Solus OS: A Clutter Free Experience

Solus is a relatively new Linux distro that I’ve discovered recently. It features its own desktop, Budgie, instead of the mainstream options such as GNOME, KDE, etc. I’ve used Budgie before when in Arch, and then again when in Apricity, but this time I’m using it in the operating system it’s designed for. Budgie integrates with the GNOME stack, so all the basic and GNOME Tweak options are available, as well as a host of other things creative clever people can probably pull off with the stack. Solus does not leave the average user behind with all this tech talk (though, if you are installing Solus on your own, you’re probably no longer the average user) too – it presents a simple, uncluttered desktop sure to delight even the most minimalist people.

Solus Homepage

Nice wallpaper.

Solus Download

Love some nice gradients

Solus comes in two flavors at the time of writing – a release candidate and a daily version. Dailies are released when changes added are somewhat stable in their repositories. The release candidate, however, uses stable repositories – they may still be slightly buggy, but far less so than the daily version could be.
When you’ve booted into their live system, you can preview Solus and then install it if you so choose. You begin on a standard lock screen à la GNOME, and the live user has no password.

Lock 1

à la GNOME

Lock 2

Wow desktop options

Logging back in with the live preview is interesting. You have to use the enter key instead of clicking “sign in,” because the button is disabled WITHOUT a password (a password is required), but there is no password assigned to this profile. Note that these screenshots are not from the lock screen first presented upon startup, but screenshots from the logoff button.

Budgie begins looking a lot like GNOME. You can customize it with the Budgie options available in the Windows-pre-8-esque application menu. Solus comes with its own options to customize the global theme of the windows as well as the small taskbar at the bottom, instead of leaving these options up to GNOME. The standard interface for options in GNOME is present, as well as some lightweight applications for general use.

App Menu (Stock)

The App Menu, with no settings changed

Budgie Options (Stock)

The original settings

Budgie Theme (Edit)

My settings

So how much can I customize the panel, you ask?

Budgie Panel Stock

Change panel settings here – this is how it looks with all options on (default)

Shadowless GNOME

Removing the shadow only

GNOMEless Budgie

Removing the theme only (so the color, really)

GNOME+Shadow Removed

Removing both shadow and theme

I can’t seem to get the right side fully transparent, as seen in the following image:

Applet Edit

Right below the mouse is the tiny dark rounded rectangle

GNOME Tweak Tools come pre-installed:

GNOME Tweak Font Stock

Default fonts

Apply Global Dark Theme GNOME

Another dark theme option, interesting. This one sets window colors everywhere, though

Which should change the user interface globally.

Installing Solus is a quick process – at the time of writing, they have all the setting up to be done when inside the installation, instead of setting these options pre-installation.

Install 1

The installer gives you two options: install to hard drive or use the preview, which basically cancels the install.

Install 2

Pick a drive, any drive

Install 3

Now pick a partition (and set it to root)

Install 3_1

If you want to change partitions, you can do so via the GUI instead of using the terminal

Install 4

Name the device for a network, optionally install a bootloader (GRUB 2.00)

Install 5

Installing…

Install 6

It’s actually pretty quick. Nice.

Installation to the Virtualbox drive was pretty quick – a couple of minutes and it finished. An “installation finished” screen appears when it’s done, and gives you the option to reboot into your new installation, where you finish setting up your preferences.

Once you’ve rebooted into your installation, you’re greeted with the language select.

Welcome 1 Welcome 2

“Welcome” in different languages cycles at the top of the page. While expected in today’s world, it’s still a nice touch.

Post-Install Keyboard

Pick a keyboard layout that matches your board.

Post-Install Keyboard Selects

The “Preview” option brings me here

Pressing a key on your board highlights the corresponding key on the image. This works well for keys with darker backgrounds in the image, but not as well with the lighter background ones. The highlight on these keys is only applied to the letter itself and is quite subtle – perhaps to the point of missing it. A recommended change would be perhaps changing the background of these keys as well, or picking a single third color that all keys’ backgrounds would change to when selected.

Post-Install Privacy Location

Location Service/Privacy Check

They’ll pick your time zone based on this, giving you the option to change it if it’s incorrect:

Post-Install Timezone Edit

Edited out location

It’s now all about setting up more personal things

Post-Install Accounts

Add your accounts, with an option to skip

Post-Install Info

All about YOU!

Post-Install Info Filled

No custom profile picture option? Boo.

They’re pretty picky about passwords, which is the next step.

Once you’ve finished setting up, they’ll give you a nice picture and say you’re done:

Post-Install Finished

I photoshopped this into the featured image because it looked nice. Credits to whoever authored this…

Then sign in again, this time with your new username and password. At this point, you’ve finished setting up Solus itself. The application menu doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the OS – the default icons do not have the same aesthetic as the OS. Icons, themes, and cursors are, of course, customizable – place files in the folder GNOME Tweak Tools looks for them, and then select them from GNOME Tweak Tools. A GUI for package management is provided, helping users not as comfortable with the command line.

Right-clicking on the panel, then editing the applets causes the window to close, and then the panel to disappear and reappear quickly. Note that I am running the daily version, so bugs are to be expected.

Post-Install Budgie Settings

That one large applet icon. Interesting.

Notice that the applet icon is larger than all the other ones.

Post-Install-Edit Desktop

What time is it?

The default wallpaper also hides the clock should you remove it from the status area, and that tiny rounded rectangle is still there. Frustrating.

All things considered, this is a pretty good start. It’s clean, it’s customizable, it’s simple and familiar but also has its own sense of individuality. I’d definitely recommend trying it out over the weekend on a virtual machine and getting to experience a different distro. As far as using it as a daily driver, however, if you require stability in all things, you may want to just wait for the release of a stable version for the guarantee.

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5 thoughts on “Solus OS: A Clutter Free Experience

  1. jackpack says:

    Well, installer IS NOT doing properly job. I cannot mount ntfs partition, i cannot mount other linux filesystems, i cannot use *advanced* options like encryptions and I cannot mount or symlink my second/third partition because shitty installer is early alpha. So, only if you know how to handle fstab and mountpoints you could do that.

    To have a GUI package manager and to have to go to terminal first in order to use that GUI is just plain wrong.

    Despite marketing words on their home page (first class desktop experience, easy to use) Solus is alpha and is lacking basic features of a modern Linux distro.

    That is my feedback for Solus 2-3 developers. Use a tested installer and stop wasting precious time for it. Work on package installer not on Budgie, because with gtk 3.20 will be broken again.

  2. jack pack says:

    Installer is 10 years behind of Calamares, Thus, Anaconda, UBuntu, whatever. Only ext4. Only root partition and swap partition (you cannot assign a third partition to /home, for example). Is crap and MR Doherty wants to reinvent the wheel instead picking of a sane installer.

    Package manager – GUI. You have to update repositories via terminal in order to get a fresh list of packages. Is cumbersome, basic and not intuitive.

    Solus is alpha-software and in constant change.

    • Guppy0130 says:

      Installers, as long as they do their job and they do it well, don’t matter to some end users. Perhaps it does lag behind the power of Calamares and Anaconda, but to the starting end user they won’t tell the difference. Do the new dailies really only support ext4? GParted allows you to create other filesystems, and a release back from…September, if I remember right, would work with a number of filesystems…True, there is only the option for root and/or swap. A third partition would have to be created by an advanced user, which is alright, considering that again, most basic users would not need /home on another partition. I can see how having /home on a different partition would be handy, but those that need one could symlink/batch copy to their destination. Offering it directly, in the installer itself, to an entry-level user would be overwhelming for them.

      While I agree with you in that terminal is the way to go with updates, a GUI is still helpful for new users. The GUI for it is just alright – yes, it is basic, but that’s all basic users need. Advanced users, once again, can resort to the terminal for finer control.

      This, then, means that the OS was aimed at catering to the inability of new users at the cost of familiarity to advanced users – that is, they wish to focus more on getting the experience for their new users correct and may have left more capable people stranded. I’m a bit pleased that they did, too – I consider myself a newbie when it comes to Linux, and I don’t feel abandoned with a group full of elites.

      As you said, though, they are in constant change – sending them your feedback could influence the more advanced users’ experience with them for the better.

      • Justin Zobel says:

        Thanks for the feedback, we aim to please both crowds of users, new, moderate and advanced. Most advanced users will ignore most GUI items and head straight for the terminal which we are fine with also. 🙂

    • Justin Zobel says:

      Thanks for your feedback. The installer is being reworked at the moment to include multiple filesystems and mount points. The Software Center is also being reworked as we speak.

      The installer itself is just the copying to disk section, the user creation/timezone work is all done by Gnome Initial Setup, so not sure if you’re unnecessarily criticizing GNOME or Ikey, but either way, it’s not needed.

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