2015-02-09

Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.12 "Ascella" Xfce

It has been a while since I reviewed Manjaro Linux. In fact, my last review of it was almost 2 years ago. Since then, I have seen a lot of news about how much it has grown and how good it has gotten. I figured I should give it another review.

Manjaro Welcome + Whisker Menu
For those who don't remember, Manjaro is a distribution that based on Arch Linux. It maintains a rolling-release base, and it is compatible with most Arch repositories, though some of its repositories are its own. It officially supports KDE and Xfce, though community editions exist for other DEs as well.

Several weeks ago, I tried to test it using MultiSystem, but the live USB didn't boot. This time, though, it worked using UnetBootin after following this set of instructions. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

After getting past the boot menu, the boot screen seemed to freeze, and then suddenly a large amount of text appeared below. This took a little time to give way to the desktop, but eventually that happened.

Pamac
The desktop looks a bit different from my last review. The most noticeable difference is that the panel is now on the bottom. The standard Xfce menu has been replaced by the Whisker Menu, which works well. There is also a button between the window switcher and the workspace switcher to show the desktop. The notification area has more stuff and is now between the workspace switcher and the clock. Still, on the far-right of the panel is the button to log off/shut down. The icons, GTK+, and Xfwm themes are all a bit different from before, and the whole look is a lot more dark and glossy. Overall, I think it looks quite classy and works well. There are just two complaints I have. One is that in various windows, the number '1' character proved to be hard to render: I'd have to hover over the area where it should appear in any window for it to actually appear. The other is that in the panel window switcher, the highlighted window title looks a little hard to read, with black text on top of a moderate green background; the black text looks a little too much like a shadow (although the window titles in window buttons that are not selected look great).

Mozilla Firefox is the default browser. It seems to have most multimedia plugins and codecs included, as YouTube and Hulu worked fine, as did my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts. There was one time when it randomly closed, but that was after I opened and closed private windows multiple times in rapid succession.
LibreOffice is the default productivity suite as usual. As far as other applications go, they seem to mainly come from the standard suite of Xfce or MATE applications, with the notable exceptions of Steam for gaming, as well as the Viewnior image viewer (which I happen to like a lot and am disappointed that it isn't found in many distributions by default, given its excellent balance between light weight and presence of features).

Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
I was able to install Skype, Google Talk, Mupen64Plus, and Redshift all through the Pamac package manager (labeled "Add/Remove Software" in the Whisker Menu), which looks and feels a bit like the Synaptic Package Manager. These were easy enough to do, though I do wish that Pamac would make clear what dependencies were getting installed too. Additionally, the backend is more visible here, because when packages get installed, the user has to type 'Y' at various points to confirm that packages should in fact be installed. Skype and Google Talk worked quite well, as I was able to carry out full conversations with both. I was able to use Mupen64Plus through the M64Py frontend, which is also available in the repositories; it was a little slow and sluggish when started in full-screen, but closing it and starting it at a somewhat smaller window size made it much more responsive. Redshift seemed to behave a little weirdly in how it picked the color temperature, though it did correctly recognize my location.
I considered installing Workrave as well; this is an application that forces the user to take breaks of specified length at specified intervals by locking the screen during the break time. I found that Manjaro already includes a similar official Xfce panel applet, though the one included is a little more restrictive in that it doesn't allow for breaks to be skipped; I know that the point is to take breaks and not simply sit all the time, and while I do admit that sometimes I elect to skip a break in Workrave just because I'm feeling a little lazy, there are other times when I am doing something interactive for a while and don't need or want a break right then. That aside, though, the applet itself works quite well and is fairly simple.

Desktop Cube + Nemo + Nemo-Preview
I was also able to install Compiz from the repositories by simply selecting the "compiz-xfce" package to install; this installed all the necessary packages that would be known to work with Xfce. After that, I added "compiz --replace" to the list of commands that would be executed upon logging in, and after logging out and logging back in, it worked! I was able to see all the effects and other features I wanted. The one weird thing was that although this was supposed to be an older version of Compiz, I saw the same issue with the horizontally-shrunken panel workspace switcher applet that I did in Linux Mint 17.1 "Rebecca" Xfce.
Even with Compiz and Redshift running in the background, Manjaro used about 275 MB of RAM at idle according to the command "free -m", which I have decided will be my standard method from now on for checking RAM usage (to be able to compare different distributions a little more consistently). The system always felt pretty responsive and never felt sluggish or anything like that.
Finally, just for fun, I was able to install Nemo and use it as the default file browser, along with its previewing feature. It required the installation of a few extra Cinnamon and GNOME dependencies, but these were small common libraries, not the entire DEs. That's how it happened with Linux Mint 17.1 "Rebecca" Xfce as well, so it is good to see such consistency across distributions. Additionally, it seems like Xfce does a very good job of ensuring that once Nemo (or another file manager) is picked as the default, that choice is respected throughout the desktop; even the Xfce panel applet showing a home directory tree menu will respect that choice.

That is where my time with Manjaro Linux 0.8.12 "Ascella" Xfce ended. The one issue that may put off new users is the one regarding the mystery of the disappearing character '1'. Other than that, though, everything worked for me, so I'd be interested to try it in a more long-term fashion for myself, and I have very little reason not to give this a high recommendation for newbies and more experienced users alike (newbies especially thanks to the helpful welcome screen, good documentation, and easy-to-use desktop).
You can get it here.

2 comments:

  1. The "1" might be because of font rendering. There are a few things to review before commiting to the 0.9.0 release config, and font rendering is one of them.

    A few notes regarding some things stated:
    1a. Pamac only needs interaction for AUR (Arch User Repository) packages, as it calls yaourt directly in the background (changing yaourtrc will affect its behavior, which is convenient). Regular repo packages are handled natively.
    1b. There's no need to press Y. "Enter" will do as Y is preselected in most cases (except for errors/replacement prompts).
    2. The compiz-xfce installs a "compiz --replace" launcher for login, so you don't need to add anything.

    ReplyDelete