think about it? This layout prevents closing a window when you’re aiming at maximizing it. Your muscle memory learns very rapidly to go to the right corner for the right operation, and you don’t need to be very careful and precise, as is the case when all the window buttons are packed together.

    Go over the elementary OS website, read a little, the rewrite your review.

    • “This layout prevents closing a window when you’re aiming at maximizing it”

      That falls in the same category as Ubuntu’s overlay scrollbar, which attempts to solve a non-existent problem.

      Is that why Firefox devs moved the Reload button to the right of the addressbar? Should the Forward navigation button be moved to the other side of the searchbox for the same reason?

      Trying to solve the type of “problem” you gave creates more discomfort for users than the original “problem.”

      • Aleve Sicofante

        “That falls in the same category as Ubuntu’s overlay scrollbar, which attempts to solve a non-existent problem FOR ME.”

        There, I fixed it for you. The fact you can’t perceive a problem doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You exhibit the same egocentric vision of “problems” throughout the rest of your post, so I don’t think I can argue with what’s just your personal opinion.

      • ElementaryOS had, and still has, some design bugs. Fx. when you hover over the scroll bar and want to scroll, it doesn’t scroll all the way. You have to do that same thing again. And maybe again, to reach the most right, left or upper, lower side of the page.

        Same can be said about no minimize button. Pr. default it’s rather irritating.

        And so on…

        However… If you use a touchpad, you will want to use two finger scroll, not dragging the scroll bar manually. Using a touch pad makes the scroll bars unnessesary, because you will never use them any more.

        Also, I have set up EOS to have upper right corner for minimize. It works very well, and I’m not missing the minimize button. Hot corners are just way faster.

        With that said, EOS is not for everyone (apparantly), but for those who likes it, it definitely is the best of all. No other OS compares to it, exept… maybe MacOS (which I haven’t tried yet).

    • Why? Why should a person have to go to a web site to find out how to use a distribution? Maybe for a serious problem yes, but because the basics are missing? It’s just stupid to think that a new user will run to the os site to find out where the minimize button is or how to get it back BECAUSE IT’S GONE, because of some faulty logic of a developer. The name really fits this distro. Some of the routes that the developers took has turned what could have been a nice distribution into something that belongs on an elementary playground. Maybe when they realize that users are not idiots they can make something that can be taken seriously. I doubt that will happen with this kind of attitude, “You’re here because we’ve been making choices for you. Lots of them. We always have and always will.”

      • I don’t think that’s an accurate characterization, though. I installed Elementary OS just to get a look at it and see if I’d like it. I didn’t have to go to the website, or to any other source, to use the OS. I just used it right out of the box. In terms of functionality, most of it is familiar to anyone who has used a computer.

        I can understand people having aesthetic disagreements or not liking some of the choices the developers made, but the idea that you have to resort to documentation just to figure out how to use the OS is nonsense.

      • It’s the reasoning behind some of the decisions distro developers make that makes my head spin.

        • Aleve Sicofante

          I guess that means you don’t understand them or you just disagree with them.

          For once in Linuxland, developers of a distro have set of congruent and coherent reasoning for every one of their decisions. I disagree with the end result in many ways (I want my desktop to be able to hold documents, folders, icons, shortcuts, etc. and I prefer menubar to “cogs”) but they don’t “make my head spin”. ALL OF THEM make sense. It’s a different issue you simply prefer other ways of doing things.

          One thing you won’t find in elementary OS is inconsistency. That thing is missins form EVERY OTHER DISTRO in Linux land. How much you value consistency is just a personal choice.

          There are a number of reasons why I don’t use elementary OS, but none are protrayed in this “review”.

          • Sorry for the typos. Why no edit button???

          • I understand them, but they don’t make sense, that’s why I disagree.

            Experienced Linux users should understand that not every other user wants to know how to mess with an OS. Most people just want stuff that works. Even experienced users want the same thing.

          • I agree on this. Consistency is the very reason I chose EOS in the first place. Everything else is second to me, as long as I have been able to find a (to me) easy work-around.

            No OS is just usable right away. No matter what people believe, they are always tweaking it in some way to their own liking. EOS is the OS I have used, where I had to tweak it the least.

      • Aleve Sicofante

        “Why should a person have to go to a web site to find out how to use a distribution?”

        Careful with the strawman fallacies. Don’t put words in my mouth.

        I said someone reviewing anything should at least know what their makers say about it, read about, have the full information at hand. Then review.

        A review is a piece of information, not a casual post of “I installed this thing and I didn’t like it [because it doesn’t match my expectations]” which is exactly what this “review” is.

        The rest of your rant emanates from your first misunderstanding, you I’m not going to argue about it.

        • I read about it before I reviewed, and I linked the devs intro article at the end of the review. If I have an expectation that’s not met, I should be free to say so. And my expectation of any Linux distribution is one that just works, one with sane and sensible defaults. Otherwise what’s the point. We all might as well be using Gentoo and Arch or even OpenBSD.

          Btw, this edition is not my first encounter with this distribution.

          • If you went to their site, read about their goals, their design philosophy, their development model, their HIG, etc., I can only conclude you simply didn’t understand any of what you read or you couldn’t care less. Both disqualify you as a reviewer.

            Reviewing is about information, not just personal opinion. You might disagree with a product’s design, and offer an explanation why. But “a product not meeting your expectations” (the emphasis is in “your”) is anything but a review.

            You might as well state very clearly at the beginning of your blog the type of Linux user you are (a conservative old-school geek who doesn’t like or understand designers developing new user experience paradigms).

            That would allow open minded people to just skip your blog and you could go back to reviewing old-school Linux distros like Arch, Slackware, Fedora, Gentoo, etc. and preach to your choir.

            I bet you hate Ubuntu’s Unity and Gnome Shell too. I suggest you don’t bother reviewing them either. Unless you use them as click-bait, I can’t find a single reason you would find them any interesting and I assure you they definitely won’t “meet your expectations”.

          • It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Unity, and I was not a fan of the early GNOME Shell. And I’m not alone in that regard.

            Of all the distributions that are based on Ubuntu, and there are lots of them, not a single one I am aware of uses Unity. That’s how bad the interface is. And let’s not forget that it was because people were not happy with the early GNOME Shell that led to the development of new DEs like Cinnamon. A few others have since being started, too.

            Why did Linux Mint’s devs refused to use Unity?

            Notice that I said “I was not a fan of the early GNOME Shell.”

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