Sunday, September 03, 2017

How do I love Manjaro? Let me count the ways

So, following on from my post about Solus, let's talk about something I do like.

Manjaro.

What a beautiful word. Inspired by the name of African mountain Kilimanjaro, it's an Arch-based, rolling release distribution, using pacman as its package manager. And it's green.

That's not to everyone's taste, of course (one prominent Linux YouTuber/vlogger mentioned that it's "not his colour" in his most recent review), but it is to mine. And so is almost everything else.

One frustrating thing about recent Manjaro releases is that the default installer has taken away the options to install Linux in an LVM volume group, which allows for easier partition resizing and also allows you to span a volume group over multiple disks, and to have a separate /home partition for data. The option is, if I recall correctly, available in the Manjaro Architect installer, but last time I tried it it didn't work properly. However, not only is Manjaro Architect very new, but I also didn't have much luck installing Arch using Architect itself last time I tried. Perhaps those problems will be fixed, but for now Calamares, the default Manjaro installer, works well for what it does (and doesn't have as many silly and annoying limitations as the Solus installer).

Manjaro comes in two main versions, the XFCE version and the KDE version. The XFCE version is arguably prettier, but I also love the KDE version, which I'm using right now to write this. The XFCE has a larger choice of (Manjaro-themed) wallpapers, so I installed the xfce4-artwork package alongside the usual Manjaro KDE ones, which include a Manjaro-themed wallpaper, and (judging from the last time I installed Arch) the usual default set of Arch KDE wallpapers, which is larger than the set included with either Kubuntu or KDE neon. 

Arch, for those unfamiliar with Linux or with distros outside the Ubuntu/Linux Mint mold, is a distribution which "tries to 'keep it simple'", which in their case means that you start the install cd with a text-based shell, and build the system from the ground up. It works well (assuming you either do a very simple install, or can navigate the various parts needed to do a more complicated one), but takes quite a while, leaves you with a minimal system, and means you end up having to put up with things like silly font selections in the user interface for the Vivaldi browser (which, for some reason, makes it easy to change the fonts used on webpages, but not in menus, etc.). Manjaro takes about half an hour to install a fully-featured desktop including the aforementioned wallpapers, a couple of beautiful, custom themes, and the Thing of Beauty that is the AUR.

The AUR, or Arch User Repository, was created to solve the problem all non-Ubuntu distributions have (particularly if they do not use Ubuntu and Debian's apt-get package manager) of limited software availability, and solves it very well. It requires that most packages (other than proprietary, distributed-as-binary-only packages like Vivaldi and Google Chrome) be compiled, but takes care of the hard work doing so for you, for the most part. Occasionally a build will fail, but most packages work straight out of the box, even if large packages such as vivaldi-ffmpeg-codecs take quite a while to build. It also doesn't do annoying non-standard things like deleting /usr/local or /etc/shells, or, like Ubuntu, putting configuration files which should be in /etc/ in /usr/share or other places. (A few months of running OpenBSD have left me with a penchant for changing the default text console font to Sun Microsystem's (RIP) sun12x22; just try doing that in Ubuntu.). It installs a fairly wide variety of software including LibreOffice, Steam, Firefox and Kmail (or Thunderbird, if you run the XFCE version), and although some people complain about "bloat" when distros install a lot of software like this, when installing Arch I usually find I install most of the software Manjaro installs by default anyway. Arch also makes it easy to change your shell (as I mentioned in my previous post), and generally makes Linux a joy to use. I am a chronic distro-hopper (it's my favourite activity to do of an evening when I have nothing to do and don't want to watch TV), but I just keep going back to Manjaro. I love it and encourage you to give it a try. Manjaro Linux. Enjoy the simplicity.

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