Solus-2017.01.01 — a review
I saw the announcement of the new Solus release on Distrowatch. So I decided that it was time to take another look at Solus.
I used the available torrent to download “Solus-2017.01.01.0-Budgie.iso”. I then separately downloaded the sha256 checksum file, because that was not part of the torrent download. And I noticed a file “Solus-2017.01.01.0-Budgie.sha256sum.sign” which looked as if it might be a gpg signature for the checksum. So I downloaded that, too.
Unfortunately, I could not find the gpg key that I would need to check the signature. So I had to just trust the checksum. Just before composing this post, I did another search for the gpg key, and finally came up with a link. So I added that to my keyring, and was finally able to verify the checksum file. The needed key still does not appear to be on the public keyservers. But at least I could find it with a google search.
To install, I wrote the iso file to a USB flash drive, with
# dd_rescue Solus-2017.01.01.0-Budgie.iso /dev/sdd
(note that “/dev/sdd” is the device usually used by a USB flash drive on my main desktop).
I then tried booting that USB. I first booted on an older computer (Legacy MBR booting). I later tried on a newer UEFI system (after disabling secure-boot). In both case, the Solus Budgie desktop came up without any problems.
After a little exploration, I move the mouse of a down-arrow icon at the top left of the screen. And that indicated that it was the installer. So I decided to go ahead and install.
I’ll note that I did not like the choices for bootloader install. So I set it to “do not install a bootloader”. And then I took care of adding a bootloader after the install. I’ll post separately on how I handled the bootloader install.
For the install location, I went with the choice to re-use an existing partition. I used “/dev/sda8”, which I had previously used for beta testing of opensuse 42.2
The install itself went smoothly. After the install was complete, a message told me to reboot to use the new system. I closed the installer window, but did not immediately reboot. That’s because I now had to deal with the bootloader issue.
After handling the bootloader, I booted into Solus. And now it was time to try things. One of the first things that I want to try was accessing the encrypted LVM that I normally use.
The first step was to open a terminal window (Gnome Terminal). And I then used the command:
in order to get a root command line.
On my legacy boot system, the encrypted LVM is at “/dev/sda7”. So I used
# cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda7 cr_lvm
and was prompted for the encryption key. I provided that, and the command seemed to have worked. I looked at “/dev/mapper” and saw that the LVM volumes were now available and could be mounted.
My next step was to edit “/etc/crypttab” in an attempt to automate the handling of the encrypted volume. I used the device-id rather than the device-name in “crypttab”. Actually, I just copied that line from the “crypttab” in my opensuse system (now accessible inside the encrypted LVM).
The next step was to reboot. During the reboot, I was prompted for the encryption key. And, after the boot was complete, I again checked “/dev/mapper” and saw that the LVM volumes were available.
I again opened a root command line, so that I could edit “/etc/fstab”. I added a line for swap (coming from the encrypted LVM). And I added a line to mount my home LVM volume to “/xhome” (and I created the mount point).
Another quick reboot showed that “/xhome” was mounted and the swap had been added. I was, of course, prompted for the encyption key during that reboot.
I see this as a significant improvement in Solus. In my previous testing (of earlier releases), I had to manually access the encrypted LVM after every boot. That made it somewhat unpleasant to use. So congratulations to the Solus team for finally getting this working.
What comes installed
This turns out to be a very lightweight distribution.
When I wanted to edit “/etc/crypttab”, I of course tried to use “vi”. It was not installed. Later, I wanted to use “rsync” to copy the ssh host keys from my opensuse installation on the same computer. But “rsync” was not installed. I then wanted to use “diff” to compare ssh configuration files. But “diff” was not installed.
A linux system without “vi”, “rsync” and “diff” seems weird. However, those were all in the repos, and I was able to install them. The “ssh” client came installed, but the server (“sshd”) was not part of the initial install. Again, I was able to add it from the repos. I also tried to add “xterm”, but that does not appear to be available in the repos.
Looking at the application menu, the only Office application listed is a calendar. However, Libre-office is in the repos.
With so little initially installed, I am wondering who is in the target audience for this distro. I think most linux users would prefer something a little more hefty.
Solus is congenial system. I rather like the Budgie desktop. But you may find that you need to install additional software to meet your needs.