IntroductionThis article has been written for two reasons:
- I was asked to review SolydX or SolydK
- I was reading a question on the /r/linux4noobs subreddit and the question was "which distro should I use?".
With regards to the question "Which distro should I use?" the person asking the question had fairly specific criteria.
- It cannot be a Ubuntu based distro
- Preferably it will be a Debian based distro
- Preferably it will run XFCE
For point 1 I have to say that if you are omitting Ubuntu and Ubuntu based distros then you are missing a trick in this case.
Xubuntu is one of the finest distributions running the XFCE desktop. Even if you forget about Xubuntu there is the XFCE version of Mint that I reviewed last week.
For points 2 and 3 I instantly thought "A Debian based distro running XFCE, hmm, what about Debian itself running XFCE". So what about Debian running XFCE? Well that review is coming up next week.
I have been using SolydX on my laptop for a week now and so lets get started with the review.
InstallationThe installation procedure for SolydX is actually fairly straight forward. It doesn't use the Ubuntu installer so for this review I will run through the installation instructions. (you will be able to see how complicated my partitioning is beginning to get).
1. Choose your language.
2. Choose where you are (I have to say that the map contains a nice level of detail).
3. Choose your keyboard layout
5. Choose the disk you want to install SolydX on to.
6. Now comes the dreaded partitioning bit. Actually I find this quite easy now because I have done it so many times. Don't be put off by my set up. As I regularly review distros I have five 50gb partitions specifically put aside so that I can switch distros in and out as required.
In general for a single distro setup I recommend setting up a 30 gigabyte partition for the main distro, an 8 gb partition for swap space and the rest for home. The optimum partitioning of a disk causes many debates.
7. Finally click "Install".
The SolydX layout is fairly clean looking with a crisp looking background image and a single panel at the bottom.
If you read my review of Mint XFCE edition last week then the main difference between SolydX and Mint XFCE from a look and feel point of view is the choice of menu system. SolydX uses the standard XFCE application menu whereas Mint uses Whisker.
I think that to get the best use of the XFCE desktop you need to have two panels but both SolydX and Mint have gone with a single panel.
By default you are greeted with a welcome screen which you can prevent from appearing on subsequent boots by unchecking the "show at startup" box.
The welcome screen has 4 menu options down the left:
The drivers option shows a list of drivers that have been loaded.
The community option shows links to the project's homepage, forums, tutorials and chatrooms.
The contribute option shows how you can get involved or donate to the project.
The system tray has icons for notifications, networks, power settings, a clock and a volume control.
The quick launch has an icon to minimise all windows and show the desktop.
Connecting to the internet
Click the "properties" button on one of the connections to be able to enter the security details.
This screen isn't the most user friendly wireless configuration screen that I have seen but all I had to do was enter the key into the "Key" field and press "OK".
You can set the internet connection to automatically start when you boot.
Flash and MP3One of the selling points of SolydX is that you should be able to perform most tasks straight away without having to install extra software and with that in mind Flash works straight away.
As you can see Youtube videos work straight out of the box and also my favourite Flash game "Stick Cricket" also works without issue.
The music application that comes with SolydX is Exaile. It is one of the more lightweight music applications but it has all the basic features you need to listen to your tunes. More importantly the MP3s played without error.
ApplicationsSolydX is designed to be a lightweight distribution and as such all the applications fit into this category. (Well kind of).
Firstly under the graphics section there is the GIMP. This can hardly be considered a lightweight application.
Other than that one application the rest of the software that is included can be considered lightweight.
The default browser is FireFox. The email application is Thunderbird and messenging software is Pidgin. XChat is also included by default.
As well as Exaile for playing audio there is the VLC player for watching videos.
The office category has the stock XFCE applications Abiword and Gnumeric. These programs are fine if your sole use of office software is writing letters and doing the odd budgeting spreadsheet.
SolydX doesn't give you too much software. There are some distros that bombard you with games (which most of us would never play) and some include obscure software products. SolydX gives you just about what you need without going too far.
In the top right corner is a search box and the rest of the screen is a series of categories.
Clicking on a category shows various sub categories and a list of potential applications.
By drilling down you can find applications that meet your needs.
If you know the application you wish to install then you can enter the name or a description in the search box and a list of applications will appear with ratings next to them.
Double clicking on the application in the list shows a description of the software and you are now able to install it.
Customising the desktop
To change the desktop background right click on the desktop and choose "Desktop Settings".
SolydX comes with just the one wallpaper. To add your own click the plus symbol and find the picture you want to use as wallpaper.
I have already written a guide showing how to customise the XFCE desktop so if you want to add new panels etc then you can follow this guide.
There is an option on the menu called "Window Manager Tweaks" which enables you to enable compositing.
By enabling compositing you can then make your XFCE panels transparent.
"Windows Manager Tweaks" includes the ability to specify where windows load for the first time, how workspaces are handled, the cycling of windows, accessibility options etc.
SolydX is the lightweight version of the SolydXK distribution. It is based on the Debian testing branch which means the applications stay more relevant than base Debian which runs off the "Stable" branch.
SolydX is a rolling release distro which means that when you have installed it you should not have to completely upgrade in the future.
Every month updates are released and if you install the updates you will always have the latest version of SolydX.
SolydX has a nice clean interface and everything works out of the box so for people who just want to use their computer they can do so without having to run fiddly scripts in the terminal.
I do prefer Xubuntu's use of the XFCE panels. If SolydX is going to stick with a single panel then it would be a good idea to have the application finder as part of the quick launch bar as the menu is fairly convoluted when there are lots of applications installed. Mint gets around this problem by using a different menu system.
I like the fact that SolydX isn't bombarded with applications and that it is up to you to install what you want to install. There is just enough there by default to perform most tasks.
I had no glaring crashes or errors appear during my time using SolydX..
Thankyou for reading.