Endless OS – A PC for Emerging Countries

Well Prepared

The interface of Endless OS offers easily accessible topics such as science, sociology, health, programming (Figure 3), and many others, offering in-depth content even without an Internet connection. There are also games and many well-known Gnome apps (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Offline courses for programming languages help anyone interested in learning programming, even without Internet access.
Figure 4: Endless OS comes preinstalled with a variety of programs for various purposes. Gnome Software is the application manager.

To make it easier to get started with the system, Endless hides many traditional desktop elements and the package management system from the user. The principle used here is very similar to that of Android or iOS, in which the operating system consists of a read-only image that can only be updated as a whole.

In the case of Endless OS, OSTree [7], which is well-known from Gnome development, is used for this purpose. Based on a guide [8], users can create an operating system from the Debian binary packages. The Endless OS system is automatically updated in the form of atomic updates that can be rolled back.

Carefully Considered

On top of the operating system, the applications are provided as packages built from Debian sources in the form of Flatpaks [9]. Endless OS is the first distribution to completely rely on this new package format. A dedicated app store provides the applications, which can be updated via the Gnome Software package manager. The current Gnome 3.20 from Debian "unstable" is used for this purpose, because earlier versions of Gnome software are unable to handle Flatpaks.

This method decouples the operating system upgrade completely from updates of individual applications. Project lead Cosimo Cecci, a Gnome developer himself, sees Endless OS as the distribution that comes closest to the Gnome OS [10] envisaged years ago but never realized. From a technical point of view, Endless OS remains very close to the original Gnome under the hood and deviates only in terms of a different shell with a unique user experience.

Conclusions

In its content, interface, and underlying technology, Endless OS has achieved something extraordinary. To our knowledge, Endless OS is the first end-user operating system to feature automatic updates that can be rolled back. In terms of administration, Endless OS is well suited for its target audience.

In many emerging countries, cheap smartphones are often the first and sometimes only contact with high-tech electronics. It thus makes sense to make the Endless OS user interface resemble a smartphone environment. A PC with 20GB or more of carefully prepared content for $100 or $200 may be a viable option for people in emerging markets looking to enter into the world of computers.

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