2012-08-29

Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.0 Xfce

Main Screen + Xfce Menu
I was busy at home for the last two weeks with many people coming and going; plus, I never had any other reason to post much else. Well, now I'm into the last few days of my break at home before getting back on campus and there haven't been as many people coming and going, so I've gotten some time to do a review. On DistroWatch, I read of the release of Manjaro Linux 0.8.0, and while I initially didn't think about it further, I saw quite a few articles reviewing it and other press about it, which convinced me that I should review it as well. That is what I'm doing now.

Manjaro Linux is based on Arch Linux and primarily ships the Xfce desktop, though it also provides editions with KDE and GNOME 3/Cinnamon (as opposed to GNOME 3/Shell). It aims to retain most of the code simplicity and speed of Arch Linux while providing spruced-up desktop environments that are user-friendly. In that regard and in the DEs it provides (not just which ones, but also in which priority) it reminds me quite a bit of Bridge Linux, which I reviewed several months ago. As you may see, the differences don't end there (but I won't focus on that comparison too much because this is just supposed to be a review of Manjaro Linux).

I tested this using a live USB made with MultiSystem. On that note, I wanted to do this review yesterday, but I couldn't because I realized that since upgrading my installed system to Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce, I hadn't installed MultiSystem again. It wasn't until today that I could find adequate and not confusing documentation on how to install MultiSystem on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" and its derivatives, because a lot of the other documentation was obsolete. Anyway, that went smoothly. Also, I didn't test the installation fully (though I will have a word to say about that near the end of the post). Follow the jump to see what it's like.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a scrolling wall of text detailing the boot process. After that came the desktop.

The default desktop looks a bit like that of the Xfce edition of Linux Mint, at least in its layout. The background is of dark leather branded by the green Manjaro Linux logo. There is a thin Conky bar on top which functions like a panel in that maximized windows have their titlebars lie below the Conky display. While I agree that this Conky configuration is quite useful, I would prefer to have maximized windows cover that up so that as much vertical space as possible can be used. There is one panel on the bottom containing, from left to right, a standard Xfce menu, a window switcher, a workspace switcher, a clock, a notification area, and a button to end the current session. The only complaint I have about that is that the Manjaro Linux logo is not yet easily recognizable and the menu button is a bit small, so it isn't immediately apparent what it should do until it is clicked. At first I thought it might be a customized button to show the desktop thus requiring the user to right-click on the desktop to access the Xfce menu. I was still feeling confused by it until I right-clicked the button to give it a label next to the icon; I feel like the developers should do this to minimize user confusion. I know it's a small thing, but it's an important detail. Anyway, the Xfwm and GTK+ themes are Shiki, which are the same as in older versions of Linux Mint, so I felt completely at home; the icon theme is Faenza. Overall, the desktop looks quite polished, which is great.

Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox is the default browser, and it works well. Most multimedia codecs seem to be included, as YouTube and Hulu worked fine. My laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts are included as well. Speaking of volume, ever since I upgraded to Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce, I have been annoyed by the fact that the displayed volume level in the panel volume icon doesn't correspond to the displayed volume level in the Notify-OSD-style volume notification, and neither correspond particularly well to the volume that I hear when compared to how that was in past versions of Linux Mint with GNOME 2. At first I thought it was an Xfce issue, but now I think it's just an issue with Xfce in Ubuntu-based distributions, because Manjaro Linux displayed the same proper correspondence that I saw in Linux Mint with GNOME 2.

There are no applications like LibreOffice or AbiWord/Gnumeric present. In fact, the default application list is fairly sparse, including Pidgin, Mozilla Thunderbird, GIMP, Viewnior (one of my favorite image viewers), and other utilities. Thunar is the default file manager as usual, and it works pretty well.

PackageKit is included for package management via a GUI. I was able to install and use Skype just fine with it.
Installing Google Talk was much the same as in KahelOS and Bridge Linux (UPDATE: the results were the same as in Bridge Linux, but not in KahelOS where it worked fine) before this. Unfortunately, so were the results, so I won't dwell on that. I will refer you to this post for more on that.

This distribution was quite stable on the whole. The command "free -m" showed that it used about 260 MB of RAM at idle with only Conky running in the background (besides the normal DE components). While this is about par for an Ubuntu-based distribution with Xfce, it is a little high for any other Xfce distribution, and considering that this is based on the lightweight Arch Linux, I'm a little disappointed given that Bridge Linux with Xfce only used 180 MB of RAM at idle. Then again, the developers of this distribution essentially say on their website to expect higher RAM consumption and slighter less speed, so I guess I shouldn't worry about that too much.
At the end, I double-clicked the installer just to quickly see what it might be like. It is essentially the same as the Arch Linux CLI installer, so I didn't go further with it (also because I was in the live session on real hardware rather than in a VM), but I assume it works essentially in the same way as in any other Arch Linux derivative.

PackageKit
That is where my time with Manjaro Linux ended. I wouldn't use this myself because of essential things like Google Talk not working. Because it has a GUI package manager, it may be slightly more suitable for newbies than, say, Bridge Linux (OK, I made that comparison again); that said, I would still say that Manjaro Linux is more suitable for relatively newer Linux users who are getting comfortable with the CLI. Anyway, this distribution looks quite promising especially given its short history, so I will be keeping my eye on this one for a while.
You can get it here.

27 comments:

  1. Debian Wheezy Xfce - 92 mb RAM

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  2. I'm not here to pick on you but it would make sense to post your machine specs somewhere so it's easy for readers to understand the whole picture. I'm not any Linux distro developer but i've often seen some of the developers helping out with their suggestions in blogs like these. Among most distros that i've tried Arch Linux or any of it's derivatives usually work out of the box and if it doesn't it has an exceptional packaging system (pacman, packer, yaourt etc) which will find anything under the sun and set it up for you. I've hardly stumbled onto anything that doesn't work. As from your other link about google-talk plugin not working where you've mentioned chromium & firefox not launching, did you try running from command line to see what failed and get the missing package installed?

    Arch is not like Windows, but even if someone has to use CLI it's one of the most easiest OS to manage and work on as long as they have wiki or google at their disposal.

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  3. Good distro,however; try to get cups to work with HP Officejet which will
    work on nearly any Debian distro

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  4. Sorry this review is quite superficial : unless you install this ditro you wont know how it really works , minor issues on a live session are not a real test to benchmark a distro. I have used this distro in past and test installed this new release and I regret to say that its not more than waste of time.

    Regards,

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    1. I got my HP Officejet to work. You just need to know which packages to install. The obvious on is "HPlip" and choose the one that has the drivers. Then install CUPS and make sure to choose the others too. Just read the descriptions and choose wisely. And reading the "Arch Wiki" can be helpful too.

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    2. @dogbert0360: Thanks for the tip!

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    3. Don't forget to add cupsd to the autostart up in settings too! "Enjoy!"

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    4. @dogbert0360: Thanks again for another tip!

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  5. @Anonymous 1: I appreciate the clarification.

    @Anonymous 2: That's something that I've been wanting to do for a while, but I haven't gotten a good opportunity to think about how to put up that information in a way that will fit in with the rest of the blog. In any case, my test laptop is an ASUS U30Jc with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and dual NVidia and Intel graphics cards. As for my other link, I haven't tried Bridge Linux in a while, so I can't tell you at the moment what the deal with that is.

    @Anonymous 3: I don't really print much from my laptop, so it isn't a huge issue. Anyway, are you saying that CUPS won't work with Arch Linux?

    @Dr.Saleem Khan Marwat: To be honest, I'm disappointed that after so many reviews in which you have left the same comment and I have responded explaining why I do live session reviews, you continue to do so anyway. Repeating a suggestion over and over after I have explained why it won't happen won't magically make it come true.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  6. Thanks for the response , what I am saying is that live cds of these type are only meant to have a have an overview of how how a distro will behave on a particular hardware , unless it a distro is made specifically to work in live environment only e.g Knoppix or Systemrescue cd or clonezilla live. Manjaro Live session worked fine on my system but once I tried installing it where the problems started arising and thats where you can conclude how well a distro will work in a real environment . To remind you that having a GUI for pacman is not worth anything since Arch Team do not officially use any GUI`s . Also if someone is intending to use Arch or arch based distro and can`t fix minor issues like google plugins should use a point and click distro like ubuntu . I have used this distro for many months and it was faulty then and now too and I wonder you spent some time on a live session of it and on one side you complain google plugin did not work ( for which you cant blame Arch team since its an AUR package which are not officially supported ) while on the other side you recommend this distro to new users just because it has some unofficially supported GUI for pacman . Disappointment can be only your personal feeling but I am sorry to say that if you run a live session of a distro and reject and recommend a distro on few hours live session experience it will be unfair imho. And I read your blog and post comments here not to pick at you but to share my personal experience on a particular topic which I think is the reason we write these blogs posts.

    Regards,

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    1. @Dr.Saleem Khan Marwat: I appreciate the clarification of your previous comment. That said, it still doesn't seem like you have fully understood what I said. I completely understand the need for reviewing distributions through installations on real hardware; that's why I did long-term reviews this summer because I had access to a secondary desktop computer on which I was able to do anything I wanted. Regarding newbies using this, I didn't recommend this for newbies; I recommended it to Linux users who may still not be super-experienced but are getting comfortable with the CLI, which is not how I would describe a total newbie to Linux. Regarding GUI package managers, I didn't recommend this just for its GUI package manager, because if you actually read my review of Bridge Linux, you would see that I gave the same recommendation despite it lacking a GUI package manager. That said, does Arch Linux being the basis of Manjaro Linux carry so much weight that Manjaro Linux isn't allowed to have a GUI package manager because Arch Linux doesn't? That seems a bit ridiculous to me. And finally, regarding Google Talk, going back to my review of KahelOS reveals an inconsistency between what I wrote there about Google Talk and what I wrote about it in my review of Bridge Linux, so I will update my posts accordingly. That said, what I said in the review of Bridge Linux is accurate to the best of my knowledge, and I distinctly remember looking through the forums for a solution and finding that it is a known issue on some hardware with no known solution. What exactly do you expect me to do about that? Anyway, thanks for the comment!

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  7. I set up Manjaro (also after having read about it on DistroWatch) using VirtualBox and was very pleased with its performance. I tried both the XFCE and the Gnome (using Cinnamon) versions. The XFCE one is by far the best: I had some issues with the cinnamon one after a couple of system updates the update manager stopped loading updates, but with exactly the same updates the XFCE version had no issues.

    On the whole it was a very slick experience so kudos to the Manjaro people.

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  8. Manjaro is interesting in that it is its own distro with its own repos and packages - some of which are "newer" than Arch's, which will lead to trouble if you try to change the mirrorlist to Arch and update from there. Bridge is a better choice if one is looking for a simpler way to install Arch. Manjaro adds more polish but is less Arch compatible.

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  9. claudecat,

    I agree with you , I have been with this distro from start , they are good, had will and vigor at that stage and with some issues I managed to install it but since they apparently want to ride two boats ( as did Chakra at one stage ) there were frequent issues over things which work in arch linux : and then went quiet . This re emergence is good and I was expecting more improvements that past I tried to give it another try but since they have de tracked further more from Arch but still clinging to Arch somehow it proved to be more problematic to even install and run it this time . Either they have to be arch compatible as are archbang, bridge and ctkarch or take a solo flight and remake a distro with pacman and KISS approach like Chakra or Frugalware or they will face more problems due to incompatibility with Arch . I wish we see a Manjaro with its own base and bright future , but I guess we have to wait .

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  10. I did not have any trouble with the install of the xfce version it very impressive and simple, unlike the bridge mess. As far as the rest of the distro some parts are very polished but for the most its work in progress. Remember its not yet at version 1. So I think any criticism is very premature. saying that it seems stable and reasonably fast the 64 bit version does not seem to use excessive ram and is quite fast.
    I also totally agree you can't test without a proper install and all the excuses in the world do not hold any water.

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  11. I understand that a proper install will give the most accurate test environment but being a distro addict like myself I also understand why it's not always practical. In order to install each and every distro you really would need to have a computer dedicated just for that purpose. Installing in a VM gives you a good idea of how a system works but I never trust the experience implicitly as VM installs often behave strangely and inconsistently.
    As such, I think a live USB test although not ideal is usually the best way for testers to try a distro, so give the guy a break!

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  12. I tried Manjaro but was not impressed. Currently using Peppermint with XFCE desktop. very low on resources and rock solid. Have you tried it.

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    1. I like Peppermint too, very good for the netbook market.

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  13. @Phil Mulley: It's great that it has worked out for you so well.

    @claudecat: Huh. I somehow missed that bit when installing software. I really appreciate the clarification!

    @Dr.Saleem Khan Marwat: Linux Mint has been able to manage both its own repositories and software from Ubuntu repositories pretty well thus far, but does that mean that doing something like that is necessarily harder when the base is Arch Linux rather than Ubuntu? I'm curious to know what the deal with that is.

    @kelvin: How can you make that criticism seriously if we reached the exact same conclusions about this distribution?

    @crabdog: I really appreciate the support. It's rare that someone else understands the situation that I'm in when testing these distributions.

    @Bernard Victor: I tried Peppermint OS over a year ago, and I was fairly impressed. That of course is a long time, so I am probably due to try it out again.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  14. Because I did a full install and every thing works as it should. Its not in the same league as Arch Linux,as arch lets you build what you want not what someone else wants you to have.Its as good as some of the so called top distros

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  15. @Phil Mulley: It's great that it has worked for you.

    @kelvin: You missed my point. How can you criticize me for not exploring the distribution properly when I reached the exact same conclusions as you did? Sure, doing a full installation allows me to validate my initial conclusion, and that does add a greater weight to the review, but the conclusions remain. In any case, it seems like you harp on two things too much without realizing that your constant harping isn't being constructive, and those are my live USB tests and the goals of distributions other than Arch Linux. I just went over the first. As for the second, distributions like Manjaro Linux are created because someone filled a void in their computing experience and wanted to share that. If Manjaro Linux doesn't suit your particular needs, that's fine, but it isn't fair to criticize it just because it comes with any configuration at all as opposed to Arch Linux which one builds from the ground up. The philosophies are different, and the comparison is like one between apples and oranges.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  16. You mentioned Bridge Linux. Most of the Arch distro developers love to say that they start from scratch, but I found only Archbang and CTkarch, who had done that yet. I'd try Manjaro to find out. Actually, if someone had made a good Arch installation and released it as a distro for us to use, even without many apps, that distro would become an Arch installation, on which we could build our own Arch distro/installation. That's how Arch works. Anyone can change the name in lsb-release, but it would always be an Arch installation.

    i found that Bridge Linux was made on Archbang, and not from scratch! So, Bridge Linux becomes an Arch installation, but a derivative of Archbang.

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    1. @Ch: The only reason why I made that comparison was because they looked and acted similarly and seemed to have similar goals. I wasn't aware of the actual chain of development there. Thanks for the clarification!

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  17. Did you have any trouble getting Manjaro to boot from USB using Multisystem? I was able to add the latest Mate version (0.8.3) to my USB drive using Multisystem and it would boot to the login screen, but then every time I try to login in it seems like X immediately crashes and it just goes back to the login screen.

    On the Manjaro website it says it doesn't work with Unetbootin, but it sounds like you got it to work. Jut wondering if you had and tricks for that. Thanks.

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    1. @cb474: I didn't have issues getting that version of Manjaro Linux to work with that version of MultiSystem (the latest at the time of the review). Newer versions of either thing may have issues, so I'm sorry that I can't really help you beyond that. Thanks for the comment!

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  18. Manjaro is an exemplar of exactly the problem with Linux.

    I just downloaded the latest Xfce edition and installed it. I then ran the update and got this error:

    --> transaction failed, pm_errno 47 (conflicting files), [('harfbuzz-icu', '/usr/include/harfbuzz/hb-icu.h', None)]'

    A **HUGE** killer right there.

    Then I Googled for a fix. I found one at the official forum.

    A **HUGE** killer that I even had to do that.

    The fix there did not work, something about some script needed to continue. I clicked to let it continue and then tried the update again. Didn't work.

    Let's just say that Microsoft and Apple have no worries.

    The better thing would be to explicitly market Manjaro as "an unstable, prone to breakage operating system for those who like to continually tinker with their system.

    Because that's what it is.

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  19. @Anonymous: It's unfortunate that you experienced such major errors in Manjaro. Thanks for the comment!

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