GNU/Linux Distribution Test: elementary OS 6 “Odin”
… and an announcement
Making it short: With changing requirements for the Medium Partner Program, my membership will end in December 2021. As Medium has repeatedly lowered the amount of followers I have by either suspending them or making repeated miscalculations, resulting in displaying two different numbers depending on how up-to-date your app is, I see no point in continuing to contribute to this platform by any means. Thanks to everyone who read and shared my posts!
When I decided to get more familiar with Linux, the first distribution I would install on real hardware was neither Linux Mint, nor Ubuntu — elementary OS 5.1.7 “Hera” was my first attempt to move away from Microsoft’s Windows 10, though it did not last long until this distribution left me more frustrated than Windows 10 did. I encountered several bugs, with one of them preventing the system to shut down at one point. While I settled with two Arch-based distributions — EndeavourOS and Archcraft — as my daily drivers, it is only fair to take another look on elementary’s latest version and see how much has changed.
To run my usual stress test, I decided to first check the live system in a virtual environment. It did not take long for me to come across issues, however, as elementary OS failed to adjust its screen resolution. Despite allowing a minimum resolution of 800 x 600, the windows of the GUI were adjusted to support no less than 1280 x 768, while the wing panel was accessible to me. Keyboard navigation was successful at allowing me to select my language and keyboard layout, yet not at choosing to test the live environment; repeatedly pressing down only switched between the available options but not to the button to confirm my choices. Shutting the system down also revealed an issue I remember encountering when I tested “Hera”: During shutdown, elementary fails to unmount /cdrom, resulting in the shutdown process getting stuck and making “pulling the plug” the only way to turn the machine off.
I decided to switch to another virtualization software to see if the screen adjustment issue is universal. Indeed, this issue is only exclusive to VirtualBox, yet now I was unable to navigate via mouse. Selecting a language with a click worked but I could not confirm my choice the same way, having to rely on keyboard navigation and encountering the same issue from earlier again. I also could not shut the system down by clicking the power button, which would open the prompt but close itself after attempting to select one of the two options.
Still wanting to give it a fair chance, I copied the ISO to my Ventoy drive and booted the live environment. Unfortunately, there is not much one can do with, as the App Center only becomes accessible when the OS is installed. Strangely enough, Epiphany — or GNOME Web, it is pretty much the same — also refused to start. To install the system, I ran GParted to resize my external HDD’s largest partition, which was the one my daily driver, EndeavourOS, was installed. Never encountering any issues before, I shrank its size and was confronted with GParted freezing halfway through the procedure, ultimately rendering my daily driver inaccessible.
Instead of continuing to test elementary, I attempted to rescue my system, however as soon as I noticed that I could not arch-chroot into it GParted suddenly displaying a warning sign and GRUB being unable to find any of my installed kernels, I noticed that the kernel and important system files were overwritten entirely.
While the installer was running, I decided to take a closer look at elementary’s homepage. Obviously, the first thing I noticed was the automated, yet inconsistent translation, which I use as an indicator of poor maintenance. The official blog largely covers major updates, anniversaries, updates regarding their shop and other announcements. Switching back to the homepage and selecting Help opens a page with a hyperlink to their Stack Exchange forum. Ironically enough, among the first posts I would get to see is an user pointing out the VirtualBox bug, though the root cause can be found in the thread dealing with the identical issue on VMWare.
Scrolling through the forum a bit, there is a decent amount of users complaining about Odin being “too slow”, the installer getting stuck during partitioning, Wifi disconnecting automatically, the App Center not working or being “empty”, Odin freezing during installation, UI inconsistency, and a variety of other issues.
As announced, elementary no longer supports .deb packages out of the box for their App Center and instead relies solely on flatpak. There are two main problems with this change:
- Users have to add flathub to their refs by hand. Although it might not be the hardest thing to do for intermediate users, searching for and copy/pasting a command into a Terminal emulator not only takes some time but simply is not something the average end user can deal with easily. In fact, casual users choosing elementary expect from a Beginners’ distribution to never have to deal with a command-line interface. Why the developers leave that task to end users is something I personally struggle to comprehend.
- Flatpaks are slower and less secure than .deb packages. Ask any Linux user about flatpak and why it is not the standard package management among all distributions. Based on digging through several Linux forums and comments below news articles, most Linux users rely on flatpak as a last resort, if their package management does not offer their desired software. A lack of desired packages is not a problem among Debian-based distributions and Ubuntu, elementary OS’ basis, directly profiting off both Debian’s and its own popular ecosystem. Even worse, the security of flatpaks are heavily doubted to the point it caused the creation of a website called flatkill that explains in detail why flatpaks are “bad”. This, in return, goes against elementary’s claim that Odin is a secure OS.
I did not expect my last distribution test to become a nightmare, especially due to the release of Odin repeatedly being delayed. Already being vastly disappointed by its predecessor Hera, Odin gave me headaches from the very beginning. An avoidable bug that causes the OS to detect the correct screen resolution in VirtualBox, mouse navigation being badly calibrated in KVM, partitioning with GParted rendering my daily driver’s boot partition useless — this is something you would not expect from a stable release that was postponed more than once.
Instead of testing the latest version, I spent most of my time attempting to rescue the affected partition. After three days of trying to chroot into EndeavourOS and at least rescue some files, I had to give my daily driver up entirely due to my tower’s hardware slowly beginning to show signs of old age. Luckily enough, most of my important files are stored on nfts partitions, my laptops and a bunch of USB drives — the only things I have lost are a few screenshots, some drafts I would have deleted anyway and hours I spent on making a few adjustments to the system. The latter one is what made this “test” frustrating in the first place.
Largely basing my opinion on user comments and reviews on DistroWatch, I certainly am not the only one dealing with critical issues that make Odin, on average, a pain to work with. Besides that, the developers of elementary OS appear to gain a rather negative reputation for various reasons, including limitations of Desktop customization and privileges for apps specifically developed for eOS. Perhaps my daily driver still would be working if I would have taken the latest reviews and my own experiences with Hera more seriously; maybe I should have expected Odin to be worse than its predecessor when I attempted to test it in a virtual environment — at least I know which distribution I should avoid at all costs in the future.
Medion Akoya E4070 D
Processor: AMD A-10–5700 APU @ 3.40 GHz
Display: ATI Trinity Radeon HD 7660D
Memory: 4 GB RAM (3.46)
Storage: 2 TB ASMT 2115 (Medion HDDrive’nGo external HDD)
Network: RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller
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