After about three weeks traveling technologically marooned on macOS island, I made a decision to try a new operating system – Pop!_OS. Yes, I’ve been using Ubuntu Gnome for the majority of my home office computing but due to some odd proprietary VPN requirements that only work on macOS and Windows, I’ve defaulted to traveling with my MacBook Pro. No more! From now on my System 76 Lemur will be dual-booting Windows 10 and Pop!_OS with Pop as the primary operating system from most of my development work. It’s been a few days and I have some initial impressions of Pop.
At first glance, Pop looks bright and modern, blending the simplicity of WebOS with the Material Design aesthetic of Android. Long time Ubuntu users will notice some similarities to the soon to be discontinued Unity user interface from Canonical. On the whole, I like the bright aesthetic. For the most part System 76 has done a good job of creating icons for common applications that it’s target market of “makers”, however, it is very easy to find icons that do not match the visual design language and they stick out like a sore thumb.
I particularly appreciated that my editor of choice, Visual Studio Code, and some of the more common text editors used by developers have on-brand icons that fit into the overall system well.
From a practical perspective Pop is little more than a flavor of Ubuntu. That may sounds like a dig, but it’s actually one of the best advantages of Pop, since that means it has access to all the Ubuntu repositories and is compatible with all Ubuntu software packages. This was actually very helpful to me, since it allowed all of my system bootstrap scripts to run unmodified to setup my new install.
So far, my usage of Pop has been pretty smooth. It seems to be fast and snappy. The one point of UX annoyance is the lock screen; it’s just the Gnome one and the requirement to slide up to login is annoying. I’d like to see a customized lock screen that was more on brand with the design and didn’t require that extra step.
It’s important to note that Pop is not yet a fully released product, so a lot could change / mature in the coming months. I definitely like the direction it’s going in but I do think that if it’s going to be branded a OS for “makers” there should be something like per-configuration profiles / setups similar to what Dell does on the Sputnik laptops; the idea there is that you’d have profiles for different types of “makers” that automatically installs industry standard FOSS tools for them. Maybe that’s not something advanced users would use much, but it would make provisioning a small shop with Pop much easier. Also, they should just brand it “Pop”, not Pop!_OS as the current name is confusing.
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