Reviewing Solus 1.0

I saw the announcement of Solus 1.0 (h/t DistroWatch), so I decided to give it a try.

This is apparently the first release of Solus, not counting test releases.  I guess this is the new distro on the block.

A quick impression

I’ll start with a quick overview.  Booting up the system, it has a rather pleasant appearance.  It is based on Gnome, though perhaps with some specialized gnome shell extensions.  They are calling this the “budgie desktop“.

I booted Solus on a box with Nvidia graphics, and it seems to be using the nouveau driver.  It runs quite well.  However, in my opinion, the newness of this distro is showing in ways that I will mention later in this review.

There’s a “start button” at the top left.  The panel is at the top.  Applications are accessible via that start button menu.

If you right-click on the screen, there is a choice for “settings”.  If you use the “details” icon in the settings menu, you learn that this is Gnome 3.18.2.  I could not find a way to run software updates.  I’m not sure if that is possible.

Announcement page

The announcement page, which you can see by clicking the link above, is not easy to read.  It uses a very pale font on a whitish background.  So the contrast is very low, and some people will have trouble reading it.  The referring distrowatch page is much easier to read.

The announcement page is better on firefox.  I first looked at it with konqueror in Leap 42.1.  On firefox, the font is a bit darker and easier to read.

Downloading

To download, I used the torrent pointed to via the announcement page.  The downloading went pretty fast with “ktorrent”.  After the download was complete, I verified it with the sha256 checksum available via the announcement page.

Next, I “burned” the iso image to a USB.  The downloaded image was a little less than 1G, so a 4G USB flash drive was more than adequate.  To “burn”, I used

# dd_rescue Solus-1.0.iso /dev/sdd

where “/dev/sdd” happens to be the device name for the USB on my main desktop.

I next tried to boot that USB on an older computer with legacy BIOS.  And it booted up nicely into the Solus system.

I later tried to boot on a UEFI box.  The USB flash drive with the Solus image does have an EFI partition.  My first attempt gave an error message due to a “secure-boot” failure.  I expected this.  So I turned off secure-boot, and tried again.  A menu showed on the screen, with three choices.  But the timeout for the menu was too short to finish reading them all.  The first choice was to boot Solus, and I think that’s what happened after the timeout.  Alas, the system just hung.  It failed to boot.  I repeated this, with a similar result.  The second menu choice was for an EFI boot menu.  When I select that, I get just two choices.  But again, attempting to boot Solus just hangs.  I have not encounted problems with UEFI booting of other systems on this box.  So perhaps there’s a problem with the way that they have setup UEFI booting.

Installing

For a more comprehensive test, I decided to install Solus.  When running the live USB, there is a blue down-arrow in the panel.  Clicking that gives an install option.

The installer first asked where to install.  If offered “/dev/sda” (my hard drive) and “/dev/sdf” (the USB installer).  I selected “/dev/sda”.  The next screen listed the partitions.  I selected “/dev/sda” for the root file system.  I could have also installed “/home” elsewhere, but chose not to do that.

A few more questions that were easy to answer.  And then a question about installing boot.  It again offered “/dev/sda” and “/dev/sdf”.  It did not offer the possibility of installing booting on “/dev/sda8”, which would have been my choice.  So I declined to make a choice and left it with booting not setup.

I proceeded with the install, which went pretty quickly.

First boot

For the first boot, I went into my opensuse system on the same computer, and ran

# grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg

in order to add a boot item for Solus.  I then rebooted.

On reboot, I selected “Solus” from the boot menu.  Alas, the boot failed.  I later found out why.  The menu item for Solus loaded the kernel but did not load the “initrd”.

The next option was to install booting directly on Solus.  So I rebooted the live USB, and then went into rescue mode.  In rescue mode, in the “chroot” environment, I ran

# grub-install --force /dev/sda8
# grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

I now tried booting again.  This time, I used an opensuse entry that chainloaded to the booter on “/dev/sda8”.  And this was successful.  Soon I had the installed Solus 1.0 up and running.

Using Solus

One of the first things that I tried was opening a terminal.  The terminal session appears to be Gnome terminal.

Within the terminal session, “sudo bash” prompts for my own password.  And that gives me a root shell.  Trying to edit a system configuration file, I found that “vi” is not on the system.  I had to use “nano” (which I don’t much like).  It looks as if the system is setup similarly to ubuntu, where one has to use “sudo” for root access.  The account that I initially created is in the “adm” group, and I presume that is what gives easy root access via “sudo”.

When I tried “CTRL-ALT-RIGHT-ARROW”, the gnome terminal window disappeared.  If I then did “CTRL-ALT-LEFT-ARROW” it reappeared.  So it looked as if I could have multiple virtual desktops.  I’m not sure if there’s a limit to how many.  I did check this by moving to the right and opening a different window there.

Deficiencies

Here are some of the deficiencies that are perhaps due to the newness of Solus.

Firstly the “vi” editor (or “vim”) is missing.  The distro does not appear to be intended for people who do work at the command line.

The “host” command is missing (to find an IP address of a host).

The “cryptsetup” command is there.  I am able to open my encrypted LVM, and manually add the swap volume.  I then created “/etc/crypttab” with an entry to access that LVM.  However, I was not prompted for a key during the next reboot.  It looks to me as if the crypto software is there, but the systemd service units to use crypto have not been setup.

I looked at power settings.  When I click the menu item, it brings up an empty window.  So it looks as if something is missing there.

Summary

An interesting new distro, but it’s newness is showing.  However Solus might be worth watching as it matures.

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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

4 responses to “Reviewing Solus 1.0”

  1. Neil Rickert says :

    A note on EFI booting.

    Solus apparently uses “goofiboot” which they appear to have forked from systemd-boot. The computer that I used has successfully booted with systemd-boot (used by Kaos). But it hangs with goofiboot.

    Like

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