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 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.
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.
So how much can I customize the panel, you ask?
I can’t seem to get the right side fully transparent, as seen in the following image:
GNOME Tweak Tools come pre-installed:
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.
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” in different languages cycles at the top of the page. While expected in today’s world, it’s still a nice touch.
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.
They’ll pick your time zone based on this, giving you the option to change it if it’s incorrect:
It’s now all about setting up more personal things
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:
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.
Notice that the applet icon is larger than all the other ones.
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.