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.