I have distro hopped like a grass hopper in my early years as a Linux user. I’ve tried different variants of Linux & one of the things that I’ve realised is that even though overall eye candy does matter, but what matters more in the longterm is your hardware compatibility, familiarity with the distro and how well it suits the flow of your work.
They say if it works, don’t try to fix it & thus we have distros like Arch and Gentoo. Gentoo is the type of distro that not only requires pure commitment and dedication, but you also need a lot of patience to go through hours of frustrating compilation process. The end result being that all your software is optimised according to your architecture; in non-geek terms it means that your computer would pretty much run the fastest it can run and more. It’s like replacing the Toyota engine of your car with that of a Ferrari. Who wouldn’t want the extra speed right? Only if you knew how painful the actual process is.
Anyway, Arch on the other hand has prebuilt binaries optimised for your architecture which is similar to that of Gentoo but the upside being that there’s no compilation process therefore it’s much faster to get things setup. With Arch you’ll have to start from scratch and go through a big book full of instructions on how to set it up and running according to your taste. Nothing impossible, purely do-able but you need the time & energy to troubleshoot your own hardware, software & driver issues along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I love these distros because they give you total control over how you want your perfect system to be like but I’m certainly not the kind of guy that’d wait 10+ hours just to get my system to a usable state. Therefore we have a distro called Manjaro Linux on for review today!
First of all, I’m a big fan of openbox window manager. It’s sleek, fast & totally customisable. Also I do like Arch but due to time constraint never really bothered to give it a full try.
What Manjaro Linux brings to the table is that its based on Arch Linux but it comes out of the box as a minimal install (not as bloated as Ubuntu) on which you can further customise and tune according to your taste. It brings all the goodies of arch like the keep it simple philosophy, consistent & simple bloat free architecture and most important of all user friendliness with a lot of built in scripts to assist the user in customising look & feel. So basically you get an Arch system for free without having to break a sweat.
Manjaro Linux comes in various flavors like Openbox, Kde, Mate, etc. but for now I’m going to keep this review relevant only to Openbox. The best openbox distro that I’ve used in the past is Crunchbang, and it’s really good. But what Manjaro Linux gives you is access to more up to date, bleeding edge software, increased computer performance, ability to update & switch kernels on the fly (built in scripts) & the impressive amount of documentation. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a step by step instruction manual regarding the process of installation on Manjaro (in the form of pdf), detailed with screenshots. Seems like they’ve really put up a lot of effort in trying to make it look more professional and easy to use.
TLDR; here are the things that I like about Manjaro Linux:
- Fast, simple & based on Arch Linux.
- Stable repositories. You gain access to Arch repos & a lot of tests are done to ensure that the update doesn’t break anything before it’s released on Manjaro servers.
- Built in scripts like mhwd, mhwd-gpu, mhwd-kernel ensure that you’re uptodate with the latest kernel or drivers for your graphics card & you can opt to change to different versions as you see fit.
- Openbox install comes preinstalled with all the necessary scripts, themes & customisations to just get you started without starting from a plain vanilla install.
- Big community of active users who are constantly working on fixing old scripts, creating new ones & making your Manjaro better.
- Good forum support for Manjaro users via their official forum. Documentation from Arch can also be used as a reference material to troubleshoot your problem as there’s similarity between both distros.
Things that I’d like to see improved in Manjaro:
- Video tutorials series detailing how to get certain things done as Manjaro has a strong focus on beginner Linux users.
- More customisation options for Openbox like which screensaver, login manager, etc. you’d like to install. Also it’d be nice if there’s an option to turn on some composition (compton) with fade effect & transparency by default.
- More marketing to get the message across about Manjaro, it doesn’t get as much publicity as let’s say Ubuntu.
Here’s a link to my new Manjaro install, see how it looks like:
Overall, I’m really impressed with Manjaro Linux & I’ve never seen a distro so focused towards beginner Linux users. They’ve done a great job at it & if I were to recommend a distro to my friends or family this would be it. Certainly worth giving a try if you haven’t already :)