Trying Out Manjaro For The First Time

…and I am officially loving it!

I think I might have found my next Linux distro. NO. I have found my next Linux distro.

The Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus on my personal laptop is getting way too old for comfort. LTS (Long Term Support) it may be, but I think it will be EOL by this year after 5 long years. On April 30th if I’m not mistaken. Unless they extend it. But even if they did, it is high time I installed a new one.

I was thinking about the Ubuntu Unity Remix version. Having second thoughts about it though. I want to try newer things and get out of my comfort zone a little bit. Probably have at it with a rolling release type of Linux distro. Perhaps just try really something new that is not DEB-based or RPM-based. So no Debian, Linux Mint, SuSE, certainly not elementaryOS, and definitely not Fedora.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Arch Linux and its derivative, Manjaro. Who hasn’t? People who have used it (either distro) have been giving it very good reviews. With a caveat that the installation part is not for a newbie Linux user, at least for the former. I’m not really a newbie to Linux. However, quite frankly, I don’t have time to configure each and every thing just for a Linux installation. I’m way past that stage now. Perhaps one day. Right now I just want it to work straight away after a clean install. With minimal tinkering if necessary (Although knowing me, I’d probably spend hours and hours configuring KDE to my liking!). Then forget about it afterwards. Also, Arch Linux seems to be very well supported by its community. I would hope that same truth follows with any and all its derivatives such as Manjaro.

So it is going to be Manjaro.

Over the weekend I’ve taken time to download a Manjaro installer. I chose a KDE flavor. This would be the KDE Plasma 20.2.1 version. If you could call it that since it is supposed to be a rolling release type.

There are other official options, of course, but I am going to settle with KDE simply because I miss it! Ever since I started using Linux for my desktop operating system, I’ve been a KDE user for as long as I can remember. Wasn’t always a fan of Gnome-based distros. I only started using Gnome because of Ubuntu back in 11.04 Natty Narwhal. Right now I don’t think I am in favor of the direction the Ubuntu desktop is headed. The uniqueness that it once had is no longer there. It has become, sad to say, a re-skinned Gnome DE with all its quirkiness. Well, that’s just my 2 cents.

Originally, I was going to spin up a VMWare VM to try Manjaro out. Then I remembered that I had an extra HP laptop lying around somewhere, that needed some TLC. It is old-ish and running on a Windows 10. Okay, for transparency this machine is not mine. It is my girlfriend’s mom’s laptop. It was left to her mom’s as a collateral for unpaid apartment rentals last year since a lot of people had lost their jobs. The “original” OS came with it too.

She’s been complaining that it’s slow. And since I’m an “IT guy”, if I could do something about it. I thought about replacing the disk drive for an SSD. Yes, this machine (I am currently writing this blog post on it now by the way) still uses a mechanical drive. It only has 4GB of RAM too. Can’t blame Windows 10 for performing poor-ish on it.

Then I thought about installing Linux on it instead. I mean, why not? Linux is great! Plus all her mom does on this laptop is watch YouTube videos and chat/call on Facebook Messenger. Literally. Thus you will see the 2 large icons displayed prominently at the center of the desktop in the screenshot. There for her convenience.

And that is also another reason why I specifically chose KDE. The layout is Window-ish. It looks closely familiar enough. It is easy to use and follows the traditional desktop paradigm. Plus it just looks great with lots of configuration options.

Installed Manajaro. Yay!

It didn’t take long to install Manjaro over the weekend. Pretty much trivial. I basically just wiped out Windows 10 rather than keeping it. I’ve installed Chromium so that she can use dedicated browser windows like standalone apps for the 2 main things that she will be doing on this computer. Removed or hid away things that won’t be needed as much as possible without breaking it. KDE is notorious for long dependency chains. Any KDE-user knows that.

Screenshots below. I’ve changed the Manjaro defaults. Made it use light themes and pointers. Because the intended user of this desktop environment is not used to black/dark themes. Which reminds me that I have yet to change that full-window menu to a lighter color as well.

Have been enjoying using this Manjaro desktop so far, not to mention using KDE once again. I’ve simply forgotten how configurable and flexible KDE is. Most of all I’m particularly surprised and pleased with how Manjaro has been behaving. It is pretty smooth and stable.

Observations

Given that this is an older laptop with a mechanical drive, Manjaro does not appear to stutter at all. Yes, the boot up may take longer and the app initial loading time is not what I’m used to compared to an SSD drive, but it doesn’t lag or freeze. Not exactly butter smooth, but smooth nonetheless. I just hope it stays this way for a long, long time.

My points of comparison:
I installed ChromeOS on the very same laptop some time before. The differences are more than just subtle. I would experience long-ish periods of locks/freezes with ChromeOS several times in a session. Long as in in several seconds. The lag was very noticeable. Granted that this laptop was never designed to run ChromeOS, so yeah there’s that. I also installed LinuxMint too. There were some observable lags, not at all like with the ChromeOS experience. A bit sluggish in some areas, but still acceptable. On both installs I used each OS for daily personal tasks for several days for the full experience.

The boot up is quite nice too. I mean I just see the HP logo and that’s what I want. It does not have to be fancy. Just please, no verbose text messages of whatever is going on in the background. I have a pet peeve of ugly boot ups with the text scrolling up the screen. I just hate that. I DO NOT want to see that ever on a booting Linux desktop. I don’t mind it on headless servers, but for a desktop, distros SHOULD take extra care to hide it from its users. Others can opt out and have at it looking at those messages all day long, but not me.

Hibernate appears to work. Now truth be told, I have not had a laptop with a working hibernate for a very long time. It just doesn’t work. This one does. I think. I’ll validate this later on, but I believe it really does. Which is great. Sleep works, of course.

Anyway, off to more discoveries or re-discoveries on this Manjaro desktop.

By some time next week, I will be handing this laptop over back to her mom, and boy will they be surprised! But before that I have to make sure everything works. From the built-in video camera to the audio while using Messenger, to being able to play YouTube content on a browser too. Not that I’m worried about the latter though. Everything has to work perfectly on a live call. I need to confirm that those are working 100%. I haven’t gotten to that part yet, but soon.

With all this said and done, I think I’m going back to KDE on the next install on my own laptop.

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