Pear OS 8 – A Missed Opportunity?

I love distros that try and mimic other OSes. They lessen the blow of using a new OS and encourage inexperienced users to take the plunge into Linux. In that respect, Pear OS 8 is a wonderful imitation of Mac OS X, but does a poor job of presenting the best of Linux.

First, the good bits. Pear OS 8 is a tastefully designed Linux distro that most Apple users will find easy to use with familiar icons and overall looks.

pear-desktop

Pear OS is a one-man distro and the seriousness displayed by its creator in designing the distros visible elements extends all the way to the invisible underlying bits. Thanks to his efforts, Pear OS 8 runs smooth and fast. It boots quickly and shuts down almost abruptly, removing the drudgery from switching to or switching from Linux in a dual boot machine.

The distro takes full advantage of its Ubuntu underpinnings. It uses Ubuntu’s popular and easy to navigate Ubiquity installer. Also available is a rebranded version of Ubuntu’s Software Center for installing additional apps.

After installation you get a brief tour to familiarize you with the distro and the desktop. The parade of icons at the bottom of the subtle, soft blue-green desktop starts with the file browser and other useful apps such as the Firefox browser which come pre-installed.

Pear’s application launcher looks like the one in OS X and is even called Launchpad. Apart from the usual applications such as Thunderbird for Email, Musique for music, the distro includes some very interesting and useful apps developed in-house by Pear OS itself.

pear-cleanmypear

There’s the “Clean My Pear” app which allows you delete unwanted files and caches. Among other things, it lets you clean Firefox and Chrome. But please be warned, the app doesn’t clean the browsers’ history.

Then there’s “My Pear 6″ which allows you adjust the behavior of various elements on the panel and the desktop, such as the size of the icons and placement of various notifications, and customize actions for the hot corners.

The nifty tool is an icing on the usual appearance settings that ship with most Linux desktops. But it is still a work in progress because themes for Pear OS 8 are still to fructify.

pear-mypear6

Starting with Pear OS 8, the distro is now also available for 32-bit systems along with the usual 64-bit edition. You can now try Pear OS even on some old machines for all it needs, as per the official documentation, is a 700 MHz processor, with 512 MB RAM and 8GB of disk space.

Another custom utility is “Pear Cloud” which is tied with Pear’s custom cloud storage service that offers 2GB of free storage space and plans starting $20/year.

The one major downside to Pear OS 8 is that it doesn’t ship with an office suite. There’s no LibreOffice, no KWrite, no Calligra Words, and no AbiWord. Even after you install LibreOffice from the repos, Pear OS 8 doesn’t display the menu bar in the global menu bar.

Also, Pear OS 8 needs to get its house in order as far as multimedia is concerned.

The distro ships with the VLC media player but getting to it takes some doing since the app isn’t listed in the launchpad. You’ll either have to launch it from the search indicator applet in the top bar, or from the command-line.

What’s worse is that neither VLC nor the Musique audio player are associated with any multimedia files. Pear Linux 8 also doesn’t include the custom ‘Pear Time Back’ app which was a clone of Apple’s Time Machine backup tool and shipped in earlier versions of Pear Linux.

However, the distro has an active community of users, one of whom has written a PDF guide to fix many common annoyances with Pear OS 8.

All said and done, Pear Linux is a good option for users looking to move away from Mac into Linux but still want some degree of familiarity. The latest release isn’t as polished as Elementary OS and has far too many rough edges for me to recommend it to new Linux users.

Image credit: Luca Vanzella

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