Friday, October 18, 2013

Manjaro Linux: No Assembly Required

by Dietrich Schmitz

So, okay, I've known about Manjaro for quite some time.  I put it on a pen drive and took a look at it and at the time last year it was using a Ncurses installer.  There were niggling issues with it so I aborted the installation.

Yet, it still intrigued me mainly because it uses Arch and AUR and given all of the talk about how fast and light Arch Linux is, it was interesting to see someone attempting to take advantage and fill what I feel is an unmet need.

Many would like to try Arch, but the technical expertise required is a barrier.  Arch isn't user-friendly and one cannot simply press a button to start an install GUI and have all the 'black magic' taken care of for them.

The Arch purists do love that aspect and I understand that need to get under the hood and get grease under one's fingernails.  Only, it's not for me and I've mentioned this many times to my Arch Friends -- it will never gain broad adoption because major assembly and technical expertise is required to put Arch on your Desktop.

So, today, I gave Manjaro 0.8.7 a try.

The install process now includes options for either CLI or GUI.  Naturally, I chose GUI.

The install could not have been easier and routine, I thought.  This will work for the majority of newcomers to Linux for sure.

The notorious Broadcom wireless on my Acer Aspire One D260 was detected and worked straight up from the live installer.  It wasn't more than 20 minutes before the process completed and asked me to reboot.  That I did and noted that reaching the login screen took no more than 15 seconds.

I chose the OpenBox version (verses Xfce) simply because it would use the least ram in my experience.

The desktop sports conky and the setup includes compton compositor effects which are used judiciously and the muted gray with light green is pleasant to the eye with a design that approaches minimalism.

The appearance immediately reminded me of CrunchBang.  Only I would estimate Crunch still is speed king and ram sipping extraordinaire.  The Desktop in Manjaro despite being OpenBox shows 200mb ram used.  I would have expected lower but okay, it's still lightweight as far as I am concerned.

The terminal is LXTerminal and the file manager is Thunar.

In the systray was an octopi update reminder which when run shows the updates to be installed in a graphical window (see below) yet when I commit to doing the update, octopi simply opens a terminal window and launches a pacman script -- I guess that is 'doable' but I'd have expected the gui to do all of the presentation.

Running Octopi software updates on Manjaro 0.8.7

So this is Manjaro.  I am reserving judgment and will see how far I get using it.  Out of the box it comes with Firefox and Adobe Flash 11.2.x preinstalled, which is a plus.  The kernel is 3.10.x which means it 'should' support seccomp-bpf applications like Chrome and ssh.

Regretfully, I was unsuccessful in installing Chrome stable using Manjaro Forum supplied directions -- makepkg returned a dependency error.  Good Friend +Cirrus McMinor has offered to dial up and get it working, but, it would be nice if one could download Chrome directly and install from the Google website but that appears not to be the case for Arch and derivatives like Manjaro.  That would place pacman-based Distros (Arch) on equal footing with DEB and RPM Distro Google supplied versions.  So, I'll settle for Firefox and see how far I can get with it.

If you have used OpenBox, it's pretty basic and there isn't much to say other than Manjaro at least updates OB's menu to reflect the addition of an application, unlike other Distros using OpenBox.

So, if you yearn for Arch but don't have the intestinal fortitude to deal with the technicalities, then I would strongly suggest you have a look at Manjaro Linux.  It's biggest plus: No Assemby Required.  Good Luck.

-- Dietrich
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