Solus may be the solution to Linux's problems

27 November 2016

I was using elementaryOS on my personal computer because its promise is to have an easy-to-use computer. It's a good operating system and it was the first GNU/Linux distribution to make me stay. However I dislike some points and I've changed to Solus.

elementaryOS allowed me to adopt GNU/Linux

elementaryOS was a great Linux distribution for me, it was the one which made me stay. Before, I had tried Mandriva, Kubuntu, Ubuntu and Xubuntu but none of them made me feel comfortable with their interface and I always switched back to Windows. So, elementaryOS is really important to me as it was the first Linux distribution I used on a daily basis and during several months. However, I had some issues with elementaryOS so I decided to switch to Solus.

However, too much issues on elementaryOS

Among the issues I had with elementaryOS Freya was the lack of reactivity from the team concerning issues. For example, when I dragged and dropped an icon, the mouse pointer had a glitch which is quite annoying (I'm talking about this issue). And as you can read on the issue, even though you can maybe fix it manually, the bug is still here. Another issue which is more an overall impression is that basic applications are quite buggy. I'm talking about the email application (previously Geary) and the File manager which can crash at any moment. So, I can be tolerant of some things, but I can't allow that after months this kind of stability issues are not fixed.

To be precise, I used elementaryOS Luna and Freya. I did not try the latest Loki version because as it is Ubuntu-based, you need to reinstall the computer to have a clean upgrade. And as Freya is based on Ubuntu 14.04, the support for my hardware had ended. All these reasons made me reinstall my computer with a clean Solus installation instead of elementaryOS.

What is Solus

When I first got to know Solus, about one and a half years ago under the name "Evolve OS", I didn't think this Linux distribution would survive. Imagine: one guy alone was building a Linux distribution and its desktop environment from scratch. That's totally insane. However, we can now see that the main developer isn't alone anymore and that a community is slowly getting up. I have to precise some things: Solus is not totally made from scratch. In fact, the developers intelligently reused some components. For example the eopkg package manager (which will become sol) is a fork of the PiSi Package Manager. Also, the desktop environment is integrated with GNOME which allows to benefit of all the community work of GNOME.

Solus logo

What's great with Solus

The big advantage of Solus is the same as for MacOS: integration. As everything is integrated with the project, each element of the distribution behaves well with the other applications. I'm using GNOME on another computer, but it's on Solus that I could say for the first time that the LibreOffice interface is quite "pretty" (however, that's subjective).

LibreOffice on GNOME default theme Adwaita
LibreOffice on GNOME with Paper theme
LibreOffice on Solus with Budgie desktop environment

It also means that for a newbie, everything works out-of-the-box. Yes, even Nvidia graphic cards and later on the Optimus technology for laptops. The Solus team is doing a great work on integrating and simplifying the use of graphic cards other than Intel with their Linux Driver Management. I really think Solus is easier to use than any other GNU/Linux distribution and Windows. Even for me, I was glad to see during the installation that I could encrypt my hard disk with LVM by simply checking a checkbox (since Solus 1.2.1). That's awesome!

Concerning the project management, I love how Ikey Doherty, the lead developer, puts energy into his project. I once had an issue for logging in Solus's forum so I went to Solus's IRC channel and some minutes later Ikey resolved my issue. Also, Joshua Strobi does a great job of communicating about the project. Every week / two weeks he writes a blog post detailing all the news about the project. Also, you need to know that if some application is not available on Solus, if you ask for it on the forum you are very likely to see it in the software center one or two days later.

So, Solus' maintainers are incredibly reactive!

What could be better with Solus

As for everything, nothing is perfect. For example the classic Alt-Tab shortcut for switching between windows is not very intelligent. Usually, the first window you get is the last one on which you were, but currently it is just browses all windows in the order. Also, the Alt-Shift-Tab shortcut for doing the same in the other direction doesn't work for me.

I think it's currently the worst issue I'm having so it's not so bad. I have to point out that this issue is known by the team and they have it on their Todo list for Budgie.

Concerning a more overall experience, I think Budgie's interface could be improved. Some choices made for Raven, the right-panel of Budgie are not very ergonomic according to me. For example, the button to open Raven looks too much like an "Exit" button. Even though I understand that you can interpret this icon as "opening sidebar", we users are used to see this kind of icon to exit. Another issue is the "Power-off" button on Raven which in fact can only log out the user. If you wish to shutdown the computer, you have to click on the "Power-off" button located in the notification center. Well, could be better.

Conclusion

As an overall, I'm very satisfied about Solus and how the project is being led. Comparing to elementaryOS, Solus chose to master the foundations of the operating system by making it from scratch and I'm seeing it like a success. About the above cons I pointed out, I'm completely optimistic that the team will fix these issues and enhance the user interface.

With all the hard work of Solus' team, I think they manage to remove barriers for newcomers and newbies to try Linux by making it easier to install and use than most operating systems. So in some way, Solus solves Linux's general issue of not being enough accessible to the public.

Thank you Solus's team!