I once reviewed another Linux distribution called SolusOS back in 2013. That distribution was based on Debian and used the GNOME 2 desktop environment.
As with many smaller distributions it showed a lot of promise but ultimately disappeared never to be seen again.
There is now a new Solus Linux distribution, although I think it has very little to do with the original version as it isn’t based on any other distribution and comes with its own desktop environment called Budgie.
According to the “Why Solus” page on the website “Solus is a desktop-orientated, modern Linux-based operating system with a focus on user-friendliness”.
I will leave you to read the rest of the “Why Solus” page to find out what it is all about. There is however one bold claim that is worth investigating:
We raise eyebrows with this quite frequently.
We spend a lot of time
optimising Solus to run better, faster, and more efficiently, on the
hardware available to our users. Quite famously, we had an Intel NUC
booting in 1.089s, using only 178MB of RAM idle on boot.
We spend time
working heavily on the toolchain, validating binary performance to
ensure that you get the best possible experience for the desktop.
spend a significant amount of time on our kernel too, and ensure we have
the best working configuration for our users.
Many of our core
libraries have been aggressively optimised, and we’ve spent a lot of
time creating a level of integration and performance that wouldn’t be
possible in a derived distribution. Whether you’re working or playing,
Solus screams along on your desktop.
Basically SolusOS is designed to be fast and efficient.
Without further ado lets get on with the review.
Where To Get Solus?
You can download Solus from https://solus-project.com/download/
I went for the non-uefi option on a Toshiba Satellite Pro.
This computer has Linux Mint on it before Solus so I used the dd command to copy the ISO image to a USB drive.
Solus boots into a live version of the distribution and there is an icon with a little blue box with a white arrow in it.
Clicking on the arrow brings up the option to install Solus or to continue using the live version.
The first screen in the installer has a single button which when clicked will try and find your location.
This step is optional and you can just press next to continue.
The next screen gets you to choose your language.
Choose your keyboard layout.
Choose which disk you wish to install Solus to
Choose which partition to install to. You can run GParted to adjust your partitions.
On this main installation screen however you can choose each partition and decide what to use it for (i.e. root, swap etc).
Choose where you live on the map in order to set the system clock.
You now get an option to add users to the system. This is one of the few installers that let you install multiple users as part of the installation.
To add a user to the system simply fill in the relevant fields. You can also choose whether the user is an administrator and whether it logs in automatically.
Choose a name for your computer and decide whether to install a bootloader.
Check the summary page to make sure you have everything set up correctly and go for it.
The installer is a very clean and tidy installer. As always the difficulty for new users will be the partitioning especially if they are going for a dual boot.
As mentioned earlier, Solus has its own desktop environment called Budgie which is clean and shiny, yet minimalistic.
There is a panel at the top of the screen with two icons on the left side and a number of system tray style icons on the right side.
The first icon on the panel denoted by a white circle pulls up the menu. The menu is simple but effective and looks very good as well. There is a search tool, a list of categories and items within the category.
The icon with the blue square and white arrow pointing downwards brings up the package manager.
In the top right corner there are the following icons:
- Notifications (bell icon)
- Network settings (standard network icon)
- Battery settings (battery icon)
- Audio settings (speaker icon)
- Power settings (power icon)
Clicking in the top right corner on any of the icons brings up the notifications/applet settings.
The Budgie desktop has a couple of keyboard shortcuts:
- The super key brings up the menu
- The super key and “N” brings up the notifications/applet settings which comes in from the right.
Customising The Desktop
Solus is clearly in its infancy and the Budgie desktop is fairly bereft of customisable settings.
You can change the wallpaper by right clicking on the desktop and choosing the option to change background.
There is a nice selection of wallpapers to choose from by default or you can choose a picture from your own pictures folder if you so wish.
You can adjust the theme for the desktop using the tweak tool.
Connecting to the internet
Connecting to the internet is straight forward. Simply click on the network icon and choose the network you wish to connect to.
Flash and MP3
MP3 audio is available from the outset and Solus comes with the very stylish Rhythmbox as an audio package.
You can import music straight into your music folder, extract songs from CDs, create playlists, listen to internet radio, connect to last.fm and set up Rhythmbox as a DAAP server so that you can stream music to any device which has a DAAP client installed.
Flash isn’t installed by default and I couldn’t find any method to install it. Who cares though, right?
Solus comes with very few applications installed by default:
- Files – File manager
- gedit – Text editor
- Firefox – Web browser
- Mozilla Thunderbird – Email client
- Hexchat – Chat client
- Transmission – Bittorrent client
Sound and Video
- Rhythmbox – Audio player
- VLC – Media player
The application selection is good but a little bit incomplete. I would have expected LibreOffice to be included.
I included the image of the Thunderbird mail client because I found a beautiful email in my spam folder from the president himself. I can’t believe Barack Obama took time out of his day to contact me. Must be a Linux fan.
Solus has a fairly basic but perfectly functional package manager. Simply search for the package you require and install it.
You can also browser into each category and pick packages to install.
This is where things get a little bit disappointing. The Solus repositories aren’t exactly teeming with applications.
You can certainly get the basic staples such as LibreOffice and GIMP but many decent packages just don’t exist.
For instance Chrome is not available and neither is Chromium. In fact there are hardly any web browsers available. The choices are Midori or Ephiphany.
It is a similar story for other packages. For example last week I reviewed Vokoscreen which lets you record screencasts. It isn’t there. Fortunately there is OBS but that doesn’t leave much choice.
I searched for Eclipse and Netbeans but neither of these are available. The only decent IDE is Geany.
Steam is included in the package manager but I hit many faults whilst installing it. For instance it took about 4 attempts for the package manager to start actually downloading the files. When it did download it updates but then displayed an error “Failed to load steamui.so”,
I followed the instructions on this page to resolve the error but much like the last person in the thread I have been unable to fix the issue.
Other annoyances are that WINE is available but PlayOnLinux isn’t. There is no pipelight option. To be honest there are just too many packages not available in the repositories.
Solus performs very well on this laptop but then again this laptop has 8 gigabytes of RAM and an Intel I5 quad core processor.
Without any desktop applications running the system idles at around 400 megabytes which is fairly reasonable.
I encountered a few issues whilst using Solus.
As mentioned earlier I haven’t been able to get Steam installed and there appears to be no installer for Flash either. There is no pipelight and without Chrome you can kiss goodbye to Netflix.
The image above shows a stuck package manager. The package manager has already installed the software but the window still remains and it can’t be closed. Rather annoyingly xkill isn’t available via the terminal either. Fortunately I wrote this guide a while back showing 5 ways to kill a Linux application.
Another annoying thing is that the keyboard seems to always revert back to English US even though I have selected English UK a number of times.
Solus is at version 1.1 and therefore you expect a few small issues and I have had larger distributions such as Ubuntu hang on the odd occasion. I wouldn’t overly mark Solus down for the issues that have occurred.
Where I would mark it down is that there isn’t enough software available in the repositories. I know this will improve over time but at the moment there just isn’t enough available to get by. This is made worse by the fact that Steam doesn’t work.
The plus points are the good installer, the nice clean desktop environment and the fact that it does perform well.
The upshot is that if you can get by with just a browser, an office suite and a few other applications then Solus will be fine for you but if you need more choice then it might be a bit early to adopt this distribution.