SolusOS Eveline review: awesome Debian based distro that still uses Gnome2

Two days ago I found out about SolusOS from DistroWatch and it immediately caught my interest. SolusOS is a Linux distro based on Debian and it uses Gnome2 as the desktop environment. And since it is the truth that many Linux users still prefer Gnome2 over Unity and Gnome3 and are searching for Linux distros that use Gnome2, I believe everybody would be interested in a review for SolusOS.

SolusOS review

Currently you only have the 32 bit version of SolusOS to download, the size of the ISO image is 983 MB so you need to use a DVD or a USB to test and install it. You can download SolusOS Eveline here, there are both direct download and torrent options for you to choose.

SolusOS review - installation

After downloading the ISO image, I created a live USB for and tried it on my laptop, the live USB ran very fast and smoothly. However, to thoroughly test the distro, I decided to install SolusOS as a dedicated system on my laptop.

The installer of SolusOS is a little bit different from the Ubiquity installer of Ubuntu but the installing steps are still very similar. The only thing that can cause problem is the partitions table but if you already know how to use GParted, it will still be a piece of cake. And when you are on that step, remember to right click on the partitions to edit the file system and the mount points. Besides, SolusOS uses Grub instead of Grub2 as the boot loader and the default Grub boot loader is already decorated with a bluish background ( you will see it after you reboot the system). The installing ran quite fast, took me around 10 minutes to finish. Here are the screenshots of the whole installing process of SolusOS:

Solus OS review installation
Choose language

Solus OS 2012 review
Select timezone

SolusOS Linux review
Select Keyboard Layout

SolusOS Eveline review
The disk partitions configuration menu

SolusOS Linux
Right click on the partition to choose the mount point

Install Grub bootloader

Installing SolusOS

Everything is done. Reboot and enjoy SolusOS

SolusOS review - first impressions

After you reboot and run SolusOS the first time, you will be presented to the First Run Wizard, something similar to what you see after a fresh install on Windows. I really like the idea of First Run Wizard, it gives you an introduction about the Operating System and check all the issues you may have after the fresh install. If you decide to install SolusOS as a dedicated Operating System, dont skip the First Run Wizard after the first reboot ( First Run Wizard automatically appears only in the first boot up of SolusOS, if you want to use it another time, you can search for it in the Gnomeu).

First Run Wizard has 5 pages. The first page is the welcome page, on which you will see 4 useful links to know more about SolusOS. If you click on the first, second or fourth links, you will be directed to the official website, forum and wiki page of SolusOS, which are opened with Firefox. If you click on the third option ( chat with SolusOS users live), Xchat will open and lead you to the irc channel of SolusOS:


The next page of First Run Wizard is about Network and Firewall configuration:


The third page of First Run Wizard detected my ATI graphic card and asked me to pick the driver to install. I chose the proprietary driver and the downloading ran very fast and everything runs well after a reboot:


The fourth page is about update manager configuration:


The last page is to ask for donation:


SolusOS review - look and feel

The default desktop of SolusOS is clean and very elegant. It's just the good old Gnome 2 desktop with one gnome panel at the bottom, on which we can see the Cardapio menu button on the left and some popular widgets on the right. There are two gtk themes pre-installed in SolusOS and they both look really nice, one is Victory and the other is Zuki Blues. To change themes and icons in SolusOS, you just need to right click on the desktop screen and you will see the theme editing option.

SolusOS desktop
SolusOS desktop with Victory gtk theme
SolusOS Linux desktop
SolusOS desktop with Zuki Blues gtk theme
And as you can see in the two screenshots above, SolusOS also comes with the Faenza icon set and 2 of its variants, ie Faenza dark and Faenza Cupertino. The other preinstalled icon sets in Solus OS are Elementary and the default Gnome icon set.

Besides the gtk themes, icon sets and a collection of nice wallpapers, for the sake of an eyecandy-ish desktop, SolusOS also includes Compiz Manager so users can play around with all the cool effects and stuffs like opacity, wobbly, desktop cubes ... right on SolusOS without any additional installation.


Pre-installed Applications

Together with Compiz, there are many other nice applications pre-installed in SolusOS. For internet usage, you have the latest Firefox 12.0 as the web-browser(Adobe flash is already installed for Firefox), Pidgin and Xchat for chatting, Thunderbird as the mail client, Dropbox to share and store your files only and Minitube to watch youtube videos. For office work, you have LibreOffice 3.5. For multimedia, you have VLC, Rhythmbox, Movie Player, Gnomeplayer, OpenShot, Cheese, Brasero, Pulse Audio and Sound Recorder. All the media codec packages are pre-installed so you can watch movies and listen to music right after installing SolusOS. To help users install Windows applications and games, SolusOS also has Wine and PlayOnLinux. In short, SolusOS comes with all the necessary applications that an average computer would need to use.

But if you need to install more applications, you can do it with ease in SolusOS. Since SolusOS is based on Debian just like Ubuntu, you can use the "apt-get install" command to install new packages. SolusOS also has a software center for those who dont like using the terminal. However, I think the Software Center of SolusOS is not as good as that of Ubuntu or Linux Mint. The Software Center of SolusOS doesnt give you the prompt when you type the application name so you must remember exactly the name of the application when you search in the search box. You can search by categories in the Software Center as well but another problem is that it will list all the applications with the same icon so it's quite cumbersome to read all the application names to find the one you want. In the Software Center of Ubuntu, you can search for applications much faster by looking at the application icons.


To find and launch your applications, you can use Cardapio Menu on the left corner of the gnome panel. You can browse through categories or use the search box to search for the application names. For a quicker launch of your favorite applications, you can just drag the application icons to the desktop screen and launch them from the desktop just like how you do in Windows.


Conclusion

After several hours of using SolusOS as my main distro, I havent encountered any problems so far. All the laptop function keys work right out of the box. The ATI driver runs very smoothly. There is no problem with the temperature of the laptop and my 3G USB works nicely as well. And in my personal opinion, SolusOS is even better than the old versions of Ubuntu that used Gnome2 as the desktop environment, not only in the look and feel but also in the performance. If you want a user-friendly and work-out-of-the-box Linux distro with the good old Gnome 2 desktop environment, SolusOS is definitely one of the best choices for you.
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