Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Review of SolydX 201401


An Introduction to Solyd, the New Kid on the Block

Not long ago, Linux Mint offered a flavor known as Linux Mint Debian Xfce.. When Linux Mint discontinued this flavor, those developers and users that wished to keep it going forked from Linux Mint to create their own separate distro, SolydX. The same history applies to Solyd's other flavor, SolydK, forked from now-defunct Linux Mint Debian KDE.

SolydX and SolydK are both rolling releases, which means the user need only install the operating system once to receive automatic updates in a similar fashion as Windows. As in Windows, reboots may occasionally be necessary during updates. The rolling release model stands in contrast to default Ubuntu-based versions of Linux Mint, which require complete reinstallation to install a new version.

Solyd's Update Manager bears a striking resemblance to Linux Mint's Update Manager

Although Solyd users can point their update manager directly to Debian Testing, which is the ultimate source of all Solyd updates, the default configuration points the update manager to Solyd's own repository for a very good reason. Solyd developers test new updates before adding them to Solyd's repository. Updates that cause breakages are delayed or modified. This results in greater stability for the end user, hence the name "Solyd."

To install new software, a user can use either Solyd's Software Manager or Synaptic Package Manager. I usually use the Software Manager, which is bug-free, unlike the one found in recent editions of Kubuntu and Xubuntu. Solyd's Software Manager works all the time, without reporting an internal error in a pop-up dialogue and asking the user for permission to transmit a detailed error report. Solyd's Software Manager also has some helpful user reviews, though I believe the reviews are now divorced from the pool provided by Ubuntu, and Linux Mint has its own separate pool as well. I would prefer that all the Linux distros pooled their review base, but I suppose competition interferes with efficiency in this area.

Solyd's Software Manager also resembles Linux Mint's


Why Choose Solyd over, say, Linux Mint or Xubuntu?

Do you want the latest versions of your applications? As of this writing, the latest version of Digikam in the 201401 edition of SolydX and SolydK is 3.5, whereas the very latest releases of Xubuntu and Linux Mint are limping along with version 3.3. Why care about the latest versions? Well, the updated version may have an important bug fix or a brand new feature that means a great deal to you. I don't see the point in waiting around for Ubuntu to finish their meditation on the meaning of life before I can get the latest edition of Digikam. Here's what Solyd offers me right now, today:

I don't wait around for Ubuntu before grabbing the latest copy of Digikam hot off the presses

Does your HTPC use VLC to watch movies? Then the latest version of VLC might be something you really care about. Right now, Xubuntu 13.10 is limping along with version 2.08 for no real reason other than they haven't gotten around to making a new release yet. Well, too bad. SolydX is ready with VLC version 2.12 Rincewind right now, today:

Do you play one of the most awesome games around for Linux, which is Wesnoth? Well, Wesnoth did release version 1.10.7 about two months prior to the release of Ubuntu version 13.10, but Ubuntu chose not to include it for whatever reason, possibly feature freeze or some such thing. SolydX offers 1.10.7, no question about it, no nonsense, it's right there in the repository, just grab it:

Solyd offers the latest stable of Wesnoth

There are other, esoteric reasons for preferring Solyd, for those that would rather their distribution shed some of the baggage that comes with a Ubuntu-based distro. I have yet to notice anything lacking in Solyd due to the absence of a Ubuntu base.

Why I Chose SolydX

Of the two flavors offered by Solyd, I opted for SolydX, which uses the light-as-a-mouse--hence the mascot--XFCE desktop environment. SolydX fit the bill for my $95 Thinkpad R61 laptop with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2 GB of RAM. Why are these reliable Thinkpads that run Linux like a champ so darn cheap nowadays? I don't know. A better question may be, why do my good friends spend $500 on a brand new laptop just to run Windows 8? Alas, I don't know the answer to that, either.

The cousin of SolydX, SolydK, has its merits, too, and many people prefer its KDE desktop environment. I like the superb applications that tend to be included in KDE, such as K3b for burning DVDs and Digikam for managing photo collections. Dolphin is a pretty competent file manager, as well. I would recommend SolydK to anyone with a more powerful computer than mine.

Some people fear that the many excellent KDE applications may not work quite as well in an XFCE environment, but that's just not the case. I replaced a few of SolydX's application choices. I installed KDE applications Digikam, K3b, and Ktorrent and use them often. I've heard about Gnome's Transmission, which has many devoted fans, but Ktorrent is what I'm used to and it has never let me down.

Xfce boots fast, and that's important to me because I don't like waiting around. Another thing I like about Xfce is the file manager, Thunar, which fully supports time-saving custom actions.

I made a couple of changes to SolydX's desktop environment. The first of course was to the calendar. Everyone has their own preference, I suppose, but mine specifically is %R on %A, %B %d, %Y, and feel free to copy and paste that bit into your own desktop clock. I'm a diehard when it comes to military time. I don't see the need for the suffixes AM or PM and just want my time displayed in 24-hour format. AM and PM put me in mind of the Middle Ages and sundials.

The second change was to the wallpaper. I eliminated it. It's not really bad or anything, but I'm bothered that the computer has to load a .jpg file and keep it in memory just to fill up the screen. I want to bypass that load and shave a few milliseconds off the boot time. What I really like, anyway, is pure pitch black, or hex code #000000. A wallpaper would have to be awfully good to beat pitch black.

My Off button, a handy little time-saver, executes "/sbin/shutdown -Ph now"

In stark contrast to Xubuntu, SolydX has just a single panel. I use Xubuntu on two computers, but don't care for Xubuntu's two-panel approach, with one panel at the top of the screen and one panel at the bottom. A single panel will be most familiar to users of Windows, and I come from a Windows background.

Changes to SolydX and SolydK Introduced in 2014

Released on January 25th, 2014, the latest edition of SolydX and SolydK heralds an important strategic change. Going forward, the developers have wisely opted to change the update process from monthly to quarterly, which I think is better for both developers and users. Developers can spend more time adding features for the users and less time on the drudgery of updates, while users won't have to do massive downloads every month. A monthly update in my opinion may be too risky. There are thousands of different hardware configurations out there in the Linux user community, and every system can be a little bit different in one way or another. There is a lot that can go wrong, and not all problems can be foreseen. Limiting updates also mitigates risk. There is a golden balance that needs to be achieved between risk of breakage and enjoying up-to-date applications. In my opinion, either quarterly or even biannual updates offer the perfect balance. Either timeframe surpasses the Ubuntu family's nine-month schedule.


My laptop still uses the latest version of SolydX and I remain pleased with it. I have not encountered any problems and have enjoyed newer versions of applications that are not available on my Xubuntu-based computers.

At the moment, I only use Xubuntu and SolydX, both of which use the XFCE desktop environment. Xubuntu runs my workhorse computer and my HTPC, and SolydX runs my laptop, but I may introduce SolydX to the other computers in the future as I gain more confidence in it.

The only thing I miss in SolydX is the menu editor that is found in Settings in Xubuntu. However, it can be added to the Settings menu. XFCE's menu editor seems buggy, anyway, at least from my experience on Xubuntu, and that may be why the SolydX developers chose not to add it to the Settings menu.

What I really like about SolydX is having access to the latest and greatest applications and never having to reinstall. If that's important to you, too, then you should definitely look at this distro. Click here to visit their web site.


Anonymous said...

I have been using Solyd X for the last couple months, bouncing around trying out new live ditro's as they come out looking for the one.
And it was on my computer all the time.
Works great,fast with no problems on my dell optiplex 745, it leaves my latest greatest work laptop with windows 7 in the dust.

Anonymous said...

only glaring (not critical) mistype (of trivial nature) solydk (KDE) was not started when LMDE (their is a major difference from regular mints), their never was a official KDE fork. It was a unofficial fork of LMDE, when they decided to not release a KDE version at all (of LMDE) it went it separate ways.
Also LMDE and SOLYD are debian NOT Ubuntu (they don't always mix well), so some of the Synaptic/Xubuntu comments are wrong.

Anonymous said...

I use SolydK now for about three months on my mean pc. No problems 'til today. I hope the distribution to be continued.

Anonymous said...

I've also been using SolydK on my main desktop for about six months. I love it, solid as a rock but useful as a toolbox.

Eddie said...

"SolydX and SolydK are both rolling releases, which means the user need only install the operating system once to receive automatic updates in a similar fashion as Windows."

Just to clarify a few things. MS Windows is in no way, shape, or form like a rolling release. Furthermore most distros I know of receive automatic updates after they are installed. Rolling releases should let you update the system even going as far as upgrading to a new version of the system without having to reinstall (when it works). Rolling releases are danger pronged and not good for production machines from what I've seen. Sooner or later they will crash bigtime. I do not believe that you have to completely reinstall LinuxMInt to go to a new version. I do not know, but I do know that you haven't had to do that with Ubuntu in years. (I do wish they would go with delta updates). Anyway the upgrade system works very well. From what I see SolydX/K has done a very nice job of cleaning up the Debian confulsion. As I've said before, Debian is a great base to use to develop a distro, it's just not a great distro. Solyd will do very well. They are fulfilling a need with their rolling release debian model. Good review and I'm very impressed with your tech site.

igor said...

I've tried to summarize complicated matters in the interest of clarity without getting bogged down in the details. In doing so, I've sacrificed a certain amount of precision. As you know, the details could easily consume many pages of text, and then I'd lose a lot of the non-technical readers. Probably some of my explanations could have been worded more carefully, but on the other hand, I might miss out on comments then.

I like getting comments, even if people are pointing out where I went wrong. Comments like yours enrich the review by adding new and interesting perspectives.

Milan Aritonović said...

Great article Igor!
I'm using SolydK for 3 months and completly satisfied.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excellent review. I've been looking for a Linux distro to replace XP on the desktop my family uses and Solydx has been one of the front-runners. Your review (and the previous comments) kind of clinched the deal.

igor said...

I used Windows XP for the better part of a decade before discovering Linux. Linux reduces or eliminates many computer headaches such as the threat of viruses. It's nice to be able to install an OS whenever needed. However, some time does need to be invested in learning about the new system. I recommend browsing SolydXK's forums often.

AP said...

Igor, good review. I've been using SolydX since January 2014. I mainly used Ubuntu (2008-2011, but then Unity was adopted as Ubuntu's default desktop and... well never mind), Mint (also a great distro – and their XFCE release is usually quite good), Arch and Debian (always Sid). Of course, like most people when I first started using Linux I checked other distros (openSuse, Fedora,...). For the past couple of years I've been using Debian Sid with XFCE DE and Arch Linux with Cinnamon. I'm trying out SolydX (like in my Debian setup I decided to install the Infinality package to improve font rendering, compiz/emerald to get some desktop effects, additional icons and themes,...). To be honest I meant to install LMDE (Cinnamon version), but because it was so close to the new release (which came out today) I decided to wait and install SolydX instead. So far... no regrets. Lets see how the distro handles the next update. I've notice, from reading your site, that you tried KDE DE (Kubuntu, if I'm not mistaken). KDE is not for me. Don't know why, never got used to KDE. And openSuse by that matter. Being a fan of gnome 2, XFCE comes as a natural choice, I guess. If you're into XFCE I've also been reading great things about Makulu (it's also based on Debian Testing). Cheers.

igor said...

I'm really pleased with SolydX and have installed it on a second computer, so I doubt I'm motivated to try any other Xfce distro at this time. I see a lot of advantages in SolydX vs. Xubuntu. I'm past the joy of distro-hopping and have pretty much settled down with SolydX and Xubuntu at this time.

I never got started with vanilla Ubuntu due to all the negative reviews against Unity. I looked at a screenshot of Unity once and that was enough for me. I don't like the cell phone feel of that desktop environment. I bought a desktop because I like desktops, not because I wanted a cell phone instead of a desktop.

As for KDE, I'm open-minded about it because so many KDE applications are simply superb. For instance, K3b and Okular stand out as better than anything in either Linux or Windows. That said, I've had issues with Kubuntu, and KDE in general tends to have more problems in my experience, probably because its such an ambitious continually evolving DE, whereas by contrast XFCE is conservative and slow to introduce any change.

MaMoon said...

Great review! I reread the review today. My laptop is the samme specs as yours, apparently but a different vendor. I tried many distributions ( I am only a hobbyist) but settled on Solydx. I use it differently as I use web based mail and take out many things such as all mail and chat/IRC programs. I have no use for Plymouth either(personal choice.) This makes a great start for light development (beginner) platform and run in 16 GB partition! Carry on the good work.

igor said...

I really love SolydX, but yeah, I removed a lot of programs as I always do, not to save hard drive space, but to eliminate the need for updates of things I don't use. Some reviewers don't understand the rationale for a distro like Bodhi that has the bare minimum of apps. More is not always better. There's the touchy-feely angle too. Too many apps = clutter and confusion. Fewer apps = clarity and simplicity.

You could probably run Solyd in an 8 GB partition, but then again, with today's massive capacity hard drives, there isn't much motive to conserve space...

You might want to slim down your SolydX further by installing Boot Up Manager (BUM) and eliminating unnecessary start-up services. This was recommended on the SolyXK forum. I have used it on my computers, because I don't print from all of them (thus no need for CUPS). It can save some precious RAM and hasten boot-up time. I really hope BUM becomes a standard default app included in Solyd and other Linux distros, along with Bleachbit. I might add that Xubuntu seems to have a problem with running Bleachbit successfully, whereas SolydX does not. Overall, Solyd is more Solyd than Xubuntu.

MaMoon said...

Solydx use started off and on in my experimentation. 16 GB was the 1st partition from an earlier distribution and seeing what a thumb drive would do. I still can boot much faster on other distros (Puppies mainly) on my machine from a USB drive. I haven't put Solyd on a thumb yet. It will be a while before I can try. As I said, I am not a pro. I always seem to end up back with Solydx, though. See ya!

orb9220 said...

Hi Igor and yep seeing you at the SolydXK forums. And like your take on keeping it slimmed down. Even my SolydK KDE setup is 10gb root & 10gb /home with temporary and data files on a internal ntfs E:data partition and backups to external Usb ntfs drives.

1) Using Redo backup (Simplified Clonezilla) can do quick partitions backups or restores from external usb drives in 15-20 mins.
2) Personal data and important files are accessible from any computer any OS with portable external ntfs usb drives.
3) Separate root & /home is a great way to try other disto's using same DE as came from Mint 15 KDE to SolydK and kept /home and installed over root.

So there is something to be said for keeping the linux partitions as small as needed. As greatly reduced backing up and restoring in under 20 mins. With separate scheme of a separateinternal Data partition which have automated maintenance backup to external usb drives.

And great thing about SolydK KDE is runs super light as chimes into desktop a smidgin under 290mb. And the lightest of all the KDE flavors I have tried.

Thanks for the review, from Orbmiser!

igor said...

Hi Orb! I am grateful to you, because you told me about Digikam, a nice image management program for Linux. I also like Solyd X/K and am glad I followed your advice about going with it. It's light as a feather, works smoother and better than alternatives and best of all, has the familiar great folks from the Linux Mint forum that I recognize. The Linux Mint connection is a gift that keeps giving and giving, from the great updater to the software manager (less buggy than *buntu's) and other little things that mean a lot. Maybe one day Solyd will be called "back into the fold" by Clem - my prediction.

One of the nice things about Linux is that it is so flash drive-friendly and works great from USB and can do things Windows users can only dream about. Imagine taking an existing OS from one motherboard to another--not a very nice prospect with Windows, but easy with Linux, because the system just adapts to whatever hardware it encounters at boot-time.

Van said...

"...why do my good friends spend $500 on a brand new laptop just to run Windows 8?" -- priceless

+1 for military time.

For a stable environment and for simplicity, I prefer CrunchBang. I am able to get some newer versions of apps by pulling from the Debian Backports repo, but it still doesn't satisfy my need for "shiny new stuff." I am currently using Siduction on another laptop, but dare not use that on my Dell Studio 1558 because of the legacy AMD graphics chip. I'm looking for a bit more-up-to-date distro to dual-boot on my Dell and will try out SolydX.

Great review, by the way.

igor said...

Good luck with that. Let me know if SolydX makes it on an AMD/ATI rig. I think it may work better without the proprietary video driver.

Anonymous said...

Have you comparing Slydx/k with other debian based rolling release distro such as aptosid or siduction.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Solyd using a semi-rolling release, not a rolling release? The main difference being a rolling release gets the updates/upgraded as soon as they come out, and a semi-rolling release, which I believe is what the Solyd versions are, gets them in packs, after they've been tested and approved by the Solyd team. This means less frequent updates, but it also means more stability (in theory) as they have been bundled and tested before they are released.

igor said...

You are correct.

I'm reluctant to change the review, because I have a feeling that after 30 days, a review should stay unchanged, out of fairness. That's my policy now. If I continued adding and changing text, then the whole tone of the review could change over time as my opinions, preferences, knowledge and experience changed. So I just leave the piece as-is and am pleased to let the comments make any corrections. Thank you for your comment.

igor said...

I am not familiar with those distros. I chose SolydX due to its Linux Mint Debian origin and name recognition of one of the developers, who was active on the Linux Mint forum--namely, zerozero. But from what I have read about those distros, they are a bit different. I no longer remember why I didn't choose the to try aptosid or siduction. I haven't time to try every distro and am not motivated to abandon the ones I like.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this very usefull review igor!

I've been using Ubuntu and Mint (when Ubuntu changed to Unity...) for years now and tried/tested many other distro's. I remember trying SolydX last year and was very happy using this light and uncomplicated distro, but I was also perfectly happy with (the much heavier and full of features) Mint Cinnamon running nicely on my dual core desktop with 4GB, so no need for me to switch.

Today I needed something light and uncompicated and remembered SolydX. I installed it (as dualboot) on my uncle's 10 year old laptop (Celeron, 512MB, XP) and everything just works right from the start and it's really fast considering the old/slow hardware it's running on.

I can recommend SolydX to anyone still running XP on older hardware, you can also try Mint Xfce but since this is not a rolling release I'd wait for version 17 (long term support, 5 years) coming out very soon. Other light (Xfce/Lxde/etc.) distro's I have tried can't deliver what the above 2 can: a light but complete distro that just works from the start.


igor said...

I'd like to see a really comprehensive comparison of the Linux desktops to find out all of the pros and cons. Linux Mint Debian, Cinnamon or Mate, is an interesting option that should be considered. The main feature for Cinnamon or Mate is the developer Clem and his team which are great. They are responsive and do a great job. They are very cautious too, which is a good thing. However, the Xfce desktop environment is long in the tooth, gives me no problems, and I like the Thunar file manager due to support for custom actions.

I agree SolydX really shines on old hardware and can give it new life. Although I do like Xubuntu, SolydX just seems to have more zip and one can access the latest and greatest versions of applications on it. Plus, the developers are responsive and active on the forum. Anyone who has a problem can find help from what I have observed, as long as they offer enough information for the devs to work with. I don't know why Xubuntu does not have a forum but it doesn't. So there is just the Ubuntu community, not the Xubuntu community.

The trouble with Linux Mint Xfce LTS is that it isn't rolling, so the apps will be outdated in years to come, and I don't think Linux Mint has figured out automatic upgrading yet. Instead it's the same old model where the user has to reinstall and lose all of the configuration in order to get the next version with updated applications. Since Xubuntu has figured out automatic upgrading to the point where it is flawless, I would prefer Xubuntu, as in-place upgrading is a huge advantage. I also like SolydX in cases where the latest versions of applications and lean performance are desired.

Anonymous said...

Would like to have heard some comment/comparison of the SolydX Home, and SolydX Office versions.

Anonymous said...

Actually SolydXK is a rolling release distribution with a semi-rolling release update process.

Nuke said...

A useful review. I have been using Mepis for a couple of years and really like it, but support for Mepis is stopping and I am looking for an alternative. I want a Debian based (NOT Ubuntu based - I have issues) distro with kde, and I want my graphics card, multi-media and wireless just to work. I am experienced with Linux but have better things to do than chase round the Internet or fight FSF purists in order to get decent drivers. I like the idea of Steam being easily installed. OTOH I don't mind using the command line and eg manually setting up partitions, when I don't want graphical interfaces getting in the way.

I saw news on the SolydXK website that they are radically changing their rolling update policy, and their range of versions. I found it a bit unclear exactly what they are going to do with the updates, but whatever it is, it is upsetting many people. Check it out.

Anyway, I shall give SolydK a go in a VM and if that goes well then I will make it my main distro. Last time I changed distros it took me about two weeks of spare time re-installing apps, backing up and restoring data, re-installing several other OS's in their VMs, so I hope this decision is right.

igor said...

Well, people like to complain, is all that that is on the forums. I don't know whether the SolydXK devs and me were separated at birth or what, but I've concurred with every decision they've ever made, all of which, by the way, are heading in the direction of making Solyd live up to its name and BE solyd, i.e. stable and reliable, which is what I also want. But you know, basing a distro off Testing and expecting it to be solid with just 0-1 full time devs is a pipe dream, particularly over the long run. Debian Testing is there for a reason, for testing. So what Solyd is doing in a nutshell is simply moving to Debian Stable as a base in order to minimize overhead and focus on improving the product, whatever might be considered value-added. That's my take on the forum brouhaha.

Anonymous said...

Just don't update to the latest UP (October) if you want to keep it stable. Debian testing transitioning to systemd and that has a lot of issues right now: Having no Ctrl-C at fsck bootup will not please you if you have large disks. And no automounting in Xfce (udev/udisks bug) can be annoying too.

igor said...

Thanks for the heads up. I actually tried to install the latest UP (Oct-15) on my laptop, but the updater forgot to update after I clicked install. Maybe that is for the best! After reading your comment, I think I'll just wait until Jessie goes stable before I bother updating.

Anonymous said...

I would like to use preferably SolydX but like other distros using this desktop the bluetooth cannot be used in conjunctions with headphones and Bluetooth connections to hi-fi setups. No problem with the SolydK version

igor said...

i dunno what chew talkin about.

rijnsma said...

I use it from the beginning and it is a perfect OS without annoyances of any kind.

rijnsma said...

I have it on my computers for some years, use it much of the the time (I like experimenting with other distro), it is rolling and I cannot tell anything bad about Solyd.
It is stable, well maintained by the updating and the members on their forum are right to the point.
They are much too low in the distrowatch-list. :smile:

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