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Elementary OS Freya Released (elementary.io)
137 points by aroman on April 12, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 87 comments

Talk about a terribly designed website. If someone had no idea what Elementary OS is, the website does absolutely nothing to tell them. No list of even basic features. No explanation of compatibility or how to install it. Only a single screenshot. Why is this the case?

As someone who knows nothing about Elementary OS, you are correct. I dug into the blog a bit and all I can tell is that it's Ubuntu with some Gnome skins. Why would I pay money for a free OS? What's the purpose? What need is this designed to fill? The site failed to inform.

I agree that the website it poorly designed, but you can download Elementary OS for free. Just enter 0 in the "Custom Amount" box.

> I dug into the blog a bit and all I can tell is that it's Ubuntu with some Gnome skins.

Not really. The eOS developers wrote a whole DE(Pantheon) and the included applications from scratch. The website does a very poor job of explaining that.

Their old developer website also explained some of the new technologies that Elementary OS exposes to applications:

- Contractor (like Android's Intents): https://web.archive.org/web/20130314024115/http://elementary...

- Switchboard (unified, pluggable system settings): https://web.archive.org/web/20130314024137/http://elementary...

- Granite (GTK+ widget collection): https://web.archive.org/web/20130314024129/http://elementary...

They used to have a better website. I think it was the victim of "upgrades".


Release notes from a previous beta that explains more about the underlying infrastructure.

Totally agree. Especially since this is far from Ubuntu with GNOME skins. In fact it doesn't use GNOME at all. It's a completely custom built desktop environment.

As I remember, elementaryOS originally was a customized GNOME, but they've since made everything their own.

Agree, its buried. http://blog.elementary.io/post/116134677986/freya-is-here in case if interested.

Even as someone familiar with Elementary OS in the past, I can't figure out what's new with this release.

Designers take themselves so seriously... sometimes they need to be reminded about usability.

Yes! I looked at it, like, "Is this elementary the linux distribution that I have at least heard of by name or is this some completely different thing?" That's a serious failure on their part.

elementary OS have a similar mentality to the Vivaldi browser -- it's just for our friends.

Despite leading with donation panhandling.

Still, I'm using it now because I am tired of Slackware. I love Slack to bits but the amount of work involved in making my setup look and play nice is just silly. I'm looking for something like a one-click-pretty-usable Linux for random laptops/PCs I've accumulated.

PapyrOS might be nice if it's ever finished.

I'm going to get a lot of hate for this but if you really, honestly want a no-frills, easy to set up UNIX for your personal computer, there really is no better machine than a Macintosh.

I agree. I have an iMac and a Thinkpad; I classify these as my work computers. I really like OS X. It blends the Unix operating system with the best looks/UI of the OS market. If I could install it (easily/legally) on any hardware, I would run it everywhere.

At home I have a collection of misfit laptops that were discarded by others or sold very cheaply. It is these laptops on which I tend to run a Linux distro (because Windows tends to be slow and no SSH; because I'm not really in the business of Hackintoshing.)

Running eOS Freya on one of them now. It's not bad. Wifi seems a bit temperamental--which is astounding given that eOS is based on Ubuntu and Ubuntu had no trouble with wifi.

> If I could install it (easily/legally) on any hardware, I would run it everywhere.

That's why I said personal computer :) Another OS X pitfall is that modern, vendor-supported versions are somewhat resource-intensive and not very fit for running on older or less powerful systems.

I have to agree. As ridiculous and disgusting Apple is as a company, OSX still offers the best UNIX experience. But I applaud any attemt to change that fact.

Yeah, but that would require the distro maintainers to sell their own computers, which they support and test their distro against before releasing. Most distro maintainers don't really like the thought of that.

Or a hardware manufacturer working with them long-term. (Dell with it's "developer" XPS versions would be an obvious candidate)

I've never seen making Slackware look nice as a burden. Especially since I can generally just copy over config files.

I love Slackware for the simplicity and that's why I use it. So many of these feature filled pretty systems work nice.. until they don't. Unneeded features are just more stuff to learn and more stuff to break in my opinion. Slackware is a rock solid work horse and I know right where everything is and can change it if I need to.

But to tell the truth, just give me a nice Unix terminal and a web browser and I don't really care that much what it's sitting on.

Good pointer. I have an old laptop with Arch that basically only runs Chromium apps and terminal programs -- PapyrOS looks like the logical step up from there, when it's ready.

While true its not clear you can click "Custom Price" and input $0 dollars.

The donation money buttons are also confusing

Ironic really, especially give the teams focus on usability!

It really saddens me how much people underestimate the effort it takes to create a good UI by saying eOS is just a "pretty Ubuntu clone".

I don't think their blog post[1] is offensive at all. Ubuntu does this too. [2]

People consider Sublime's popup and "unregistered user" acceptable. How often do you install/download eOS? Once in a year? And you use it every-day, not only when you do text-editing. And there is no difference between paid or free user.

[1]: http://blog.elementary.io/post/110645528530/payments [2]: http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/contribute/?version=1...

It's not offensive now because they've changed the text (a while ago). Originally it said that people who didn't pay for eOS were "cheating the system".

Some people could find that offensive, especially when eOS gets the vast majority of its codebase for free from Debian, Ubuntu and the rest of the FOSS world. What the eOS guys said was offensive to some people, and downright idiotic to everyone else!

Yes, elementary have put in a huge amount of work to produce an excellent product, and a major step towards where Linux needs to be to attract non technical users, and it is disappointing that so many people seem to be willing to throw them and their years of work under the bus for what amounts to poorly chosen wording.

On the substance rather than the wording, surely Hacker News does not agree, as a group, that open source software should never be monetized, especially on a voluntary basis. They have rewritten the Linux desktop environment from scratch, which is an enormous amount of work, and in my experience it works very well. Why not expect that you could find 10,000 users, many of whom people spending their professional life on computers, willing to pay $20 (which in the UK is about 4 cups of coffee), and actually be able to support some developers working on the project full time? That is not at all an unreasonable goal.

I know about 20 people over the age of 70 who I periodically help with computer problems, I would say about half of them still using XP on computers that cannot be upgraded to Windows 8. They principally use their computers for checking webmail and browsing the internet.

I have tried Ubuntu, but unfortunately it has all sorts of minor UI ruffles which make it difficult for many non-technical people to use. Some examples are: people really struggle to use its pop-up scroll bars, partly because the concept is apparently non obvious, and needs to be explained, and partly because they're fiddly. Then, programs often open in the background, and don't come to the front, so the only sign they're ready is an illuminated icon to the left. And, you get regular pop-up which say 'serious system error detected' which never seem to amount to anything.

And in general, I would say my experience is that it is not beautiful, polished or consistent enough to justify to non technical users the change in user interface which it asks them to make.

Linux is effectively a developer market, it is written by and for developers, to stratch and itch or for infrastructure. But there has been a consistent failure to produce an operating system that ordinary people want to use. In my opinion, Linux also needs a consumer market, which is willing to pay to bring in other professionals, principally designers, and support them in polishing the user interface, in the way that users want, to a heavy sheen. Elementary OS was a step in that direction, and it's very disappointing to see it apparently shot down for a lack of ideological purity and/or just being abrasive. Hopefully, despite the level of outrage which many people feel, they will be able to find their 10,000 users out of the general Linux community, and carry on regardless.

I went through this entire HN thread and the only complaint is that the website has no information and something like this:

> They have rewritten the Linux desktop environment from scratch

is entirely not communicated on their homepage.

People here are not familiar with the work that they've done. And I don't blame them. In the software world being able to market/communicate your work to the public is as important as actually doing the work.

I've been in plenty of threads on HN recently where people have praised the work on Gnome for improving Linux desktop usability/design (after some initial hiccups). Gnome releases videos like this that clearly demonstrate what they are adding:

3.16 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxRLa5hTGkg

3.14 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p8Prlu3owc

Elementary OS should have similar information for their release.

I think it's very cheeky to pseudo-paywall an operating system that has reached version 0.3 and is still very temperamental. Granted, the install process was a breeze--I'd expect this from a Ubuntu clone--but once the system is installed it's far from stable. Pantheon is a great step forward for Linux UI design but it can be very buggy compared to the tried and true alternatives. Even Unity, as much as I detest it, runs very smoothly.

Maybe it's just me, maybe eOS runs perfectly on everybody else's computers, but the standard install has proven a little buggy and I've had to make adjustments from the command line to make it usable.

I think if Windows or OS X didn't work out-of-the-box, I'd want a refund and I'd consider a free alternative. eOS is great for free, but for money? Not so sure.

There is no upgrade path from OS Luna (previous release) to Freya. Their own web site states, "elementary OS Luna users should back up their data and perform a clean install". Given that the operating system is built on Ubuntu I should be able to upgrade from Luna to Freya without too many issues.

Disappointed? Yes. I wrote this post on my Cr-48 running Elementary OS Luna. Instead of running Apt to update my laptop now I'm browsing DistroWatch in another tab to see what else has come out.

You can install Pantheon(the eOS DE) on other distros if you want, though you'll have to put in the time and effort to get it to work and configure it.


As a workaround you could probably add their Freya repositories and perform an apt-get upgrade. Whether or not it would work flawlessly is another question altogether, I would do an image backup of the drive just in case it goes pear shaped.

Only negativity in this thread. You're being offered a desktop environment for free, and all you can do is point out its problems.

I think it looks pretty slick, and will give it a try, why are people so nitpicky here?

It's things like [1] that really irk me. Yes, they're working 'hard', yes they deserve compensation, no, there isn't any license conflicts (that I'm aware of) that would make selling eOS illegal, it's the fact that they wrote this justification to make you feel like a thief.

Really, it's just an ubuntu clone with a pretty osx-like gui. This isn't really anything amazing or new, and it makes it seem like they're trying to tap into the elitist osx market. If that is indeed what they want, they should really check out [2]

So it's not really the software that's bad, really it's all what you can get on any other distro with a little work, it's their attitude about it.

[1] http://blog.elementary.io/post/110645528530/payments [2] http://www.apple.com/jobs/us/

> tap into the elitist osx market

I think it would be more accurate to say that they are trying to expand the Linux market by wooing those whose main barrier to using Linux is the UI/UX. Whether or not you find the endeavor to be "noble", the attempt is worth something to the Linux landscape even if your takeaway is "don't run it quite like them".

Well whatever it they're doing guilt tripping people into giving them money for something that's free everywhere else isn't helping.

Woa. Wait a minute. They're merely asking for a donation, which can be set to zero. What's the issue with that? This entitled attitude is what irks me about the OSS movement at large. To a larger extent it puts me and people like me off of open source. More projects should take this approach. I thought that it's free as in Liberty, not as in ride. That's what we're constantly told.

> We want users to understand that they’re pretty much cheating the system when they choose not to pay for software.


No, their clone can bitrot, they deserve it.


OS X is hardly free

You mean like actual Ubuntu? http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/contribute/?version=1...

If you don't see much difference between the UX of the two DE's, I don't think the difference between the "request for donations" UX is that big either. Perhaps there should be some smallish text saying "$0 is a valid custom amount", but that's it.

Now, there are of course issues to be discussed about this kinds of donations requests, such as, for example, how much of the funds received make it upstream to the developers whose software distros are repackaging. But I have nothing against the idea that you might be asked whether you'd like to pay for the software or get it for free, with the understanding that both are equally valid options, even if the website is designed to suggest that they'd much prefer if you paid them for their service (added software and distro maintenance). I see nothing there that implies that I am a thief, or even a free loader, if I decide to pay null dollars for their distro. You can view it as either a free project that emphatically asks for donations (which sounds OK), or a paid free-as-in-freedom software project that allows you to get it for free if you don't want to pay (that is also valid, it's like Fedora and Red Hat, except in this case it's the exact same distro, as opposed to "practically the same").

Not saying their site is useful, btw, I had to dig through their blog to even know what ElementaryOS was. But I don't think asking for (optional) payment is the issue there.

A lot of upset came from the original version of that blog post, especially the now absent sentence

> We want users to understand that they’re pretty much cheating the system when they choose not to pay for software.

Ok, that's a bit different, specially if they mean that in the general, unless they are contributing directly to every single project they package with their distro and paying every contributor.

They are still within their rights to decide that their add-ons are proprietary non-zero cost software, at least those add-ons that don't link GPL code/modify LGPL code. But if their main value added is indeed modifying GPL code, and they would consider people who share those modifications for free or get them for free from a third party to be "cheating the system", I can see the issue.

Why? Developing software requires man-hours, likewise modifying software. It's not wrong to want compensation for that, regardless of license. Or maybe you hold the opinion that everyone who releases software under the GPL are suckers who shouldn't expect anything?

No, they still can ask for money. Read my comments above, I actually defend their right to make paid download the default. What they cannot do is take code released under the GPL, themselves likely getting it for free, the accuse anyone who copies their modifications without paying them of "cheating the system". They can even outright sell that software and not allow $0, that's fine, but someone will likely put a mirror up, and that person isn't "cheating the system", is playing by the same rules everyone else is. For the record, I have paid for (some) GPL software, and I still don't think it's any less valid to get it for free (most free software I have ever used is also free as in price, so...).

> This isn't really anything amazing or new

One counterexample: Contractor, an Android Intents-like system for sharing data between apps.


(archive.org link because this info doesn't seem to be on their new site, for whatever reason...)

There are other technologies like Switchboard and Granite that are unique to Elementary OS, and many of the user-facing apps were written from scratch.

Please take a look into the website and the history of Elementary. It's a huge undertaking, not merely 'a skin'. It has it's own HIG for design, a beautiful and consistent design language, and a nice set of custom-made default apps. Pantheon, the UI layer, is written from scratch, not based on Gnome, and has it's own API for writing apps in Vala.

The default download option is $25, the only way to get it "free" is to put in a custom dollar amount. You can do that, but the message they're sending is pretty obvious.

As for the negativity, I think people wonder about the "why" of this. As far as I can tell, it's basically "Ubuntu is ugly so we'll make it look like Mac".

> open replacement for Windows and OS X

It sounds like promising a lot. So after confirming the suspicion of it not being something that would actually allow to run some essential software we still don't have replacements for (AutoCad, Native Instruments stuff, Ableton Live, etc.), but simply yet another Linux distro with custom DE I wonder if this lack of information on the website is on purpose.

> So after confirming the suspicion of it not being something that would actually allow to run some essential software we still don't have replacements for (AutoCad, Native Instruments stuff, Ableton Live, etc.), but simply yet another Linux distro with custom DE

What? You actually expected somebody to come up with a whole new OS that runs software written for another proprietary, closed source OS?

eOS is a replacement for those users who want to browse the web, read email, watch videos and look at photographs. These people are its target demographic, not professionals who rely on specialized software to do their job.

You might want to pay attention to the word "confirming" so you would feel more relaxed about other's expectations.

> eOS is a replacement for those <..>

I would argue that for that matter it isn't a "replacement" whatsoever. If you are somebody capable of suddenly finding eOS on the internet and understanding what this thing actually is — there's a ton of "fast and open replacements" for you already. (Except, well, they are not "replacements" because they do not fulfill everything you might want to do with mentioned operating systems. But whatever.) If not — you don't even really care if you "pay" for your OS, because you're using the one that came pre-installed on your laptop, without thinking much how much money you spend on the processor, on the RAM, on the OS… it's just a "computer", you paid what you were asked for that. Nd if you would, it doesn't matter because, well, why would it matter if you want to use something you don't event know it exists?

> So after confirming the suspicion of it not being something that would actually allow to run some essential software we still don't have replacements for (AutoCad, Native Instruments stuff, Ableton Live, etc.)

Because the average user totally uses those programs...

Anyhow, I've installed Ubuntu for 'average' users with old, virus riddled machines and they love it. I use Linux every day for University stuff, and have for nearly 4 years. My wife uses it for her computing needs. Linux, any Linux distro, is 'enough' for the average user. Elementary OS is enough too, just a little prettier out of the box (I don't use it, my laptop has openSUSE, but eOS does look pretty).

For those wanting a little more substance, here's the blog post announcing Freya:


Some really vindictive and nasty comments on here, it's just a linux distro!

One thing that concerns me is the upgrade path, it mentions in their docs that if you are using a previous version of the OS, you need to back up your data and reinstall.

This is the distro GNU/Linux needed in 2009. I used to be a big fan, but these days I can't help but feel they are off the mark by focusing on so heavily on creating a "beautiful" 00's desktop environment when the rest of the world has moved on to new form factors, touch screens, tight coupling with cloud services, and automatic backup and recovery options.

That said, I do like the enhancements they have made to some of the 'classic' native apps (Geary is a great email client, Maya calendar works well, and I really like the shell history search baked into the Pantheon Terminal UI). Here's to hoping this release forms the foundation that allows them to tackle some of the sticking points above in the future.

I haven't used it yet, but I think this will have greater integration with online accounts, a single place to enter email accounts, calendar accounts etc which works across the system and so on.

I'm not sure about touch screens, I think most people view them as optional extras. And although of course people are shifting towards other form factors, huge numbers still use a desktop or laptop, and have no expectation of convergence between the devices.

I agree about automatic backup. I actually wonder whether that might be a route towards monetization which would be more palatable to the general community - an edition which is provided free with donations as is, and an edition which has automatic cloud backup built in, along with integration with Android and iOS devices for things like photos.

Does anyone else see a problem that they want you to input all your CC details but does not have HTTPS on by default?

thats handled by stripe..

It doesn't matter who it's handled by, the fact is that credit card numbers are being transferred over regular, non-encrypted HTTP.

Actually, it does matter.

The webpage might be http, but the Stripe Javascript library connects to Stripe's servers over https.

The website never sees your card number and your card number and info is never transmitted over a non-encrypted connection.

Since the page is loaded over plaintext, there's no easy way for a normal user to know that the credit card isn't being intercepted by a malicious script. It's not safe to serve a payment page over plaintext HTTP, even if it POSTs to a HTTPS endpoint as it could be modified in transit.

Stripe explains that TLS is required in their docs: https://stripe.com/help/ssl

If you read a bit further, the Stripe documentation explains that it is recommended, but not required.

You can make live transactions just fine from a regular HTTP page - whether that's a good idea or not is another issue, but making Stripe payments from an HTTPS payment page is not required from an API point of view.

They explain use cases for testing without HTTPS, but make it clear that TLS is required for production use.

Required in the 'it's a good idea because it will make the web more secure and make your customers trust you' sense, not required in the sense that it's something the API enforces.

Yes, but how do you know you're looking at the correct payment page?

The page that sends the POST request should also be verifiable as owned by the domain, otherwise I could inject a different "payment system" library, that looked like stripe to the user (unless they analyzed the traffic), but actually sends me the CC details.

From https://stripe.com/help/ssl

> Do I need to use SSL/TLS on my payment pages?

> Yes, for a couple of reasons:

> - It's more secure. In particular, it significantly reduces your risk of being exposed to a man-in-the-middle attack.

> - Users correctly feel more comfortable sharing their payment information on pages visibly served over SSL. Your conversion rate is likely to be higher if your pages are served over SSL/TLS, too.

In that case the process is merely broken from a usability standpoint (a user can't click on the browser padlock to verify certificate information).

Which is ironic.

I had to look around for a minute to find the "powered by stripe" message in the bottom left corner of the overlay. Simply seeing that message shouldn't be synonymous with security. I'm trained to look for the secure lock in the address bar of the browser.

You can test and take a look in web developer console.

Payment seems to be done using Stripe Javascript SDK, which makes all the connections using HTTPS.

Refreshing to see somebody attacking the consumer operating system market. The UX and design looks super clean.

I can plainly see the backlash they got from that arrogant blog post about 'making you not pay for the download of our ubuntu clone we slapped a pretty ui on' didn't do much at all.

You are relatively new here, but you should've seen this. Please read it. http://blog.ycombinator.com/new-hacker-news-guideline

This is a red herring -- the OP's post didn't say anything that was overly or gratuitously negative, at least not compared to many of the other comments on this thread. It's very true that saying that users are 'cheating the system' when they expect a libre product to be provided to them free of charge when the developers of said product themselves have added little more than a glossy sheen upon years of blood, sweat, and tears is an arrogant thing to say. Modifying GNU/Linux isn't new and it doesn't give you the right to say such outlandish things in defence of your own project.

You are welcome to download the source code to Elementary OS for free. Whichever way you frame your "think of the children" logic, the team at eOS are doing things the right way. The gripe here seems to be that they are monetising. Free as in liberty, not as in beer. There is nothing in any version of the GPL that says money may not be charged for compiled binaries. From the debian.org site, on whose shoulders eOS is ultimately standing;

"Many people new to free software find themselves confused because the word "free" in the term "free software" is not used the way they expect. To them free means "at no cost". An English dictionary lists almost twenty different meanings for "free". Only one of them is "at no cost". The rest refer to liberty and lack of constraint. When we speak of Free Software, we mean freedom, not price."

Canonical ask for donations on the download page too. The BSDs have donation drives. eOS are monetising in a different way. I have not seen the "cheating the system" comment/article and if they did say it, it was wrong. That said, it isn't there now.

The "little more than a glossy sheen" remark is off too. They are considering usability and are adding to the community. But hey, pretty doesn't belong in Linux does it? This attitude stinks and is largely why designers won't engage with the community, that and this self righteousness that pervades.

Just noticed that Elementary OS iso doesn't download using HTTPS because they use sourceforge:


I am loving it so far! I'm really disappointed with some of the ridiculous accusations like donations not being secure.

Ooh, super excited. Elementary gave a new life to my old black macbook.

My 67 y/o mother is using Elementary OS on a refurbished Toshiba L50D and she loves it.

Overall; disappointing.

I am looking for a lightweight linux OS for some old laptops I am refurbishing and giving away to homeless people, so I was interested in this.

The price thing threw me for a moment...paying for software without knowing its value?

I did the $0 hack and downloaded the iso. Stuck the USB in my worse-case system (totally broken screen, low memory etc) hooked to an external monitor, and...

Nothing, except for a screen full of mountains, which was odd because every other lightweight distro I've tried worked fine.

I think maybe it detected two monitors and used the external one without the taskbar, but I couldn't really tell. The OS definitely loaded as I tried to log off and the screen for that popped up.

An OS targeting low-end machines should definitely default to dupe-ing the display on boot.

[edit] ok...can someone clue me into what I've done wrong with the explanation of my experience with trying to use it?

Did anyone try it on recent macbookpro? I have one somewhere I am not using, because i did not like how kde/gnome shell looked on retina screen, and wonder if eOS solved this problem.

I haven't used it yet, but I understand that perfect retina rendering (as in something they would advertise as a feature) is pencilled in for the release after this.

If you have a MBP Retina you're not using, maybe I can use it? :)

company laptop. if it would be mine - i would just sell it :)

Just donated 0.04201 BTC (USD 10) and downloading Freya now. I've been using the previous version for fun and profit on a Mac mini, netbook, notebook and desktop PC since last year. Very recommended.

I saw today on HN PapyrOS. Anyone can explain the difference between the two? (leaving aside that PapyrOS is still unreleased)

zer0rest, if you can read this, you are hellbanned.


After a 10 second look at the comment I thought "oh dear, another !@#$ty comment".

But I'm willing to bet it's... no, it's just a !@#$ty comment.

Same as all comments. People should give up on this concept. No-one can do it right.

Just because no one can do it right doesn't mean people should give up. It's just not time yet... the people that can do it haven't come along yet.

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