Monday, September 30, 2013

SolydK 201309 Review: Rock-solid Debian spin offering KDE 4.11.1

Linux Mint has some serious competition it seems! SolydXK is gradually growing on me and like me, on many other devoted Linux users. This distro right now comes in KDE and XFCE versions and is a spin off from the Linux Mint Debian. LM Debian as of now has two desktop environments, Cinnamon and Mate, and no longer supports XFCE or KDE. That is where SolydXK contributes; more specifically providing users a simple and ready to use spin of Debian with all the qualities of Linux Mint. It is targeted towards small and medium enterprises and non-government organizations in addition to the home users.


From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
For last one week or so I was doing all my regular work on either SolydK or SolydX. I already published my review on SolydX and now it is turn of SolydK. The KDE spin is aimed towards more modern hardware and comes with lot more goodies than the XFCE spin. For this review I used the 32-bit SolydK 201309 release; with an ISO of 1.5 GB, my expectation was that it will come fully loaded and SolydK didn't disappoint. One good point is that the 32-bit I used has both pae and non-pae kernels - it works well with both 32 and 64 bit machines.

SolydK 201309 ships with KDE 4.11.1 and Linux kernel 3.10.2. In my previous experience with KDE 4.11 (OS4 and Kubuntu 12.04.3), I found it to be the most efficient KDE, if one recalls. For this review, I created a live USB using Unetbootin, booted it up on my Asus K54C (2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM, Intel HD 3000 graphics) followed by installation on the same laptop.
OpenSUSE theme on SolydK From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in


Aesthetics
The KDE plasma interface itself is aesthetically very pleasing. SolydK doesn't tamper with vanilla KDE much but adds to it a crisp wallpaper and a professional look with some subtle animations. The attention to details is evident right from the boot splash (it is different from usual KDE boot splash) to font rendering and application interfaces in the distro. Except LibreOffice, rest of the applications gel well with the KDE theme.


From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
KDE comes with it's usual goodies like transparency, nice light blue shade at the application window edges, preview of open windows from the menu bar, etc.

From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

SolydK comes with the default KDE menu, which may be a bit inefficient for users like me. It is good that the application launcher style can be changed easily in KDE 4.11, thereby making my life easy.

From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Simple Menu From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
KDE desktop cube is enabled by default in SolydK. I added desktop cone as well from Settings Manager -> Desktop effects. KDE 4.11 supports OpenGL 3.1 - good news for users with Nvidia/AMD Radeon.

From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Though the SolydK theme is quite smart but I like to play around with different themes and customizations. And there is no dearth of impressive GTK2 themes for KDE! An example given below with all white theme (Oxygen as window decoration + Diamond as desktop theme). 

From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
So, in nutshell, SolydK looks as good as any other vanilla KDE desktop. If you are looking for a high customized KDE distro and don't want to take the pain, SolydK is not for you - go for Netrunner or ROSA instead.

Hardware Recognition
SolydK, like it's predecessor Linux Mint, is impeccable in hardware detection. Screen resolution (1366x768), touch-pad, wifi, LAN, sound card, etc. were detected automatically with ease. For touch-pad, a bit of manual intervention was required as the single tap and double tap functionalities were not enabled. KDE synaptiks now adds a lot of functionalities like right or left "hot corners", 3 finger taps, etc. in addition to 1 & 2 finger taps. Definitely things have become a bit complex in KDE 4.11.1 from KDE 4.11.0.

From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Applications

SolydK has an interesting mix of applications of both KDE and non-KDE origin, namely:
  • Office: LibreOffice 4.0.3.3 Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Base, Math; Okular, Kaddressbook
  • Internet: Ktorrent, Blue Devil, Kget download manager, Kopete IM, KPPP, Quassel IRC, Thunderbird 17, KRDC, Firefox 23
  • Graphics: Acquire Images, DNG Image Conerter, Exposure Blending, GIMP 2.8.6, Gwenview, Panorama batch processor, Lens Calibrator, Photo Layout Editor, digiKam, Ksnapshot
  • Multimedia: AMZ Downloader, Amarok audio player, K3b, VLC 2.0.8
  • Accessories: Kate text editor, Ark Archiving tool, luckyBackup & Sync tool, Klipper, Kgpg encryption, Nepomuk Backup, Nepomuk Cleaner, Knotes, Kcalc, Kwrite, 
  • Others: Wine, PlayonLinux, Steam
Personally I am more comfortable in using LibreOffice than Calligra. Similarly, a Firefox or Chrome appeals to me more than Rekonq or Konqueror. So, distros like SolydK work out perfect for me.

From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
I found that in SolydK almost every application section is very strong - a complete office suite; a good browser, torrent and download manager, IM client; a strong graphics section with photo management tools and above all, GIMP; a superb music player and the best video player on the planet, to name a few.

From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Further, multimedia codecs and Adobe flash plugin are pre-installed and I could watch my favorite movies/songs online/offline immediately after live boot.

From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Additionally, SolydK provides pre-configured PlayonLinux, Wine and Steam. I value PlayonLinux/Wine for providing users the flexibility to install some Windows specific applications like MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc. The steam is a boon for Linux gamers no doubt. 

Settings are integrated similar to any other KDE distro. I really like KDE for being so user friendly.
From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

In overall, it is great that SolydK developers didn't go overboard to dump all available applications, as it often happens with young distros. I found the choice of applications intelligent and judicious.

Installation
Installation is similar to Linux Mint and is quite simple. It has usual steps like location, language, keyboard type and language, location to install the distro and user ID creation. All in all, it takes about 20 minutes to get over with the installation process. SolydK comes with Grub2 and supports multiple OS.


From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Repositories
SolydK sources packages from Mint and other third party repos along with Debian testing. As mentioned in my previous article on SolydX, I could find applications like Linux Mint Imagewriter, Skype, etc. while browsing through the applications in the repos. 
From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

The default GUI to browse and install applications is the Software Center. It looks and behaves exactly like Linux Mint Software Center. The packages are nicely grouped into categories and sub-categories which makes life easy for new users. However, I found it to be a bit slow. Synaptic package manager, the additional GUI to browse and install applications, worked faster than Software center and was my preferred mode to install and try out different applications during my use.
From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From SolydK 201309 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

Performance
SolydK gives performance similar to Debian 7 KDE and Mint KDE. I didn't note any bugs or didn't see any KWin crash during my 7 days of usage. I found it to be quite stable. If I compare to other 32-bit KDE distros I have used, possibly it slightly behind other Ubuntu spins with KDE 4.11. I guess the "King of KDE" Mageia would take the resource usage a further one or two notch lower with KDE 4.11. I am waiting for the final release of Mageia 4. All the numbers below are recorded on the same machine (Asus K54C) under similar conditions.



Operating System Size of ISO Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU Usage RAM usage Size of installation
OS4 Openlinux 13.7 1.6 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.11.0 3.2.0 1-5% 203 MB 4.73 GB
Kubuntu 12.04.3 LTS with KDE 4.11 - Ubuntu KDE 4.11.0 3.8.0 1-5% 220 MB 4.05 GB
Mageia 3 KDE 1.4 GB Mandriva KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0 1-10% 233 MB
PCLinuxOS 2013.02 KDE 1.4 GB PCLinuxOS KDE 4.9.5 3.2.18 1-10% 250 MB
Fedora 19 KDE 884 MB Fedora KDE 4.10.4 3.9.8 1-10% 251 MB 3.12 GB
Mint 14 KDE 1.1 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.9.2 3.5.0 1-5% 255 MB
Kubuntu 12.04.3 LTS 738 MB Ubuntu KDE 4.8.5 3.8.0 1-5% 259 MB 3.05 GB
Mint 15 KDE 1.4 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 1-10% 263 MB 6.09 GB
Mint 13 KDE 960 MB Ubuntu KDE 4.8.3 3.2.0 1-5% 270 MB
Kubuntu 13.04 1 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0 1-10% 276 MB
SolydK 2013.09 1.5 GB Debian KDE 4.11.1 '3.10.2 1-5% 278 MB 5.17 GB
Debian 7 KDE 680 MB Debian KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 1-10% 290 MB
Slackel 14 KDE 1 GB Slackware KDE 4.8.4 3.2.29 1-10% 300 MB
Kubuntu 12.04.1 LTS 738 MB Ubuntu KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 1-10% 310 MB
Kubuntu 12.10 999.6 MB Ubuntu KDE 4.9.2 3.5.0 1-10% 314 MB
Sabayon 13.08 KDE 2.3 GB Gentoo KDE 4.10.5 3.10.0 1-10% 315 MB 6.11 GB
Sabayon 11 KDE 2.1 GB Gentoo KDE 4.9.5 3.7.0 1-10% 320 MB
Bridge KDE 1 GB Arch KDE 4.9.3 3.6.7 1-10% 330 MB
KWheezy 1.1 3.9 GB Debian KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 1-10% 335 MB 11.87GB
ROSA 2012 Marathon KDE 1.5 GB Mandriva KDE 4.8.3 3.0.38 1-10% 340 MB
Neptune 3.2 2.1 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.10.5 3.10.5 1-10% 349 MB 6.20 GB
Slackel KDE 4.9.2 1.1 GB Slackware KDE 4.9.2 3.2.29 1-10% 355 MB
Manjaro 0.8.5 KDE 2.0 GB Arch KDE 4.10.2 3.8.8 1-10% 358 MB
OpenSUSE 12.2 KDE 704 MB OpenSUSE KDE 4.8.4 3.4.6 1-10% 366 MB
Sabayon 13.04 KDE 2.3 GB Gentoo KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0 1-10% 380 MB

Though SolydK consumes slightly higher RAM but on a powerful Core i3 and above laptop, you won't even notice. The distro is real smooth to use and grows on you with time. 

Overall
I found SolydK to be as reliable as Linux Mint KDE; plus, SolydK has the advantage of rolling release. With Ubuntu going for a 6 month support cycle for non-LTS release, possibly SolydK is a good option for users who prefer latest packages/applications. If I compare SolydK with other relevant distros: Debian's stable release suffer from antiquated applications after a certain point in time but is fiercely stable. Ubuntu LTS has the same problem as well. Other competing rolling release KDE distros have their own pitfalls like PCLinuxOS takes ages to receive updated packages, Arch requires users to have some good knowledge of Linux basics. I don't have much knowledge of Slackware and hence, can't comment. So, for me SolydK seems to be a better bet than using Debian stable or Ubuntu LTS. 

SolydK comes with an intelligent choice of pre-installed applications and is backed by one of the richest repositories in the Linux world. Further, it has an element of innate smartness about it which grew on me as I started using it more and more. It may not be the most efficient KDE distro but at an overall level, it just works. So, from my side, SolydK is highly recommended to both experts and novices alike - if you are looking for a good KDE distro, you should give SolydK a shot.

You can download the 32 and 64 bit spins from here.

17 comments:

  1. Hi Arindam,

    Thanks again for reviewing SolydXK, this time "my" flavour KDE. I want people to know that they are very welcome at SolydXK, download the iso, try it and read the forum, ask any question you want (you will get a response in no time).

    Thanks again Arindam!

    Regards,

    Joost

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joost:

      Thanks for the information. I haven't tried the SolydXK forums yet, may be I'll give it a shot sometime.

      Regards,
      Arindam

      Delete
  2. Another interesting review. I too have found SolydK solid and stable. I started using it on my primary desktop system a little over 4 months ago. Since then I have done 3 upgrades with no problems. The selection of applications appealed to me from the beginning and I have had to add very little to make this a real workhorse.

    I already had Windows 7 installed on this system and installed SolydK in a dual boot configuration. I was a little concerned about this being a rolling release and a very young distro, so I didn't want to replace Windows completely. Now I would have no problem doing so. Further investigation of the developers, daily use, and the helpful forum have made me feel very comfortable with this distro.

    By the way, 6 months ago I was a total Linux novice. I have played with Kubuntu, Mint, Mageia, and Netrunner. SolydK is certainly a good selection for novices. Just be sure to check out the helpful forum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for liking my article. Great to hear your story. Even I gave up Windows 5 years back and never looked back since then - thanks to amazing distros like Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Archlinux and now SolydXK. Linux is truly amazing and there are so many options to choose from!

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Here you go :)
      http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-gEksZPe0a0c/Ua3yPy0KvBI/AAAAAAAAFpU/mdOWRrtYEgM/s1600/pretty_beauty-wallpaper-1920x1080.jpg

      Delete
  4. Ah you finally reviewed it! Excellent review, thanks. SolydK is preferable to Kubuntu because it's a rolling release so when I install it for somebody I know I won't have to worry too much about updating the entire distro. Also it's really very stable. I had it on my netbook for a month or so and if one day I have to leave my preferred LXDE desktop in favor of KDE it's SolidK that I'll choose for sure! Best regards Arindam.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kaf:

      Yes, finally I found time to review SolydK. Actually so many Linux distros come out every week, it is difficult to review all. At max I can review only one distro accurately every week :). Anyway, I really like SolydK and is using it in my production laptop. It is truly amazing and lightweight.

      Regards,
      Arindam

      Delete
  5. i just installed this distro a few weeks ago, and to my surprice there where even applications in the repos that you will not find in ubuntu repos without some oscure ppa, like handbrake and sun java.
    very stable,

    ReplyDelete
  6. i just installed this distro a few weeks ago, and to my surprice there where even applications in the repos that you will not find in ubuntu repos without some oscure ppa, like handbrake and sun java.
    very stable,

    ReplyDelete
  7. i just installed this distro a few weeks ago, and to my surprice there where even applications in the repos that you will not find in ubuntu repos without some oscure ppa, like handbrake and sun java.
    very stable,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you. Solydxk is very stable and comes with a lot of features that are not available in other established names.

      Delete
  8. Interesting review. I've read also your review pclinuxos kde. What do you think between the two, plus minus? I'm novice in Linux world, just want an easy and efficient system with plenty of package provided.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Both are equally good IMHO. Solydk is more updated and have latest version of the packages. Pclos is slower in receiving updates but a whole lot more stable. Also, debian repos have more packages than pclos repos. Now it is upto you to decide :).

      Delete
  9. Im actually very intersted in using SolydK. I've been using ArchLinux for 5 years.

    How about packages for web development? Chromium, php, apache, go? Are they regularly updated?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SolydK is based on Debian which has one of the richest repositories in the Linux world. I can safely say there won't be any dearth of applications for you. Also, SolydK is based on Debian testing and you get the cutting edge packages updated almost regularly.

      Thanks, Arindam

      Delete
  10. SolydX and SolydK are 2 excellent distros - no doubt. I would install SolydK for those users who want a little more eye candy but also have the hardware to handle KDE.
    Otherwise, I'm sold on Point Linux MATE. It truly is a remarkable distro based on Debian Wheezy.
    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete