Solus-1.2.0.5 — a review

I previously reviewed Solus 1.0 last year.  Since then, I have been noticing announcements via distrowatch. When I saw the recent announcement for 1.2.0.5, I decided it was time for another review.

Downloading

I used the torrent from the announcement for download (with “ktorrent” as the client).  The download went well.  I then checked the sha256 checksum from the announcement. and that looked good.  So I “burned” the installer image to an USB flash drive with

# dd_rescue Solus-1.2.0.5.iso /dev/sdd

Here “/dev/sdd” is the device for a USB drive on this computer (assuming only one connected USB drive).

Booting

Next, I inserted the flash drive on another computer, and hit F12 while booting.  That gave me a BIOS menu where I could select to boot from the USB device.

The live system booted without any issues.  It seemed to run well.  The booted system features the Budgie desktop, which was developed by the Solus team.  The desktop is a little changed from my earlier review, but mostly recognizable as the same desktop.  Budgie is based on Gnome, so that I was really running Gnome 3 with a modified desktop.  As I mentioned in my previous review, I do rather like the budgie desktop.

I postponed deciding whether to install until another day.

Installing

Two or three days later, I decided to try an install.  One of the reasons for a delay, is that the online documentation for installation is rather thin.  And I wanted to be sure that I would not damage other systems on that computer.  Unfortunately, I could not determine that from the online documentation.  So I decided to go ahead with an install anyway, and see what happens.

I’ll note that the particular computer already has opensuse Leap 42.1 in an encrypted LVM.  I use that as my primary boot system, and that’s what I did not want to damage.  It also had Leap 42.2 Beta1 installed in “/dev/sda8”, and that is what I planned to replace.

I booted the live media once again, which landed me in the Solus system (running from the USB).  I then clicked the icon for install.

The install went pretty smoothly.  For partitioning, the first choice was to replace the 42.2 Beta1 install, and I went with that.  Other choices were to allow the installer to reformat the disk, or to allow it to find unallocated space (there wasn’t any unallocated space), or to specify a particular partition.

I went with replacing the 42.2 Beta1.  The installer did not seem to notice that I had opensuse 42.1 installed, probably because that is hidden in an encrypted LVM.  At present, Solus does not seem to do crypto.

The installer also asked for timezone.  I allowed it to determine this automatically (probably via ip geolocation).  Then it asked about booting.  The only choices seemed to be to install booting to the MBR (which would interfere with my current usage), or to not install booting.  I went with not installing any booting.

After the install completed, I mounted the installed system:

# mount /dev/sda8 /mnt
# mount --bind /dev /mnt/dev
# mount --bind /proc /mnt/proc
# mount --bind /sys /mnt/sys

I then did a chroot into the installed system, and ran

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

which installed booting into the root partition.

I rebooted, which gave me the boot menu for opensuse Leap 42.1.  I already had an entry to chain load “/dev/sda8”.  So I used that, and was booted into the newly installed Solus 1.2.0.5 system.

Software

The first thing I found missing was “vi” (or “vim”).  So I installed that with the software manager.  On checking “ssh”, I saw that the openssh client was installed, but the server (“sshd”) was not installed.  So I installed that.  When I wanted to copy my ssh host keys from the Leap 42.1 installation, I found that “rsync” was not installed.  So I also added that.  And then, when I tried to use “diff” to compare ssh configurations, I found that “diff” was not there.  So I installed “diffutils”.

On rebooting, after the ssh server install, I noted that “sshd” was still not running.  So I tried:

# systemctl enable sshd.service

and rebooted again.  This time the ssh server was started.

Installing software with the software manager seems to work well, with the exception of failing to enable “sshd”.  However, I had to install one at a time.  I did not find a way of selecting several packages, and then installing them all.  Doing it one-at-a-time worked.  As long as I kept the software manager open, I was not again asked for authentication.

According to announcements, Solus is switching to being a rolling distribution.  It does appear that this is in place.  I updated several times, and each time there were new updates available after checking.  Installation of updates went well.

One of the updates installed a newer kernel version.  It deleted the previous kernel.  But it failed to delete the “initrd” (or “initramfs”) for the removed kernel.  That’s the only glitch I ran into with the updating process.

Crypto

At present, Solus does not do crypto.  Their announcements suggest future plans.  The installed system does include the “cryptsetup” command.  But I have to use that manually.  I tried adding entries to “/etc/cypttab” and rebooting, but there was no attempt to access the encrypted partition.  Looking through the systemd service units, there does not appear to be a unit for crypto.

Management tools

I could not find a management tool.  I looked for one, to see if I could use it to start the “sshd” service.  But I could not find one.

Similary, my network connection was IPv4 only.  I could not find a management tool to enable IPv6 support.  The network setup uses NetworkManager, and the NetworkManager settings were already set to automatically enable IPv6.  My router/isp do support IPv6.  But I could not find a way to get Solus to use it.

Summary

Solus is an interesting distro.  But it is probably not aimed at me as a potential user (the absence of “rsync”, “vi” and “diff” all suggest this limitation).  While there is improvement since my previous review, I think it still not ready for prime time.  It needs a management tool, ipv6 support and better crypto support.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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