Manjaro Linux

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Manjaro Linux is a community-made Linux distribution based on Arch Linux. It comes in four flavors, there are Xfce, KDE and GNOME desktop editions and an Architect option for more advanced users. It aims to have all the advantages of a bleeding edge rolling-release distribution like Arch while not being stable and user-friendly and quite so over-the-top bleeding edge as Arch.

What makes Manjaro Linux different[edit | edit source]

Manjaro is, like Arch, a rolling release distribution with very up-to-date software. It is not meant to be a stable and frozen distribution like Debian. The main difference between Arch and Manjaro is that there's some testing going on before packages are released into the distributions repositories. New versions of software do become available fairly quickly following upstream releases but packages are not blindly immediately added; updated packages are typically tested in the "testing" repository for a week or three before they become a part of the regular repositories.

Manjaro Linux 18(.0.4)[edit | edit source]

The current version of Manjaro Linux is version 18 and this review was done using that version's Xfce desktop edition.

Manjaro Linux comes as a .ISO image you can use to make a bootable USB stick (or burn to a coaster if your computer still has a coffee-cup holder). Booting into the Live environment reveals a polished Xfce 4.14pre1 and a big "Welcome" dialog box.

The default desktop in the Live environment.

Release cycle and support[edit | edit source]

Manjaro is a "rolling release" distribution. There's new versions of the Live install images. There's no need to re-install or upgrade from one version to the next once it's installed, updating with the package manager will keep it up to date.

Installation[edit | edit source]

Starting the install process once you've booted into the Live desktop is a simple matter of clicking a friendly "Install Manjaro Linux" icon on the desktop. This starts Manjaro's "Illyria" installer. There is also a "Manjaro-Architect" installer which is text-based and clearly only for advanced users.

Manjaro-linux-illyria.png

It will ask for a Language, TimeZone and keyboard layout before it asks you where to install to.

The installer offers to "Erase disk" when you select one. You can also do manual partitioning. There is a very handy [ ] Encrypt option below the disk selection where you can choose to encrypt your installation and set a passphrase. You absolutely do want to do this. There is an option to change the boot loader location the bottom.

Full disk encryption is supported and easily enabled in the friendly installer.

Next you're asked for very personal information like your name, login name and the name of your computer as well as a "administrator account" (=root) password. Then you're done, click Next to get an overview of your installation settings and click Install if those look fine.

There is a slideshow with propaganda information during the file copy process. It doesn't take very long - depending on your SSD/HDD speeds.

Overall the installation process is smooth and easy and strait-forward. Bonus points for making full disk encryption easy to setup.

Hardware support[edit | edit source]

Manjaro comes with the NVidia proprietary driver and the ISO has it it's available as boot option. Richard Stallman would disapprove; Manjaro is not entirely free software. The advantage of including proprietary drivers is that this distribution will work perfectly with all desktops and laptops, old or new, out of the box. There is no need to install any additional drivers, it will just work.

Manjaro has a special tool called mhwd will will create a X configuration file and setup other things automatically.

The Desktop Experience[edit | edit source]

Manjaro's Xfce edition installs and boots into a very polished up-to-date Xfce. It comes with 4.13.4git. Running the pamac update tool bumbs that to 4.13.5. The default theme is something called Adapta-Eta-Maia and it's default icon theme is Papirus-Maia. Default font is set to Noto Sans Regular with Monospace regular as monospace font. The panel's have sane defaults. The out-of-the-box desktop looks and feel fine.

Manjaro-default-desktop.jpg

The default installation includes a lot of software compared to most other distributions. This includes quite a lot of proprietary software. Stallman would not approve. It does mean that everything you need and most if not all you want is already there, ready to be used. There's VLC with all codecs included so you can play any video file. There's Audacious for listening to music. There's the Firefox web browser - but no Chromium or Chrome. There's even Microsoft Skype.

The Games menu has just one item: Steam. SuperTuxKart and other games have to be installed manually (version 1.0 is available in the package manager).

The default the office programs are LibreOffice and Microsoft Office Online. The latter doesn't do much beyond bringing in some "Sign In" form asking about personal information.

The desktop experience is, overall, great and it's got what you need to start using it right away. The choice of including non-free software, while morally questionable, does make it easy to get in Steam and play fps games immediately once the installation's done.

Updating and adding software[edit | edit source]

Manjaro comes with a graphical package manager called pamac which can be used to keep the system up-to-date and install new software.

The graphical "pamac" package manager lets you search for Linux software and install it with a few clicks.

Doing quite a few searches for a range of software reveals that Manjaro's got everything in it's repositories. There could be obscure pieces of free software not offered in it's repository but we couldn't find any examples. And we looked.

There is also quite a lot of non-free software available in the package-manager. Things like TeamSpeak and Telegram can be installed as easily as any other package.

There is a huge amount of desktop themes and icon themes available for those who want to "rice" their desktop.

Under the hood[edit | edit source]

Manjaro uses systemd as a init and service-manager. It works the same way it does on any other systemd-distribution. Running systemd-analyze blame reveals a list of default services which is fairly normal. There are some, like ModemManager.service, which aren't required for most people yet it does make sense to have it as a default since a few of those who install it do use ancient technology.

Security[edit | edit source]

There is no SELinux or other security-framework in place. If this is good or bad depends on your point of view and experience, SELinux can be a pain and a barrier to setting up basic services - unless you've spent some time learning how to take advantage of it. Not having it is fine for most people but you may want to think twice about running your banks bank-end on this distribution.

Verdict[edit | edit source]

Manjaro Linux is overall a very nice and easy to use distribution. Installation is strait forward. The default desktop is nice and there is a fairly good amount of pre-installed software. Adding more software is easy and the amount of free and non-free software available in the repositories is huge and somewhat impressive. It's got everything.

Manjaro Linux is a mature, slick and polished distribution. We can absolutely recommend it for both novice and experienced desktop users. The lack of SELinux does make it a no-no for professional server deployments - but it's not really a server distribution.

Links[edit | edit source]


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