Solus 4.0 Fortitude Budgie review – Not bad, kind of unique
Updated: April 15, 2019
If distributions had personalities, then it would be fair to say that
Solus and I never got along on. I liked the promise of Solus and
what it could deliver, but somehow, this never translated into successful, prolonged usage, mostly
because it used a custom bootloader, and things weren’t that simple on that front.
I got a blizzard of emails from you, asking, demanding and cajoling me to try the latest version,
one merrily and optimistically named
Fortitude. Well, that sure sounds promising, so I grabbed the
Budgie version and went about a-testin’. But then, instead of going for my Lenovo G50 machine, I
decided to try running it on the old RD510 machine, which has recently seen credence revival in the
MX-18. But that’s just a side point, because we want to
see how well Solus stands on its own, and there’s a Nvidia card in the mix, too. Let’s do it.
Windows Phone: Live session
Booted fine, no issues. Solus 4.0 comes with a pleasant desktop that uses the classic formula –
bottom panel, shortcuts, the full plethora of windows buttons. I wasn’t keen on the dark theme, but
that’s something we will discuss shortly. In a way, it reminds me of
Zorin, but whereas the former goes for a lot of over-bright colors and
low contrast, this one aims for the opposite.
Like Zorin, or rather Dark Zorin.
At this point, I only tried Wireless – both in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, good. Samba sharing –
nope. Solus does tell you they disable the old stuff for security reasons, and they have a page that
shows how to re-enable the outdated protocols, but this just didn’t work well. We shall have to revisit
this after the installation. To that end, I left printing and Bluetooth for later, too.
Look & feel, customization
Solus uses Budgie, which is derived from Gnome 3, and meant to be simple and elegant. I did find it
visually fresh, and it sure does add to the rather unfriendly defaults. You have the ability to use
desktop icons if you like, you can pin shortcuts to the button panel, you have an application menu with
search. Not bad. But there’s no
show desktop button anywhere. And you can’t just pin icons to
the panel via right-click in the menu, you need to open the desired application(s) first.
I spent a few minutes tweaking the looks. You can manage the desktop using the Budgie Desktop
settings, and there’s a lot of useful stuff there. Toggling the dark theme off wasn’t enough, I also
had to change the widget theme to Pluma-Light or better yet Pluma. This can be more streamlined.
Much better this way; dark themes only work on the mobile, never on the
The fonts are clear and crisp enough, and the contrast is decent, but they can be perhaps 1pt
bigger. I didn’t like the extra padding on screenshots, where you get to see about 1cm of screen equity
all around selected windows. There’s a reason why I’d want only a particular window and nothing else.
Then, whatever is in the background also get in the frame, so you need to minimize all other windows to
do that – and this ain’t easy with no desktop button for that.
I did hit a problem – no Trash. Trying to delete files resulted in a weird error – and also notice
the background thingie, which highlights the screenshot problem I just mentioned. I only wanted the
(modal) dialog and not the application behind it. The delete problem happens both inside the image
viewer and the file manager. No idea what gives here.
Where is the disk?
And then, something weird happened. During the test, I left the laptop unattended and it suspended
itself after a while. When I powered it on, it actually worked fine. You’re wondering why this is
special. Well, on this particular laptop, no distro has EVER been able to do a successful wake from
suspend due to an ancient and never fixed issue when using the
AHCI mode. But this only came to bear with Nvidia
drivers, and in the live session, the distro was running Nouveau, and indeed, I was able to continue
working, somewhat to my surprise but then not really, and seemingly, there were no problems until I
decided to run the installer and set up the system. It was at this point I discovered the hard disk had
[ 3075.043690] ata1.00: disabled
[ 3075.043714] sd 0:0:0:0: rejecting I/O to offline device
[ 3075.043730] ata1.00: detaching (SCSI 0:0:0:0)
What happened was – the laptop did wake, the bug did bite, but instead of a completely borked
session as I’d normally get, this time, I had a soft error, whereby only the SATA link had died, and in
the live session, this did not matter much. I had to reboot. But first copy the screenshots so I
wouldn’t lose all the data I’ve collected so far.
This was another challenge – since I couldn’t do Samba or write to the local disk, I connected a
smartphone, copied files to it, and then copied it over to a different system. So very 90s and then
not. But I was using a sophisticated USB drive to do this. However, it did prove that Solus 4.0 was
handling my Android-powered
Aquaris phone just fine.
I did reboot and then resume the testing – but mostly focused on the installation. I left the rest
of the juicy stuff for later. My immediate concern was to install Solus, and then do the testing all
Windows Phone: Installation
This was an uneventful process. Reasonable. You have the option to use location services to set up
your timezone. Not sure how many laptops or whatever have GPS. Then, the partitioner is fairly smart,
and it suggested making the Mint Sylvia partition smaller as the (safe) default. I decided to do my own
thing. The wizard is a little counter-intuitive in that you must select the mount point before you can
select the format option. And then, there’s the bootloader step. No fancy slides, but the whole thing
was pretty fast, and it only took about 15 minutes total. Again, not bad for an old machine.
No wide alpha border for the installer window.
Windows Phone: Playing with Solus
I noticed there was a GRUB menu, controlled by Solus. So if I’m not mistaken, the dev team must have
chosen to abandon the custom bootloader setup and just go with what pretty much 100% of Linux distros
use, and this sure is a better, more streamlined option. Very fast boot, and boom, login screen.
Indeed, I’m impressed with how fast Solus boots, probably the
fastest I’ve seen in at least five-six years on this particular
Startup finished in 1.331s (kernel) + 3.773s (initrd) +
13.182s (userspace) = 18.287s
graphical.target reached after 12.953s in userspace
No settings were preserved from the live session, so I had to make all the changes manually. Shame.
But the system was behaving well so far, so some of that good fortune seemed to be rubbing off nicely
I invested a lot of energy getting this right. It turns out, Solus uses Samba that is hard-coded to
read its configuration from /usr/share/defaults/samba and then include custom settings from /etc/samba.
I find this weird, but okay. It also means if you want the protocol to work well with all the different
Windows boxen, you need to edit the former. I followed the official instructions on the Solus site, and
this didn’t work.
What did work was just adding the configuration tweak as I wrote in my
Bionic article, and commenting out all the other SMB1/2/3
settings, and this did help, and finally, in Files, I could authenticate and connect to my Windows
hosts, and do the whole file sharing thingie. Exhausting but doable. And totally unnecessary.
Other network connectivity
Bluetooth setup was slow, but in the end, it worked just fine. Printing – the system detected all my
different devices, including Samba printers (after the tweak). If not for the overzealous security
setup, this could be a really nice one. In fact, all it takes is to just use the deny hosts option in
smb.conf and only allow local addresses, and that’s it. For a home setup, this is more than enough.
Package management & updates
Sweet. The applet is friendly and all. Clean and simple. You have the option to use different
groupings of updates, and the package manager also has a third-party software category, where you can
grab some of the popular, modern stuff that people want and expect but aren’t necessarily found through
the repo channels. You can only install one at a time, though. The updates were pretty fast.
Not sure about word wrapping.
This worked fine – MP3 and HD video, no issues. Smooth playback for the HD files, despite the