2013-04-16

Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.5 Xfce

Main Screen + Xfce Menu
It has been a while since I have reviewed Manjaro Linux. It has also been a while since I have done a normal distribution review, and I have a long weekend now, so this seems like the ideal time.

Manjaro Linux used to basically be a dressed-up version of Arch. It has since matured a bit, in that now it depends only on its own repositories, though it does allow access to the Arch User Repository (AUR). One of the big new features is a graphical installer adapted from Debian-based Linux Mint. Other features include the usual round of application upgrades and such.

I tried Manjaro Linux on a live USB made with MultiSystem. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a scrolling wall of text during the boot process. The boot time was slightly longer than usual, and after that came the desktop.

The desktop layout has changed a bit since last time. Now the panel is on top, though the layout is the same as before; my gripe about the menu button icon being too small has been resolved. On the bottom now is a Plank (I initially wrote "Planck", then corrected myself) dock; while it certainly does look polished, I'm not sure why it is there if there is already a window switching applet in the panel on top. The desktop wallpaper is a generic green picture that looks like something from an old release of Linux Mint, which is great; also, the desktop icon labels are no longer shaded, so the developers have clearly put more effort into distinguishing this desktop from stock Xfce. The icons are now a green variant of Faenza, while the GTK+ and Xfwm themes are variants of the GNOME 3 default Adwaita modified for Manjaro Linux. The only gripe I have is that as the theme is dark, in some applications and on the panels some icons that are dark instead of light are hard to tell against dark backgrounds. Otherwise, compared to the last version I tried which looked pretty polished as it was, this release looks significantly better.
Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
There are three other things I would like to note here. The first is that the login screen is LXDM; the configuration makes it act like a lighter version of LightDM, which is really great. The second is that my USB ethernet adapter did not work immediately, though it did after unplugging it and plugging it back in. The third is that there is a user guide present, and it looks like a slightly more technical version of a similar guide in Linux Mint, which is really cool as well.

Mozilla Firefox is the default browser, and almost all that I said in the previous review applies here. The only issue I ran into was that the volume levels in the panel icon and in the pop-up notification no longer correspond; I am used to this from Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce, but I praised Manjaro Linux 0.8.0 Xfce for not suffering from this, so it is a little annoying that this regression should happen.
LibreOffice is now included as the default productivity suite. Most of the rest of the default application collection is the same as before, although now the installer for Steam is included too, which is cool.
Thunar has seen some pretty big improvements. Its sidebar interface is cleaned up, with bookmarked folders separated from mountable volumes in a manner similar to Nautilus, which is great. Even better, it now features tabs! This is pretty incredible considering that not too long ago, when asked about the possibility of tabs in Thunar, one of the leading developers said it would almost certainly not happen.

Manjaro Linux now has its own GUI package manager called Pamac. It basically feels like a simpler version of the Synaptic Package Manager; I was able to search for packages, click on their checkboxes, and install them. I installed Compiz, Skype, GNOME Sushi, and Redshift with this.

I wanted to see if I could run GNOME Sushi by setting up a keyboard shortcut and/or Thunar custom action. Unfortunately, each time I tried to start it, it would hang, not start, and consume RAM; that's when I ditched that idea.
I wanted to see if Compiz would work. Not only did it not work, but it broke other things like sound. At that point, I had to restart and boot into a fresh live session to right that wrong.

Pamac + Thunar
After restarting, I reinstalled Skype and Redshift using Pamac, and I used the "yaourt" command in the terminal to access the AUR and install things like the Google Talk plugin, dependencies for Mupen64Plus 1.5, and a GUI for Redshift (which is apparently only available in the AUR and is different from the official GTK+ interface for Redshift).
Skype and Google Talk both worked fine in terms of both video and audio. That is much better than what happened last time.
Mupen64Plus was able to play my games just fine. Also, I should note that it appeared in the main menu after installation much faster than it does in other distributions I have tried. However, the input plugin does not allow for configuration, so I could not set up the keyboard to correspond to the controller keys in the way that I usually want. This made it essentially no better than the latest version of Mupen64Plus without a GUI, which is unfortunate.
The GUI for Redshift is quite a bit more useful than the GTK+ interface for Redshift, because the latter is literally just a panel applet that allows toggling or quitting the program. The former, by contrast, allows for GUI configuration of the color temperatures at different times of the day and configuration of the particular location, including the ability to search for a desired location by ZIP code. It also supposedly allows for searching by address, though that did not work out so well, but that's OK with me.

Manjaro Linux 0.8.5 Xfce used about 310 MB of RAM at idle according to the command "free -m". That's about 50 MB of RAM more than last time; I'm sure a lot of that can be attributable to Plank. It also had Xfwm compositing running, which added some subtle, tasteful effects like shadowing to windows.

That is where my time with Manjaro Linux ended. Overall, my experience with it was much more positive than last time; I partly expected this as last time, this distribution was still very young, whereas it has had a lot more time to mature since then. Anyway, it may be almost at the point that it is suitable for newbies, but maybe not quite yet; in any case, though, I can definitely recommend it to Linux beginners who want to experiment with distributions other than Ubuntu.
You can get it here, though note that if you want to get the Cinnamon edition, the one that was released in the past week is the last one for the foreseeable future; this is because apparently the current version of Cinnamon conflicts with GNOME 3.8, so the Arch developers have stopped shipping Cinnamon altogether (or something like that).

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for the write up. I'm a long time Manjaro fan and have been using it since its early days. I previously always had a full install of it on my laptop alongside windows 7 and usually another linux distro but I had some problems with 0.8.4 and ended up with Netrunner and Zorin OS on the laptop. I'm waiting for one of those to break so I have an excuse to put Manjaro back on ^^

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    1. You make it sound like it's Mandrake or another long lived distribution. Funny enough, Manjaro has only been around for a year or so.

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    2. @Barnaby: Well, there is something to admire about early adopters when a project becomes successful, even if said project has only existed for a little over a year. Thanks for the comment!

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  2. Arch devs have never shipped Cinnamon it is in the AUR but never been done by the Devs themeselves, and yes you are right Cinnamon uses old libraries that are not compatible with 3.8

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  3. @crabdog: It's great that Manjaro Linux has worked so well for you. Thanks for the comment!

    @smakked: I was under the impression that the reason for Manjaro Linux for dropping Cinnamon and for Cinnarch dropping...itself was that Cinnamon was being provided from upstream until now. Thanks for the clarification!

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  4. What I like about Arch is BIG+SKILLFUL COMMUNITY and its rolling release system (but I don't know yet what is it). But my problem is installing Arch via console, I can't. With GUI, now I can try Arch first. I am curious with pacman also.

    Thank you for posting this review. I save it.

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    1. @Ade Malsasa Akbar: I should clarify that while Manjaro Linux is based on Arch, it uses its own repositories rather than the official Arch repositories, though it does have access to the AUR. If you want something more closely tied to Arch, I would recommend KahelOS, ArchBang, or something like that. Also, a rolling-release distribution is one where updates are continually provided to anyone who uses the distribution, so if you install it, all you have to do is apply regular updates, and you will never have to reinstall it. Thanks for the support!

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  5. It may use its own repos but most of the packages therein were most probaly built by the archlinux packagers.

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    1. @Anonymous: That is probably true. That said, as it grows, I could see progressively more packaging done independently from Arch. Thanks for the comment!

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    2. Just curious, why is packaging done independently from arch? Are you more likely to break something if you use arch repos?

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    3. @Anonymous: I'm not sure, but I guess that's plausible. Thanks for the comment!

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  6. About the repos, you have all information available in the wiki, here for instance: http://wiki.manjaro.org/index.php?title=Access_the_Testing_Repositories

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