Assalamu Alaikum. Hope you all are doing great by the grace of Allah SWT. First, let us get introduced with Solus. Solus is a Linux distro that is developed independently. By independent I’m meaning that Solus is not based on Ubuntu, Arch, Fedora or any other Linux distribution. This makes Solus a very interesting one to try. However, this also rises a question that how well built Solus is and in my experience, Solus is solid.

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Solus is primarily targeted to the home users, e.g. it’s made to do some multimedia consuming, official works, perhaps some development and productivity things, content creation or gaming and other things generally done by regular PC users. Solus was one of the fastest and snappiest distro I’ve ever experienced, if not the fastest and the snappiest. Starting, shutting down, opening or closing apps and actually everything feels snappy here and I guess being independent is one of the main reasons why the could achieve that as it enabled them to optimize the OS deeply.

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Desktop Environments

In terms of Desktop Environment, Solus comes with four editions. Among them, Budgie is their flagship desktop as it’s their home-grown DE based on Gnome, but has a very different experience from original Gnome. They also offer a Gnome desktop edition along with a Plasma and a Mate edition.

Solus Budgie

I used Solus Budgie quite a long ago, and I really loved the striking dark look it offered (Light theme also exists). It is nice and user friendly, easy to use and to customize though it’s not very deeply customizable. Budgie uses many utilities from Gnome, like File Manager (Nautilus), Settings, Gnome Terminal etc. Gnome extensions are not supported in Budgie, but they have some Budgie applets. Overall in my opinion, Budgie gives quite optimum experience to a home user.

However, currently I’m using the Plasma edition and actually KDE Plasma is my most favorite DE with so much features and customizability although DE choice varies person to person and I don’t always use the same DE either. Anyway, Plasma is snappy enough in Solus, but I think Budgie was even snappier.

Solus Plasma

Installation

Solus has a custom installer and installation process is similar to other Linux distros. The process was superfast, it took just a few minutes. To install Solus, first we need to download ISO of our desired edition, then burn it to a DVD or make a bootable USB stick e.g. pendrive with Ventoy, YUMI, Rufus or whatever software is prefered and then boot from that device.

After booting you should be able to use Solus from live boot. Now if we want to install Solus in full disk, e.g. removing all existing data from that disk, simply run the installer and follow on screen instructions and in “Where should we install?” screen, select your desired disk to install and then select the option to Erase all content and install a fresh copy.

But if we want to install with manual partitioning, we may use GParted or KDE Partition Manager that should be found from live boot. The required partitions are-

Name Required Type File System Size Flag
/ Always Primary/Logical ext4 At least 10GB*
ESP Only in EFI system Primary fat32 512 MB boot, esp*

10GB is the minimum required space for installing Solus, however, this is not enough for using the OS regularly, so for long term usage, you should allocate as much as you can. You may not find the esp flag in KDE Partition Manager, in this case just using the boot flag would do. After partitioning is done, run the installer and follow the on screen instructions.

In “Where should we install?” screen, after selecting your disk, select “Assign mount points to partitions you have previously created” and in the next step assign mount point / to the partition created earlier, and then in the next step, select the ESP partition if your system is EFI. On the other hand, in BIOS system, you can install bootloader in top level of your hard disk, no additional partition is required here.

Solus Plasma (Customized)

Software

Solus Plasma comes with a standard set of pre-installed software that, alongside with system utilities, includes Firefox, SMPlayer, Elisa (Audio Player), LibreOffice, Okular (PDF Reader) etc. Pre-installed software may vary depending on which edition is being installed. Anyway, installing more software is quite easy with their package manager.

Package Manager

Solus uses a package manager called ‘eopkg’ which is a fork of PiSi package manager. In their repository they have a good collection of packages and they follows a rolling release model. For stable branch, packages are generally synced once a week, but before that, updates comes to unstable branch first. This model enables Solus to be stable despite being rolling.

I like eopkg in command line interface, after giving a installation command, simply it shows the packages to install with dependencies and total size, then asks for a yes/no confirmation. By the way, it can’t show correct download speed for smaller packages, and no, I’m not using a 137.10 MB/s connection, haha 😅

You can learn the basic eopkg commands here. A nice thing is writing ‘it’ and ‘rm’ instead of accordingly ‘install’ and ‘remove’ does the job, a little timesaver.

In Ubuntu, to install softwares, we have alternative options like PPA or deb file, then we have AUR in Arch, In fedora, there is RPM Fusion, but Solus ‘mostly’ doesn’t have that kinda something. Technically, using multiple repo is possible, and installing some third party packages is also possible, but those are not widely available.

By the way, Solus comes with Snap out of the box and also supports Flatpak and their main repository has quite a rich collection of packages, so software availability is not bad either, although sometimes some apps may not be found. Like I used to use Kazam as screen recorder and as it’s not being actively developed for quite many years they don’t include it, so I installed SimpleScreenRecorder instead.

Software Center

Although I liked their package management system in CLI (command-line interface), I think graphical Software Center needs more works to be done. It feels snappy just like the whole system, apps are categorized quite well, interface is also nice, but has some serious lackings.

It doesn’t support Snap or Flatpak although Snap is preinstalled. So to install or uninstall Snap or Flatpak app, command line is the option. Packages are sorted alphabetically, no way to sort by popularity or modified date. When installing a package, it shows the dependencies, but not the total download size. Then when installing something, it shows the download speed and progress in a bar, but not much details.

I am not saying it’s that bad, I like it in many ways but it obviously have many places where it should be better. By the way, some third party apps can be installed from here directly, that I really appreciate. Instead of Solus repo, these app directly comes from the official provider and from the scripts I found in GitHub, it seems to be it actually somehow installs from the .deb installer for Debian based distros. Nevertheless, it works totally fine.

My Experience and Final Verdicts

It is good to remember that Solus is not as popular as some other distros, and it’s also quite new being initially released on 27 December 2015. Although officially they have their Help Center and a Forum, online and offline resources and support are still comparatively less. Being developed independently, tutorials made for Ubuntu, Arch or Fedora won’t always work here.

For an example, I use HP Laser Jet P1102 as my printer. It’s almost plug and play in Ubuntu, but in Solus, I had to install hplip (HP Device Manager for Linux, abbreviation- HP Linux Imaging and Printing), then add the printer from settings, then download the driver from HP Device Manager. It’s easy, but I didn’t find a straightforward tutorial, so it took some time to figure out.

Similarly, I didn’t found a detailed guide to install Flutter in Solus, but thankfully this guideline for Ubuntu mostly worked with help of some more bit of Googling.

By the way, there was no driver related problems for me and actually it was very expected as Intel doesn’t offer any proprietary driver. However, for NVIDIA and Broadcom users, a software named Hardware Driver is included to install the propritary drivers if necessary, so hopefully no issues would be there as well.

Finally in my experience, Solus does a solid job and it feels great to use. The way I use my PC, I think I am of those who are the targeted users of Solus, meaning home users. It feels fast and smooth and I love using it. So, I’d say Solus is worth giving a try!

Update: Ending of this story is not quite a happy ending. Faced problems with several apps including Virtual Box. Finally one day was having problems with printer, after some tries restarted pc, then it came to login screen, but when trying to login, the screen gone blank and it kept happening. So had to end Solus there and return to Pop!_OS.

[Please note that this was my first try to write a blog post in English and I’m not that good in English either, so grammatical errors and other mistakes are expected and my apologizes for that.]

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