Date Modified Tags Linux / Solus

Solus Linux

As noted in my previous post, I was curious about Solus Linux due to listening to Jupiter Broadcasting's Linux Unplugged. I was about to install Linux on another laptop and asked myself, what version of Linux should I install? Based on past experience, I considered Ubuntu Mate and Fedora, mainly, but I thought it might be a nice opportunity to try out Solus since the installation was kind of a short-term test of Linux on the laptop.

What is Solus Linux? It is a version of Linux not based on any other distribution (such as Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, etc.), but it is a relatively new distribution designed for desktop computing. The project lists developers, home users, office users, developers, content creators, and gamers as some of their target users. Solus can be installed with the Budgie, GNOME, or MATE desktops.

Further, Solus follows a rolling release model for updating the distribution, meaning that the software is not locked to a certain version for a given version of the distribution but it rolls forward with each update of the software. By following a rolling release model, changes enter the distribution through the unstable repository for the distribution. The Solus developers sync the unstable repository with the shannon repository weekly. Solus installations sync with the shannon repository for updates. This is my first regular experience actually running a rolling distribution, so it will be interesting.

Current Impressions

Overall, the experience has been very good. I have used Solus quite successfully for over 4 months. The rest of the post will discuss various good and not-so-good things I have encountered while running Solus.

Stability

Having the latest software is nice and stability has been fine. I did run into one time where a software update almost made the system unusable. In particular, there was one update that was causing the login manager (lightdm) to crash. I couldn't log into the graphical environment to fix the problem so I had to figure out how to get Solus to boot into a text-based console instead of the usual graphical console.

After a little research, I found that I could add the setting systemd.unit=multi-user.target to the end of the Linux kernel boot parameters interactively with grub gave me a text console to Solus Linux. In particular, when the GRUB menu shows up, I selected the top boot option (the option that isn't the alternative boot entries) and then pressed "e" for editing the boot parameters for that boot option. When editing the command line I put systemd.unit=multi-user.target at the end of the line that starts with linux. Of course, I made sure there was a space between the added option string and any previous options. Once the edit was been made, I hit F10 to boot with the modified boot parameters. At that point, I received a text console that I logged into my account and, as root, executed an eopkg upgrade command. Once I completed the upgrade from the command line and rebooted, Solus did not have any problems--crisis averted.

Software Availability

There have been times where I have looked for software that I am familiar with from other distributions, but I couldn't find the software. For example, I could not find several PDF editors that I have used on Fedora, specifically, PDF Mod and PDF-Shuffler. Looking again today, I did find PDFsam Basic and qpdf (qpdf is an excellent tool for modifying and encrypting PDFs via the command line), but, at the time I needed something, I don't remember being able to find a convenient graphical PDF tool. This suggests things are getting better, but the selection of software is currently more limited than Fedora, Ubuntu, and other common distributions.

I don't think I tried to find out if there was a Snap package of either software package (though, I may have). A quick search today does not show either of these applications, though, it does show a few potential alternatives (pdftk and pdfmixtool).

Additionally, I haven't mentioned, but Solus also supports Flatpak (see the Solus Quick Setup instructions). For PDF tools, I see pdfmixtool again but little else. At this point, it seems like this particular need can be met, but it seemed more limited a few months ago.

Overall, though, a lot of the core software I use for development and other uses are available and it hasn't been a huge impediment. Further, the availability of Snap and Flatpak packages seems like a nice way to supplement the software that is already available in Solus.

On the other side of the coin, I am regularly getting updates and version upgrades to applications like darktable and Kdenlive as well as all the other software I have installed--something you don't get without resorting to alternative packaging technologies like Snaps, Flatpaks, or some additional distribution technologies on more conventional (non-rolling) distributions. I do see a darktable Snap and Flatpak and a Flatpak for Kdenlive, but it is nice to have this feature more integrated into the distribution than have to depend on Snaps and Flatpaks--definitely a major benefit of a rolling relase.

Go Snap Package and VS Code

I enjoy programming in Go and, as I mentioned in my previous post on Solus, I installed Go using a Snap package to get the latest released version. All went pretty well, though, I did get some errors when Visual Studio Code (VSCode) tried to build some of the supplementary Go binaries it uses for the Go language plugin. This was certainly an issue with the Go Snap package since it didn't occur with a natively installed version of Go using the Solus packaging system. At the time, Go 1.10 was not available under Solus, only Go 1.9. After a few weeks, though, Solus received Go 1.10 in its own repositories and I removed the Go Snap package. At that point, VSCode worked just fine. The problem here was less of a Solus issue and more of a Snap packaging issue, I believe. By the way, VSCode is definitely one of the best Electron applications I have used--it is very responsive considering its features and complexity.

Solus So Far

Despite the above small adventures, so far Solus on the old Dell XPS M1530 laptop has been working well, even with proprietary nVidia and Broadcom drivers. I am still using Solus on the laptop (including the composition of this blog post) and find it quite productive with the Budgie desktop environment. If there are other updates, I try to post them in a few months. Otherwise, so far, so good.