2017-04-12

Review: Manjaro Linux 17.0.1 "Gellivara" Xfce

This is the next installment of my series of reviews to determine which Linux distribution I can use to replace my current installation of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce on my personal laptop. The (not strict) criteria that I am considering are that the distributions should be well-known, which is reflected to some degree in DistroWatch rankings, as this implies that the distribution may have official or strong community support for popular proprietary packages; additionally, the distributions I consider should preferably have MATE or Xfce editions (though I'm open to other DEs as well), and should have a long (more than 3 years from now) support cycle or use a rolling-release support model.

Main Screen + Xfce Whisker Menu
The current distribution I am trying is the latest Xfce edition of Manjaro Linux. It is a rolling-release distribution that was formerly based on Arch Linux, though it still uses the Arch User Repositories (AUR) for many packages that the distribution maintainers do not officially test. It also has an official KDE edition, as well as community-supported editions for other DEs. I tested the 64-bit version (though a 32-bit version is available too) on a live USB made through the "dd" command. (This time, I used a USB stick that I have never used before, to avoid the issues seen in my recent review of openSUSE with my previous aging USB stick that I have been using for reviews for the last 8 years.) Follow the jump to see what it's like.

The boot menu was a little confusing, because the options for actually starting the live system were buried below options for selecting the language, time zone, and so on. However, I soon found the desired option, which allowed the boot process to proceed to a scrolling wall of text (unlike the graphical boot splash found in my recent review of the previous Cinnamon edition). That took a little time to give way to the desktop. The desktop is essentially the same as when I reviewed the Xfce edition (and as that was the last time I reviewed the Xfce edition of Manjaro Linux, I will reference it as appropriate throughout this review), aside from slightly modified titlebar and GTK+ themes; the former seems like a step backward, as the 3 window buttons on the top-right corner are very small and don't have labels (for minimize/maximize/close) as they used to. The only other minor issue is that for some reason, the PRTSCR (print-screen) key is not bound by default to the screenshot tool, so I had to add that shortcut myself. Otherwise, the desktop works quite well.

Pamac Package Manager
Mozilla Firefox is the default web browser. It has many codecs and plugins installed, but not all. That said, it cooperated with standard keyboard shortcuts just fine. LibreOffice is the default productivity suite. The other included applications are pretty interesting too. Viewnior is the default image viewer; I like this application because it has a simpler version of the interface of Eye Of GNOME/Eye Of MATE, but is much faster to open and load images. The PDF viewer is QPDFView, which is a simple PDF viewer that also has several features that I like from Okular, the default PDF viewer for KDE (but are missing from Evince/Atril, the default PDF viewers for GNOME/MATE, respectively), as well as seemingly unique features, including tabs for viewing multiple documents in the same window. The text editor is Mousepad, which is quite lightweight yet has several handy features that would bring it close to the level of Gedit/Pluma for basic text file editing. Steam is present as well, which is nice as I do occasionally play games through Steam, though I didn't check whether the program was fully installed or if it is just a link to an installer.

Nemo + VLC Media Player + Desktop Cube
I was able to install other packages using the GUI package manager Pamac. It took me a bit of searching to figure out how to install packages from the AUR, but I was eventually able to install Compiz, Nemo, Mupen64Plus, Redshift, and Adobe Flash from the main repositories, as well as Skype and Google Talk from the AUR; regarding the latter point, both the current stable and new beta versions of Skype for Linux are available in the AUR, which is nice, so I went with the current stable version which I figured should work. Skype worked fine, and I was able to verify that both my video and audio were being recognized properly. Mupen64Plus, Nemo, and Redshift worked without any issues; I also installed Nemo-Preview, which worked too, though that took an extra attempt or two to make happen. Adobe Flash worked properly in Mozilla Firefox. After logging out and back in, Compiz worked fine for the most part, except for two issues: one is the same horizontally shrunken panel workspace switcher applet as in my previous review of Xfce in Manjaro Linux, and the other is that if I try to open any settings editors for the desktop or for Xfwm4 while Compiz is runnng, those windows freeze and in turn slow down other running applications. The only thing that didn't work was Google Talk, due to the known recent incompatibility with Mozilla Firefox 52 (across all platforms).

As I am considering this for my own regular use on my laptop, I was able to also check connections to my research group's computation cluster, as well as whether my phone would be recognized. Both of those tests succeeded, without any issues.
Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
Apart from the issues brought up by Compiz, Manjaro Linux was always fast, smooth, and responsive. In any case, I figure that I don't really use the features that many people found useful in Compiz anymore, so there's no reason for me not to use Xfwm4 which has nice subtle compositing of its own, though it's nice to have Compiz available on the occasion that I care to impress friends with it; given that, I probably won't encounter such issues with stability/response times on a regular basis. The OS used 350 MB of RAM at idle without Compiz running in the background, and 410 MB of RAM at idle with it; these figures are a little higher than they were two years ago, but they are still quite reasonable.

That's where my time with Manjaro Linux 17.0.1 "Gellivara" Xfce ended. I really like the included applications and the way the system works overall. I wouldn't recommend it to newbies because setting up the system, including enabling the AUR, can be a bit tricky/nontrivial, and because the user guide strongly recommends that even new users learn to use the command-line. However, I can certainly recommend it to Linux users who may have marginal experience with it and are ready to learn a bit more about it. As it stands, I would be quite willing to use this distribution on a daily basis. My only concerns are that this is a rolling-release distribution, so the cumulative stability may be somewhat questionable, and that this is a community-supported distribution that maintains a lot of popular proprietary packages in the AUR (as opposed to the main repositories), which in turn makes the issue of supporting these packages a little more questionable too. That said, these concerns are assuaged to some degree by the facts that these proprietary packages have been successfully maintained in the AUR for several years now, that Manjaro Linux itself has grown and thrived over the last few years (as demonstrated in my reviews too), and that I don't expect this distribution to brick my computer, so if worse comes to worst, I can always switch to another distribution. The search for a replacement distribution will continue, but now I have at least one strong contender.
You can get it here.

2 comments:

  1. Manjaro is quite a bit more stable than other rolling-release distros, as they delay packages from Arch for a couple weeks to test them for stability/compatibility before updating the Manjaro repos.

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  2. @Anonymous: Thanks for the tip!

    ReplyDelete