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Oct 19 2018

elementary OS 5.0: Linux for the Desktop?


For almost two decades, the idea that a visually appealing, easy-to-use Linux distribution could leave a dent in a desktop environment dominated by Windows and macOS has been treated as a slightly delusional nerd fantasy – the type of aspiration even Linus Torvalds himself might chuckle about and then dismiss. The Ubuntu-based elementary OS, however, may in fact reinvigorate that debate, at least to some extent.

The reason is that its developers have achieved something that may rightfully be considered a feat in itself: They took the solid foundation of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and made it look cool – like something you actually want to work with, as opposed to more prosaic Linux desktops that always seem to suggest you must. That's partially due to the neat and orderly Pantheon desktop (pictured at the top), which looks as though the default Unity interface has been redesigned by a restrained Jony Ive, and partially due to a minimal but meaningful selection of apps that's delivered with the OS, such as the Epiphany browser, the Code editor for writing your own scripts and programs, or the Terminal app, which enables CLI-based device management. In short, elementary OS 5.0 "Juno" appears like a carefully constructed distro that will work right out of the box without forcing users to undergo a complex, time-consuming installation procedure, thus rendering a central deterrent against Linux on the desktop obsolete. At the same time, those who are interested in learning more about how their PC functions can gain a first insight into the inner workings of their machine.

None of this is especially revolutionary – there are quite a few other distros that take a similar approach. However, elementary OS deviates from other distributions by applying a strict open source ethic: The OS as well as the curated apps (including password and hash generators, a SQL client and a special reader for developer documents) are available for review, scrutiny, modification, and redistribution. Likewise, the OS adheres to a stringent privacy policy; files, settings and personal data are only stored on the particular device in use, and the project team has closed no advertising deals. Because there's no third-party funding, they break with a prominent Linux tradition – other distributions generally come free of charge, whereas elementary OS (and the apps) are available on a pay-what-you-want basis. The suggested minimum rate is $10.

elementary OS 5.0 "Jun0" and the corresponding apps can be downloaded from the project website, where you will also find the installation manual, a compact but sufficient introduction to key functions, and a support/FAQ page.


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