After reviewing the Manjaro based Netrunner distribution last week I decided to check out Manjaro again to see how much it has improved and how much value Netrunner added. What I found was truly amazing.
I will start off by saying that Manjaro blew all my expectations out of the water. I expected Manjaro to be like Netrunner but with less applications but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Well actually it is a little bit true but not entirely true. Read on, you will see what I mean.
What Is Manjaro?
According to the Manjaro website, Manjaro is a user-friendly GNU/Linux distribution based on the independently developed Arch Linux.
Manjaro is built for newcomers as well as experienced Linux users.
For newcomers there is a user friendly installer and the system is designed to work out of the box.
How To Get Manjaro
You can download Manjaro from http://manjaro.github.io/download/
There are a number of different versions available including an XFCE and KDE version both in 32-bit and 64-bit and a net edition which comes without a desktop environment and without applications.
The version I am reviewing here is the KDE version.
If you prefer to buy a pre-installed DVD or USB drive you can do so by clicking here.
Everything you need to know about creating a DVD, USB drive and installing Manjaro can be found on this page.
This page shows how to create a USB and DVD.
There are a number of installation guides available on the Manjaro website. This one is for beginners.
The steps for installing Manjaro are fairly linear and straight forward.
- Select your location
- Choose your timezone
- Set your keyboard layout
- Check your computer matches the requirements
- Choose whether you want to replace your current operating system or install alongside
- Choose where to put the boot loader
- Create a user
It is one of the easiest installers I have used although this machine has a standard BIOS and not a UEFI one. I would need to test this on a UEFI machine to get a full idea. (A task for another week).
There is a UEFI installation guide which is worth checking out.
Manjaro first boots to the display screen which asks you to choose your user and enter the password. The KDE desktop then loads with a welcome message in the middle.
The welcome message has links to documentation, support and project sites. Manjaro’s documentation is very good and well worth reading.
The rest of the KDE desktop is fairly standard with the panel at the bottom with icons to the left and to the right.
Clicking on the Manjaro logo in the bottom left brings up the menu. It is a decent menu system which defaults to your favourite applications but there are tabs for applications, computer, history and leave as well. The applications tab brings up a list of categories as shown in the image above. Clicking on the category shows the applications within the category.
The other items on the left side of the panel are for show desktop, the Dolphin file manager and Firefox web browser.
The bottom right corner has icons for choosing workspaces, wastebin, clipboard, bluetooth settings, devices, keyboard language, updates, audio settings, network settings, notifications and of course the clock.
Customising The Desktop
KDE has loads of customisable features including adding new activities, adding widgets to the desktop, changing the wallpaper and customising panels. Click here for an overview guide to customising KDE.
At the very basic level you can right click on the desktop, choose desktop settings and pick from one of the many pre-installed desktop wallpapers.
Manjaro comes with a fairly nice set but of course you can pick your own. Here is a sample of a pre-installed image.
Connecting To The Internet
Connecting to the internet is straight forward.
Click on the network icon in the system tray and choose the network you wish to connect to. You will be asked for the security key.
As this is KDE the KDE wallet appears asking how you wish to secure things like saved passwords. Basically you give it an overall password which is used to protect other saved passwords. Ideally you would use a GPG key to protect this information but that is for another article.
I noted in my last review that Flash is a dying product and Adobe has basically given up on Linux. This means that Firefox is miles behind when it comes to version numbers and so if you try and watch catch up television you might get an error stating your version of Flash is too far behind.
The best solution is to install Google Chrome which I will show you how to do later on.
MP3 audio works straight away without having to install extra codecs. The audio package within Manjaro is Cantata which is basic but very nice.
I reviewed the features of Cantata for about.com last week especially in regards to the online radio aspects.
There are a few setup questions when you first start it. Basically you can use it as an MPD server allowing you to serve music to multiple devices or you can use it as a standalone player just for use on the computer you are using.
The interface is simple but it works well enough and you can drag and drop tracks into the playlist.
For the past couple of reviews on this computer I have had trouble with Steam because of the open source graphics drivers.
I was fully expecting Manjaro to fail with the same issue especially as I spotted a menu option for clearing the cache which clearly states “OpenGL errors related to runtime library incompatibilities”.
I clicked on the Steam link, waited for the download of the updates, waited for the extraction, waited for it to error out or hang and then bang…. nothing happened. It worked perfectly.
You may remember at the start of this review that I said that Netrunner would be like Manjaro but with a few extra applications.
This bit is largely true but what I found out is that Manjaro provides a really good mix of applications. There are enough to do what you want to do but not too many.
- Krita – Drawing
- Okular – Document Viewer
- Skanlite – Scanning
- Gwenview – Photo Manager
- Exposure Blending – Shrug of shoulders, I have no idea even after reading the description
- Panorama – Stitch photos together to make panoramic images
- Digikam – Photo Management
- Karbon – Scalable Graphics
- Blogilo – KDE blogging tool
- Avahi – SSH/VNC server browser
- QBitTorrent – Bit Torrent Client
- Cloud Storage Manager
- kGet – Download Manager
- Akregator – RSS Feed Reader
- Konversation – IRC Client
- KMail – Email Client
- Firefox – Web Browser
- k3b – Disc Burning
- VLC – Media Player
- Cantata – Music Player / MPD Client
- Kdenlive – Video Editor
- Xine – Video Player
I haven’t included absolutely every application but these are the main ones.
In the Netrunner review I noted that there was an application called Discover which looked pretty but failed to do absolutely anything.
Manjaro doesn’t include that application. The graphical package manager is the plain but simple to use Octopi.
Simply search for a program using the search tool or navigate through the categories.
Click the program you wish to install and away you go.
There are limitations. If you want to install programs such as Chrome which aren’t in the default repositories you will need to use the command line.
How To Install Chrome
Chromium is available from within Octopi which is ok but it doesn’t solve the Flash issue if you need to watch videos on sites that demand an up to date player.
Installing Chrome is fairly straight forward but does require the command line.
Press F12 to bring down the Yakuake terminal window from the top.
Type the following:
yaourt -S google-chrome
You will be asked some questions along the way such as whether you want to continue building Chrome. Simply answer Y to the questions and when you are asked for your password enter it.
Ok so the performance for Netrunner which used Manjaro as a base wasn’t bad but it was less than impressive.
I would have thought that Manjaro would be much the same but no, the performance is great.
The boot time and shutdown times are good and the overall performance of the desktop is brilliant. I can’t fault it.
The whole experience feels very smooth.
I haven’t had a single bad message pop up nor did I find any strange quirks.
The keyboard layout is fine, Steam worked straight away and audio plays fine.
I have put this machine through its paces by watching online television, playing music, watching Youtube videos, creating Youtube videos, updating my CV and I even helped my daughter create a presentation.
I used to watch the Linux Help Guy videos on Youtube before he had to rename his channel for having a slightly racy background image in one of his video tutorials.
He swore by Manjaro Linux and after using it I can totally understand why. I am no big fan of KDE but this is really very very usable, to the point I will be entrusting this to my main machine over the top of Linux Mint.
Is it for everybody? You probably need to learn a little bit of command line, especially the inner workings of Yaourt and PacMan but other than that you should be golden.
This is the best Linux distribution I have used in quite some time.