That was precisely my thought when I first came across Vanilla OS.
When Mirko Brombin, the creator of Bottles, announced it on Twitter, that had me interested in it 😎
I joined their Discord channel and hopped in to become a tester. While I did not point out anything new that other testers already did, keeping an eye on the project development is fun.
Back to the vital question: What is Vanilla OS?
Vanilla OS aims to offer a clean vanilla GNOME experience with on-demand immutability.
Sounds interesting? Let me tell you a few details about it while I give its first open beta build a try.
It will follow Ubuntu point releases. So, you can expect two releases per year. For example, you can upgrade from Ubuntu 22.04 to Ubuntu 22.10.
You should not replace it as a daily driver unless you know what you are doing.
Vanilla OS: Yet Another Ubuntu-based Distro?
Yes and no.
For starters, I see the following unique reasons to give it a try:
- To get a stock GNOME experience on top of Ubuntu. (Fedora is an excellent option too, but not for everyone!)
- Allows you to choose and enable Flatpak/Snap/AppImage with its first-time setup after installation.
- On-demand immutability, meaning you can make the system read-only to prevent critical changes from third-party applications and updates.
- A new package manager (apx) allows you to install packages inside a managed container by default.
The first-time setup process is a breeze to experience.
The more distributions do things like this; I believe more users would be happy to get on board with Linux.
Of course, distributions like Ubuntu MATE and Pop!_OS have already put in great efforts, and Vanilla OS also adds some improvement to the table.
It looks like a pretty experience! 😊
Once you finish the first-time setup, you have nothing else to worry about. You get the usual GNOME desktop with nice wallpapers out of the box by Patrik Kramolis.
Next, I tried checking the on-demand immutability, which you can see and tweak using the following commands:
You can explore more about the utility (almost) that makes this possible on GitHub.
Next, coming to the new package manager, I like the concept of distrobox under the hood, making this possible with apx.
The Distrobox creator Luca di Maio is also involved in developing Vanilla OS.
However, when installing a package with apx, you need to initialize the container using the command:
If it had done it automatically, I would call it intuitive.
Of course, I'm not aware of the technical limitations. But, for the user end, that would feel seamless!
Overall, a package manager that installs applications utilizing a container, getting the ability to choose your package managers, on-demand immutability, and vanilla GNOME make it seem like a good deal to keep an eye on.
The Road Ahead: First Impressions
I can see it as my daily driver once it hits the stable release.
The reason is: I always like the stock GNOME experience, and I do not have to deal with Fedora's regular upgrades.
Of course, once I get to use the stable release, I can give you a verdict on the entire user experience.
Until then, I'd say it is a project that I believe a lot of users will appreciate 👏
You can download the ISO by joining its Discord channel for now. The ISO is not yet publicly available to all. Take a look at its documentation if you are curious.
However, as per the roadmap, they plan to have a release candidate soon enough.