I’ve complained in the past about Solus (Linux distro) when they could not be bothered to fix their Steam Linux client packaging after Proton 5.13 was long out (they eventually did), but now it’s time to come to more radical recommendations: everyone should stop using and recommending Solus right now.
From Bad to Worse
Solus is not new to the problem of entropy. It was a new distro that received a lot of glaring reviews on Reddit at the time, but shit happened and the guy who was at the center of it (Ikey) suddenly disappeared like a crypto-bro without a trace, leaving the maintainers in the dark as to what they should do next. Things eventually resurfaced with a few volunteers (such as Joshua Strobl), but by that time the grand vision of making Solus something new and exciting was gone, and it was more about keeping the distro afloat and giving it the updates that it needed to stay current. Ikey gave signs of life later on, said something like “oops sorry guys” and quickly moved on to making a new project. Joshua Strobl left the project last year as well to focus on Budgie (the default desktop used by Solus in the first place, and now packaged for many other distros).
Now why should people stop using Solus exactly? Is it because the horrid state of package management? Yes, Darktable 4.0 was, for example, not compiled with all the necessary flags and the Solus version of the packages does not support all image formats that it should… so you’d have to use the Flatpak version for that. There’s always that. But hey, you could survive as long as Flatpak versions exist, I guess.
But something more important happened. The update servers went offline, and at the date of writing it’s been now more than 60 days that the whole distro ceases receiving updates.
And of course, there’s been ZERO communication about these issues, which is a trademark of Solus at this point - they were always known for keeping their end users in the dark, so I guess you get more of it, albeit in a really critical phase of the project. You can still see that the latest post on their blog dates from July 2021 - and since then… well good luck knowing what is happening around the distro.
Their repositories on Github have not been touched since mid last year as well.
Amusingly, you’d be more aware of the issues by following the Budgie project itself, since it currently advises against using Solus:
Made For Everyone!
So, the “distro made for everyone” (I’m not making this up) is now litterally the opposite of that, since pretty much everyone wants to have a distro that’s not full of security vulnerabilities. Time to move on. Time to let thing wither away. There’s still good things that came out of the project (Budgie if nothing else), now the added value of Solus as a distro is close to nil and quickly going into negatives as time passes without updates.
From there, there are a couple of things you should consider when it comes to new distros - there’s always going to be some effort and pain involved in move away and distro-hopping, so unless that’s what you are looking for, watch out for the following:
- New distros means untested by time. In doubt, wait a while to see how it turns out.
- How many people are actually working on it? If it’s just one key person, the bus factor is going to be a huge problem. If that person leaves, or decides to do something else, there’s no guarantee that the project will live on.
- Check out the communication: if they under-communicate, or make promises that they never keep, that’s a sign of bad management and that things could get worse.
- Check out their development process: See how they respond to user feedback, how they are organized to correct issues and bugs - if a mainstream application like Steam takes half a year to get fixed, you should know better than to trust them for anything serious.
Of course, every distro out there was a new distro at some point, so it does not mean that you should never try anything new either. But be cautious, and watch out for the above points.
Finally, nothing is “made for everyone”. This is not specific to Solus as this kind of claim is seen in many places. If it’s made for everyone, it’s actually made for no one, because inside everyone, there’s a bunch of very different people with very different use cases and there’s not always going to be a good overlap when it comes to a Venn diagram of those needs. Solus did not support KDE officially, so it was not for KDE users. Solus did not support the installation of CUDA, so it was not for people who wanted to do GPU rendering or machine learning on their Nvidia machine. Solus did not support tons of software requested by their end users, so it was not for people who wanted to have more flexibility and a wider choice of software.
In the end they actually made choices, and did not meet many needs that were out there.
If you are a Solus user, and want to move on, well there’s always the usual suspects that you could rely on, in terms of rolling distro:
- Arch Linux or its numerous derivatives (note that Arch comes with an installer these days, too)
- Debian Testing - The rolling distro with the Debian way and robust processes.
- openSUSE Tumbleweed - if you want to try something more exotic (yet well supported too)
That’s probably the most reliable choices these days when it comes to rolling distros that are going to be around for a long time. You can also check how these distros are doing in terms of popularity among Linux gamers, based on our previous ProtonDB analyses.
The Real Solus Project
We don’t want to end on a sad note, so if you are upset with this news, there’s another Solus project that is worth considering - the game called The Solus Project from 2016:
It’s a puzzle and exploration game, available on Steam. It works great even in VR on Linux. We highly recommend it.