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Pop OS 20.04 LTS (system76.com)
269 points by jamieweb on April 30, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 170 comments



I got sick of waiting for Apple to fix their keyboards and built myself a custom Ryzen-based desktop. I chose to install PopOS 19.10 on it and it has been great. I plan on waiting a few weeks to upgrade to 20.04 and will then probably stay on that version until the next LTS release.

I never used Ubuntu as my daily driver so it is hard to say what is better, but PopOS has been great and has good defaults. It was not hard to adjust despite having used OSX for the previous 12 years. I work from home 95% of the time so working on a desktop was an option and I still have my old 15" Macbook from work around when I need to travel to the office. I will probably just get it upgraded when Apple refreshes the 13" Pro.

Anyway, +1 for PopOS and you do not have to run System76 hardware to use it.


Switched from Mac to a system76 laptop last year. The build quality is a lot worse but the software just gets out of my way and does its job. So nice not to have to worry about Apple or Microsoft overlords anymore. Makes me want to get a puri.sm phone to completely leave big tech behind.


Or a PinePhone


wait... If you wanted a desktop, wouldn't getting a non-apple keyboard be a total nonissue?


I did not necessarily want a desktop. I have used Macs for 12+ years. I have a 15" MBP with the old keyboard that still works well. The trackpad started to not register clicks consistently so I had to switch it to tap to click. I work remotely from home so using a desktop is an option. That said, I do still travel to the office several times a year so I need a laptop. I considered buying a System76 laptop but I just do not think the keyboard and trackpad would measure up to my MBP. I had also been intrigued by Ryzen so I just decided to build a custom desktop. I figured it would also let me test out using Linux as a daily driver and worst case I would have work upgrade my MBP to a new one and I could use the desktop as a home server for testing work stuff.

For now, I still use my MBP when I travel. I could probably do OK with the new Air if I wind up needing to upgrade. I would prefer to have 32 MB of RAM though because I run a lot of VM's and Docker images and having the extra RAM for that helps.

Anyway, back to my original point. PopOS has been a pretty easy transition and it worked fine on my custom build. You do not have to use System76 hardware to benefit from using it.


Have you tried wiping down the Touchpad


A 400$ Ryzen will outperform anything that Apple offers outside the 6000$ Mac Pro, so might as well get a 8 or 12 core CPU?

It's not like it's the law that you need to buy Apple hardware.


Or a 16 core 3950x because works payin and watching a 32 thread beast chomp through a linux compile is legit popcorn worthy.


It could have been the drop that made the bucket overflow (or however you say this in your language) and it is probably also an emotional thing of feeling poorly treated.


Love learning a new expression! In English we usually say "the straw that broke the camel's back" or just "the last straw".


Indeed, I had been feeling frustrated with Apple for a long time before finally giving in and building a Ryzen-based desktop.

Honestly, I won't say the transition has been entirely painless - it does take time to adjust to a new operating system, but I have to say, my biggest regret is that I didn't ditch Apple's computers sooner. I love my iPhone but honestly it does feel like Apple just isn't all that interested in their desktop / laptop computers recently.


Love the expression! I was aware these common phrases are often different across languages/cultures.

In college I learned that while Americans say "Kicked the bucket" or "Bought the farm" for 'died', Austrians say "Handed in their spoon". Which is farm more evocative IMHO.


Where are you from? In Greek we use "glass" instead of "bucket", it's really interesting to see how close these expressions are.


It sounds like a literal translation of the Italian version to me.


Or Dutch. "De druppel die the emmer doet overstromen" == "the drop that makes the bucket overflow".


Actually I was wrong, a literal translation would have used vase or pot


Indeed! In German it's "barrel"


I don't know where you are from, but we say something very similar in Swedish.


in Russian we say just "the last drop".


It's also irrelevant it was a AMD-shilled CPU.


> "+1 for PopOS and you do not have to run System76 hardware to use it."

In the Thinkpad community, PopOS is often recommended for the Thinkpad X1 Extreme, because it has hybrid graphics that can switch between integrated and GPU based on your need, and PopOS is apparently the only Linux that supports that.


It automatically swaps, if so, that's pretty good.

If not, being able to choose between these has been around for quite a long time.


Did the graphics you chose have quality, easy to install drivers? Been thinking of doing something similar.


If you have Intel or AMD graphics work perfectly under Linux. You don't even need to install drivers because they are shipped in the Kernel.


That's less than perfect there... I bought an RX 5700 XT in October when I built my desktop. I had lots of issues over the months until around February where it finally seemed stable (on updated Kernel releases, and having to sometimes download the binary driver modules).

Even then, I had trouble with even trying VMs as nothing supported the ahead of mainline kernel I needed for my video card. Now, 20.04 may be miles better and much more stable overall, still well behind the kernel I'd been running. Just saying it isn't a panacea at all.

NOTE: Since early march, I've been mostly on Windows in support of a couple legacy projects.


I moved my 5700xt into a purely for fun gaming pc and replaced it with a 1050 in my dev machine.

I had the exact same experience, but in December gave up on having linux play nicely with Navi for the time being. I will readily admit to being an AMD fanboy, but Nvidia is really besting them at the software game.

My 3700x CPU has been dreamy from day one.


This has more to do with market dominance and standards compliance of nvidia than anything else. Nvidia does its own thing game devs compensate, amd gets a shafted experience and looks like its their fault.


Could you elaborate? I would have thought that AMD would be invested in offering comparably good drivers. I'm not taking issue with a game not performing optimally. I'm taking issue with a reasonably common desktop environment (Ubuntu 18.04) proving unstable.


They create better drivers.

Nvidia dont adhere to specs. Amd does.

Developers develop for nvidia.

Problems ensue for amd users.


Do you recall which kernel you were using?

I was forced to grab a 5700xt because of stock problems but it would have been around the same time.

I had one big deal breaker problem but i only had to run a mainline kernel build to tie me over.

In anycase, this sort of thing is standard for new hardware, always takes a couple months for linux to catch up.


I ran ubuntu lts for a while with the amd drivers, then an update broke that (black screen)... by then popos 20.10 was out, and that mostly just worked... I had a couple issues and went up through kernel versions (MB also had Intel AX 201 wireless), so between the two, I paid for Ukuu and just stuck to the latest... around late January, no more issues.

Of course then I needed to do some work in windows, and couldn't get any VM software working with the ahead of mainline kernel I'd been using.

I understand the why, just was frustrating and less than ideal.


Out of curiosity, do people have issues with Nvidia in Linux? I've seen similar sentiment in the past but I've never really noticed any issues with the nouveau (open source) driver. Due to CUDA work, I primarily use the proprietary drivers which work well too (other than an annoying suspend bug introduced in 18.04 and seemingly unfixed in 20.04)


Nvidia is supposed the be the big advantage of PopOS: you can download the Nvidia version of PopOS and it takes care of everything for you.


I think it depends on the card model but overall the Nvidia drivers and CUDA software work great.

Nvidia even provide Linux support for the latest RTX cards.

The biggest problem I had was installing the latest proprietary drivers because the ones Ubuntu provide are lagging behind. Sometimes you need to do this via the console.


Yes, because Nvidia drivers are not part of the kernel they need to be updated manually and Nvidia does not distribute the source code, so you need to wait on Nvidia.

Nvidia also doesn't support some of the APIs that AMD and Intel do, which causes fragmentation in Linux desktop environments.


Nvidia runs very well under Arch and Manjaro. Install the proprietary drivers and let Conda handle CUDA. It's as close to anything Just Working with Nvidia drivers for neural nets that I've found.


I've been using 1080ti (desktop) for gaming on Ubuntu 18.04 with no problems for a year or so using the closed source drivers from the Ubuntu Drivers PPA.


There are kernel components of drivers as well as userspace components. But they are all available via package managers, so no need to install them.


AMD, only if one has a recent card. APU owners aren't so lucky.


what do you mean? AMD integrated graphics are supported by the same open source driver... IIRC, anything that's GCN 1.2 or newer is supported (APU or dedicated)


Supported doesn't mean they are at the same feature level as fxgl used to be.

I am still waiting for OpenGL 4.1, the extensions listed here, and hardware video decoding, because from where I sitting glxinfo still reports OpenGL 3.0

https://www.geeks3d.com/20110609/asus-eee-pc-1215b-netbook-r...

So yeah, thanks very much for 2D and less than optimal 3D support.


You are correct - older hardware has suboptimal support. However - that laptop is at least eight years old. All the AMD graphics cards since Polaris have good support.


Nah, I rather bet on NVidia nowadays, it was a mistake to try to support AMD FOSS efforts and get this reward.


I recently switched to POP!_OS and the base install recognized my nvidia RTX 2070 which is very refreshing. no figuring out which drivers to install.


I have an nvidia graphics card, and the pop_os installer walked me through the driver installation and made everything pretty painless.


I do not game so I saved money by just going with a Radeon 570. It works great. I have multiple monitors, including my Apple Thunderbolt display. I was able to find an AIC for the desktop that added Thunderbolt and it "just worked" in PopOS .. at least for the video and audio. I never tried to get the webcam to work.


He said AMD Ryzen which works great with open source drivers that are part of the kernel. I've got a Ryzen 2 laptop and everything works perfectly under Ubuntu out of the box.


Not all Ryzen CPUs come with integrated graphics.


PopOS supports nvidia, intel and amd graphics pretty well out of the box (nvidia was a separate download, unsure if it still is).

I had trouble with the 5700 XT for the first few months though... Other than running out and buying a new graphics card series when it comes out, most people should be fine.


Try installing Pop!_OS on the old MacBook, it may run alot faster


After being disappointed with Ubuntu's move towards snapification of apt packages (apt-get install chromium installs the snap, lxd is snap only now) along with my growing unhappiness with Canonical way of doing things I have been thinking about another distro. I would prefer to stay on a Debian based distro so PopOS looks promising.

Can anyone answer the following?

Does Pop inherit Ubuntus snapifictation with 20.04?

Do they release newer kernels for the LTS releases like Canonical does with Ubuntu LTS?

Do they pack ZFS in the kernel like Ubuntu?


> I would prefer to stay on a Debian based distro so PopOS looks promising.

Have you considered using Debian?

Personally, I prefer to run regular updates often and full-system upgrades rarely/never, but I also want to use software that isn't ancient. The LTS model gives me half of those things.

I don't know if that's what you're hinting at with your comment about newer kernels, but I've found the testing and unstable branches of Debian to be a far more pleasant experience overall than Ubuntu (either the LTS or the full-upgrade-every-six-months variants).

They're both rolling releases. Don't let the names fool you... If you follow a small handful of best-practices (e.g. enabling apt-listbugs) they can be quite stable. The system on my old laptop has been running without major issues for almost a decade.


Any other tips besides apt-listbugs? I've long eschewed Debian because the stable branch is painfully so, I had some bad experiences with testing years ago, and I've felt that unstable was too risky to use as a daily driver.

The other sticking point is ZFS. Guess I'll have to spin up a VM and play around a bit before I switch to Pop! or straight Debian.

Canonical's obsession with snap is about to push me away from *buntu, and I'm ready to bail out. I had misgivings about snap from the first I'd heard about it, and my misgivings are turning out to be well-founded.


Here are the official suggestions:

https://wiki.debian.org/DebianUnstable#What_are_some_best_pr...

apt-listbugs is really the main one for me.

When I upgrade, I pay close attention to the package change lists. If packages are set to be removed, especially a lot of important looking packages, I cancel the upgrade and investigate. Usually this means that something has gone wonky with dependencies, or not all of the packages that need to be upgraded in lock-step are available yet. Usually this resolves itself after a few days, but sometimes you can coax a partial upgrade if you find the culprit package and hold it.

Speaking of holding, apt-mark hold/unhold (or equivalent - I think there might be a better way to do this now) is your friend. I usually end up holding packages like the ones mentioned above that erroneously want to remove half the system, as well as any packages that apt-listbugs complains about, unless I've reviewed the bug report and am okay with it. I'll periodically unhold everything (apt-mark showhold | xargs sudo apt-mark unhold), then retry an upgrade to see which bugs or dependencies have been fixed, and then hold any remaining offenders again. Usually this will end up "releasing" package upgrades in chunks depending on the dependency graph.

Apt should probably be louder when big parts of the system get marked for removal. I think this the primary way testing/unstable systems end up breaking, and it's completely avoidable.


I second this, debian testing has been my daily driver for linux for as long as I can remember - I first tried out debian in 1996! But have been using it as a main work OS since about 2007/8.

My current workstation is running my debian OS that's just been continuously updated since about 2012.


My thought process has been in progress over the last 5 years or so. Every time they release a new LTS really.

I have flirted with the idea of using Debian testing as a rolling release but generally ended up back on Ubuntu out of laziness as I liked the happy medium of Ubuntu LTS releases between stableness vs cutting edge while avoiding the typical undercooked Canonical "big bang" changes they have in their .10 releases.

Maybe 20.04 is the release that tips me over the edge!


I tried Debian 10 for several months. It all looks really similar, but that's because of Gnome, or whatever desktop you use. With Ubuntu 20.04 I've turned back to Ubuntu for desktops. Debian is my preferred distro for servers, but Ubuntu just works a lot better on the desktop. It has its issues as well, and I'm not a fan of the snaps. I've compromised because I'm most familiar with Ubuntu, and because it has the best support community with Askubuntu.


I don't care about the default DE that much as I run my own minimal setup, it's more about freshness of packages/kernels and stability for me.

Unbunu provides a nice middle ground between the very stable but very stale Debian (stable) and the and the bleeding edge of something like Arch. Ubuntu does nice stuff like releasing newer kernels for LTS releases but the NIH annoyances have grated on me for the last few years (Mir, Upstart, Snap etc...).


Pop_OS Dev here.

> Does Pop inherit Ubuntus snapification with 20.04?

Not out of the box. You can manually install snapd and use snaps on Pop, but all of the software we ship is Apt packaged, and Flatpak/Flathub are supported out of the box. Additionally, some apt packages which install snaps in Ubuntu (like Chromium) install the apt version of the application in Pop.

> Do they release newer kernels for the LTS releases like Canonical does with Ubuntu LTS?

Yes, we track the latest Ubuntu kernel and ensure that the newest one available is installed. Our kernel is usually a bit newer than Ubuntu's (due to our focus on System76 hardware which, being new, often requires a newer kernel for all hardware features to work correctly). Obviously the newer kernels also have benefit beyond just S76 hardware, and Pop is in no way restricted from running on non-System76 machines.

> Do they pack ZFS in the kernel like Ubuntu?

Yes.


All of those are selling points for me along with your first class support for Nvidia drivers. I'll definitely be giving it a go over the weekend!

One followup question; how easy is it to uninstall your default DE/do you provide a minimal install without the DE?

While I appreciate your hard work on the user-friendliness of it I've spent the last god knows how many years building my workflow around i3 I'm loathed to give it up which means 99% of the desktop will sit unused.

Keep up the good work, you folks are doing great things and are a boon for the Linux ecosystem!

Edit: Also any chance of UK keyboards on your laptops? Or have I missed an option when speccing a machine up?


I can't speak for the lower two questions, but Pop has gone the other direction on snaps. The default method of app installation is apt, but if that is unavailable, it will use flatpak from flathub.


That's good to hear. I do prefer Flatpaks to snaps since they don't auto update and you can have multiple repos.


They have the Pop shop too, which seems to do something that’s not apt, haven’t had good luck with that, the versions are often out of date.


Good to know, thanks for replying!


How would you describe the "Canonical way of doing things"?


Choosing to do their own thing instead of helping define and adopt the development community consensus approach, spewing FUD and criticism of the community for 2 or 3 years, then finally giving up and adopting what the rest of the community did in the first place.


It looks like it is an attempt at bizdev.

With Mir, it was an attempt to own it, so when some mobile vendor wants to implement it for their devices, they have to consult with them and get some licenses. With Unity 8 and Ubuntu SDK, it was similar. Once prospects of Ubuntu mobiles failed, it was abandoned.

Wit Snap, it is an attempt to own the Linux app distribution space (that's why you cannot have 3rd-party repos), so anyone who want to distribute snaps, has to talk to them.

I have nothing against Canonical trying to make money; but inserting themselves as a monopoly on some layer of Linux stack isn't the way to do that. Community will always route around.


Yup, pretty much nailed my thinking.


I didn't know chromium was shipped as a snap on Ubuntu now. That explains it being real slow to start.


> I would prefer to stay on a Debian based distro so PopOS looks promising.

I agree, I had been using Debian as my primary distro for about ten years when I gave PopOS a try and have been using it since. Although I like PopOS I wish they were building on Debian.

> Do they release newer kernels for the LTS releases like Canonical does with Ubuntu LTS?

I am on 18.04 LTS right now and was very surprised when PopOS did a major kernel version bump to 5 which seems very strange for a LTS. It has also broken my ability to install `linux-image-virtual` which requires kernel version 4.15 and has caused some problems recently. This has me considering switching back to Debian.

> Do they pack ZFS in the kernel like Ubuntu?

PopOS 18.04 does not pack ZFS, I have installed it to make use of reflinks for DVC.


> Does Pop inherit Ubuntus snapifictation with 20.04? Not to the same extent. The Pop Shop tends to have newer versions of the software they pride themselves on and it is not snap'd. God I hate snaps. Say you want to run Darktable and have your photos on say a ZFS pool? pain in the friggin ass.I just rebuilt my CentOS 7 box to Ubuntu 20.04 after ZFS and Nvidia kernel woes finally drove me to abandon my beloved distro (I am a RH admin so it took a lot to get me to that point but have never really managed to get into Fedora)but the friggin snaps (and the subsequent drop in support from lots of projects to easily build for Ubuntu) were so painful. The minute I saw that PopOS 20.04 had been released I converted from Ubuntu to PopOS and have thus far been very happy.

> Do they release newer kernels for the LTS releases like Canonical does with Ubuntu LTS?

As far as I can tell PopOS is a pretty light layer on top of vanilla Ubuntu. You can still install everything from the Ubuntu repos etc.

> Do they pack ZFS in the kernel like Ubuntu?

I did a conversion and my ZFS install came over just fine (and my pool import from my janky CentOS built pool was shockingly simple-- only hiccup was that I didnt have SMB and NFS installed yet when I did it so the exports failed, but everything else worked).

Now my only complaint is that the Ubuntu implementation of Gnome does superkey+arrowkey Windows style AeroSnaping and In the two days or so I used it I got really used to it and that is not the default behavior in PopOS and haven't figured out how to tweak it yet. Its a really nice desktop environment and I have heard great things about the Pop Shell but havent played with it much yet. Now I just need to figure out how to prune out all the snap crap I installed and all the libraries I installed trying and failing to compile stuff from source. I am lost without yum. I know people hate it but I know it like the back of my hand and apt is different enough (and Canonical documentation is laughable compared to RHEL) to make me feel a little lost in the weeds. But native ZFS and Nvidia have been a godsend. A modern implementation of kvm/qemu is super nice-- my VMs are so much easier to manage now. And I'm really looking forward to playing with Wireguard again now that it has kernel support.


You can modify your keyboard shortcuts in Settings > Keyboard Shortcuts.


Since I'm mostly using Linux as a server OS I decided to ditch Ubuntu LTS and go straight to Debian. Why go with a middleman if I can just use the original distro?


Ubuntu does have some advantages over Debian (Stable vs LTS) on the server IMO:

Packages are generally a bit newer vs. Debian

They release newer kernels throughout the release

A defined 2 year release cycle

Generally better supported by 3rd parties

Support available if needed (I've never used it but some businesses won't buy anything without support)


Debian works fine on my 2016 XPS 13 and my 2012 x230.

To be honest all Ubuntu would give me these days is a preconfigured DE, but XFCE default on Debian works fine for me.

Also, now I run the same distro on my Dev box as in production ;)


You are on your own on the kernels. I have been running 5.6 on my laptop with 19.10 and am kinda dreading upgrading to 20.04 and probably having to rebuild the kernel.


pop doesn't even have snapd installed by default


I think Pop!_OS offers the most solid experience of Linux on desktops today. Apart from the lack of proprietary codecs by default (I know there are licensing issues, still I missed it), the default settings are pretty good. I reserved a whole day to set it up when I decided to install it, but right after the installation it felt ready to work, just needed to install some things and transfer my stuff.

Their decision to support Flatpak by default, to create a recovery partition which allows the user to reinstall the system without losing data (in a no-brainer way), and their overall attention to detail won me over. Kudos to the team for creating this distro and making it available for other computer brands.

Edit: typo.


There's a sentiment of flatpak being a community thing whereas snap being a case of Ubuntu NIH, but isn't flatpak as much a RedHat lock-in? Is there a technical reason to prefer flatpak over snap, or is the number/up-to-dateness of available apps a reason to prefer one over the other? The info at http://flatkill.org/ certainly is sobering with respect to actual security gained by application sandboxing.

I'd really hate into being drawn into another energy-consuming VHS-vs-Betamax or BD-vs-HDDVD drama. I'd much prefer a single statically linked binary if at all possible (though it may not be given that browsers or browser runtimes on which many modern "apps"/packages are based have accumulated way too much crap over the years, which I think is the actual problem).


There is a one big reason. Snaps are only designed to use one central repository and the only production one is from Canonical. The server is proprietary.

Flatpak allows anyone to run a repo and for users to track updates from several repos. The server is open source.


Exactly the perfect recipe to keep a system secure, as proven by Android.


The bikeshedding over snap vs flatpack by some people is a huge drain on any conversations on Ubuntu these days.

Snaps work fine. Flatpack works fine. Both solve real problems that people have that the old ways of doing packages didn't solve.


Except with Snaps its a pain in the absolute ass to give an application access to anything that it wasn't shipped with access to. The whole interface paradigm sucks. With flatpaks its easy. That being said, I still think both of them are not nearly as good as the old way of packaging-- I want software that doesn't hide all of its dependencies (and thus vulnerabilities) from me by default. If the linux world could pull their head out of their asses on the desktop environment wars, neither would even be needed. Though I wills say, both are better than electron apps.


Neat, on the bottom of the page there is a switch that changes all screenshots to Dark Mode (to demonstrate the OS's feature).

But the neat part is that in the "Gaming" card, it swaps Firewatch (a game/movie-with-buttons notorious for its gorgeous daylight scenes) to Elite: Dangerous (a game set in space, which is pretty visually dark).

If the same attention to detail is present in the OS design itself, it's bound to be some good.


And FYI they just released a new version of the Lemur Pro 14 laptop with a gigantic 74 Wh battery. I pre-ordered one and got it a few weeks ago and am on it now with 40 GB of RAM. I had been waiting for the high-RAM Dell XPS 13 with linux but got sick of waiting and then this popped up. It's astoundingly light and performant for its class. I absolutely love it.

https://system76.com/laptops/lemur


That looks like it might be a decent quality build instead of a plastic piece of junk build quality I experienced 5 years ago. I have been using Dell with pre-installed Ubuntu since, but it is a little underwhelming and of course my audio isn't working now. I was looking towards a ThinkPad with Fedora for my next machine.


The build quality and hardware compatibility is really great. Strong hinges, good trackpad, nice feeling keyboard. There are a few quirks (e.g. with ghost keys) but the firmware people appear to be working on it (nice that I can subscribe to the issues on github).


I've been doing the ThinkPad + Fedora now for a few years, and it's by far the best Linux experience I've ever had. I've had a system76 laptop (quite a few years ago now), Dell XPS/Precision, and some Acer, HP, etc. Unless/until Lenovo ruins the Thinkpad, that's what I'll continue to do. Current model Thinkpad T580 i7-8650U, 32GB RAM Fedora 31. Intel graphics.


I have Pop OS on my Thinkpad now, but the latest Fedora release has me thinking about switching.


I have a darter pro and really like it, no complaints about the build quality

its the best experience I've ever had with linux on a laptop, everything just works with no fuss


FYI if anyone wants to know, the new 2020 Dell XPS 13 (9300) is now available with 32gb of RAM.

Also according to someone on Reddit, Ubuntu 20.04 works flawlessly on it sans fingerprint reader. Dell's website says fingerprint reader support for Linux is coming later in 2020.


Ah nice, thanks. Well I'm glad it's available. I reloaded their page so many times.


Unfortunately the 32gb config only comes with Windows. I just bought it, and in case anyone else is interested, try chatting with the customer service. They got me a year of ProSupport and a storage upgrade (256gb -> 512gb) for only $3 more than the cheapest price I could find with coupons.


Looks great. Do you know how nicely their trackpads work?

I wish there was an option with a Ryzen 4000 and discrete graphics card, but it is still really compelling and I would buy one in a heartbeat if it was not for the fact that I wouldn't be able to get it serviced in my country.


I wish there was a straightforward way to take the diff of all the Ubuntu variants. Ostensibly one could take Ubuntu and run a few shell scripts (I am grossly oversimplifying) and boom you are now running Pop.

So much time and effort goes into building an _entire_ distribution when, at the core, 90% or more of the thing is identical to Ubuntu LTS. Am I missing something?

Also... the name with the exclamation and the underscores is one of the most user hostile and nonsensical things I have ever seen in open source, since brainfuck the language.


A heavy criticism of a lot of these ubuntu-based distros is "ubuntu + a custom PPA", but system76 does actually put in a lot of work into a custom kernel and some neat UI tweaks that make the OS on their hardware really well. They also have a firmware updater for their systems built into the settings program. The whole experience is a lot more refined than Ubuntu, I believe. It's a great OS for their machines, as well as any laptop with hybrid Intel/Nvidia graphics.


I have been a heavy Ubuntu user for awhile now and currently I have a Dell Precision 55 with Ubuntu 18.04 (came with it) for work and a Lenovo X1 Extreme with PopOS (18.04) that I installed on my personal machine. I think I would install PopOS over vanilla Ubuntu in the future...and I have not had a similar feeling for various alternate distributions like Mint, KDE, or even distros outside of Debian/Ubuntu (e.g. Manjaro). PopOS is the first distribution that I feel like adds a layer of polish and user-friendliness that I find worth it.

I have high hopes for future Ubuntu (desktop) release which seem to be making moves in the right general direction, but at the moment PopOS is probably where I am going to hang my hat.


I run PopOS 18.04 on a Lenovo P1 (sister machine to the X1 Extreme). It works flawlessly and is quite beautiful. I've had issues with Thunderbolt docks, but then again, I had the same with a MacBook Pro 2018.


I searched but couldn't find any info - why do they need a custom kernel? What changes do they make and why don't they upstream them?


They do indeed upstream patches. Here's an example: https://lkml.org/lkml/2019/10/8/851


How does PopOS handle regular bug fixes? Do they rely on the Ubuntu repository or do they apply the same patches and build again?


> I wish there was a straightforward way to take the diff of all the Ubuntu variants.

It's not _exactly_ a diff, but here's a link to the Pop!_OS github page, which contains 149 repos (only 16 of which are forks) https://github.com/pop-os

> one could take Ubuntu and run a few shell scripts (I am grossly oversimplifying) and boom you are now running Pop.

That same link notes that the top languages for the Pop!_OS repos are Rust, C, Python, JavaScript, and (lastly) Shell. So not _exactly_ "a few shell scripts". (I don't know how accurate that really is, but I do know they've written a fair bit of Rust.)

(Note: I don't currently use Pop!_OS and think the name is absurd)


I think they meant you could theoretically "run a few shell scripts" to install and uninstall packages and configuration to change stock Ubuntu to Pop (or Elementary or whatever) since the core OS is the same.


The very first concepts of Pop were like this, but since then the OS has grown to be much more complicated than that. There are some fundamental system configuration changes that make that a very difficult (if not impossible) task right now. It would be like converting a Debian system into Ubuntu.


> I wish there was a straightforward way to take the diff

I suppose booting the live image and dumping packages to a file, then diffing that might be one approach?

(dpkg --get-selections)

You might also want to archive all of /etc, and compare - but that might introduce too much noise.


Would you expect the list of packages on the live image to be the same as a new install (sans drivers)?


Yes, mostly. Or put another way - the live system should be functional and show off the best parts of the "spin" so core packages should be similar.


Distrowatch + Youtube walkthroughs can help some in differentiating, but so far firing up a VM is the only good to way to get a real feel for the flavor.

> So much time and effort goes into building an _entire_ distribution when, at the core, 90% or more of the thing is identical to Ubuntu LTS. Am I missing something?

I think there's a lot of effort that goes into polishing the DE/WM for a specific flavor of Ubuntu. I say this as someone who installed i3 on Linux Mate, and when using Mate now, I see i3 notifications manager.


Sorry, I should have clarified filesystem diff. I am thinking in real low level terms like what truly is the difference between these distributions.

ElementaryOS for example is a perfect case study.

> I say this as someone who installed i3 on Linux Mate, and when using Mate now, I see i3 notifications manager.

This is case and point why desktop linux sucks so bad. And it really bolsters my question: why are so many people reinventing the wheel for so many different things? Why do distributions need to have their own of everything? And if you do, hey that is great but why do you then need to wrap it into a different OS that is really just a popular one with a lot of tweaks?

I am coming from the perspective of someone who hates 'state' period ... or specifically determinism. So if I cannot reliably go from A to B to C (distributions) by just adding/removing packages and/or a kernel or two ... then the entire thing puts a bad taste in my mouth and makes me feel like the OS I am running is actually just a bunch of duct tape and garbage.

The irony is that under the hood linux is literally just plain old files on a disk. Yet if an XFCE Manjaro user asks somewhere publicly to switch to Gnome ... the solution ultimately tends to be "reinstall the Gnome ISO and copy your shit over"


> clarified filesystem diff. I am thinking in real low level terms like what truly is the difference between these distributions

One way to do that would be to install each version of each variant you are interested in on a VM (of exactly the same config each time), script a filesystem scan that always outputs the same order and sends the result to a central area where you can do a simple text diff on the output or load the results into a db of some sort for deeper analysis. You could even automate it to an extent.

I'm not entirely sure what you'd learn of much use, and you won't learn the differences between matters of real hardware support, but it might be an interesting exercise anyway.

This would only really be useful for comparing similar distributions, i.e. Ubuntu variations of similar vintage. There is so much different between, say, Ubuntu and CentOS, or Ubuntu now and Ubuntu last year, that there are too many differences for a filesystem level compare like that to be meaningful at all.


check out bedrock linux


The awkward name is an immediate turnoff IMO.

Just take a look at all the variations in this HN thread on the spelling of it. "Pop", "PopOS", "Pop OS"... I only counted two that used the full name "Pop!_OS".


There you go. "Windows" has been the most consistent in its original naming and is instantly recognisable on its own without the versioning names (XP,Vista,7,8,10). Ubuntu is also the same.

macOS was nearly confusing (was first Mac OS X, OS X and now macOS) but is still recognisable in the software ecosystem with its exact full name still used.

The name "Pop!_OS" on the other hand looks so cryptic that its users have simplified the name to just “Pop OS”. It’s likely that someone will create a distro for the sake of renaming it. I won't be surprised to see a renaming soon.


FWIW I work on Pop OS for System76 and using the "proper" name doesn't really matter to us. I don't even use it myself, except when I'm writing technical, first-party information/documentation that needs to be part of our cohesive brand. In colloquial use, just call it Pop.


Agreed, and it's a crying shame, because over the past 23 years of trying and using Linux distros for work and play, I find Pop!_OS to be the best of the lot by a wide margin. I don't imagine I'll use another desktop distro on any of my systems unless System76 somehow screws up all the fantastic work they've done on it.


Thank you, I too find the name choice a bit thoughtless. I get it you wanted to be different. But that is a really hard to google for name. I would of preferred Sys76OS


Seems OK. Google, Bing, and DDG all show the sys76 pop OS site when I search for just pop os.

Searching for "how to burn a CD pop os" has less useful results than "how to burn a CD ubuntu", but I think that's a user base size issue, not a naming issue.


That would imply that it was a horrible old IBM thing. Though, to be honest, so does their company name.


I really like what System76 is doing by catering to power users and developers. However I think that long-term Ubuntu is not an ideal base, and I would prefer a rolling-release distribution with minimal packages, a good ports system and the latest kernel. I know a lot of people have experience with debian based distributions, but Debian is really not the best distro if you want to customize things or have a relatively rare toolchain (common for developers). All the debian specific changes are akin to small papercuts that really make for an unpleasant experience over time.

When you think about it, most developers use Mac OS with a ports system (brew), combined with Flatpack-like packaging for some big apps. I think this is what the Linux Desktop needs to emulate to get more market share. Linux definitely has a huge advantage by being able to run docker containers natively.


I would love to see a DE/distro that more closely emulates macOS. A lot of people will point to Gnome and especially elementary OS for this, but they're really only Mac-like in that they're not Win9x-inspired like most other DEs and take a few design cues from various Apple software (Gnome reminds me more of iOS, and elementaryOS feels distantly related to Mavericks-era macOS).

Of course one can always cobble something together for their own use, whether that be so amalgamation of WM+associated utilities or hammering on KDE or XFCE until it kinda takes on the desired shape, but nothing can replace a purposefully designed, opinionated DE.


A purposefully designed and opinionated DE cannot really exist without a purposefully designed and opinionated GUI framework, which is probably why Gtk is nowadays often called the "Gnome Tool Kit".


Did you try deep in Linux?


Lately it seems ubuntu annoys me with updates often enough that it's starting to feel like a rolling distribution anyway, "downgrading" to debian has been on my todo list for a while.

> but Debian is really not the best distro if you want to customize things or have a relatively rare toolchain (common for developers)

Could you elaborate? I've been doing a lot of desktop (dwm) customization lately and haven't found ubuntu to be limiting.


You might be able to use Nix as a kind of ‘homebrew for Debian’


I've been pleasantly surpised with Pop OS. I'd been a Xubuntu user for nearly 10 years but have switched to Pop because of all the work they've put into hybrid graphics. I like XFCE more but Pop just has so many other good things going for it: auto-tiling, flatpak, hardware support, etc. In fact, my next laptop will probably be System76 Lemur Pro instead of my usual Thinkpad.


As a Lemur 2012 and 2016 owner-I think you will be quite happy with it.


So glad that they're bringing tiling features, keyboard shortcuts and workspaces front and center!

Quick glance and looks like it's bringing together the best of tiling WMs with the polish of Pop!_OS.


As a long time i3 user, I'll admit the tiling looks pretty appealing. Trying to figure out what i3 gives me that the Pop OS tiling wouldn't. There are definitely a few things, but probably 95% of my workflow is there.

I recently installed Ubuntu 18.04 and set up i3 via Regolith, and I'm trying to figure out if it's giving me anything other than a new set of keyboard shortcuts. But something about it seems a lot slower than a week ago before I upgraded from bare i3 on 18.04.


> Trying to figure out what i3 gives me that the Pop OS tiling wouldn't

I don't know how other people use i3, but I didn't see anything about stacked / tabbed layouts. They've become so baked into my workflow that I can't use anything without them for my personal laptop, at least- work forces me to use macOS :(


We will be working on stacking support soon


That is wonderful news! I look forward to trying it out


If you have a discrete nvidia card and don't want to deal with extra scripts and configurations, this is the way to go, everything works out of the box, or even if don't it's a quality distro


thats what i thought and was true for a while but ive found that always having the bleeding edge driver has led to a fair bit of instability. im back to debian and its solid. just add contrib and non free repos and nvidia-driver is there


I downloaded the beta a week ago, and was very impressed. I love the auto-tiling. I've been trying to get into that for a while, but never found it polished enough. This is a fantastic implementation, that doesn't require you to memorize all of the keyboard combos to get started.

I'm very torn about flatpack versus snaps versus debian. This fragmentation is awful.

I'd like to see a ZFS (with encryption) default soon as well.


So excited, PopOS is by far my favorite distribution. It all started with getting a Darter Pro from work, but now I run it on my personal laptop too.

I’ll be upgrading from 18.04, so I hope to see a lot of new stuff. Finger crossesed, without much hiccups.


I am tempted to get their new lemur pro as my next machine, but I don't have enough impression of the build quality.

I am used to mac and thinkpads, and one thing I used to enjoy was the x200 keyboard along with the trackpoint and 3 mousebuttons in reach from the thumb, does lenovo hold a patent for this, or is there any reason this type of cursor input is so rarely seen?

I'd gladly pay a premium for the option to get a more ergonomic keyboard.



Great and useful review!


I am new to Pop, just installed over top Ubuntu (uptime 61d, I shed a tear).

Pop is great. The mouse feels better (but I can't increase scroll rate?), the window manager keys are so sane. I just realized you can turn on Emacs input for the keyboard, so C-a always means home (like os x!?).

I went to the Pop website [1] to get codecs working (Twitch), super easy.

A Ryzen + Pop!_OS is my new "Mac Pro", to replace my 2010 5,1 model. I recommend it, having used distros from Red Hat 9 to Mint/Ubuntu to Gentoo to Slackware.

[1] https://support.system76.com/articles/codecs/


Just watched their tiling window managed demo: neat! I am going to steal some ideas from it for my tiling WM for Windows (hope they don't mind!).


If we minded, it wouldn't be open source. ;)


Hahaha, just this morning I'd made a 19.10 live USB to re-install PopOS on my desktop. If only I had procrastinated a little longer...


For my own reference and for anybody who just Googled it, the SHA256 hash of pop-os_20.04_amd64_intel_5.iso is 5478241142930dbd95143773d53be079087024d3112614a901edc2829040f996, verified using GPG key 63C46DF0140D738961429F4E204DD8AEC33A7AFF.

Do your own verification as well!


I upgraded last night and it feels like the fonts are better. My screen seems to be more clear and easier to read.

Hopefully they've also fixed the problem where Firefox causes massive periodic disk I/O which freezes my whole computer for minutes on end.


Wow, took me all of 3 minutes to break it. Windows share browsing is completely broken :(

I even got the OS to get stuck with modal requestors that you can't dismiss.

SMB browsing is the first thing I try on a new distribution, because it's almost always broken.


Is the ZFS root partition support there?


If only I could get my crappy USB Realtek Wifi to work with this I would switch. I tried for a few days to no luck. I definitely appreciate that they ship Nvidia drivers.


Might be easier to switch usb wifi adapters... I'm half surprised it doesn't work out of the box.


I'll probably get one of the PCI-e ones that they recommend. This is one of those $10 Amazon ones.


System76 if you're reading this, please hire a new design team that is on par with Apple, Google, IBM, etc. and a new industrial design team that has competence at the level of Bang & Olufsen, Apple, Braun, etc. System76 has such a huge potential but their marketing and design is lacking severely.

You guys need to realize that great companies such as Apple have a certain design ethos(some people resonate with it and some don't, but they have a very strong design language) and it comes from the top-down. Steve Jobs had a deep sense of appreciation for Japanese architecture, IBM in the 60's had hired Elliot Noyes, and Braun was aesthetically lead by Dieter Rams. IBM Thinkpads had hired IDEO design and bunch of high class firms to design their products. Nikon hired Pinin Ferrina. Study the history of hardware companies and what made them great.

System76 has the potential to be the most amazing linux-based computer company in the world - but they don't have the right type of leadership. Leadership needs to have good "taste".


I'll be the first in line to say that, in general, Linux/OSS-centric companies never get this right.

But this is just such a strange thing to say:

"System76 if you're reading this, please hire a new design team that is on par with Apple, Google, IBM, etc. and a new industrial design team that has competence at the level of Bang & Olufsen, Apple, Braun, etc."

That is not only absurdly expensive, it disregards the actual situation: open source work in general suffers from a lack of designers willing to be involved. If this was a simple thing to do, I'd wager System76 would have already done it.

On a personal note, I'd much rather they get to a point where they're fashioning their own hardware... otherwise I'm staying on a Macbook, because I'm not going back to plastic shells. The software design can wait, it's not like it hasn't already done so for years.


> because I'm not going back to plastic shells

I'm intensely curious about this stance. Apple popularized the aluminum case in laptops, and having owned a dozen each of aluminum and plastic/carbon fiber notebooks, aluminum is just... worse. It's heavier, more expensive, and every substantial impact is a permanent mar on the finish. Why is non-plastic so necessary? What advantage is there?


Plastic feels cheap and shoddy. Macbooks (and such laptops) feel premium, and I want a premium product. I don't care about the price for a device I live with and work on daily.

The weight doesn't bother me, and in fact I _prefer_ it having some body to it.

Regarding impact... my 2015MBP doesn't look a day old. It's tanked hits that would break other laptops.


Judging by the brands GP was suggesting, my assumption is that they are looking for the exact same thing you are - better hardware design, rather than UI design.


It is not absurdly expensive to hire a design firm to do a project for you. Especially for a company such as System76.

>> That is not only absurdly expensive, it disregards the actual situation: open source work in general suffers from a lack of designers willing to be involved. If this was a simple thing to do, I'd wager System76 would have already done it.

I seriously doubt any statements that claim "if they could, they would have done" when it comes to great design in software or hardware. It essentially boils down to what the leadership thinks - if they think design service/teams are a cost center, forget about it. It will never ever improve. If the founders and the leaders of the company think that design is a core aspect of what they do and it should be part of everything at the company - from letterpads, to building design, to how they write and speak - then there is no way they cannot succeed.


Just as a counterpoint, I like System76's design choices.

I've used Pop!_OS on my personal computer, and I consistently use it professionally because of how nicely it works for getting CUDA running on NVIDIA-enabled systems. I definitely prefer it over stock Ubuntu. Keeping GNOME for switching between workspaces but hiding the application bar by default makes the most of smaller screens is great. The combination of flat graphics, clean lines, geometric design notes, and color scheme choices resonates nicely with me.

I haven't had a lot of experience with their hardware, but I also think the choices in the Thelio line of desktops (which I believe the only product they have full manufacturing and discretion over) seemed really nice with the wood accent and low-key etchings on the metal.


I strongly disagree. System76 has, to my eyes, the perfect design aesthetic. They make reasonable and practical trades on build quality vs. price, and have a strict form-follows-function ethos with Pop!_OS that I just adore. They are an oasis in a desert of navel-gazing design coming out of Apple and Microsoft designed to coerce users into behavior that yields more revenue. It would be a tragedy for me if System76 were to follow that path.


This seems unfair.

I really like System76 design. They do a great job at making Linux systems seem friendly and worthy of consideration as Mac/Windows replacements, especially for a small company.

I also find their website much easier to use than Dell’s or Lenovo’s, and their branding and copywriting has more personality.

On the hardware front, their upcoming in-house laptop project will be worth keeping an eye on. It will start to give them more design flexibility over their current range (which is not designed in-house): https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonevangelho/2019/11/20/syste...


I disagree. I have a Thelio and now a Lemur Pro, and the distinctiveness of S76 design is one of the great pleasures for me. It's quirky, geeky, and fun. It's decidedly not the kind of thing you'd get from a minimalist corporate giant. It's what you'd get from a company making computers out of their factory in Denver, hiring local geeks.

If you get the chance (post-corona), stop by the factory, meet the lead designer Kate, and be amazed. She's a visionary.


I'm curious to know more about what you mean by this. Are you referring to marketing material like this release announcement? If so, this seems pretty polished to me, and easily on par with other computer companies; I'd be interested to hear what you feel is lacking.

If you mean the design of the hardware, I'd be interested to hear what you dislike about the Thelio – the reviews I've read have generally evaluated it as one of the best designed/most distinctive/prettiest desktops on the market.

(If you mean their current laptops then, yeah, those aren't designed in particular. But presumably that will change when they start designing/manufacturing those themselves instead of reselling Clevo/etc)


> ${small company with small company sized bank account} if you're reading this, please hire a new design team that is on par with ${list of massive companies with oodles of money} and a new industrial design team that has competence at the level of ${companies that are the best in the world at industrial design and compensate to match}

lol, I'm sure they'd love to, are you offering to pay the salaries?


It costs $100K to hire IDEO design guys. That's not a lot of money for a company like System76.


and then $1M++ to design parts, molds, fixtures, machine processes, finishes, coatings, and QA for the new custom chassis. Using ODM standard designs is the only practical thing to do at small volume.


I was initially skeptical of that claim, but it looks like [1] System76 are a million dollar company, which is great! That said, "hiring IDEO" is not a one-and-done sort of affair, you can hire great designers to do some work for you, but they want to keep getting paid as you have them work on more stuff.

1: https://incfact.com/company/system76-denver-co/


How much work will IDEO do for $100k?


It sounds like you might not be the target market for System76 computers. They're targeting developers with Pop_OS and are doing a fantastic job with that market. Personally, I don't want them to broaden their horizons. There is already Apple if people want to buy a computer like an Apple.


System76 employee/Pop dev here

> There is already Apple if people want to buy a computer like an Apple.

100%. If what you want is an Apple computer, I promise we won't be offended if you buy an Apple computer.


Yes and please release something like the Lemur Pro with a 4K or at least a WQHD display.


4K is overkill on a laptop. I recently got a 15" Thinkpad with a 4K screen, and while it looks gorgeous, I doubt I'd notice the difference with QHD. Though QHD is definitely an upgrade compared to FHD.


Aesthetics are subjective. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯




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