What does non-solus mean

All-round Linux Solus 4

The Solus project has started the year under new management and has shown how lively it is with the release of Solus 4 Fortitude. Ikey Doherty, who launched the Irish Linux distribution in 2014, handed the project over to the other core developers at the end of last year with some difficulties. Therefore, the project can now also be reached under the new getsol.us domain.

Like its predecessors, Solus 4 Fortitude is a rolling release distribution for desktop users and is "built from scratch", so it is not based on any other distribution. The dedicated team has not only put together a Linux system, but has also developed its own Budgie desktop interface, which is now quite mature and is also available for other Linux distributions.

Solus is a system for desktop users who neither want to tinker nor edit configuration files by hand. Graphic tools are available for the entire administration. As a rolling release, the distribution has no expiration date. It is continuously updated and does not have to be upgraded to a new version at some point.

Budgie, Gnome & Mate

The small project team is limited to one architecture, so Solus is only available for 64-bit x86 systems - but three versions: with Budgie, Gnome and Mate desktops. There is a testing image for KDE Plasma. Solus 4 supports UEFI, but not Secure Boot.

The three images differ in the desktop environment used and thus in the software selection supplied - which also ends up on the hard drive during installation. We looked at the Budgie edition for this review.

All images start an English-language live system, which can easily be switched to German via the "Region & Language" item in the "Settings", since the language packages are included. Then log out of the desktop and log in again as "Live user". A password is not necessary, a confirmation with Enter is sufficient.

Installed quickly

The simple installation wizard raises few questions and shovels Solus onto the hard drive in just a few steps - in one of eight system languages, including German. The installer was not translated, however, and even after changing the system language, it only speaks English.

If the entire hard drive is not available for Solus, however, you should be careful when selecting the options. In the test, Solus recognized only the one on the largest partition of several installed operating systems and offered to shrink it or replace the system on it. The installer ignored Windows and other Linux systems of almost the same size, as well as a partition created especially for Solus. Solus itself cannot create partitions in free space. You have to do that in advance with Gparted, which the live system brings along. A partition that has already been prepared can be selected for installation using the “Assign mount points” option. The home directory can be packed on an extra partition, but further data partitions cannot be integrated here.

During installation, you can set up several system users at once and decide whether they should receive administrative rights or not. However, the installer does not check the security of the passwords assigned for this purpose. As with Ubuntu, an automatically set up encrypted installation is only possible in combination with LVM.

The installer sets up a fixed, manageable software selection in the new system that cannot be influenced during the installation. It corresponds roughly to that of the live system. The choice of installation medium decides whether you want to use Budgie, Gnome or Mate as a desktop.

Homemade desktop

The core of the Solus distribution is the specially developed Budgie desktop in its current version 10.5; if you want, you can install Gnome or Mate instead. Budgie doesn't completely reinvent the wheel and uses parts of the Gnome Stack as well as many Gnome tools. The result is a modern, restrained GTK surface. Applications and folders can only be placed on the desktop after the corresponding option has been activated in the Budgie desktop settings. As with Gnome, there is only the choice between 100 and 200 percent scaling for use on high-resolution screens (HiDPI).

If you don't like the very dark Plata Noir GTK theme, you can switch to the bright Plata Lumine theme in the Budgie desktop settings. In this dialog window decorations, fonts, symbols and other things can easily be adjusted. You can also create another bar here or move the existing one upwards. The new Caffeine applet for the bar is also activated here; it ensures that you are not interrupted by notifications during intensive work phases and that the screen brightness is set to a certain value.

Which widgets the fold-out sidebar Raven displays is also determined here. Raven shows the latest notifications in a tab. Another widget offers a calendar that now also knows week numbers. You can also access the audio, microphone and media control of individual applications here.

software

For software administration, Solus uses the self-developed package manager eopkg, which emerged from Pisi, the package manager of the Turkish distribution Pardus. Its operation on the command line is similar to that of apt or zypper. But you don't have to learn its commands: With the graphic software management, new programs can be installed or removed, updates can be imported and individual packages can also be retrofitted. To set up proprietary drivers, for example from Nvidia, Solus brings DoFlicky, which can be found in the menu under "Hardware Drivers".

The Solus software available in the package sources is not as extensive as Ubuntu, but it covers many areas. The software center delivers some missing packages from the “Third Party” section by downloading them from the manufacturers. These include, for example, Bitwig Studio, Google Chrome in various versions, Skype, Slack, Spotify and Sublime Text.

Solus 4 uses the Linux kernel 4.20, brings Mesa 19.0 and uses Systemd 230 to start, monitor and terminate processes. From the Gnome pool, for example, the image viewer Eye of Gnome (eog), the video player GnomeMPV 0.16 (unlike the Mate edition that VLC brings with it), the music management system Rhythmbox 3.4 or the terminal emulation Gnome-Terminal are included. Firefox 65 is the standard web browser, while the LibreOffice office package 6.2 includes the word processor (Writer), the spreadsheet (Calc), the presentation program (Impress) and the drawing program Draw. Photos and other images are opened by the image viewer, and image processing has to be installed afterwards. The Evince document viewer shows PDF files, Thunderbird 60.5 can retrieve and send e-mails.

Conclusion

A lot has happened since the first stable Solus edition in 2016: Solus 4.0 and Budgie are much more mature. It has been proven that the project team concentrates on a manageable software scope and on further improving the distribution. Own tools are only used where they are needed. For others, Solus uses proven tools. The result is a solid desktop distribution that requires little Linux know-how. Help with installation and configuration is provided by a nicely illustrated, English-language Help Center and forum. (lmd)