Everyone who uses GNU/Linux has heard of the big names like Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Red Hat and Mint. These are usually big distributions with a huge number of people and an organized effort behind them. Debian, for instance, is among the oldest of Free Software initiatives, and boasts legendary reliability and stability. Other than being one of the oldest, and most extensively deployed, platforms Debian is also the grounding of numerous derivatives, then most notable being Ubuntu! There are, however, a few names that are spoken in hushed voices in the dark corners of the computing world!Amongst those that boast of long experience and sufficient skills even, the names ‘Arch’ and ‘Gentoo’ are never uttered lightly. Arch and Gentoo, both GNU/Linux distributions, are neither the oldest nor the most well-funded projects, but they are certainly the most revered (and sometimes, most feared). It’s not that they are inherently, or willingly, difficult to use. Not at all. It’s just that they take a very simplistic and academic approach to computation. Arch, for instance, provides the user with a bare command terminal to install the kernel. Thereon, the user has the unfettered freedom to install all the other components – a desktop metaphor, a file manager, a package manager, icons etc. — by picking and choosing components, and changing them, according to her own free will (for instance, I have changed the text label of the menu-button to read ‘fodor O.S.: Ghost in the Machine’, to reflect the other custom forks that I am doing to make a distro that is specialized to suit my research and home usage). Once set up, Arch provides a completely custom and easy to use and fully accessible system. However, setting it up requires the knowledge to implement a few commands in order to get your system to be exactly the way you want it. There’s a learning curve, sure! But there’s always a price for freedom! It’s a price that will make your experience and your life richer by granting you a valuable skill set. Yet, sometimes the installation process with Arch can be a little intimidating, given how many layers of softwares modern operating systems usually require! A novice can, potentially, get so intimidated by the first impression of Arch that they might never return! Enter Manjaro GNU/Linux!
Manjaro is an unique distribution in its own rights, but at its heart it is (the dreaded) Arch! But it provides a beginner with a very simplified installer that uses graphical interface for simpler interactions. But at its core beats the same bleedin-edge heart of Arch – the world’s most reliable package manager (pacman) coupled with the most exhausting software repository ever put together by a public efforts (AUR – Arch User Repositories) throbbing with the possibilities of latest updates and patches as soon as they are released upstream. Manjaro, however, allows one to use these tools graphically, while also encouraging using the much more powerful commandline! Let’s face it – computers speak binary, not clicks and drags. No matter how advanced an OS gets, its commandline will always be vastly more powerful.Manjaro let’s you have an out-of-the-box working system that also offers the possibilities for commandline mastering as you try your hands at it. Switching to Arch has never been easier, and with Manjaro’s added layer of software repositories, which implements an additional layer of compatibility and stabilities check beyond Arch’s, it’s also never been safer! Here’s what I have found during my experiences with the green daemon (pun intended) of GNU/Linux distros that makes Manjaro one of the most premium home and specialist use Operating System.
I made this #0 because system speed always contains a bit of subjective experience. Everyone’s system configurations are different, and therefore distros will differ in their performance somewhat. However, on my core i5 (7th Gen) Dell Vostro workstation with 8 GB DDR4 RAM on 1TB 7200RPM HDD, Manjaro boots significantly faster (power to desktop metaphor in 43 seconds) than Ubuntu 18.10 (1min 15 seconds), Pop OS (1 min 23 seconds) and Fedora 28 (1 min 07 seconds). Once booted, the system feels much snappier during regular use, and for some reason GNOME Shell feels much snappier too!
1. Arch Without All the Hassle
Manjaro is one of the few Linux distributions that are not based on Debian. Instead, it is built on the continually cutting edge Arch Linux. Arch is a great distro, but unfortunately, if you want to install it you have to do a lot of work. You start off with a base system and you have to install and setup everything yourself. This can be a real pain if you just want to give Arch a spin or you’re new to Linux.
No wonder there are plenty of jokes around installing Arch Linux, like this one:
Manjaro takes all of the hassle out of installing Arch. Like most distros, all you have to do is download the ISO file, write it to a thumb drive, and install it. The Calamares installer gives you a smooth experience similar to Ubuntu’s Ubiquity installer.
2. Great Hardware Support
When installing Linux, it can be a pain to get all the hardware working. When you install Manjaro, it scans the system and installs the required drivers. On one of my computers, I have an old Broadcom wireless card. Every time I install a new distro, I have to go through some extra steps to get that Broadcom chip working. When I install Manjaro, it works out of the box. If that’s not enough for you, the Manjaro developers have provided us with a graphical interactive driver installer that is easy to use, and lets you chose which particular version and form (proprietary, free) of drivers you want to use for each individual component!
3. Don’t Have to Worry About PPAs
Before I switched to Manjaro, I used both Fedora and Debian Testing. The one thing that really bugged me was having to deal with PPAs (Personal Package Archive). Basically, a PPA is a repo for just a single application or a small group of applications. For those who never had to deal with this, allow me to explain.
Every time I wanted to install a piece of software that was not in the offIcial Ubuntu repos, I had to link a new PPA to my system via the terminal. Once it was linked and I had run
sudo, then the program was available for installation.
While adding the PPA doesn’t take a lot of time, it is a pain. When I upgraded from one version of Linux Mint to another I has a hell of a time getting the PPA I used switched over. If you use a lot of PPAs, it can quickly become a rat’s nest.
Then there’s the security aspect. There have been several times in the past when people have gotten a hold of old and unused PPAs and used them to push out malware.
Since Manjaro uses Arch as a base instead of Ubuntu, it doesn’t support PPAs. Instead, you have access to the Arch User Repository. for more info, read on.
4. AUR!!!! Lots and lots of Software!
Just because Manjaro doesn’t have PPAs, don’t think that it lacks in software. The Manjaro team maintains a large software repository. Beyond that, Manjaro users also have access to the Arch User Repository. The AUR is made up of user created scripts to install applications not packaged for Arch (or in this case Manjaro). Quite a few of the applications in the AUR were either originally packaged for Ubuntu or are pulled directly from Github. The scripts in the AUR then modify the
.deb files, so that they can be installed on Manjaro.
There are downsides to using the AUR. Sometimes the dependencies required by and AUR packages conflict with something already installed. You can also run into broken and out-of-date packages. But I’ve had very few problems, so far.
5. Latest and Greatest without Killing Your System
One of the problems that Arch users often have, because it is a rolling release, a new package will be released and it will break their system. The Manjaro team works to avoid that by testing new packages before making them available to users. While this might make Manjaro slightly less than bleeding edge, it also ensures that you’ll get new packages a lot sooner than distros with scheduled releases like Ubuntu and Fedora. I think that makes Manjaro a good choice to be a production machine because you have a reduced risk of downtime. Manjaro also implements the same bleeding-edge philosophy as Arch, incorporating the latest releases, updates and patches, with deliberately lagging itself one step behind Arch. As the flowchart below illustrates, daily builds released into the Arch repository go through one (or two) additional stage(s) before reaching Manjaro stable! This still ensures that latest updates reaches Manjaro within days, and sometimes hours, of being released. But due to the slight lag behind Arch (original)it ensures added layers of stability and leads to a much less finicky system.
6. Switching Kernels is Easy
In order to switch kernels on most distros, you have to use some terminal wizardry. Manjaro has a nice little application that allows you to install as many kernels as you want. This is handy if you have an older laptop and it doesn’t like a new kernel. In my case, I have an HP laptop that slows way down when you use a kernel newer than 4.4. and switching kernels was just a couple of clicks away.
7. Friendly Community
There are a number of distro communities (including Arch) that are known for not being very noob friendly. The same is not true for Manjaro. The official Manjaro forum is a great place for new people to find help. They also have forums available in over 29 languages for non-English speakers
Do you use Manjaro? If so, let us know about your experiences below. If you found this article interesting, please share on social media.