2012-05-14

Review: SolusOS 1 "Eveline"

I've gotten a couple requests to review this distribution, and I've wanted to do it, but for a while all that was being released consisted of beta versions and release candidates. Now, however, version 1 "Eveline" has been released in its final form, so I am reviewing that now.

Main Screen + Cardapio Menu
SolusOS is supposed to be a user-friendly, stable distribution based on Debian 6 "Squeeze". It features a customized GNOME 2 that looks rather reminiscent of Linux Mint; this is not surprising, considering that the lead developer also contributes heavily to Linux Mint. In fact, its use of GNOME 2 makes it almost like a throwback version of Debian-based Linux Mint, now that the latter distribution has moved onto MATE and GNOME 3/Cinnamon.

I tested the 32-bit live edition using a live USB made with MultiSystem. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a rather snazzy-looking boot splash. This is an unusually nice touch for a distribution based on Debian straight-up, and it is one that I appreciated quite a bit. After that, I was taken to the desktop.

The desktop, as mentioned before, recalls the look and feel of Linux Mint with GNOME 2. There is one panel on the bottom featuring, from left to right, a Cardapio menu, a window list, and a notification area. For some reason, there is a rather large blank area in the panel surrounding both sides of the clock applet; I do not know if this was by design or if there were supposed to be applets there that disappeared due to some bug, but it seemed rather weird. The GTK+ and Metacity window themes are Victory, while the icon theme is Elementary. Overall, the desktop looks very cohesive and pleasing to use.

Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox is the default browser at version 12. Given that this is the latest version of Mozilla Firefox, I hope this means that SolusOS will keep up-to-date with that and not delay too much in shipping the latest version. Anyway, that aside, it seems like true to the word of the website, multimedia codecs have been included and work well. In addition, my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts were recognized properly.

LibreOffice is the default productivity suite, and it works well. One small issue though is that some of the icons for some LibreOffice programs in the Cardapio menu are replaced by generic application icons.
Other installed applications include the usual GNOME 2 tools, PlayOnLinux, Dropbox, Mozilla Thunderbird, Minitube, VLC, and others. In addition, Nautilus has been modified with the always-nice Elementary extension.

There are two package managers available. One is PackageKit, which is a little unusual for a Debian-based distribution with GNOME. The other is the standard Synaptic Package Manager. Unfortunately, none of the root passwords I tried ("root" based on standard conventions, "adminuser" after searching for what the SolusOS live root password would be, or others) worked, so the latter program did not work at all. The former program was able to search for packages, so I was able to see things like the fact that Skype is available in the repositories. The only issue was that I could not install said packages, so I could not do my usual tests like checking if Skype and Google Talk work. Given that this is based off of Debian, I have a moderate level of confidence that these would work, but at this point I cannot say for sure. In any case, I hope that the SolusOS developer(s) could make the process of escalating user privileges work in the live session.
Nautilus Elementary + LibreOffice
Writer + Desktop Cube
(Now, some of you may say that I would not run into this problem in this review had I done a full installation. My response to that is that I have already been burned twice by faulty Linux installations, so if I ever install another Linux distribution on my computer's hard drive, it will be after much deliberation and testing in the live session to make sure every last thing works, and it will be for the long haul.)

As this is GNOME 2, Compiz works. In SolusOS, Compiz is included, and it does in fact work quite well.
Even with Compiz running, SolusOS used only 220 MB of RAM at idle according to the GNOME System Monitor. Now that's what I'm talking about! I wish more distributions could be that light on RAM. Plus, even though this is the 32-bit edition, SolusOS recognized that my laptop has a dual-core processor and 4 GB of RAM, which is amazing.

That is basically where my time with SolusOS ended. I will probably have to revisit it to check out any issues with Skype or Google Talk, but from what I can see, it is quite polished and well-done, and this is even more impressive considering that this is the maiden release. For now, I can give it a very high recommendation; newbies, prepare to be impressed.
You can get it from here.

24 comments:

  1. The paragraph about Live system should be in bold red colour. :-)

    Have you been able to check which repositories are used in SolusOS? I would thing they're not Debian standard because of Skype.

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  2. I have switched from Linux Mint, as it is much easier on system resorces. It is extremely stable, and very easy to set-up.

    The only problem I am having is getting Skype to work properly. It does everything but I cannot hear myself ????

    Give it a proper try. I'm sure that you willlbe impressed like every other reviewer I have read.

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  3. @DarkDuck: I'm glad you appreciated that. Also, I checked the "/etc/apt/sources.list" file, and it seems to only list Debian Stable repositories.

    @Bernard Victor: That may be an issue with the build of Skype for Debian; I feel like I have had that problem with Debian-based Linux Mint before as well. You may want to search for solutions to that issue on the Debian forums if no solutions exist in the SolusOS forums.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  4. I'm happy to package a newer skype :)
    Also if you look in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ you'll find
    we use backports, multimedia, and our own repo, which is now
    in the region of 6.6GB :)

    Regarding "process elevation" there is no root password on the live image,
    it's disabled for security reasons. You use sudo, which requires no password
    for the "live" user, so to become root:
    sudo su

    Et voila :) Other than those points, very very nice review :) Thank you
    very much and I'm glad you enjoyed it. Feel free to jump in on IRC or
    our forums, you'll find very welcoming people! :)

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  5. I tried solus on my netbook and I love it! Great OS, easy to set up, everything you should do to make debian a great desktop os is already done for you, so it saves a lot of time. It looks great, I really like the modified zuki blues theme. i'm pretty sure that solus will replace crunchbang 64bit on my desktop real soon!

    Thanks ikey, for this great distro!
    Grtz, marco

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  6. Honestly, I can't see why people would like to go back in time and use (and / or create) a gnome 2 distro when they kbnow they will have to change to gnome 3 in a few months time (the next debian stable will use gnome 3, and it will be released early next year so this distro will have to do the same). If I wanted to change to another distro I would find it more interesting to move to another distro that uses gnome 3 because you will have to get used to it (or change to KDE, xfce...).

    Having said that, I find it is a good idea to release a distro based in Debian stable modified to include the latest versions of the usual tools in the repos. That is why I will give this distro a go when it uses gnome 3.

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  7. Nice distro,are you planning to switch to MATE since gnome 2 will be obsolete or it is already.

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    Replies
    1. No MATE is planned, neither is Cinnamon. SolusOS 2 will be Gnome 3 Fallback with loads of tweaks so that it looks and acts like the current SolusOS 1.

      In the end we will have a similar but more modern Desktop Environment.

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  8. Ikey has stated he will be transitioning to Gnome 3 when Debian Stable transitions to it. Preparations are already underway to modify Gnome 3 in such a way as to make the transition little different in appearance and use than Gnome 2.

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  9. Fluxbox please the way Mint 9 was.

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  10. Great distro! This distro is the goal that other distros should aim for. Very fast and stable so far. Have it multibooted on my netbook, laptop, and my son's laptop.

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  11. @Ikey Doherty: Then what I'll do is revisit SolusOS when the 64-bit edition comes out to take another look at those issues.

    @Anonymous 1: It's great that you've had success with it then!

    @Anonymous 2: Right now, GNOME 2 is what is used in Debian Stable, so this isn't totally going "back in time".

    @Anonymous 3: It is supposed to use a heavily modified GNOME 3/Fallback to match the current feel of the desktop.

    @Anonymous 4: That's exactly right!

    @Anonymous 5: Unfortunately, it looks like Linux Mint has essentially officially dropped any plans to make any new editions with Fluxbox. Considering that SolusOS is a smaller project with specific goals in mind, I'm not entirely sure why they would switch to Fluxbox without a very compelling reason to do so.

    @Anonymous 6: It's great that you have other people using it too!

    Thanks for the comments!

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  12. The time I spent with Solus OS on my Desktop was a very nostalgic one. Once installed my Thinkpad x60 ran like it was still 2009! I had stuck with Ubuntu for 6 years was because of Gnomes simplicity and reasonable amount of Ram it used. After a week I installed Crunchbang which is quicker still on my old hardware (but not that much! )
    I really think that Solus OS is a great Distro for Ubuntu/gnome refugees!

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  13. In regard to your limiting your reviews to Live sessions due to your past incidents with faulty Linux distributions, how about running them within a virtual machine? (e.g., KVM) This would allow you to evaluate distros as full installations, yet protect your other computer assets should the worst happen.

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  14. I have used Debian for some years and whilst it is my distro of choice I have sometimes come unstuck when configuring bluetooth, wi-fi, sound, multimedia and some of the more geekish areas. SolusOS seems to have been given an expert touch from the developers who have already sorted out these areas. It has been installed on the computer which I use for most of my work (mostly CAD) and is excepionally stable. Others may prefer Gnome 3 but I prefer either Gnome 2 or something similar like Xfce - SolusOS currently fits the bill and the developers promise a similar interface when Gnome 3 gets into the next stable Debian.

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  15. @Michael King: We'll need to see though how that plays out for when SolusOS starts shipping with GNOME 3.

    @Anonymous 1: The issue with VM reviews is that I cannot try the system on real hardware, and sometimes there are issues like GNOME 3/Shell not being able to run on virtual hardware. Plus, VMs present their own set of issues at the time of installation, so reviewing the success or failure of installation in a VM does not give much more information than not reviewing the installation at all.

    @Anonymous 2: It's great that you have been able to enjoy it so much.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  16. Hi,I've been a MINT fan for a number of years and had no problems until Gnome3 started to rear it's ugly head! ... so MATE for me is the way forward for keeping my 5/6 year old PCs up and running.

    Using a spare HDD I loaded Solus01 without any problems, however on first restart after installation the boot began but then the power indicator on the monitor went to yellow to indicate loss of signal and just hung there! I rebooted in 'safe' mode and all went ok !!
    Wifi was found ok but as seems to be common with a lot of the linux flavours a little flaky and occasionally drops out.
    I went onto Youtube ok only to get a BLACK/blank video when attempting to play (in this instance) Adele. I see that Adobe Flash player is installed so what is the problem with playing Youtube?
    Minitube works just fine insidentally.

    Solus01 seems to work very fast so maybe I need to get to know it a little better.

    Cheers, Radiomann

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    Replies
    1. I removed the preinstalled flash, then install a 'normal' flash. Then no more issues with movies :D

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    2. @Bracelets: It's good to hear that you were able to resolve that issue. Thanks for the comment!

      Delete
  17. @Anonymous: I'm guessing the fact that you booted into "safe mode" meant that the OS was using older, generic graphics drivers incompatible with the latest version of Adobe Flash. Though if Minitube worked, that is somewhat strange. Thanks for the comment!

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  18. Could this be good for computers with only 512 MB RAM. My father had this kind of pc with Mint 9 Gnome. It's too slow. I'm planning to try Lubuntu or Mint LXDE. Could SolusOS be a good alternative for that pc?

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    Replies
    1. @Erno: It certainly could be, because it's basically the same sort of desktop as Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME. Thanks for the comment!

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  19. I'll be trying this in Virtualbox later. My concern is the upgrade mechanism. Linux Mint, for example, is held up as the perfect distro for beginners, yet they suggest a clean install of each new release. For this reason, I currently use LMDE as my main distro.

    Ubuntu's system of notifying a user of a new version and offering an in-place upgrade is one of the things they get right.

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    Replies
    1. @likeastream: There's a reason why the Linux Mint developers recommend clean installations rather than in-place upgrades, and that is because the in-place upgrades have tended (at least in past releases) to be horrendously unstable and buggy; that may have changed in recent years, but I doubt it, given that somehow the Linux Mint developers seem to know what their users actually want and how they feel about these things. That said, there's nothing stopping you from using the Ubuntu in-place upgrade mechanism in Ubuntu-based Linux Mint. Also, I'm not sure if you're implying that rolling-release nature of Debian-based Linux Mint makes it easier for newbies to work with, but if you are, then the issue is that rolling-release distributions tend to have more issues than fixed-release distributions, and that newbies will have a harder time with that. Thanks for the comment!

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