Alright! Battle time! In the left corner my all times favorite SB, on the right the EOS which is what I’m going to really review here!
SB follows normal Fedora releases schedule, EOS is currently on version 3.4.8 (last digit is bug fixes), later this year they will release 3.5 that will be mostly a polishing release, and their next big release will be 3.6 somewhere inside 2019
oh! if you read something wrong here, shoot me, but also correct me on a comment, preferably on my Twitter! thanks!
Hybrid OSTree Vs Pure OSTree
Both are OSTree systems with read only root filesystems (you know! the future of Linux desktop!), and this is where the similarities end!
- SB is based on Fedora, EOS is based on Debian
- SB is using GNOME Shell, EOS is using EOS Shell
- SB is hybrid OSTree, EOS is pure OSTree
Out of these three the most significant difference is the last one. SB having a hybrid OSTree (RPM-OSTree) allows us installing normal Fedora packages from repos as Layered Packages, without modifying the base image
On EOS we can only install Flatpak packages, so we’ll miss whatever isn’t available, and that is a serious drawback specially for CLI tooling, but not only!
On the other side, EOS being more “dictating” leads to a more robust system. If we start getting crazy lots additional Layered Packages in SB, we’re really killing the purpose of OSTree and we inject the “old Linux” disease with dependencies hell
It is a worth to mention that RPM-OSTree apart Layering, it also adds some handy CLI tooling over OSTree
Something super super cool that EOS has and SB hasn’t is the scheduler of automatic updates that manages both Flatpaks and OSTree upgrades!
Podman / Docker
SB comes pre-installed with Podman (& Buildah) that is a Docker-like deamon-less tool, but we can install Docker as Layered if we want to. Working with containers becomes a typical way of SB users workflow
From a comment of Robert McQueen EOS might also add Docker support for whatever isn’t available on Flatpak
In general Flatpak has currently very poor CLI (apps & tools) support. For example even YouTube-DL is missing, that is one of the most famous CLI apps! Here’s the Github issue!
NVIDIA & Chrome
On my system I have a GTX 1060/6G and when I installed EOS, it also silently installed the NVIDIA drivers
EOS also offers Chrome as Flatpak that runs outside of Sandbox
On SB we can’t install Chrome not even as a Layered, but that’s not a big deal really. We can get Chromium from Fedora repos, install the video codecs from RPM-Fusion and we have a Chrome with a different logo
What is a big deal though is the NVIDIA drivers. It is not currently possible to install NVIDIA proprietary drivers on SB (or anything that requires DKMS), and we fallback to Nouveau that the performance is terrible and buggy, and ofc course we can’t properly work with graphics, simulations and AI programs ..or even games!
SB uses Fedora’s typical installer (Anaconda) and the only difference is that OSTree requires a special disks setup
EOS installer only “option us” to select an installation drive, and it will use all of it. There is a hacky way to setup custom partitions, but the short answer is that EOS doesn’t offer manual partitioning. And if I can remember correctly, it doesn’t has a disk encryption option either
Btw I run SB on a 128GB SSD but I believe the minimum requirements for an OSTree /Flatpak system is really a 256GB and I need to move it on a bigger disk!
Before I go to the desktop stuff, it is super important to write a paragraph about the Target Group of the two systems
SB is for everyone, but this is far from being the case in EOS! You may are now wondering how a desktop operating system can target demographics outside of localization stuff. oh! well it can!
From EOS download page and the ISO selections that starts to become obvious, but it continues inside the actual desktop
I will open a parenthesis here, with the risk to say something terrible. Endless founders are people who wanted to create a system for the poor areas and provide access to technology and information on their citizens
But they missed something important. Even if you have the 10.000+ staff that Red Hat has, you still need the community engagement to create a successful product, both in terms of sales, support and quality
And to get this engagement you need a product for USA and EU markets firstly, because this is where all the software companies operate. And then if you get support from there and grow big, you can move specific customization for other regions and user groups
Do not forget that EndlessOS an OSTree and Flatpak system is being around for like 3 years. Flatpak wasn’t even a thing back then, and I can’t even imagine the issues with OSTree. Point is that EOS had zero support until this year, that Flatpak gets more popularity and community
I was trying EOS releases since day one, so I can clearly say that the last year they have completely changed strategy, and they’re trying to be more US/EU user-base tolerant
I’m closing the parenthesis, I skip the past and I go to today, that there are still some “regional” left-overs!
Previously I said that EOS guys have changed a lot to make their system more US/EU friendly and thus I’m here on EOS doing this review, but there are still some “oh lord” things left
That’s the featured page in Software app. And I’m asking EOS guys:
Why on earth I would ever care about Holy Bible and Maternity and Farming ..not to mention the Celebrities app!
EOS knows very well that I live in Athens (they collect opt-in analytics) and the only thing they should do is to give me a different featured page
Moreover this page with unborn babies feels aesthetically bad to me, almost gross. When I sit on my computer I want to be excited with what I see on my screen, and this page actually depresses me. The whole thing feels like a hospital leaflet :/
What’s happening in Software App is an example of “targeting groups” but the annoyance is the extremely “features-less” desktop that I believe is a design choice to keep things as simple as possible. To be fair though, the polishing of the desktop is very high, and I only discovered a few bugs
EOS makes an effort to become more “friendly” to typical Linux userbase, but IMO it is not there yet, and this is exactly why I review EOS in comparison to SB that is more “mainstream”
But there are lots of improvements on 3.4 so if you tried EOS previously and you got disappointed you may want to give a second shot! I belong on that group really!
EOS not only comes with Flatpak pre-installed, but also with some Flatpak apps. One of them is Libre Office from Flathub
In addition to Flathub EOS uses these remotes
eos-apps is mostly some “content” apps, that I don’t really know how they create Flatpaks out of them, but it is what you saw on the Featured page in Software app before
SB for now at least doesn’t have pre-installed Flatpaks, and if I can remember correctly not even Flathub isn’t setup
Ok! Time for the interesting part! SB 29 comes with a default GNOME 3.30 and you can inspect here what the base OSTree image includes!
EOS 3.4 comes with a GNOME Shell fork and rest is GNOME 3.26 stack with some cherry picking from newest GNOME releases. On 3.6 release (2019) they will update in GNOME 3.30, and in general EOS plan is to try rebase one version back from the current GNOME release
Red Hat and Endless run today the two largest contributors teams in GNOME and OSTree/Flatpak, and thus the high quality on both desktops is expected
Here’s a quick screencast!
The desktop is quite “quirky” and demands some time to get used to it. But no matter how much you get used to it, it totally lacks behind GNOME Shell, for two simple reasons. No virtual desktops and most importantly no extensions, or any customization at all!
The Android style with the apps on the background perhaps is good for usability, but it may kills visuals on large screens. But the most weird thing here, is that we can’t see all our installed apps!
To do so, we need to go to Software App and on installed apps view!? That reminds me GNOME, that we need to go on Software App installed view to create appFolders, while EOS has a very natural DnD directly from Shell
Obviously I’m going to criticize the fork of GNOME Shell. If we get GNOME Shell and we add the Dash To Panel extension, we have a way much more usable desktop than EOS, that is extremely similar too!
But that’s not all. Endless developers lose time trying to rebase to upstream (that they also contribute!!) instead of directly working on GNOME Shell and implement some features like the DnD on appFolders
Just imagine if all this developing time spent on EOS had gone on Shell, and I say that with the belief that EOS isn’t as good as Shell (+ext), so the fork doesn’t seem justified
Both EOS and SB lack a lot on community support. To put it plain they don’t have users. And if you don’t have users, you definitely won’t have guides and READMEs.md on Github how to setup things on OSTree systems. Not to mention support from big software houses, that they barely support normal Linuxes
I’m totally optimistic that both systems will engage community by the next year, because the underlying technology of OSTree + Flatpak is really a dream coming true!
However I’ll give an advantage on SB over EOS, not because the brand name (RH) or even the OSTree Hybrid-ation, but because of GNOME Shell. People love upstream community projects, they love GNOME (even if they hate it!), and it doesn’t even matter if isn’t that good :p
I just hope on the next GNOME series (aka GNOME 4.0), Endless to fully go with what will be upstream!
So, SB Vs EOS?
To be honest EOS in many ways is more polished and ready than SB, and of course it comes with NVIDIA support! Kinda normal since it has been in production for quite a time, while SB is on “formation” phase ..and they don’t even have EU mirrors yet!
But as I said in the start of this post, SB is my all times favorite Linux and I don’t trade it with anything!!
Plus I love GNOME Shell + Dash To Panel, plus is more updated, plus RPM-OSTree for now at least is mandatory!
I don’t want to give false expectations but even if both (EOS & SB) won’t cover many workflows, my suggestion to everyone is to start trying OSTree systems because they are going to become your next favorite Linux!
Oh and specially for SB is really cool to use it already, because it is a still a baby and you will taste the excitement of rapid changes of a newborn project. In short it is cool to get projects from their very start!
That was all for now! Goodbye!