I have been watching the progress with Solus Linux from afar for some time now. I’ve even had other Freedom Penguin contributors share their thoughts on Solus. So when I decided to give everyone my review, I wanted to make sure I cover the basics…then move on to the stuff I cared about – using it as a daily driver.
Solus is not based on any other distro. It’s a Linux unto itself and this article shares my experience with it.
Solus Review – The installation
Honestly, installing any modern Linux distro is incredibly uneventful and boring. This isn’t a bad thing, rather a point of fact we need to remember when we read about or watch someone doing a Linux review. With that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, there are some cool items of note with the Solus installation I’d like to point out.
The user security policy for Solus is great. Some distros will allow you to utilize terrible passwords limited to under five characters. Solus puts its foot down on this practice and requires the passwords be longer than some newbies might be inclined to run with.
Because of this, I ended up going with a seven character password that Solus allowed without any further delay.
Another nice touch that made my day was that Solus presented me with the option to add additional users to the upcoming Solus installation. Best of all, the summary of each user to be added is explicitly clear as to the abilities and control granted to said user.
From here, I finished up my Solus installation and was ready to see what the desktop had to offer.
Solus Review – First impressions of Budgie
The Budgie desktop is fantastic. It’s responsive, logically laid out and reflects a balance between staying out of your way while respecting the traditional desktop experience.
One of my favorite highlights is how Budgie utilizes a traditional menu launcher, yet the settings and other elements of the desktop still manage to utilize some of its GNOME Shell roots (speaking of the gtk elements Budgie is NOT based on GNOME Shell). I especially appreciate the Budgie settings that seem to borrow the best of GNOME Tweaks, but do so in a more integrated way.
Solus Review – Package management
Last time I tried Solus, I found most of the programs I needed, yet still had to put in a couple of requests for some that I found missing. In 2017, Solus has added these applications that I need in addition to providing Flatpak support.
Software like Simplenote, MakeMKV, OBS Studio, Wire – all available in the software repositories. There is also a growing number of third party (often proprietary) software is also available in the Third Party section of the package manager.
The available Third Party applications is also impressive. All of the expected titles ranging from Chrome, Plex, Skype, Slack and Enpass are included. I especially appreciated seeing the inclusion of the Google Talk plugin. This is what allows us to use services like G+ Hangouts.
One final aspect I wanted to touch on is that there is a setting in the Software Center for those of you who might be on metered bandwidth. This is helpful as it’s turned on by default and helps to prevent heavy data usage when checking for updates.
Solus Review – Odds and Ends
In the above video, I touched on installing and running software that wasn’t made available in the Solus repositories. First off, it turns out that while you can absolutely run PIA (the VPN provider) using the OpenVPN client with 100% success, the Linux application that comes with the OpenVPN PIA script doesn’t work as I initially thought.
Next up is the PulseAudio Equalizer. I haven’t tested this yet outside of a virtual machine environment just yet. However, based on testing the GUI aspect of it, I believe it does indeed work and will be providing a tutorial on this later on.
I have been wrestling with the best way to review Ubuntu 17.10. After all, I have been an Ubuntu user in one form or another for many years. In recent years, the Unity desktop turned me off and I found myself doing a bit of distro hopping. After trying various distros, I ended up relying on Ubuntu MATE as my goto distro of choice.
Today, I will be looking at reviewing Ubuntu 17.10 with nearly zero recent Ubuntu 17.10 exposure. Outside of installing Kodi on to Ubuntu 17.10, I haven’t even installed software on it.
Today’s Ubuntu 17.10 review will be taking a look at Ubuntu’s latest release with a fresh set of eyes. So join me as we check out this crazy distro.
Ubuntu 17.10 First Boot
When I first booted up my copy of Ubuntu 17.10 in preparation for my Kodi server article, I didn’t initially put together the fact that it’s running Wayland by default. I only noticed this when I went to boot into Kodi from the login screen, for my other article. The mention of “Ubuntu on Xorg” caught my eye and I was prompted to look deeper.
I ran the following command to verify that Wayland was in fact being used:
As expected, the results indicated Wayland was in use.
The general layout of the icons on the left hand side definitely reminded me just how much I didn’t miss Unity. So I decided to see what kind of control I might have over the dock placement.
I started by diving into the Activities menu in the upper left. I typed “dock” and immediately found two options: Settings and Ubuntu Dock Settings. I decided to bow to my slightly skewed sense of logic and clicked onto Ubuntu Dock Settings. This mouse click immediately brought me to the Dock settings I was looking for.
I will admit that I was disappointed that I could only make the icons in the dock scale up to 64. However that most likely comes down to the size of the icons made available on the system, not the dock settings directly. On the plus side, auto-hide for the dock worked perfectly and I felt like we were off to a good start.
Ubuntu 17.10 Appearances
After fixing the dock settings to better reflect my personal preferences, I immediately maximized the settings window. I regretted do this almost immediately. While I support the GNOME desktop on Ubuntu making an effort to use a gradient color to show the spatial differences between the GNOME desktop upper bar and the window’s top bar, visually it looks pretty weird. The top of the file manager looks “pushed in” instead of simply providing a clear divide between the top of the file manager and the calendar/indicator area.
Luckily, however, this is the GNOME desktop. Therefore, it stands to reason that I can simply install an extension to address this issue. Right? Not in Firefox you can’t! To be fair, I could have simply downloaded the “shell version” of the installer for the needed extension. But the idea is that this new GNOME version of Ubuntu is supposed to be pretty slick. Therefore I’d like to install the extension in my browser. After running into the same issue with Chromium, I realized it’s yet another instance of software that should have been included or at least promoted along with restricted codecs during installation.
Turns out in order to install needed GNOME to browser integration, you must first do this on Ubuntu 17.10:
sudo apt install chrome-gnome-shell
Once this is completed, you simply need to make sure your have your GNOME Shell Integration addon installed to your Chromium or Firefox browser.
From the extension page, I turned on the Hide Top Bar toggle switch, clicked install and poof – my GNOME top bar disappeared. When I closed the browser window, it then reappeared. Awesome! Only one issue…how do I control it without browsing back to the extension page where I installed it? As it turns out, this type of functionality is once again, left out of the default installation for Ubuntu 17.10.
To better control my GNOME extensions, I would need to install GNOME Tweaks from the software center. Once installed, I was finally feeling like the Ubuntu 17.10 desktop was presenting a “mostly” complete user experience. I also found myself with another revelation – tweak tools needs to be included with the default installation under Settings…even if it’s hidden as “Advanced Options.”
Let’s be honest, while some of the tweaks functionality may be redundant when held against the default Settings provided by Ubuntu. Fact of the matter is that the tweaks tool does some stuff far better. For example, startup programs. Look at the screenshot below and tell me which one looks easier for a newbie to use? Even the tweak tool’s desktop font manager blows away the functionality provided by Ubuntu settings.
Moving on to the rest of the desktop appearance, everything is pretty much as we’d expect from an Ubuntu release. Default provided colorful wallpapers to choose from. Decent default font selection for most users. Unfortunately, I did not see a readily available area in the settings or other areas of the GUI to turn on indicators or change my icons. Thankfully, I installed the GNOME Tweak tool previously. I was able to have some control over my clock appearance and battery percentage if I was on a laptop.
Ubuntu 17.10 Software Center
The current iteration of the Ubuntu Software Center (now based on GNOME’s store), is quite pleasant to use. It immediately won me over when I first opened it and began discovering new software previously unknown to me such as Hiri and Wavebox.
I was also surprised to discover that there was a menu for GNOME shell extensions buried under Addons, Shell Extensions. As it turns out, this isn’t a part of the GNOME Tweaks application. Instead, this is buried functionality that is placed in the absolute stupidest area of the desktop anyone could conceive of. On a positive note, I was happy to see it at least does exist…even if it’s not something you can locate by searching the Activities search function. So plus one for the option being available, but only with a red check mark across it as it’s hidden.
Ubuntu 17.10 Help
While it may seem like I’ve been bit harsh on Ubuntu in this article, take note. Not all is seen in a negative light. The Ubuntu 17.10 Help feature is outstanding. After disabling the Internet in order to make sure we’re not simply rendering remote website help pages, I opened up the Ubuntu Help guide.
Everything within the guide is clear, concise and laid out in such a manner as not to frustrate the newcomer trying to get something working. To test this theory, I browsed over to Networking,web and email. I then clicked on Wireless Networking and then after reading over the page contents for Wireless Networking, settled upon the Wireless network troubleshooter.
This page plainly points out what we’re going to be doing and even warns us that yes, some command line stuff will be used in this guide. Nice! As I click next and read on, I was immediately presented with proper steps to take to troubleshooting any wireless issues a user might have. We learned to perform initial checks, gather device information, check for device recognition by Ubuntu.
I love this help tool. Details like wireless device revision numbers and other elements that even some experienced Linux enthusiasts might miss when frustrated are explored here. In my opinion, this is what makes this distro shine – usable help is available even without an Internet connection.
Ubuntu 17.10 is best for whom?
So who is the target user base for Ubuntu 17.10? As much as I’d like to say newbies, I simply can’t do that. The help tool is very newbie friendly and would do well to have a variation on other GNOME-based distros. But GNOME 3 itself, even with Ubuntu development tweaks, is simply not going to win over someone used to a traditional menu layout.
That said, I can say that while I still dislike the handling of GNOME extensions, indicators and other desktop elements, Ubuntu 17.10 is lightning fast, stable and has the basics in place to get the job done for most people used to a Linux desktop.
What say you? Does Ubuntu 17.10 provide you with the experience you’re looking for? Hit the comments, let’s talk about it.
Looking for a Linux distribution that is both easy to use and extremely customizable? Look no further than Ubuntu Mate! Ubuntu Mate has proven to be a very popular distribution ever since its release. The latest release, 17.10, should prove just as popular, as there are a whole host of improvements.
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