Updated: October 14, 2016
It is elementary, dear readers. The formula for creating the perfect distro. If only so. But people are trying, and among the many who are striving to transform Linux is the bunch behind elementary. Prettiness be their middle name, and they even have a rad (not) .io domain for their website. Silly stuff aside, you can even buy the distro if you want.
In the past, elementary OS seems to have charmed my readers more than it did me. You kept on asking, and again, we have a recurring pattern of emails hitting my inbox. Well, let us test again, then, shall we. G50 machine, Loki release. Go!
To Asgard the Valkries fly
Let us begin by subverting a Manowar song to match the distro theme:
Three distros have I, and they
boot by my side, Ubuntu,
Fedora and elementary are
their names - we tweak on our
desktops with a half-hearted rub.
No app of mercy, no evangels of grub.
Indeed, elementary OS 0.4 Loki booted fine on the UEFI-cursed machine, and the desktop that comes up is very stylish, modern and fairly unique. It does have that familiarity of Gnome, but there's more to it. Everything is quite elegant, but not necessarily smooth, though. Some of the apps took time coming to life, or they did this or that weird jiggle that I suspect is not meant to a subtle desktop effort but rather seems to be some kind of half-hidden feature-bug bastard.
For example, the screenshot tool would sometimes lose focus, and sometimes refuse to save pictures using the Enter key. It would also behave differently if left open or auto closed after saving an image. Resizing and maximizing/minimizing windows is also not uniform, plus the position of the buttons at the two opposite edges of the window top is rather confusing. You can maximize, but not minimize, and you need to right-click to get it done correctly, followed by a graphic delay that nullifies the visual delight of the desktop.
I can't say I was impressed. The Wireless worked. Bluetooth was almost good, and I was able to connect to both my Ubuntu Phone and the iPhone, but I did not succeed in sending any files over. Still, this is better than most other distributions.
However, the Bluetooth menu would identify each pair attempt as a separate entry, and the menu was showing three Ubuntu Phones where there was only one devices that was connected multiple times. Quite weird.
The big disappointment is - no Samba at all. I could not connect to my Windows machines, either using their names or IP addresses, and the printer menu does not have the necessary option. Yes, cups, ipp, http, and such, but not Samba. Fail really.
Overall, not bad. I was able to hook up all three types of devices. Ubuntu Phone and Windows Phone were mounted with MTP, but iPhone was presented using PTP, meaning it was a camera device. This is a stupid regression, because until recently, most distros did not have this problem, those that successfully recognized and mounted iPhone, that is. If you need a proof of total amateurism and absolute inconsistency in the Linux world, it is this little phenomenon, repeated a thousand times in every other aspect of desktop usage.
Quite disappointing. The entire work flow is broken. First, I tried playing a song from both my Windows Phone and my Ubuntu Phone, but Loki complained not being able to do this with the MTP protocol. Why? Fedora does not have this issue. Nor Ubuntu on which it is based. Not even the old and ancient but superb CentOS. This is a big issue.
Then, I tried importing music, but it said nothing found. WHAT? The functionality is broken. But then I manually hit the song in the file manager, and it was playing. It also popped a notification telling me what the song title is, but when I expanded the volume menu, it complained about not knowing what song this was. Utterly broken.
I then also launched Epiphany, and tried playing a simple HTML5 video - you are advised to try for yourself, because the highlighted clip is totally awesome. Anyhow, I noticed that the browser right border was madly flickering. Madly. The scrollbar was this ugly line of strobe lights. And then, Youtube stalled.
I thought I had lost connectivity, as this is a common problem affecting the G50 laptop with its Realtek drivers, as no one wants to get off their arse and properly compile the kernel driver so we don't end up with this crap every time. But no, the network was working. It was Epiphany being silly. This happened three times, and each time I had to reload the clip, and I wasn't able to finish watching it without this nonsensical failure. Why not just use Firefox? Why use these half-stupid clones that never do any good? I even made a GIF (pronounced heef in Dutch) - or as Bart says - poop:
A few more details ... and problems
The system menu is colorful enough. However, the clean design also lends itself to some eye weariness after a while. There's too much gray, it is very hard to distinguish active elements from inactive ones, some things look grayed out, i.e. disabled, when they are not. The desktop just does not have the right contrast and sharpness for sustained use, and I was a little bit headachy toward the end of this test.
The system menu does not activate with the Super key. This is not the ideal situation. The laptop was hot. Seriously. Boiling. I don't know what elementary OS was doing with the disk or why, but it was spinning madly, and the whole case was scalding. Weird.
The webcam worked. But then, the App Center didn't do anything in the live session. It only offered whatever was already installed. So why have the program then, if it does not do its core functionality yet? Why not make it available only AFTER the install?
You can also associate online accounts with the distro. But rather than the usual crop of social media, you have last.fm, Fastmail as a separate entry and then generic IMAP mail as another. What about Gmail, Live, Yahoo, Facebook, all the stuff that most people would probably be interested in?
Well, at this point, if you've followed my reviews, you know what's coming. An installation, and then we sit down and play with the distro after it's been installed, trying to figure out the package management, app stack, resource usage, etc. Well I decided not to do this. I simply was not inclined to proceed, because my overall satisfaction from the live session just wasn't good enough. Loki was stable enough, pretty enough, but it was too buggy, not fluid enough, and it just didn't have the right amount of necessary basics for me to invest energy and move forward. If the network and multimedia stack are broken, and the smartphone connectivity is wonky, then why should I bother really?
This is the end of our review. A little sad really. Without sounding too ragey, Loki should have been called Buggy, because it's just not ready for mass consumption. It is a nice distro, but beauty is not enough. Stability and predictability, core functionality. Everything else is secondary. If the system cannot do the bare minimum that people expect from a mature release, it does not deserve its place on their boxes.
Elementary OS 0.4 has some nice goodies, but they all completely over-shadowed by a slew of big bugs, heating issues, inconsistent behavior, poor multimedia support, weak smartphone support, non-existent Samba support, a less-than-ideal responsiveness of its desktop and apps, weird graphic artefacts and glitches, poor contrast, and a few others. This is just too much for an ordinary user to commit to. I'm particularly sad because Freya had started showing promise, but it's all gone now. Then again, Xerus really killed the Ubuntu line, so it comes as no surprise. Oh man. Well, there you go. See ya.