2013-05-30

Review: SolydXK 2013.04.06

I originally wanted to do this one before final exams, but other hiccups in this review pushed that to now. Anyway, here it is.

Main Screen + KDE Kickoff Menu
What is SolydXK? Debian-based Linux Mint never had a KDE edition, so SolydK was born out of the unofficial project featuring KDE in Debian-based Linux Mint. Then, Linux Mint pushed its Xfce edition back to an Ubuntu base, necessitating the emergence of SolydX. Together they form SolydXK, based on Debian Testing but with update packs, just as Debian-based Linux Mint is.

I tried SolydXK on separate partitions of a live USB with UnetBootin, as MultiSystem did not recognize SolydXK (and that's why I was having trouble doing this review before final exams). Follow the jump to see what they are like.

K

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a pleasant grayish-blue boot splash featuring the SolydK branding above a progress bar. The same thing was used for the KDE splash screen leading into the desktop, which is fairly standard for KDE, so I won't go into that too much. I will just say that the background, which is similar to the boot/KDE splash screens, is pretty nice, but the KDE Plasma theme needs to change because white text on a light-colored background is really hard to read.

Mozilla Firefox is the default browser, but it is still at version 19. Like Linux Mint, it comes with most proprietary codecs enabled out-of-the-box, as YouTube and Hulu worked fine, as did my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts.
Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
LibreOffice is included as well. It is at version 4 now, which is nice considered that Debian Testing doesn't include new packages until much later.
Other included packages are fairly standard for KDE and Linux Mint. In fact, many Linux Mint tools, like the software and update managers, are straight from Linux Mint as well.

Although the Linux Mint Software Manager is now pretty reliable, I still prefer using the Synaptic Package Manager. I was able to use it to install Skype and Redshift. I had to install the Google Talk plugin and Mupen64Plus using their respective websites. Now that Google is pushing Google+ Hangouts over Google Talk, it is a bit more difficult to find the actual Google Talk plugin that works with Mozilla Firefox; I now have to actually log into Gmail, click on my chat status, and click to download and install the plugin. All of these installed and worked fine, though to verify that the Google Talk plugin was working OK, I had to jump through the further hoop of again clicking on my chat status and clicking to configure the chat settings, as the same tab when clicking on the settings menu within Gmail seems to no longer work (though of course none of these are issues with SolydK). Additionally, with regard to Mupen64Plus, this is one of the few times I have been able to use proper video and input plugins on a distribution not based on Ubuntu, which is amazing as the frame rates look great and I can actually configure the controls as I wish.

Desktop Cube + KDE Lancelot
Menu + Dolphin + Gwenview
Desktop effects worked great. Even with my preferred effects running, SolydK only used 350 MB of RAM at idle, which is pretty good for KDE 4.8. Also, I got so sick of the KDE Plasma theme that I changed it to "Ember"; the only downside is that I can't make use of no-click activation in the KDE Lancelot menu. Additionally, around this time, I could no longer launch the Synaptic Package Manager from the menu, which was weird; thankfully I could do most things using the Linux Mint software manager, and for everything else I could launch the former by issuing the command "sudo synaptic". As it turns out, other applications that required root privileges to be launched also had issues being launched from the KDE Lancelot menu, but again, those could be run from the terminal instead.

X

I'm not going to focus too much on SolydX because most of the things I try out would be similar to what I tried in SolydK. Instead I'll just try to see how Xfce is set up and whether I can tweak it to meet my needs.

The default theme, interestingly, appears to be the Oxygen theme from KDE for GTK+. This includes the Xfwm window borders and the icons as well. The only minor quibble is that the Xfwm theme doesn't quite match in color to the GTK+ theme.

Thunar + Xfce Menu
Mainly, I tried to install the Linux Mint Menu and Compiz. Neither were available in the repositories, and it seems like the only way to use the Linux Mint Menu in Xfce is to essentially use either Xubuntu or Ubuntu-based Linux Mint with Xfce. That basically answered the question I had.

Otherwise, it's interesting to note that Xfce is already at version 4.10 here. Better yet, Thunar is at version 1.6, which features a cleaned-up side pane along with...tabs! The other applications included are fairly standard for something like Linux Mint with Xfce, though I wish more descriptive names could be used for application shortcuts in the Xfce menu.

That's where my time with SolydXK ended. Both versions are rather well-done and do indeed remind me a lot of Linux Mint. I would be more inclined to use SolydK rather than SolydX because the latter is missing some features I would really like to see for my own sake (while equivalents of those features are present in the former). That said, I feel quite comfortable recommending either one to newbies. Even though Debian Testing is technically not labeled "Stable", it is essentially indistinguishable in terms of real stability, so that should not be an issue. Additionally, newbies wouldn't have to reinstall every so often as it is technically a rolling-release distribution just like Debian-based Linux Mint.
You can get them here.

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for the useful review. I had not heard about SolydXK, so I will give it a try. Have you tried Mint Olivia yet? I'd like to hear your opinion since you are a Mint user and can therefore assess the system's general performance as compared to other versions of Mint... I'm also curious about the new themable login screen.
    Regards,

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    1. @Mechatotoro: The themeable login screen seems pretty intriguing to me too. The fact that MDM was so primitive in Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" made me switch to LightDM, but that will have changed by the next LTS release, and I am certainly curious as to how it feels now. Thanks for the comment!

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  2. "The KDE Plasma theme needs to change because white text on a light-colored background is really hard to read."

    I very much agree. But as a matter of fact, almost all light Plasma themes have terrible contrast. (And I hate dark themes.) Somebody really needs to make a nice light Plasma theme without any text shadows or gradients. Just plain black on grey, like Windows 2000.

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    1. @Anonymous: I actually happen to be a fan of dark KDE Plasma themes, so finding one like that isn't as much of an issue for me. I think for you, though, you may enjoy the "Tibanna", "Aya", "Fushigi", "Helium", or "Klassic" (KDE 3.5-esque) themes; all of those have light backgrounds and dark text with minimal text shadows. Thanks for the comment!

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    2. Yep, I'm currently using Klassic. It's pretty good, although there are still a few areas where the text contrast is poor. Thanks for the tips about Fushigi and Tibanna, they look pretty nice as well.

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    3. @Anonymous: I hope it works out for you regardless. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. With all due respect: if you want Linux Mint's menu and other stuff, you rather use LMDE. This is SolydXK and I think their ideas and look are just great.

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    1. @gonzalo-vc: It's a fair point, but I figured that as SolydXK was originally based on Linux Mint, I might have some chance of finding that package in the repositories. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. Excellent distro. I put SolydX on my 5+ year old laptop. Runs fine.

    – Torin

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