The urgency and circumstance that prompted Pop!_OS into life are almost unique among the hundreds of existing distributions. Ubuntu with the Unity desktop used to be the default operating system for System76 machines until the announcement came that Ubuntu was changing instead to the GNOME desktop. System76, faced with a dilemma, got busy and in a timely decision made plans to future proof the company by creating their own distribution to enhance their machines. This is no ‘hobby’ OS or product of a whim. Pop!_OS needed to be professional, stable, and “just work” ASAP! The first public indications that System76 were working on their own distribution, instead of Ubuntu, appeared in May 2017 when Ian Santopietro posted “Making Ubuntu Pop” to the company blog.
The first actual reference to Pop!_OS came the following month in another blog post where System76 President Carl Richell outlined the "Pop!_OS Development Approach". It was both this development approach and the default app selection that first caught my attention and compelled me to try Pop!_OS. I kept an eye on the project and was excited by the following months of blog posts – July through October – when the first Pop!_OS release was presented.
I was pleasantly surprised by my first experience with Pop!_OS considering I’m no fan of Ubuntu. It was extremely positive and a marked difference to my first use of many other distributions. The Pop installer worked perfectly, and I was thrilled by the option to encrypt the entire disk! The look and feel out of the box is excellent. A lot of thought and hard work went into it, and it payed off because the Pop theme is fantastic. It’s aesthetically pleasing and has been designed to help you focus on getting things done. It wasn’t long before I came back for another look and shortly after I decided to make Pop!_OS my go-to distribution.
There are many important landmark moments in Pop’s short but impressive development history; too many to list in a short history because Pop”s developers have been extremely prolific in creating unique solutions to common Linux problems. The result is nothing less than a masterpiece. A brilliant, stable and robust platform to enhance the equally great open source computers they are manufacturing. Some of the more recent improvements include work on the Pop installer that adds an option to “Install alongside” an existing OS, making dual booting easier and firmware updates that utilize Blockchain technology to improve security immensely.
At this writing, the head desktop developer at System76, Michael Murphy AKA mmstick, has begun to make a weekly update on Pop!_Planet aptly named “This week in Pop”. The very first edition outlines some exciting possibilities for Pop’s future. After reading this, I have a better understanding of the direction or roadmap for Pop!_OS. I had to do a bit of extra research to grasp what was said, and I’m not going to pretend I understand everything, but what I glean from it makes me excited for the project. I’ve realized for a long time now that Pop is a different animal than Ubuntu, but these new advances will cement Pop’s independence and truly distinguish it from Ubuntu. It is remarkable to think that in such a short time Pop!_OS seems a quantum leap more usable and stable than most other distributions I’ve used.
If you want to give Pop!_OS a spin you can download a copy from the System76 website. If you’re new to Linux you may benefit from reading “Choice Advice for Linux First Timers”.