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Cover image for My personal experience with Solus

My personal experience with Solus

mattdark profile image Mario García ・6 min read

I've been trying a few GNU/Linux distros recently on an Acer Aspire E 11, the laptop that I take with me when traveling. It came with 2 GB of RAM when I bought it 4 years ago and upgraded it to 4 GB last month.

Three months ago I was looking for a non Arch based distro as a replacement for Manjaro, the operating system that I've been using for the last 6 years. After trying a few distros during a week I finally installed ArchLabs as none of the operating systems I tried worked as I expected.

2 weeks ago I decided to replace ArchLabs with Solus, a GNU/Linux operating system that I read about a while ago. It's an independent distro, which means that is developed without using any other OS as base. It receives updates through a rolling release model. And it is available in three different flavors, Budgie, GNOME and Mate.

Requirements

Solus 4 Fortitude which is the latest version available, was released on March 17th. The system requirements are, according to the Download section of the website:

  • A blank DVD or a 2GB+ USB drive.
  • Minimum of 10GB of disk space available.
  • 2GB of RAM for an optimal experience.
  • A 64-bit (x86_64) processor

ISO images for Solus Budgie and Solus Mate are 1.4 GB of size, and the Solus GNOME one is 1.5 GB.

Installation

Download the ISO image from getsol.us/download.

On an Acer Aspire E 11 that don't have a CD drive, the method chosen for installation was using a USB drive.

You can use Rufus, Etcher for preparing the USB for installation. You can also use the Linux terminal if you prefer.

After connecting the USB drive, run the lsblk command to get the drive location, it will give you an output similar to the following:

$ sudo lsblk
NAME                                       MAJ:MIN RM   SIZE RO TYPE  MOUNTPOINT
sda                                          8:0    0 111.8G  0 disk  
├─sda1                                       8:1    0 488.3M  0 part  
└─sda2                                       8:2    0 111.3G  0 part  
  └─luks-698963cb-b465-4cf7-b7bc-580000101069
                                           253:0    0 111.3G  0 crypt 
    ├─SolusSystem-Swap                     253:1    0   3.7G  0 lvm   
    └─SolusSystem-Root                     253:2    0 107.6G  0 lvm   /
sdb                                          8:16   1   7.2G  0 disk  
├─sdb1                                       8:17   1     2G  0 part  
└─sdb2                                       8:18   1     4M  0 part

Where sdb is the USB drive connected. To write the content of the ISO to the USB drive, just run the dd command:

$ sudo dd if=Solus-4.0-Budgie.iso of /dev/sdb bs=1M;sudo sync; sudo eject /dev/sdb

Solus has support for UEFI so you can boot from the USB drive without deactivating UEFI in the BIOS.

After booting the installation media you can install Solus through the graphical installer.

Desktop

There are three editions of Solus available, each of them come with a different desktop environment installed by default, Budgie, GNOME and Mate. In the Help Center of the website there are instructions for installing other DEs like Plasma and i3, from the Linux terminal using the eopkg package manager.

Budgie

Solus Budgie

Solus Budgie. Source: getsol.us/download

Budgie is a desktop environment developed by the Solus project that receive contributions from Manjaro, Ubuntu and other distros that have a Budgie edition available.

I've been using lightweight and minimalist DEs (Desktop Environment) and window managers like XFCE and i3 for the last 10 years. But I've had Manjaro Budgie on a Lenovo G480 for over a year and that's why I chose Budgie for my Solus installation.

I'm not the kind of user that personalizes the desktop as most of the tasks that I use my computer for are executed from the Linux terminal. But there are a few features that I like the most about the Budgie desktop on Solus:

  • Dark Theme. It comes with a Dark Theme that could be activated from the Budgie Desktop Settings app.
  • Panel. Located in the bottom with a menu in the left corner, icons for default applications next to it, a sidebar (called Raven) in the right corner with access to some applets and notifications, and the system tray.
  • Night Light. A blue light filter, recommended if you use your computer during night hours.

Software Installation

The package manager for Solus is eopkg which is based on PiSi (Packages Installed Successfully as Intended), the package manager developed for Pardus, a distribbution based on Debian that has support from the Turkish government.

As a distribution built from scratch, the number of packages available in its repositories is limited, unlike Arch and Arch based distros like Manjaro that has AUR. But it also has support for Flatpak and Snap packages.

If you prefer to use a GUI app for managing the software installed, there's a Software Center, that you can open from the icons next to the menu.

Software Center
Software Center

Basic commands

According to the Help Center section of the website, the following are the basic commands of eopkg.

  • Installing software:
$ sudo eopkg install firefox
  • Uninstalling software
$ sudo eopkg remove gimp
  • Searching
$ sudo eopkg search inkscape
  • Updating

For the whole system:

sudo eopkg upgrade

For a specific package:

sudo eopkg upgrade firefox

More information here

Third Party

Solus has a 3rd Party Repository, it contains applications that cannot be included in the primary repository due to licensing issues.

Here's a list of some of the applications available in this repository:

  • Google Chrome
  • Skype for Linux
  • Slack
  • Viber
  • Spotify
  • Insync
  • Spideroak
  • TeamViewer
  • Android Studio
  • GitKraken
  • PyCharm
  • Sublime Text 3
  • Enpass

For a complete list of the applications available in the 3rd Party Repository and installation instructions, you can visit the Help Center here.

As you can see, Chromium (the open source browser that Chrome is based on) is not available in any of the two repositories.

Flatpak

Solus has support for Flatpak packages and you can find setup instructions for this and some other distributions at flatpak.org/setup.

I've been using Zoom (zoom.us) for almost two years and I needed to find a way to install it on Solus. It's not available in the primary repository or in the 3rd Party one. After searching on DuckDuckGo (Yes, I'm not using Google as my search engine in any of my devices) I discovered that is available as a Flatpak package.

Flatpak also has packages for the following applications:

  • GIMP
  • LibreOffice
  • Spotify
  • Pidgin
  • Slack
  • Inkscape
  • Skype

If you want to find out what other applications are available through Flatpak, visit flathub.org.

Setup

  • Install Flatpack
$ sudo eopkg install flatpak xdg-desktop-portal-gtk
  • Add the Flathub repository
$ flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
  • Restart your system

Basic commands

  • Searching
$ flatpak search zoom
  • Installing software
$ flatpak install flathub us.zoom.Zoom
  • Uninstall software
$ flatpak uninstall us.zoom.Zoom
  • Updating
$ flatpak --user update us.zoom.Zoom

More information in the Flatpak Command Reference

Development Tools

Most of the code that I've been writing these days is Python and Rust. Solus has Python installed by default after installation. It also has rustup (Rust installer) in the repositories. GUI apps like GitKraken (as a 3rd Party package) and Atom are also available.

Hardware compatibility

Solus has a good hardware compatibility. WiFi and Bluetooth were detected correctly and are working smoothly. USB ports, SD card reader, Ethernet port are working well. Touchpad and keyboard were configured without any problem.

There is a Displays section in the Settings app where you activate, deactivate and configure resolution for any display connected. In most of the cases, displays are detected and configured automatically so you don't need to open configuration for setting an external display. This was a problem that I had with ArchLabs as I needed to open ARandr to configure display.

The camera was detected but deactivated when trying to configure it on Skype, Zoom or Hangouts (in the browser). This issue was fixed after upgrading Linux to version 5.1.x.

Conclusion

So this is my personal experience with Solus after using it for two weeks. Installation and configuration was so simple. It has fewer packages than Manjaro. But for the software I use, everything is available from the two repositories or as a Flatpak package. My opinion will probably change in the future. But I will recommend Solus.

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