I was hoping to get started on a video series this week which would be a tour of different MVC web frameworks, but my daughter was born so I had to scratch that due to lack of time/sleep. I did, however, have time to install Solus on my thinkpad T470 which I just received so I will give a quick overview of that and how I have been using Solus and what I think thus far.
The Hype is Real
I know there is a lot of buzz going around linuxland about Solus, and I was skeptical at first as well. I did my research, and checked it out (you can read about that here ) and can confirm that it is as good as I thought, so far. I had a few issues, surprisingly none with the package repository, I suppose my needs are fairly basic.
First I will reiterate, Solus is fast - incredibly so. I don’t think I’ve seen a faster distro. Not only is it fast with Budgie, I also installed Gnome (to check it out), which was incredibly fast compared to Fedora. I think they disabled animations on Gnome, but the defaults were incredibly fast. And the final Window Manager I checked out, the one I am currently writing this post on with ghostwriter, is i3.
Once again the defaults for i3 were incredible. Not because it is fast, i3 is fast on almost anything, but because the sane defaults they give on a global level. Out of the box i3 was nicely styled with icons for sound battery, fullscreen and floating windows are setup, and I should mention it is using i3 gaps! How lovely. It is easy to override this by creating a i3 config in your home directory. I have a config for i3 in my dotfiles on github, but I found myself copying and modifying their config as it was so nice.
Budgie has been great, one small complain I have though is there is no ctrln or ctrlp movement on the menu. Coming from Gnome and i3, I like to use the keyboard to launch apps, which can be done with the meta key on budgie which launches a searchable menu, however, I find myself wanting to type less to select something, or move down the list without the arrow keys. Not a problem, just a finicky detail. Keep in mind I have been using vim a bloody long time and recently emacs every now and then, so I like to avoid using my mouse.
Speaking of the devil, I love using the trackpoint when I have to use a mouse, however, by default it is bloody slow. This is where the trouble started. At first I created a udev rule to change sensitivity and speed on startup, following a guide I found online to no avail. So,I created a script which worked fine, and tried to create a service for systemd to use - which did not. I remember doing this in arch with a t420 some years ago and it was pretty straight forward, but could not get it working on Solus. I did some research and found some users reported they needed to add a path for systemd to wait for, as it tries to run the script to early on boot. No go. I ran
systemctl status trackpoint.path which said waiting. The service would run fine with
systemctl start trackpoint.service from the terminal, but this is the same as running a script manually and not what I wanted. So I spent a few hours of my day researching and found the problem. The guide I used to write the udev rule led me to believe that
WAIT_FORwas deprecated in favour of
DEVPATH. I confirmed this with the best evidence there is,
DEVPATH was highlighted in vim and
WAIT_FOR was not. Looking back seems obvious I should have tried using
WAIT_FOR but I didn’t and instead wasted a few precious hours. But it is working fine now I am glad to say, still curious why systemd service did not work though.
Besides that, I found somethings I did not like, nor understand the reasoning behind. ~
fdisk nor cfdisk are installed or even available in packages. This would clearly have to be a decision made with good reasoning, however I can’t seem to imagine why. I like to use ~. There are some other gripes that all seem to be revolving around the way Solus believes you should work, for instance I still haven’t found out how to customize tty font, I like to use tty from time to time and the font is incredibly small, so I have to run
fdisk -l before I run
dd to be sure I am writing to the usb, but I had to use
gnome-disks for that. Again, not a big deal, just a minor annoyance
setfont iso02-12x22 every bloody time I use tty. Basically, if you have used linux for sometime, things have changed and it makes me feel like a newbie again. Some people may like that, but I have spent a considerable time using linux and BSD and have no desire to track down files again. The last example I will give, remember the i3 config I said was so glorious? Well, they put
/etc which is convenient, and then they put the i3 config in
/usr/share/defaults/i3/config which is fine, but choose one directory - they are both quite related.
Besides these minor gripes, and my more basic instincts reaching for the comfort of a familiar Arch or Fedora USB I have pushed on and been mostly delighted by the speed and minimalism of this distro. Sure Arch can be minimalistic (though most people do not use it as such) but Solus fights off bloat like a ninja in the night. I will say it has been a good experience so far, I have also been hanging around
#budgie-desktop-dev on irc (Freenode) and the community is very welcoming and helpful. I didn’t ask many questions as I wanted to see how hard trouble shooting is. If you want to use your computer for development or productivity, this is definitely your distro. I haven’t tried gaming as I want to keep my laptop as a work machine, but Steam is there if you want as well as Nvidia graphics drivers. I would definitely still recommend this distro, but we will see how I feel in a month or so.
As it stands it has been great for my workflow as a web developer (fullstack/backend), I am currently working on a project in Elixir (yay!) and erlang is in the repos, ruby is too although I use rvm, openjdk, and intellij (yay again!) are available (intellij from third party, of course). I have found Budgie to be good to use once you enable workspaces it feels like a lightweight gnome/xfce blend. Perhaps that doesn’t do it justice, but I believe that this will become a very popular DE for people new to linux and intermediate alike. There are still a few hiccups, but it is young, and they all seem to be on the visual end.
Ikey Doherty kindly contacted me on Twitter to clarify that fdisk and cfdisk are available and preinstalled as part of util-linux. They can be accessed via sudo. I noticed that shutdown eg.
shutdown -r now needed sudo as well, it never crossed my mind to try sudo for fdisk/cfdisk but it does make sense. Also worth mentioning, I posted this article at 1AM Colombia Standard Time, and Ikey responded by 6AM. That is really impressive and shows how much he cares about this project. Great community and superb founder.