Newest Solus ISO Snapshot Includes GNOME

Last week, the grand leader of the Solus Project released a new snapshot of his rolling release distro. There were a good number of changes. The most notable was a GNOME ISO.

GNOME Rides Again

If you have been following Solus news, you might be scratching your head over the addition of a GNOME ISO. After all, Solus’ own Budgie desktop environment uses all kinds of GNOME libraries and tooling. So, this release might seem like a conflict of interest, especially since the next version of Budgie will be based on Qt.

However, the guys at Solus are still big fans of GNOME. According to the release announcement, they created this GNOME ISO in order “to make GNOME a first class experience, instead of a hybrid Budgie / GNOME setup, and introduce a near-stock GNOME experience with sane defaults and some shipped extensions.”

The new GNOME edition is powered by GNOME 3.24 and uses the Arc theme. They also included the following GNOME extensions: Dash to Dock, Impatience, and TopIcons. They include chrome-gnome-shell package so you can easily install GNOME extensions from Chrome. If you prefer to use Firefox, all you have to do is install an extension from Mozilla.

Solus-GNOME screenshot

Other Changes

GNOME is not the only big change in this new snapshot. clr-boot-manager is now supported out of the box. This package is from the Clear Linux Project, Ikey’s day job. It creates a “more bulletproof update experience” for the kernel by “handling the maintenance and garbage collection of kernels, as well as configuration of the bootloader itself”. It also keeps a previous version of the kernel, in case the updated kernel fails to boot. It also provides support for multiple kernels. (Solus currently uses the LTS kernel, which in this case is 4.9.22.)

The MATE edition of Solus has also seen some love. MATE has been updated to version 1.18. A new version of the Brisk menu was included.

Even though the Solus team is planning to move Budgie over to Qt for version 11, version 10.3 still received some nice new features. One big problem I’ve had with Solus was the inability to know what window was going to pop up next when I used Alt+Tab. For me, this was a deal breaker because when I was in a groove switching between Firefox and Visual Studio Code, sometimes VLC would pop up. Because of the lack of an Alt+Tab dialog box, I switch to MATE for a while. Now Budgie has a new Alt+Tabinterface that is faster and I can tell which program is next. This is thanks to a 500 EUR bounty that Ikey put on the problem

Budgie also contains several fixes for GTK 3.22. The Budgie menu and the pop-ups no longer act strangely when you have the panel on the bottom of the screen. The previous display issue with the Run Dialog is fixed as well.

You Can Try GNOME on Solus Now

If you already have Solus installed, you don’t have to reinstall it to try out the GNOME goodness. Just open the terminal and enter the following commands:

sudo eopkg rm lightdm

sudo eopkg install gdm gnome-shell gnome-desktop-branding

Once you reboot, you’ll see the GDM login screen. If you haven’t used GDM before, there is a slight trick to select which desktop environment to log into. You need to click on your username and then click on the little gear next to the “Sign In” button. A menu should pop open with a list of desktop environments to choose from.

Final Thoughts

I think that the announcement of a GNOME edition is a sign of the maturity of the Solus Project. It shows that they are attempting to fulfill their users’ needs with three desktop environments. Ikey told me before that he doesn’t want Solus to be associated with one desktop environment. That’s why he focuses on “distro agnostic solutions and technology”. For example, he didn’t like the MATE menu, so he created the Brisk menu and is working with the Ubuntu MATE team to improve it.

What’s interesting is that they didn’t have to do much to create the GNOME edition. In fact, Ikey said on Late Night Linux that it would only take about 20 minutes to spin up a GNOME ISO. The entire GNOME stack is in place because they use it for Budgie. Ikey also said that they would continue to maintain the GNOME edition after they release the Qt version of Budgie.

I also really excited about the clr-boot-manager. It sounds like it will keep kernel errors down. The other day, my battery died during the update process and the new kernel didn’t install properly. I was able to boot using the previous version of the kernel and complete the update process. Everything was fine after that.

Do you plan to give the new GNOME edition a spin? Have you tried Solus in the past? Let us know in the comments.

If you enjoy the new GNOME edition, drop a thank you to Joshua Strobl, Solus Project’s Communications Manager.

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