Episode 175 – Fresh Look: Solus

Posted by mary on January 10, 2016 in Show-mp3, Show-ogg |



MP3 format (for Freedom Haters!)
OGG format (for Freedom Lovers!)
Total Running Time: 42:03

Un-edited Live session – starting about 1:10:00 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnofzckBbUA

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Fresh Looks


Tony Bemus, Tom Lawrence, and Mary Tomich
Sound bites by Mike Tanner

Fresh Looks


This episode’s fresh look is on a Linux distribution that Distrowatch recently carried on its front page. The big news was that the distro was releasing version 1.0. That distro was SolusOS, and I looked forward to checking this distro out.

So would SolusOS be the end all Linux distro or I take solace in the fact I was only running Solus for testing purposes. Let’s find out

The Vitals:

Name: Solus 1.0 (https://solus-project.com/)

Maintainer: Ikey Dougherty

Distro Latest Birthday: December 27, 2015

Derivative: None

Kernel: 4.3.3

Review Desktop: Budgie (which leans heavily on the Gnome stack based on what I saw when I clicked on “Details” in the settings menu, as well as other desktop nuances during my review writing/testing.)

Live Environment:

Solus boots to a very plain, simple desktop with a single panel at the top. The panel includes notification system tray on the right with the standard items and a circular launch button-like icon on the left which access the application menu. Another icon (down-arrow) with text “Unpin from panel” when I hovered over it is to the right of the launcher. I clicked it and expected to adjust the panel location or the location of something on the panel or anything, but it simply disappeared after I clicked it. No other notification appeared.

  • Graphics:  ( i915)
  • Wireless: ✘ (b43 – module is there but ….)

The Defaults

Browser: Firefox

Office Suite: None was available in the live environment

Mail Client: Thunderbird

File Manager: “Files”

There also was a Software Center which I checked but the Office Software category there was unpopulated…and I checked it several times. I thought that was strange at the time. Later packages were there, including LibreOffice. Not sure if it was caused by a delay in the DVD spinning up or something else…

The applications menu was very clean and well organized. It had some of the elements of Cinnamon (color, look, easy to navigate) and the application icon—they are called “Faba-Mono-Dark”—had the rounded-corner, iPhone look. Although there was no entries in Office Suite category, I was very pleased to see in Hardware Drivers category an option to install the Broadcom wireless driver. Driver management in Solus is handled by a utility called “DoFlicky” (the name of which was selected after they discovered that “DoHicky” was already in use….just kidding!) I planned to check this approach out after I installed Solus OS.

I clicked the power icon in the system tray area on the upper right side of the panel. I expected to see power options: Restart, Hibernate, Power Off, etc. Instead the entire right side of the desktop was taken over with all of the system tray options, including calendar, speaker output adjustment sliders. At the bottom of this long panel was the power button which opened a window for “shutdown, restart, logout” That arrangement seemed very inefficient…kind of like having the file cabinet draw label say “S” but when you open it Z through Z are there.

Desktop look options are handled by clicking the gear in the upper right corner, to the right of “Notifications” button/tab. From here you have general settings or settings specific to the panel. The first change I made was to relocate the panel to the bottom of the screen. No option was available to move it to either the right or left, although I could change its height. I had the option to add or remove applets/notifications from this panel, also, although I left them alone.

So on to the install.

The Install Process:

The goal of the Solus installer appears to be ease of use. At least that was my impression when I first started it. The first question I faced was: “Where should we install?” Very inclusive language if you ask me. The installer window lists all of the available partitions. (The hard drive on which I planned to install had three partitions, one of which was a Linux swap partition). This configuration was from an earlier install of Gentoo Linux. If any partition in the list is clicked at this step, a “Assign as Root” button at the bottom of the window will activate. If you choose this default, the file system format used will be ext4. If you want to change the file system format to something other than ext4, use You will need to use the partition editor (GParted) which can be accessed by clicking the partition editor button to the right

Like many Linux users, I earmark a separate partition as home, but there was no easy button option for make this choice from the installer window, so it seemed like I could either use the partition editor and note it there or I could go to /etc/fstab and manually edit it after install which could prove problematic at boot time. Note to the Solus project: An “Assign as home partition” button would be a nice touch. Luckily there was a “Launch Partition Editor” button which I used to start GParted, the stalwart Linux partition tool (which I, a rabid KDE fan, really like and use). During my research for this review, I spent some time on the Solus project forums and discovered I was not the only person who noticed the lack of accommodation for a separate home directory. The project’s leader, Ikey Dougherty, noted that Solus 1.1 will have an update to fix the installer.

The next window asked for network name and whether a boot loader should be installed and if so where—there was only one choice: /dev/sda1 and that is what I chose. The next window summarized the previous steps and with that, I went to the “install” phase. After the install completed and the disk stopped spinning, I was requested to “Please close the window to exit the installer.” and a second request/recommendation: You just need to restart to start using your new operating system.” The arrangement does not flow as intuitively as it could and my suggestion is to replace the now grayed-out “next” and “back” buttons with buttons that allow you do perform the reboot and/or close operations. It seems just easier for users that way.

Installed Environment:

The system rebooted to a Welcome screen. From there I stepped through several set-up areas including Language, Keyboard, Privacy—location services toggle was “on” by default. A link to the privacy policy was available which revealed that it was Mozilla Location Services. I toggled the location services off, just on general principle. Next configuration settings were Time Zone followed by “Connect on-line accounts.” Solus defined on-line accounts as those for email, on-line calendar, contacts, documents and photos. It covered the gambit. However, the options were Google, OwnCloud, Microsoft Account, and Facebook(?!). Surprisingly, Dropbox was missing. A note at the bottom said that these can be reviewed and changed after setup so I skipped configuring any accounts.

The next set-up step was titled “About You.” Spaces for full name and user name followed by setting a password. I was surprised that my standard user password—one that I use on all my testing distros was not acceptable. Yes, I will admit it’s only six characters long and many times I’ve been admonished by Linux installers about the dangers of using such a weak password but despite all the complaining, each distro accepted it. Apparently six characters were insufficient for Solus 1.0 but you could not tell that by looking at the on-screen instructions. There was not contain enough information to let me know the minimum requirements for success. It was quite annoying to experience but I finally completed the step after a ten-character password. After that a “Thanks for using Solus operating system. We hope you love it” sent me on my way.

Logging in to Solus – The login screen looks just like a Gnome screen which certainly confirms its relationship to Gnome. The gear menu also let me log in to a Budgie Desktop, Gnome, or Gnome on Wayland. I tried Gnome on Wayland and could not tell the difference visually. (Wayland is intended as a simpler replacement for X, easier to develop and maintain. Wayland is a protocol for a compositor to talk to its clients as well as a C library implementation of that protocol.)

Installing packages and programs: The Budgie Software Center provides the functionality to update install, and remove software. The software center also handles dependencies for presenting a dependency list before you hit the install button.

While in the software center, I noted 34 updates were available and I went ahead and selected all for update. Among the libraries etc that were updated was “broadcom-sta” the Broadcom driver. Perhaps that was what was needed to get my wireless working. Another annoyance was the re-entering of my password every time I tried to install something, even though the Software Center was still open. Strangely, this issue later went away after a batch of updates, so it may have been fixed by those updates.

I tried to rectify the missing office suite by installing LibreOffice but had to install the individual application, e.g. Writer, Calc. Typically when you install LibreOffice, you install the entire suite. That option does not seem to be available with Solus. I could install individual components of LibreOffice but not the entire suite. This proved to be problematic when I check the Office menu category and and saw an entry for “LibreOffice.” That’s the LibreOffice dashboard with “Create” options for Draw, Impress, Base—the rest of the LibreOffice suite. Clicking on any one of these does nothing… Oops!

Other things I tried: I assigned a password to root—Solus had no problem letting me do that.

Other interesting Programs:

Normally I include interesting programs that were included in the install. But Solus did not have anything new or unusual. That is to be expected when it’s just trying to get itself out the door without falling on its face. There were a few stumbles but nothing horrifying

A word about package management from the command line— Solus has a CLI method for installing applications and packages which it borrowed from Pardus Linux, the PISI package manager (Package Installed Successfully as Intended). No apt-get here. Instead it’s the PISI way of package management. I tested PISI by installing LibreOffice Impress, the presentation application. It’s as easy as pisi install package-name. Afterward, the Impress was listed as a menu entry. What I noted was how fast it seemed .I wasn’t sure if it was just fast or benefited from most of the underlying libraries and/or dependencies already being in place because Writer and Calc were installed.


Solus 1.0 reminds me of a cake that has been removed from the oven 15 minutes before its allotted baking time is finished. The crust of the cake looks OK but if you start poking around, you discover it’s only half baked. Another 15 minutes in the oven and you’ll have a pretty nice cake… Ideally they should have had one more release candidate which would have found the home directory situation as well as a few other clunkers.


Tips and Tricks


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1 Comment

  • Will says:

    Nice review of Solus. Here is a little background on some points where it seemed like you were unsure about things:

    I think the legal issues Solus had were regarding the name “Evolve OS”, not “Solus OS”. Someone had the rights to “Evolve” without the “OS” and thought that “Evolve OS” was too close to their product. “Solus OS” was a project Ikey started and abandoned before “Solus”. Evolve OS was the project Ikey started after Solus OS was abandoned. He had to change the name from “Evolve OS” and went back to Solus but called it just “Solus” to distinguish it from the previous “Solus OS” project.

    I’m not sure what role Ikey had in Cinnamon’s development, but Cinnamon is maintained by the Linux Mint team and Ikey was a full time member of the team at one time (http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=1655).

    Budgie uses gtk3, which GNOME and Cinnamon also use. As far as I know it is the only desktop environment other than GNOME written for gtk3 (not counting forks of GNOME like Cinnamon).

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