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2017-02-04: exploring the Solus Linux distro

I've been a Linux user for quite a number of years now, and am always readily impressed by the volume of Linux distros that rise and fall.

For the longest time I was using Slackware. However, at least for a while, Patrick Volkerding and the other Slackware developers seemed to have been publishing far fewer releases, giving me the impression that they were winding down or had moved on to other projects. This was mostly between 2009-2015 I recall, but I think they've since restarted development. Good luck to them I suppose, yet I have since moved on.

I played around with openSuSE after leaving the Slackware camp. Mainly this was due to the more bleeding edge functionality, notably on the graphics side of things. The very early Gallium variants of Mesa libs were especially fun, often breaking but *still* providing a better experience than the pre-existing drivers.

Regarding other distros, Fedora was not bad in my opinion, but it never really caught my attention. I can't recommend it outside the enterprise-market variants (e.g. CentOS / RHEL and the like).

Eventually due to the popularity of Ubuntu, it only made sense to give it a shot. I had tested it before in the past, but it never seemed it exciting. However, the ease of installing and updating Radeon graphics drivers was nice, given the mess that the fglrx driver had been for a number of years.

On a related note, the new amdgpu and amdgpu-pro Radeon drivers in late 2016 have been quite excellent, so I'll admit the other Linux distros are looking better again.

Personally, I have not done much in the way of distro hopping lately, but since my reasons for sticking with Ubuntu have gone away, I figured I would try Solus. The neatly designed GUI and rolling distro aspect of it intrigued me, so I decided to give it a shot.

To give an overview of this particular distro, it seems like it utilizes GTK3 libraries for the window-manager, which is called "Budgie" and borrows a little from Gnome and MATE, but is otherwise an entirely different design. The package manager is called "eopkg" which is derived from the PiSi package manager in the now abandonned distro of Pardus. Nothing too special on the functionality side of things, but the LZMA compression is a nice touch.

Not much in the way of guides currently on the internet for this distro, and the overall structure of the OS is a bit different from standard deb / rpm distros so I think a brief overview of some of the commands is in order.

# Search for a given package
eopkg sr package-name

# Install a given package
eopkg it package-name

# Remove a given package
eopkg rm package-name

# Admin access the software centre
sudo solus-sc

# Examine the current boot settings
sudo bootctl status

In addition, it seems that Solus is one of the few Linux distros that relies solely on the systemd boot subsystem, via a fork of gummiboot called 'goofiboot'. In order to customize the boot menu, rather than update-grub, the EFI loader file needs to be editted. This can be accomplished as follows:

sudo vi /boot/efi/loader/loader.conf

A few other interesting aspects of this OS set it apart from the current crop of Linux GUIs, so I figure going over them quickly might be worthwhile to anyone reading:

Finally, this distro is a bit on the minimalist side, so be warned that you can expect fewer repos and packages. Probably less support as well, so at this time I'd recommend it as a sort of end-user distro, preferly a user with more experienced as it is, after-all, a rolling distro (e.g. potential package requirements breakage, missing symlinks, and more overall weirdness).

The above noted, I am at this time mostly pleased with the current level of functionality in Solus. Hopefully it continues to remain popular, as I rather like the idea of a fast rolling desktop OS.