Manjaro 0.8.9 Mate Edition Review for March 2014

Manjaro 0.8.9 Mate Edition Review for March 2014

by Larry Neal Gowdy - March 03, 2014



Screenshot of Manjaro Linux

Screenshot of Manjaro Linux.

Manjaro.org


I periodically visit distrowatch.com to see which Linux distributions have been recently updated. Upon my spotting the new release of Manjaro I decided to give it a try since I had been having a string of good luck with Lubuntu's newest release.

Straight out of the box Manjaro has the attractive modern Mate GUI that I very much like. The Mate theme is much better than what I had been wanting in Lubuntu, and so for me Manjaro gets several high points for appearances.

Running the live DVD in an old Presario V2000 laptop (1.25g RAM, 1.8ghz AMD Turion CPU) is a little slow, but not so slow as to be annoying. Installing to the hard drive was as easy as a Ubuntu variation; the GUI menu is straight-forward, and the installation simply worked.

Manjaro came preloaded with Firefox, Thunderbird, Libre Writer, and Libre Calc, leaving me with only a few additional programs to install. From the Add and Remove Programs I installed Inkscape, Wine, and a few others to see how well the installer works. The installer worked fine with no problems.

The KPatience card game collection deserves mention for its high quality display and ease of function. Windows no longer includes games, and the options for installing games usually come with the cost of blinking ads. The Kpatience collection is ad-free, and too, clicking on a card actually works (unlike the Microsoft games that require double clicks, triple clicks, or very slow game-play). The Chromium B.S.U. game in Mate is also very cool with good action, sounds, and display. Sometimes I like to take a break and play a game of cards or chess, and now about the only ad-free option in Windows is an online game like lichess.org. I had deleted all apps in Windows 8 that had blinking ads, which simply means that almost no apps were left. It seems rather strange - albeit in a good way - that Manjaro now has all of the advantages that Windows no longer offers.

A small bug in the latest Lubuntu is the inability to set the keyboard rate on my three test computers (although Ubuntu and Mint worked fine for their keyboard setup), so I was happy to see Manjaro's keyboard setup working correctly.

Screenshot of Manjaro Linux

32bit XFCE Manjaro screenshot.

The 32bit XFCE Manjaro live DVD also runs well on the laptop, and the lighter weight GUI does (of course) enable the computer to run considerably more quickly. Actually, the XFCE layout is very close to what I had originally wanted - something similar to Windows XP - which ought to be an easy OS for business employees to learn (a lot of employees prefer to not have to learn much of anything new on computers, so it is often in the employer's best interest to choose an operating system that is similar to what the employees already use).

Screenshot of Manjaro Linux

Manjaro XFCE screenshot.

I like both the XFCE and Mate, so I installed both, the XFCE for when I want a quick load while at a customer's location, and Mate for when I want to do my own work at leisure.

And then it struck me - no crashes! No errors! No glitches or bugs! Dang, I had been using Manjaro Mate for over a day, and everything worked! My highest expectation is for a Linux distribution to be 99% excellent along with a few little bugs or app crashes (little different than the best of any Windows OSes), but Manjaro was running 100% smoothly. That got me to worrying - it just isn't normal for anything to run that well, nothing is perfect - so I started nit-picking little details and I finally found a small oddity; if the top panel is placed on the right edge of the screen, and a program is opened at maximum, then the program's top-right restore/exit buttons will be hidden. The oddity is easily remedied by restoring-down and then maximizing again, or simply leaving the application non-maximized (which is what I will choose), but yeah, that makes me feel better, Manjaro is 99.99% flawless on the laptop. Whew!

Wine installed well, and through Wine I installed Jasc's Paint Shop Pro 7 (my all-time favorite graphics software), NotePad++, Fritz 8, and several other Windows-based programs including Doom. (Doom actually runs faster and smoother in Linux under Wine than in any version of Windows, although the music did not work, but that's okay, I like it without the music.) Fritz would not install well in Lubuntu, but no problems in Manjaro. I did attempt installing an odd-ball 2002 CD of shareware games just to see how well Wine could handle junk software that includes numerous additional menus and links to sites, and yeah, though Wine did an excellent job of installing the initial setup files, the junk links didn't work (just as well). The only problem here was that the junk links were inserted on the "Other" menu, but right-clicking on the main Applications menu opened a configuration that enabled me to easily click-off the junk links. I'll track-down and delete the files later when I have more time.

Screenshot of Manjaro Linux

Screenshot of NotePad++ running under Wine in Manjaro.

Regardless of how well an operating system might work, it isn't of much value if it doesn't run the software that you want. One of my most wanted apps is NotePad++. NP++ is fast, light, and easy to work with, so I was very happy to see Wine doing such an excellent job of enabling me to install NP++.

Screenshot of Manjaro Linux

Libre Writer screenshot with modified tool bars.

Another important application for me is a word processor. Libre Office's Writer is very good, plus it retains the drop-down menus like most all other software (much faster and easier to use for most of us). The new Libre Office also permits the use of Firefox themes (personas) for the header and footer, so we can now change the themes in Firefox, Libre, and Thunderbird to all match or to all look different. For people like me who like change, the themes are very cool.

Ease of installation - it can't get much easier or faster. I wrote over a Windows 8 installation with no problem whatsoever. The full installation of the laptop took around 45 minutes from start to finish. A similarly-sized installation on a modern desktop computer with a faster CPU and hard drive typically takes about half the time.

Ease of use - expect to tinker with the menus for about an hour to learn where programs are located and what each program does. Remember - when in doubt, right-click. Too, the Arch-based rolling-release updates of Manjaro means that we never have to install a new version. This is one of the big selling points for people who are tired of having to spend days installing new versions of operating systems every couple of years.

Speed - Mate's booting (around 80 seconds) and shutting down (around 10 seconds) are about half as fast as lightweight distros like Lubuntu and Manjaro XFCE, but five to ten times faster than Windows 8 on the same PC. The time required to initially load programs is a bit slow (around 9 seconds to load Writer), but this is an old laptop with a slow hard drive, sluggish CPU, and not much RAM. All things considered, the speed is about as good as what we can expect for the software and hardware, and the speed of running apps is similar to other distributions like Ubuntu and Mint. On a modern desktop with better hardware, Manjaro ought to zip along very nicely (which is what I plan for my next tests on an AMD A10-5800k at 3.8ghz and modern SATA drives).

Energy Efficiency - The laptop's original battery is rather weak, and the battery is normally fully discharged within 15 to 30 minutes while running Windows 8. With Lubuntu the battery lasted about 2.5 hours before shutting-down, and in Manjaro Mate I plugged the power cord back in after an hour because I had stuff to do rather than sit and wait to determine how long the battery could run Manjaro. I absolutely love to see the hard drive stop seeking in Linux; in Windows the hard drive continued seeking well over 50% of the time even after I turned off all 'features'. With Manjaro the laptop is running quieter, longer, cooler, and faster than it ever did with Windows XP and 8. If my laptop is indicative of energy savings for other computers, then we can expect roughly 70-90% energy savings on laptops, around 10-20% savings on desktops, and a hard drive life of at least 2-5 times longer.

Stability - I have seen far too many unstable operating systems, and I am very hesitant to say this, but, well, so far 64bit Manjaro has been unbelievably stable. Even when I attempted to run a buggy Windows-based program through Wine that crashed, it didn't crash Manjaro, and in fact after a few seconds of not being able to exit the crashed program Manjaro had a pop-up that enabled me to force-exit the program, saving me from entering a terminal. Wow. I have never seen a Linux distribution this stable, nor most Windows versions. A couple times I thought that I had found a bug - like the Qt Designer hanging and not being able to be closed - but then I discovered that the only problem was the user's unfamiliarity with the software (me). In my opinion at the moment I am going to say that Manjaro could very likely be as good or better straight out of the box than any Windows version ever has been even after years of updates.

If Manjaro retains its present quality, then I would expect Manjaro to become the operating system of choice for a large percentage of users leaving Windows. Businesses and individuals are asking for a suitable alternative to XP, and I believe Manjaro is an excellent choice.

Manjaro is developed by a team from Austria, France, and Germany, and Mate is listed as a community edition. The Manjaro folks are obviously very good at what they do, and we owe them a huge THANK YOU! You can download Manjaro at http://manjaro.org/get-manjaro/, and the Mate edition is available at Source Forge http://sourceforge.net/projects/manjarolinux/files/community/.

Manjaro is good stuff, and I do sincerely mean very very good.








Larry Gowdy


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