Endless OS 5.0.1
Nate Drake has hours of endless fun with the colourful and simple-to-use Endless OS without once needing to go online. Read our Endless OS 5.0.1 Review.
Table of Contents
Endless is the perfect OS for offline environments, coming with a colossal range of built-in programs, games and educational materials. Still, it’s let down by a lack of customisability and a very restrictive software licence.
Mem: 2GB (4GB recommended) HDD: 32GB (Basic)
Builds: ARM64, x86_64
Endless OS is a very original reinterpretation of Linux.
It’s owned by the Endless OS Foundation, which has been developing the OS for over 10 years. It also produces hardware with the OS pre-installed, including the sub-$ Endless Mini, which resembles a bowling ball.
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The overriding ethos behind Endless seems to be to provide an OS that doesn’t require internet access to use. Its developers claim it’s for “underserved users in the developing world”. This obviously could also be useful in countries with limited internet access, as well as closed environments, such as schools and prisons.
The Endless UI is a heavily customised version of the Gnome desktop environment. It’s clearly designed to be simple to navigate.
The OS is based on Debian (in this case Debian 11 Bullseye), with a highly tweaked Gnome desktop environment. This is one of the most striking points of Endless, as the UI looks more like KDE or a tablet than the Gnome we know and love. Still, it’s intuitive and you can take the built-in tour to get a feel for features.
Full-fat and skinny
There is a basic version of around 3GB, which contains some core apps such as LibreOffice and Shotwell, in addition to some educational programs, but the full version runs to over 16GB. This is the one most suited to offline environments as, for instance, it comes preloaded with around 50,000 Wikipedia (online it has over 57 million) pages.
Bundled apps like Chromium and Brasero have been carefully selected. If you are online, you can add more via the built-in App Center, and all native Gnome apps are supported. Still, this is where things become a little murky. There’s a good variety of apps available via Flatpak but the OS is immutable. It uses OSTree to enforce segregation of apps. There’s no built-in way to install apps via other package managers, like Synaptic.
The OS also doesn’t have a terminal app, so you can’t install programs from there or run other root commands. Whether or not you believe this is a good thing depends on your usage scenario. If you want to use the OS in an educational environment, you probably don’t want kids trying to hack in via the terminal or installing malware-ridden third-party apps.
While we’re on the subject of education, the OS also comes with Kolibri and Hack, a learning program to help kids aged 10 and up to learn coding. Kolibri is also a learning tool, which can download materials from various channels, such as ones for learning languages.
Another real feather in Endless’s cap is its help feature. The various sections are extremely easy to navigate and well laid out. This is where we discovered a simple explanation of the desktop bar and dash, as well as finding out that Endless now supports Wayland.
This kind of hand-holding is fine for beginners but the lack of customisability might frustrate experienced Linux users. Previous reviewers have also pointed out the extremely restrictive licence terms to which you have to agree in order to use Endless.
These include your consent to the OS dialling home with the device’s approximate location. Endless also reserves the right to terminate the licence at any time if it feels you’re not using the OS properly. In case of any dispute, you also have to agree to binding arbitration rather than take the company to court. This makes Endless a less than ideal choice if you want to protect your privacy, even if the number of available apps are limited and ring-fenced from each other.
Endless can’t be dual-booted with other Linux distros but you can either install it alongside Windows or download a VM to test-pilot it before installing.
DEVELOPER: Endless OS Foundation
LICENCE: Free for personal/non-commercial use
Intuitive UI provides hours of education and entertainment without going online, but inflexibility will put off power users.
» Rating 7/10