Even though I’m currently on a KDE high, I wanted to install one of my previous NaNoWriMo companions, elementary OS, on my Dell laptop. This time, I will be looking at elementary OS Freya. One of my NaNo wins happened while using elementary, so I will admit to being a little biased. However, this review has little to do with me and more about the average user, so let me but away the nostalgia and begin shall we?
With USB in hand — well, actually in port — I booted into a beautiful Freya desktop. Pantheon is the elementary team’s own desktop environment that looks to blend beauty and simplicity. Like KaOS, Freya focuses on one desktop and one desktop only. This allows the developers to spend their energies working to create a unified desktop experience.
The final release version of Freya recognized my touchpad, wireless card and touchscreen, unlike the beta. In seconds I connected to my router and traipsed around the interwebs. After making sure the basics worked and that my laptop wouldn’t explode, I clicked the install icon and followed the prompts.
Freya, with it’s Ubuntu foundation (though it’s unfair to call it an Ubuntu derivative) comes with an installer that most beginners can follow without breaking the installation. That’s a huge plus for those looking to move beyond the live system environment. I haven’t tried the latest Ubuntu release, yet, but I believe Freya has one of the fastest installations around. By the time I typed in my user information, the installation was almost complete.
The final installation looked and felt like the live system. Everything worked out of the box and was ready for me to install software I needed. Unlike Ubuntu — and many distros for that matter — Freya comes with just enough to get you started. The default installation comes with a web browser (Midori), text editor (Scratch), email client (Geary), a music player (Music) and a video player (Videos). One quick mention. A big thank you to the elementary developers for not including games and other distractions. I don’t knock people who play games, but I like the option of installing them if I want them and not installed by default.
Installing software is a breeze. Users can use the Software Center, download deb files and install and add PPAs to their systems. (A word of caution when installing PPAs as they can break your system.) Software installation is fast, though I appreciate how Arch-based systems compiled the software for my system. However, the average user should be able to find what they need, either through the Software Center or from the developer website.
Freya is easy on resources, allowing me to work on this review while playing a YouTube video and checking email through Geary. I haven’t noticed any slowdown with my system. Everything continued to run smoothly from startup to shutdown. Freya should be able to run on the average modern PC. Running Freya from an older dual-core laptop, I notice a slight hesitation when opening and closing apps. Older PCs might find an issue or two running Freya.
I can’t gush about how wonderful Freya is without talking about a few issues users may encounter. First, built on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, some may find the limitation in software to be an issue. (From example, to get the latest LibreOffice, I had to install a PPA.) The lack of customization may turn off tinkerers and people who really like to alter the look of their installations. Finally, Freya doesn’t come with the restricted codecs to play music or video files. While users have that option to install those items during setup, it can be missed by a novice user.
That said, elementary OS is still a good place for new users to start. With an active and helpful community, most minor obstacles are just a forum message away.