Solus – how far will it go?

Solus is not a new operating system for this blog. There were a couple of reviews of Solus OS 1.2 back in 2012, one of them I wrote myself while another was a guest post.

However, there were a lot of changes since then. Solus OS changed the name to Solus, the approach to the system build has changed, and there have been few new releases already. The newest version now is Solus 2017.04.18.0. As you can guess from the name, it was released on the 18th of April 2017.

Solus is available with many desktop environments, but on the top of the list is Budgie, the new player on the scene. The team behind Budgie is the same team that stands behind Solus. This DE gains more and more popularity, and there is even an official Ubuntu Budgie flavour now. Budgie is the flagship flavour for Solus, of course. I decided to try that desktop environment for the first time.

I downloaded the ISO image of this operating system, which is 1.2 GB in size. Only the 64-bit version is available for this release of Solus. After downloading I “burnt” it onto my USB stick.

The USB stick is in the port of my Dell Inspirion 17 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Fasten your seatbelts. Let’s go!


Booting

Once the boot process starts, there is a countdown of 5 seconds that allows you go stop the boot process and go to the menu. That’s not a particularly useful feature, because the menu contains only 2 items: boot Solus or boot from HDD. It can only be useful if you want to change the default parameters of the operating system load.

Once I resumed the boot process, it took a relatively quick time to get to the default desktop. There were no questions along the process.

First impressions

Solus 2017.04.18 Budgie boots into a desktop with a spring-themed image on it.

Solus welcome screen

There are a few dozens alternative wallpapers in the list. You need to right-click on any empty space on the desktop and select the “Change background” option. Here you find some specifics of Budgie desktop. First, linked windows, like “Change background” and a list of background images move together. You cannot move the top window to see what was on the previous one. Second, not every window allows resizing. It is quite funny to see a small window that you can scroll a lot, but cannot make bigger on a large screen.

The panel is at the top of the screen. The right part of it is taken by the usual notification area, where you can find the usual suspects: clocks, bluetooth, network and volume indicators, notifications icon and a switch off button.

There is also a special button that calls up an additional panel that floats from the right. By default, there are calendar and volume controls along with a separate section for notifications. There is also a quick access button to Budgie settings.

The left part of the panel contains a menu button that resembles the menu button in some Android-powered mobile devices and GNOME-based Linux distributions, and there are also quick shortcuts to applications: Install, Firefox, HexChat, GNOME mPlayer and Rhythmbox. The selection of applications here is very strange to say the least. Who does need two multimedia players there? Where is a file manager? Is HexChat so often used by many to deserve being on the default quick access panel?

You can move panel from top to bottom via the Budgie Settings panel that I mentioned just above. There is also an option to switch on desktop icons that are missing in the default setup.

The freshly booted Solus operating system took around 730Mb of memory, which is quite a lot.

Solus resources

The web site of Solus doesn’t mention any other operating system as a basis for their own. This is an operating system based on its own roots. The person behind Solus is the same Ikey Doherty who was the leader of the Solus OS project.

This approach is quite unusual and gives enough reasons to think about the future of this operating system as unpredictable. Just as an example, think of Pardus, now defunct… The original Solus OS also is no longer supported.

The Linux kernel in Solus 2017.04.18.0 has version 4.9.22-17. It is not brand new, but a quite recent kernel.

Network connection

Solus gave me no headache with recognising and configuring of the Intel wireless card of my laptop. That was a usual routine – select the home network, type in the password and wait for few seconds until the connection is established.

Network drive

The file manager in Solus is called simply: Files. It has an option to browse the network. I used that function to connect to the network drive I have.

Files could be opened and played well from that remote drive. I could even save files from LibreOffice to there, which is not always possible.

However, there is a usual problem with SMB-partitions mounted through the file manager: they are inaccessible from the browser attachment windows, for example GMail.

Keyboard layouts

The default keyboard layout in Solus is English US.

If you need to change this, then go to the Region & Language part of the System Settings menu and add Input Sources according to your taste.

To configure the quick key sequence for switching the layouts, you need to go to the Keyboard section of System Settings and configure the key combination there. This part is somewhere at the bottom of the very long list, very badly organised. Unfortunately, my favourite key combination Ctrl-Shift is unavailable in Solus Budgie.

Multimedia

As I mentioned above, Solus was able to open files from remote partition, and that included MP3 files. They started playing without any additional installation of codecs, straight away in the GNOME mPlayer.

Solus multimedia support

Videos on other sites like Vimeo and 1tv.ru also played well.

Applications

The choice of applications in the Solus operating system is not large, and some of the decisions taken by the developers are not so clear.

Firefox 52.0.2 is the default and the only browser. Other Internet tools include Transmission torrent client, HexChat and Thunderbird email client. There is no Internet messenger or remote access tool in the default distribution.

LibreOffice 5.3.2.2 is in the Office section of the menu. It includes only basic components, there is no Math or Base applications.

The Graphics section of the menu includes only LibreOffice Draw. However, there is Screenshot, Document and Image viewers in the Utilities section of the menu.

GnomeMPV and Rhythmbox are the only components in the Sound & Video part of the menu. I’m not sure why you would need two multimedia players at the same time. There is nothing more in that menu section, even no disk burning utility.

The Sundry menu section includes IBus configuration along with Print settings.

There are 4 (four!) sections with small-size utilities in the Solus menu: System Settings, System Tools, Utilities and Accessories. Of course, they include a plethora of different applications: disk partitioning, archive manager, file manager, system monitor, tweak tool and so on and so on. Usual story.

If you want to add or remove applications, you can use the Software Centre from the System Settings section. It does not allow you to configure repositories, so you need to use only one default repository. What is available there?

  • Chromium browser – no
  • VLC – yes
  • Skype – no
  • Pidgin – yes
  • KRDC – no
  • Remmina – yes
  • GIMP – yes

As you can see, there is a hit and miss situation. Just to test, I installed Remmina utility. The Software centre determined 4 additional dependencies and suggested their installation too. While downloading, the counter of the components in the status bar showed “Downloading 8 out of 5″. That isn’t right, me thinks… Anyway, installation itself went smoothly and I was able to use the application very soon.

Conclusion

The Live run of Solus was stable, fast and smooth. I especially liked the crispness of the fonts, windows and of all the elements.

At the same time, if you want to use Solus Budgie as a production OS, I’d recommend you to think twice. The main show-stopper for me would be the unknown format for supported packages. It locks down the number of available applications to whatever is available in official repositories, and there are already some gaps. Of course, there are some doubtful decisions on default set of applications and default desktop items, but that’s easy to fix.

I hope that Solus will develop further and this is not my last visit to that part of the Linux world. I hope the team will not run out of patience and resources.

Have you tried Solus yourself? What are your thoughts about it?

Video used on screenshot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQHae5-X4QY

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