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Solus Brightens Computing Across the Linux User Spectrum | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Oct 18, 2019 10:00 AM PT

The
Solus Project is alive and well and continues to offer a fresh approach to uncomplicating the computer desktop. That says a lot, given the sometimes sordid developmental path of the almost 5-year-old Linux distribution.

Solus 4.0 Linux “Fortitude” was released earlier this month. The Solus team provided updates and improvements to each of the distribution’s supported desktop environments — Budgie, GNOME and MATE.

The Budgie desktop, a custom desktop environment developed and maintained in-house, has a new minor release to version 10.5.1 of the Budgie 10.5 series. Budgie received several enhancements, gaining improved menu handling, new font options, and the ability to work with multiple modern versions of the GNOME software stack.

The under-the-hood components and the distro’s software package all received refreshing and updating. Solus follows a rolling release model that makes good on the notion of “Install Today. Updates Forever.” So once you install the current ISO, all new upgrades will be pushed to your computer without having to reinstall and reconfigure a thing.

An independent Linux distribution built from scratch, Solus is available for 64-bit computers only. The Budgie desktop can be set to emulate the look and feel of the GNOME 2 desktop and is tightly integrated with the GNOME stack.


Solus' integration brings fine-tuning to the latest GNOME desktop design.

Solus’ integration fine-tunes the latest GNOME desktop design.


However, Budgie offers much more than a GNOME 2 retread. It provides a very modern desktop environment.

History Revisited

Ikey Doherty was the lead developer of what originally was named “Evolve OS” and later morphed into Solus OS in 2015. The morphing included a new desktop called “Budgie.” Early in the development of the original distro, the developers had to rebrand the distro’s name due to a conflict with another Linux distribution. Now the Linux project is called simply “Solus.”

Over the summer of 2018, due to unclear circumstances, Doherty relinquished his leadership and affiliation with the Solus OS community. Under Doherty, the distro was based in the UK. The current development team now is based in Ireland.

When I first
reviewed the fledgling Solus Project in its early years, the Budgie desktop was something simple and new. It was clearly suffering from its immaturity, but it was based on a concept that promised to get better with age.

I noted back then that Solus OS had impressive potential for being uncomplicated and different. The latest update shows that the developers have lived up to my initial assessment.

Sordid Background

Doherty’s Evolve OS was built from scratch. Solus OS was based on Debian. The current Solus Linux operating system is an independent distro built around the Linux kernel.

Doherty developed the Budgie desktop from the ground up. The current developers have continued with Budgie, turning it into a more capable desktop that remains simple to use.

I have made “desktop hopping” a sort of professional hobby. When reviewing Linux OSes each week, I look for new distros and old ones with a developing desktop option rather than replaying the mainstream default offerings.

Back in its early days, Solus OS lacked the glitz and glitter found in distributions with more seasoned desktop environments. Animation was nonexistent, but simplicity was consistent in every aspect of the Solus experience. It still is in version 4.0 with the current developer community.

Better Budgie Performance

Budgie has grown from its inception. Designed with the modern user in mind, Budgie still focuses on simplicity and elegance. It has a plain and clean style. It is easy to use. The Budgie Desktop is a feature-rich, modern desktop designed to keep out the way of the user.


Solus' Budgie desktop

The homegrown Budgie desktop offers a flexible look and feel with many modern treatments.


The heart of adjusting the desktop in Solus is Raven — an applet, notification and customization center.

Raven is key to controlling the user experience through easy customizations. Within the Raven applet, you can change widget, icon and cursor themes. You can show desktop icons with a single click and tweak a variety of system fonts.

Budgie uses GNOME technologies such as GTK+. Its popularity is spreading to an increasing number of Linux distributions, such as Arch Linux, Manjaro and Ubuntu. Other Linux OSes that offer the Budgie desktop are Debian, GeckyLinux, SparkyLinux and Void Linux.

A huge advantage for the Budgie desktop is that it is not a fork of another project. It is designed for easy integration into other distros and was an open source project in its own right until May 2018. That is when the Budgie Desktop project merged back into the Solus Project umbrella.

Budgie View Close

I am impressed with the clean and functional performance of all three Solus desktop choices. Either one can provide you with a reliable, out-of-the-box computing platform. Installation is hassle-free. Under the hood, the Solus inner workings give you a stable and satisfying operating system.

The Budgie desktop is my focus here since it is one of the newer desktops offered with MATE and GNOME — but unless you have an undeniable favorite, any one of them will be a great choice for your daily computing needs. Themes and features are integrated consistently. The look and feel is a comfort in all three choices.

The homegrown Budgie desktop got much more than spit and polish since I last visited this distro. That was just before the leadership change within the Solus community. Budgie is much more functional now. This latest Budgie upgrade to version 10.5.1 is very inviting.

I have not been thrilled with Budgie as a desktop choice in other distros, but I found that what annoyed me in Budgie integration elsewhere was not an issue in the Solus release.

The Budgie desktop is easy to customize. Everything you need to give it your own personal touch is laid out in a smart-looking control panel. You can manage Budgie settings right from Raven and download more options from the Solus Software Center.

For example, you can add a virtual workspace switcher applet to the bottom panel with a single click. You get “one place for everything” design to control for notifications and functionality. Raven also lets you control media playback and sound devices.

MATE and More

The Budgie desktop is an ideal choice for Linux newcomers who want simplicity. MATE offers its own style of simplicity in a more traditional desktop for advanced users and older hardware.


Solus' MATE desktop

The MATE desktop provides classic GNOME functionality.


It comes with the Brisk Menu to provide a balance between preserving the traditional feel of MATE and the efficient modern design of Solus Linux itself. This menu brings quick access to the Software Center and system settings.

The GNOME desktop has its own degree of Solus customization that may be more inviting for those who want a finely crafted, contemporary user experience.
Like the other two desktop choices, GNOME is ready to use right out of the box.

For example, it is preconfigured with a variety of extensions tweaked to enhance the Solus experience. It handles transforming the app launcher to a dock with Dash to Dock functionality to speed up animations with the Impatience feature.

Bottom Line

Regardless of how you spend your time at the keyboard, Solus can be an ideal solution for all your computing needs. It comes with a collection of specially designed tools to make using and maintaining the operating system a uniquely easy experience.

For technically minded users, Solus supports a wide variety of editors, programming languages, compilers and version-control systems. It has tools for containerization/virtualization technology, such as Docker and Vagrant. Whether you’re writing drivers in C or writing backend Web services in Go, there is software that will fit your needs.

Home or office users will be pleased with the latest LibreOffice suite version 6.2.1.2. The Solus Software Center has options for accounting, Personal Information Management and more. Content Creators can animate in Synfig Studio, produce music with Musescore or Mixxx, do graphic designing with GIMP or Inkscape, and edit videos with Avidemux, Kdenlive or Shotcut.

Gamers can enjoy open source games natively configured for Solus with support for many gamepads and controllers. With little or no setup required, gamers can play Steam titles for Linux with a modern, optimized gaming runtime. There is also built-in support for the Itch.io and Lutris gaming platforms.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Ubuntu 19.10 arrives with edge capabilities for Kubernetes





Following 25 weeks of development, Canonical today released Ubuntu 19.10. Highlights include new edge capabilities for Kubernetes, an integrated AI developer experience, and the fastest GNOME desktop performance yet. You can download Ubuntu 19.10 from here. (VentureBeat)




Previous articleFedora at 15: Why Matthew Miller sees a bright future for the Linux distribution

Swapnil Bhartiya has decades of experience covering emerging technologies and enterprise open source. His stories have appeared in a multitude of leading publications including CIO, InfoWorld, Network World, The New Stack, Linux Pro Magazine, ADMIN Magazine, HPE Insights, Raspberry Pi Geek Magazine, SweetCode, Linux For You, Electronics For You and more. He is also a science fiction writer and founder of TFiR.io.

Windows 10 vs. Ubuntu 19.10 vs. Clear Linux vs. Debian 10.1 Benchmarks On An Intel Core i9


Earlier this week I provided some fresh Windows vs. Linux web browser benchmarks for both Firefox and Chrome. For those curious how the current Windows 10 vs. Linux performance is for other workloads, here is a fresh look across a variety of software applications and while testing the near-final Ubuntu 19.10, Intel’s rolling-release Clear Linux, and Debian 10.1 while running off an Intel Core i9 HEDT platform.

Ahead of all our autumn 2019 Linux distribution update benchmarks, this article is a fresh look at the Microsoft Windows 10 Pro x64 performance compared to these popular Linux distributions. Particularly with Debian 10 and Clear Linux, they tend to be the fastest Linux distributions we routinely benchmark at Phoronix while Ubuntu is included due to its popularity.

These four operating systems were all tested on the same Intel Core i9 7980XE + 4 x 4GB DDR4-3200 memory + NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN X + Samsung 970 EVO 500GB NVMe SSD system with the i9-7980XE being the newest Intel HEDT platform I have available for testing at the moment.

A range of benchmarks were carried out on the four operating systems from NVIDIA graphics/compute tests through various applications. All of the benchmarking on Windows and Linux was automated in a reproducible manner using the Phoronix Test Suite.


SolydXK Delivers Rock Solid Linux Performance | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Oct 4, 2019 9:56 AM PT

SolydXK Delivers Rock Solid Linux Performance

SolydXK is a Debian-based distribution with a choice of Xfce or KDE desktops. Both versions are simple to use and offer dependable and consistent performance.

SolydX and SolydK are Debian Buster-based Linux OSes with the Xfce and KDE desktops respectively. The latest release arrived on Sept. 27.

The SolydXK distro is a solid open source alternative for small businesses, nonprofit organizations and home users. The distro’s developer team lacks an enterprise business structure and costly tech support services that come with business options such as Red Hat and Ubuntu Linux.

However, this distribution is ideal for typical noncorporate computing tasks. SolydXK installs without challenges and needs little-to-no set up or manual configurations. It has more polish and smoother performance than many of its Linux OS counterparts.

SolydXK Evolution

Solyd made its debut in February 2013 as an unofficial variant of Linux Mint’s Debian edition with KDE as the default desktop. The main Linux Mint offering is based directly on Ubuntu, an offshoot of Debian Linux as well.

Later in Solyd’s development, the community gave the KDE version its own identity as SolydK. The community added SolydX as an option after Linux Mint dropped its Debian-based flavor that used the Xfce desktop.

The SolydXK headquarters is based in the Netherlands and runs on i686 and x86 64-bit architecture. The team dropped the Raspberry Pi 3 image from this release due to apparent lack of user interest.

Under the Hood

This current release, SolydXK, is based on Debian Buster 10.1 with the latest kernel version 4.19. The Live ISO now boots with localization support. This is a good update feature for gaining a wider user audience.

SolydXK 10 includes the new GRUB2 theme and a USB Creator tool that was rebuilt from scratch to improve stability, speed and maintainability.

Another improvement is a change in the SolydXK Firefox settings to improve user privacy. This is done in the firefox-solydxk-adjustments package, which can be purged if you don’t need it.

The developers thoroughly cleaned up the ISOs, removing any packages that are not strictly needed without compromising system stability and safety. This update is welcome. It helps keep the download size of the ISO smaller and contributes to a reduction is system software bloat.

Limited Approaches

Arjen Balfoort, a key developer of two discontinued desktop options within the Linux Mint distro, developed the SolydXK distro to continue where the Linux Mint line left off with the dropped Debian branch desktop options. The result grew into a very suitable Linux operating system with two equally efficient desktop environments. Both choices give you a full range of controls over system performance.


SolydXK 10 Xfce desktop edition

SolydXK 10’s Xfce desktop edition comes with a good assortment of default applications.


Linux Mint, perhaps best known for its flagship Cinnamon desktop, also has several other desktop environments. These editions are all based on Ubuntu Linux. So the distinction between SolydXK’s desktop editions and those same environments in Linux Mint and other distros offering the same desktops is significant.

The Linux Mint developers later introduced Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) as an experimental project to see how the Linux Mint lineup would fair with a Debian Linux base. It offers only the Cinnamon desktop.

The real distinction between choosing the SolydXK options of Xfce or KDE Plasma desktop environments rests with the distribution base of Debian versus Ubuntu in other distros. I see very few added features on either desktop. For typical users, the steadfast performance in SolydXK may be all it takes for full adoption.


SolydXK 10 KDE Plasma desktop

SolydXK 10’s integration of the KDE Plasma desktop offers a unified desktop view with a user interface similar to the companion desktop offering.


SolydXK’s uniqueness lies in the software choices the community includes compared to the same desktop options in other distros. The other differences remain under the hood.

X Versus K

The Xfce desktop is a Linux standard that provides uncomplicated desktop handling with a stuffed toolbox of settings tools. The settings offer numerous options that let you tweak how the OS looks and works. All it lacks in eye candy from fancy displays and desktop animations.

KDE Plasma is a long-standing favorite desktop that has changed drastically in recent releases to simplify its use and modernize its appeal. It has settings that let you add desktop widgets and desktop visuals that add handy features.

Either choice could eliminate any need for new desktop creations that have yet to find a level of maturity and stability. If your computer hardware is starting to show its age, try out SolydXK’s Xfce edition first. It packs a lot of power.

The Xfce edition is a lightweight environment that leaves you feeling like nothing is missing. The KDE Plasma version is a more heavyweight rendition with trimmed down bells and whistles.

The major differences between them are the cadre of applications indigenous to each desktop environment. The look and feel of each one is very different.

What’s Inside

This latest release of SolydXK 10 is based on the Debian Buster 10.1 release with the latest kernel version 4.19. An added feature can be quite handy, especially if you crave additional security. The developers have a fundraising deal of sorts with NordVPN for Virtual Private Network services.

If you create a new NordVPN account, SolydXK gets a small commission. That in turn helps support the continued development of SoldydXK. You can install the NordVPN application with the system tray icon or through the SolydXK Welcome screen.

Both editions come with a shortlist of productivity applications. Version 6.1.5.2 of LibreOffice is included. You also get Firefox ESR as the default Web browser. Of course, you can add specific applications from the package managers.

The Xfce version has a far better collection of desktop tools and other default software. The KDE version is almost devoid of any of the standard KDE software family applications.

Overall, you see a more unified common layout and software content regardless of which edition you install. From there, you can make the OS what you want it to be.

Bottom Line

SolydXK is a well-designed and well-managed Linux distro. You can not go wrong with SolydXK. It provides a state-of-the-art Linux platform.

I particularly like its emphasis on no-nonsense computing without bogging down users in mundane setup and tinkering. I constantly look for Linux distros that do not try to reinvent the wheel. SolydXK will not discourage newcomers and will not turn off seasoned Linux users.

This distro takes something old and makes it new again. It is a very workable combination.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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