So I’ve reached the end of my week with EndeavourOS after it got selected on The Distro Spinner wheel. It’s been another fun week with another Arch based distribution. Moving forward for the next couple of weeks I’m going to stop taking Arch based recommendations for the wheel just to make sure this series doesn’t turn into the Arch show.
So Before I get started going over my experience of using it throughout those 7 days lets just remind ourselves of some details of this April release of Endeavour OS. It ships with the kernel version 5.6.3-arch1-1 and Mesa has been updated to 20.0.4-1. If you would like to read what else is new in this version you can read their release notes here.
The installation process was nice and easy and uses Calamares for the installer. You also get quite a few different options in terms of which desktop environment you would like to use. The selection is pretty broad here too including full blown desktop environments like GNOME and Budgie but also includes the option to install a lighter window manager like i3. As well as letting you choose which desktop environment to use, it also allows you a bit of extra control over which packages are installed. This approach that I’ve been seeing more and more of as of late is something I can really get behind. I went with XFCE and chose the “offline” option that brings with it Endeavour OS’s signature look and feel.
By default the “offline” XFCE offering comes with a fairly minimal selection of packages. You get most of the essentials including a web browser, media player, text editor and file manager and so on but it opts not to include an office suite like LibreOffice out of the box. Personally I like the choice they have made here to not completely bloat things out. This allows the user to make their own decisions about which software they would like to include on their system. This does mean however it might not be the safest recommendation for a first time Linux user or beginner as it also doesn’t include a graphical package manager. This isn’t a massive issue for me and I actually decided not to bother installing one for the week. For those more comfortable with a graphical package manager it provides easy instructions on how to install Pamac. Which can also handle your updates too. What I did find interesting was the inclusion of an “update system” entry in the welcome screen. What this basically does is open up a terminal and prompt you to enter your password then it will input the update commands for you. I quite like this idea because it’s lighter than using a GUI and you don’t have to remember any commands to perform the update.
Look & Feel
EndeavourOS’s default setup of XFCE uses a fairly traditional single panel layout with the bar at the bottom. It uses “Whisker Menu” as the applications launcher on the left. Towards the end of the panel on your right is your workspace switcher that is setup in a 4 way grid then your notification area, network and sound indicators, a clock and the power button. I like the colour shade they have used here with a lightish’ blue with a healthy dose of transparency. I just wish XFCE had dynamic panel transparency for when a window is maximised as I tend to move my panel to the top. Having your panel at the top means it clashes with the windows title bars. For my personal workflow I also like to have a dock at the bottom of the screen where I launch and minimise my applications. On XFCE I will usually opt for “Plank” and install a theme called “Shade”. However I didn’t do that this week as I really did like the default look of the panel. I went for a more transparent theme here and was happy with the result. I’m also rather happy with the choice in themes they have gone with for the applications and icons. By default it has the whole Arc-Theme installed for your windows and by default it has selected Arc-Darker. I swiftly changed that to the Arc-Dark variant and left it at that. The Icon pack it includes is Arc-X-D, I did however install the regular Arc-Icon pack and switched to that.
On the system performance side of things EndeavourOS have done a good job at leaving you with most of your system resources spare when you first start up. Before installing my usual set of programs which includes things like Steam, Lutris, Discord and quite a few other packages I was using around 400-500MB of RAM at boot. By the end of the week i’m sitting at around 650 MB of RAM at boot which is still pretty good going! I haven’t had a single crash or stutter while doing my usual computing tasks either. It’s handled playing all of my games, editing videos and images while having multiple tabs open on Firefox without much issue at all. I also setup virt-manager on here to manage multiple virtual machines at a time including virtual machines of Endeavours own implementations of GNOME and i3.
Touching briefly on their implementation of GNOME it’s a fairly vanilla install of 3.36.1. Including the packages you would come to expect from the GNOME desktop environment. If I were to suggest EndeavourOS to a new user I would probably steer them towards this desktop in particular.
Then there is their implementation of i3. It has a rather interesting setup out of the box and looks rather nice too. I’m quite tempted to free this version from the confines of the virtual machine I assigned it to and give it a few review on native hardware. They also include a section on the bottom bar that you can click to bring up a text file of the default key bindings to get you started.
Stability & Updates
Moving on to the stability side of things my system has been as stable as you can expect from an Arch based distribution. I’m kind of lucky in the sense that of the hardware I use I don’t tend to find myself needing a lot of proprietary drivers for things like Graphics etc. Which can often lead to the odd headache when a big update comes round. I’m still not the biggest advocate for rolling releases and a week might not be quite long enough in this case to comment on just how stable this would be on my system over a longer term. For this week though I’ve had absolutely zero issues with keeping my system up to date so no complaints there.
So some final thoughts on EndeavourOS. Overall I’m really quite happy with this distribution. It feels like the spiritual successor to Antergos that all the Arch based Linux users deserve and i’m happy they have continued in this vein. I guess it all comes down to what kind of user I would recommend this distribution to. That has been the part that has been a little difficult for me to pin down. Where I think it sits is somewhere in the middle of beginner friendly and beyond. What I mean by this is I wouldn’t rush to recommend this to a complete beginner as I feel like it included a little bit of a do it yourself nature that they might not yet be ready for. I’d recommend it to those users who are ready to venture a little beyond the safe confines of distributions that include everything for them out of the box but are still a little bit intimidated when they think about the idea of going vanilla Arch. However, I’d feel slightly more confident in recommending this to a new user if I was talking about their Gnome option. As that does at least include packages like Gnome-Software to make things like installing programs and managing updates a little bit easier. All in all this has been another successful journey in The Distro Spinner series! I’ll definitely be adding EndeavourOS to the list of distributions I keep a close eye on and hope they continue with the good work they’re doing.