Looking for a new Linux desktop distribution? You are definitely spoilt for choice. The market is well saturated with quality desktop distributions, featuring different desktop environments.
Between Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSUSE, you have a choice of well-supported distributions with lots of up-to-date software and commercial backing, as well as a choice of almost any desktop environment like GNOME, Unity or KDE.
There are many others, however. Linux Mint brings the stability of Ubuntu with a more familiar desktop for ex-Windows users, while Elementary OS gives a more simplified, streamlined desktop which may fare well with ex-Mac users.
There is a rising underdog, however, and it is awesome: Solus.
What Is Solus?
If you haven’t heard of Solus yet, allow me to bring you up to speed.
It was started in 2011, as “Solus OS” initially as a spin-off of Debian, featuring the GNOME 2 desktop. Development continued on this operating system, including on a new desktop environment, and it went through a couple of name changes, finally landing on just “Solus”.
Today, it is a fully-fledged, independent Linux distribution of its own, with its own desktop environment and repositories.
How To Install Solus Linux Distribution?
Installing or testing Solus is not that easy, unfortunately. Downloading the latest .iso image from the Solus website is easy enough (take note that there are only 64-bit versions available), but writing it to a USB stick is not that easy. Neither UNetbootin nor Startup Disk Creator are able to write this .iso, so you will need to install Gnome Multiwriter. On Windows, however, it appears that Rufus will work fine.
Once Solus is on the USB stick, things get much easier. It runs just fine off the USB stick, and installing it is a cinch with the Ubiquity installer, the same one used by Ubuntu and Linux Minx.
The Solus desktop environment is called Budgie, and it is great. It was originally created to give users a similar experience to Chrome OS, without having to buy a Chromebook, and keeping a full Linux desktop distribution with access to software distribution. It uses a lot of GNOME software behind the scenes, so it is very stable while still being fast and relatively light.
Budgie is clean, slick, good-looking, fast and really easy to use. Windows and Mac users will probably feel equally at home, although it may at first glance appear to be very Windows 10-esque. There is a button which opens up the main menu, applications can be pinned to the panel, and there are notifications on the right.
These notifications are really great and deserve special mention. They are similar to those on Android, and can be dismissed once the user no longer needs them.
This notification centre also hides the settings for the top panel, and one can easily change things, or move it to the right, left or the bottom. Users who wish to have more control over the overall look and feel of their desktop will be very pleased!
The applications menu is also really good. It is fast, it opens when you press the Super key (“Windows button”), and it is very intelligently put together. Finding what you need is easy, painless, and fast. I would go so far as to suggest that is is at least as good as, if not better than, the Unity dash and the Linux Mint menu.
The default applications that come with Solus are sparse, unfortunately. Firefox and Thunderbird are installed by default and will cover most users’ internet-based needs, along with a calendar, calculator, text editor, and a music player. VLC is also installed by default, along with an IRC chat client, PDF viewer and Archive (.zip and similar) reader, but that’s about it.
Thankfully, the application installer, called Software Center, is excellent and installing programs is easy. Users have access to a lot of great Linux software, and since Solus is now a rolling distribution, most of the software should be pretty up-to-date.
Solus Linux Distribution Support
Since Solus is a small project, they don’t have a lot of commercial support available. Users do have access a wiki with a fair amount of documentation, some forums which are rather well frequented, a Google+ community, and an IRC channel.
As a test, I got onto the IRC channel and asked a few questions. This was very easy, since if you are using Solus and click on the IRC link on their website, it opens up immediately in the IRC client.
Responses were fast and friendly. I assume that most problems that people have would easily be able to be solved by the people who frequent this channel.
Thankfully, the operating system is so stable and easy to use that you probably won’t need to get onto these support channels very often.
Overall, Solus is a great operating system. It is stable, very easy to use, and it seems to have a wide selection of the latest software available in its own repositories.
The best feature, for me at least, is definitely its Budgie desktop environment. It is simple, yet can still be customised by power users. It is fast and sleek, yet it still makes use of modern GNOME technologies.
Solus is awesome, yet the only thing that lets it down is not the operating system or the developers’ faults: its installed base. The most users an operating system has, the more community support and solutions offered. Ubuntu and Linux Mint users can quickly and easily find solutions to their problems with a few searches on Google, while Solus users will probably have to go to the developers themselves if they get stuck.
All in all, a great operating system with a bright future. I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat.