PikaOS is a brand new Ubuntu-based Linux distribution aimed at gamers, offering a vanilla GNOME experience with some exciting features.
One thing is sure about the Linux world: infinite distributions are available. Every user can find a distribution that matches their tastes, beliefs, and understanding, whether a complete beginner or a seasoned Linux wizard.
Every year, new ones arise on the Linux horizon. Some stand the test of time, while others fade away after failing to attract the minimum but a mandatory mass of users and developers to ensure their existence.
Today we’ll look at a brand new distribution that’s making its way into the Linux world. Please, meet PikaOS.
What Is PikaOS?
PikaOS is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu with a primary focus on gamers. As of this writing, the operating system’s current debut version is based on the Ubuntu 22.10 (Kinetic Kudu) release.
The distro hoppers among you will most likely draw a parallel to Nobara Linux, and they will not be wrong. The approach is similar, except that instead of using Fedora as the base, as in the case of Nobara, the developers here have chosen Ubuntu.
The installation of the operating system is simple and intuitive, similar to what you’re used to. During our tests, PikaOS installs without any issues.
We will only add that the distro defaults to the Btrfs file system, which provides many features that you may read about in more detail here.
One of PikaOS’s key features is that it provides Ubuntu users with something that Ubuntu does not: a vanilla GNOME experience. And here’s the first thing that deserves admiration: in addition to the standard GNOME desktop, you can quickly and easily switch between six different views using the “PikaOS GNOME Layouts” tool. Furthermore, the app allows you to pick the desired color accent for your desktop environment.
The available layouts are Traditional, Eleven, Pineapple, GNOME (default), GNOME 2, and Unity. You can see each of them in the gallery below.
This variety is achieved by using preinstalled GNOME extensions such as ArcMenu, Dash to Panel, Just Perfection, Ubuntu Dock, and so on, which are automatically turned on and off to achieve the desired view.
Software & Tools
Software-wise, PikaOS provides users with an impressive set of GUI tools that allow them to easily install everything for their multimedia and gaming experiences with the operating system. But before we get there, let’s look under the hood.
As we stated at the beginning, PikaOS primarily aims at Linux gamers rather than Ubuntu users looking for a vanilla GNOME experience. As a result, the developers chose not to use the stock Ubuntu kernel, instead opting for the XanMod kernel.
For those not in the know, XanMod kernel implements custom settings, patches, and new features built to provide a responsive and smooth desktop experience, especially for new hardware. As a result, it is widely popular amongst Linux gaming, streaming, live productions, and ultra-low latency enthusiasts. So, quite reasonably, it is also the default in PikaOS.
And we came to the part that puzzled us, namely the inclusion of the APX package manager, which is familiar to us from Vanilla OS. In short, it is a wrapper for managing typical APT, DNF, and Arch’s AUR packages.
Did you know that PikaOS can run under the hood Podman containers with Arch Linux, Fedora, and other distributions, allowing you to use the APX tool to install distribution-specific software, then export it back to the host OS and use it as a local application? I’m pretty sure you don’t. And you know why: no gamer needs them.
Because we’re talking entirely about gamer-centric distribution here, and, yes, containerization capabilities provide additional possibilities, but they have no place in this case. Instead of contributing to ease of use, they only add unnecessary complexity with functionality that no one needs. So much for that.
Let’s now look at the user tools where the Welcome app shines with the features it offers. It makes a good impression because, while being aimed toward gamers, PikaOS does not come bloated with preinstalled apps like Steam, Lutris, and so on, but they are just a click install away.
Also, immediately after installation, you can complete the first few activities, such as applying updates and installing hardware drivers and multimedia codecs, to bring your system to an optimal state.
On top of that, PikaOS includes several helpful GUI administration apps such as GDebi, Driver Manager, Firmware Manager, Synaptic Package Manager, and others. The distro also comes with the Firefox web browser, VLC and mpv media players, Geary e-mail client, Transmission torrent client, etc.
We’ll wrap up the overview of software features by saying that PikaOS comes with out-of-the-box Flatpak support, with Ubuntu’s not-so-well-received among the Linux community Snap package format removed.
PikaOS is a breath of fresh air in the Linux ecosystem, and we applaud it. The distribution makes a strong case for its presence by building on Ubuntu’s proven base, addressing its shortcomings, and improving on them with useful GUI tools, a vanilla GNOME experience, and a Linux kernel optimized for gaming and multimedia needs.
However, there were two things we didn’t like – the unnecessary inclusion of containerization possibilities, as well as the complete lack of documentation. Of course, given that this is a brand-new distribution, I am hopeful that many things will be refined and addressed over time and that PikaOS will earn a devoted fanbase.