Endless OS 5.0: Another Linux Distro Betting on Immutability

Endless OS 5.0 has a revamped desktop experience, an old GNOME 41, and is heavily Flatpak-focused. Here's our take on it.

Endless OS is a Debian-based, fully desktop-oriented Linux operating system. Despite its strong desktop focus, it only occasionally falls under the radar, unlike other niche-leading distros such as Linux Mint, Fedora, Manjaro, and so on, because the approach is quite different here. So, let’s first clarify for readers what this is all about.

What Is Endless OS?

Endless OS features a custom desktop environment as the OS is designed to provide offline access to information and educational content. To achieve this, it comes preinstalled with various apps and tools for productivity and entertainment. Moreover, it gives access to an extensive library of educational content without needing an internet connection.

In other words, the goal of Endless OS is to offer a simple and intuitive computing experience for users, especially in areas with limited or no access to the internet.

The just-released Endless OS 5.0 continues on this path, so let’s see what’s changed.

What’s New in Endless OS 5.0?

Endless OS 5.0
Endless OS 5.0

Powered by the Linux kernel 5.15 and based on Debian 11.5, Endless OS 5.0 comes more than a year after the previous major release, Endless OS 4.0. Listed below are what’s new and our honest take on it.

Desktop Environment

The redesigned desktop environment is the most noticeable difference between this release and the previous one. It now uses the GNOME Dash panel, which is permanently visible and has autohide capabilities, rather than the prior OS release’s traditional bottom panel. The top panel is the well-known GNOME one. All preinstalled desktop applications are available as shortcuts and grouped for quick and convenient access directly on the desktop.

On the other hand, Endless OS 5.0 includes GNOME 41, which was released a year and a half ago. Given that the most recent version, GNOME 43, has been available for nearly five months, the developers’ decision to choose GNOME 41 seems odd.

Multiple workspaces and multitasking are the other new features announced for Endless OS 5.0. However, this seems to be a stretch to call “new,” given that virtual desktops and multitasking have been a part of the GNOME desktop environment for many years and are also present in GNOME 3.38, on which the previous Endless OS 4.0 release was base

The New App Center

I have to repeat what I said just now. Yes, the GNOME App Center is a new feature, but only in the context of the previous Endless 4.0 release, and if Endless OS is the only thing you’ve seen and used on your computer in the last few years. For all other users, the GNOME App Center is well known.

App Center
App Center

The interesting thing here, in this case, is that the version used is the most recent version of the application since GNOME 43.3. However, all you can do with it is install Flatpak packages from Flathub. But more on that later.

Preinstalled Software

The full version of the Endless OS 5.0 release comes loaded with a significant amount of preinstalled software, keeping with its philosophy of providing virtually everything you need to use without an Internet connection. In addition, we liked the decision to use the Chromium browser as default rather than the more common approach of relying on Firefox.

Furthermore, here you will find the latest version of the LibreOffice 7.5 office suite, Videos multimedia player, Shotwell photo manager, and many fun educational applications aimed primarily at the children’s audience.

System App
System App

OS Immutability

Here we come to the point I disliked the most. Immediately I explain what it is about. Endless OS is an immutable operating system. What does that mean? In short, you can forget about the APT command because you cannot install any software from the DEB package in a well-known way.

Instead, Endless OS 5’s client software is all in the Flapak package format.

Endless OS 5.0 Flatpak Apps List
Endless OS 5.0 Flatpak Apps List

In the same way, Flatpak packages are the only thing you can get via the GNOME App Center. That means you have around 2,000 software packages available for installation in total. That is, at the moment, what is available in the entire Flathub repository.

But don’t get me wrong: immutability is a great concept, but applying it to a desktop-centric operating system drastically limits the user’s capabilities and, more importantly, greatly complicates the OS management, necessitating higher technical knowledge.

Given Endless OS’s educational purpose, the only explanation is that the developers want to protect the underlying operating system as much as possible by making it impossible to install system software or, for example, to edit essential system files that would cause the system to crash.

However, immutable operating systems are great to utilize when discussing virtualization, containerization, and so on, but their use in the desktop field is pretty questionable.

In addition, we’ll only highlight that the OS’s immutability in Endless OS 5.0 is achieved via OSTree v2022.1, a well-known tool among Fedora Silverblue users.

Other Endless OS 5.0 Highlights

This release offers built-in Parental Controls in Settings. Also, Endless OS 5.0 offers improved multi-graphics support, so the OS defaults to using more power-efficient integrated graphics on systems with multiple GPUs. Finally, Endless OS 5 adopts the Wayland display server by default rather than the older Xorg/X11 protocol.

For more information about all changes in Endless OS 5.0, you can refer to the release notes or visit the project’s website.

Bottom Line

Endless OS 5.0 is an operating system that differs from the common conception of a desktop-oriented Linux operating system. The immutable approach, which requires a high level of technical knowledge if you want complete control over the underlying operating system, and the inclusion of applications primarily oriented towards the educational computing needs of children separate it from what the average Linux user would choose for their everyday computing needs.

Yes, Endless OS 5.0 has a place where kids can’t have internet access or use modern hardware, but other questions arise, such as why the OS uses GNOME, which is far from the lightest of desktop environments.

Anyway, Endless OS 5.0 left us with mixed feelings. Would we recommend it as a desktop operating system for your day-to-day computing work? Rather, not. However, if you’re a distro-hopper, give it a try.

Download Endless OS 5.0

Downloading the Endless OS 5.0 ISO file can be confusing. You have two options, a base version that comes under 3.3 GB and a full version closer to 17 GB. I immediately explain the difference: the full version comes with tons of preinstalled apps, allowing you to use the OS without an internet connection. So, which version you choose is entirely up to you.

Besides offering a standard installation ISO image for the amd64-bit architecture, Endless OS 5.0 is also available as a platform-independent OVF file for virtual machines, Raspberry Pi 4 devices, Pinebook Pro, and more.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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