Manjaro Linux: A few of my favorite things

After just a few days of using Manjaro Linux, here is a list of my favorite features so far.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens... oh, no, sorry, that's the wrong list. Ah, OK, here is the correct one: not six, or ten, or some other arbitrary number, just a list of some of my favorite things in Manjaro Linux.

When I first decided to try Manjaro Linux, I honestly didn't expect to be this enamoured with it. But then again, as I said in my previous post about it, I didn't expect it to install as easily as it does on everything I have around here. But it did, and it is, and I am, and I have been using it quite a bit the past few days. So without further fanfare, here are my favorite things about Manjaro Linux (so far):

      It is a rolling release distribution. In case there is anyone reading this who doesn't know what that means, it is continually updated, across the entire content of the distribution, rather than just getting security updates and other 'critical packages', and then having periodic 'release cycles' to update the main body of the distribution. This means that you don't have to go through a major upgrade, or even a complete new installation, every six to twelve months.

      The last three ISO images
      One potential disadvantage to the rolling release model is that as time goes by it can become tedious to make a new installation because of the large number of updates that have to be installed on top of the latest ISO distribution. Manjaro seems to issue new ISOs reasonably frequently (every three to six months) so this doesn't look like it will be a problem.

      Another potential problem is that rolling releases can be a lot of work for the developers and packagers, which can lead to situations like we have seen with Linux Mint Debian Edition, which started life as a rolling release, then went to monthly updates, then quarterly updates, then something like annual updates (maybe), then finally settled in its current state of 'never mind about updates'. However, with Manjaro being derived from Arch Linux, and Arch already having a well-established track record of keeping up a rolling release, this will hopefully not be a problem.

      It installs on UEFI-firmware systems without a problem. There are a couple of caveats here, though. First, you have to disable UEFI Secure Boot (some would consider this an advantage).

      Installation Partitioning
      Second, you have to know enough about UEFI boot and disk partitioning to be able to identify and designate the UEFI boot partition during the installation process. Again, this can be considered to be an advantage, because it means that you can easily set up a separate UEFI partition for each installation, or for groups of installations, which is not easy with most other distributions that I have tried.

      Fedora has been able to do this for quite some time now, but Ubuntu still can't do it, and neither can Linux Mint. In fact Mint is a good example of why this matters, because Mint installs with the same UEFI directory name as Ubuntu, and it doesn't give you the possibility to specify the UEFI boot partition, so it is pretty difficult to install Ubuntu and Mint both on the same UEFI system.

      Third, and potentially most significant, don't forget that every UEFI installation is a new adventure, regardless of how hard the distribution developers have tried to make it install easily. So even though it installed for me, on my systems, without a problem, your results might be very different. Sorry about that.

      The Manjaro Settings Manager. What a nice, clean, one-stop access to some of the most common administration utilities.

      Similar to the Gnome3 settings utility, but smaller and simpler, it's a handy place where you can take care of things like administering user accounts, selecting the Linux kernel (more on this in the next point), checking hardware and configuring the keyboard type and language, and selecting what kind of notifications you want to get.

      Manjaro Settings Manager

      This handy little utility is even customized with different content for the KDE and Xfce versions. I realize that this one might seem kind of trivial at first glance, but it has grown on me very quickly as I have been going through the initial setup and configuration of Manjaro on a number of different systems.

      I also included it in this list because it is not typical of Arch Linux and its derived distributions to include this kind of convenience/hand-holding utility.

        Linux Kernel selection in general, and via the Manjaro Settings Manager in particular. At the time of this writing, Manjaro supports no less than seven different releases of the Linux kernel, from 3.10 to 3.18. The Kernel section of the Manjaro Settings Manager shows information about which kernels are available, which one is currently 'recommended', which ones are Long Term Support (LTS) versions, and change logs for each one.

        Linux Kernels

        Selecting one for installation or removal can be done either through the Manjaro Settings Manager or by searching for linux3 in the Package Manager.

        There are other distributions which track new kernel development via packages such as linux-next, and there are even some which have similar utilities for kernel management, change logs and regression information. But I have not seen one that I like as much as this one. It is clear and simple to use, it has a wide range of kernels to choose from, and it goes so far back with older kernel versions.

        Good package/update managers in all three versions. Some might think this is a strange point to include in this list, because the package managers used in all three Manjaro versions are pretty small and simple, and not very flashy.

        Octopi Package Manager

        This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, I simply don't think that every distribution has to have a big, fancy, all-singing, all-dancing, extensively graphically endowed software manager that includes user ratings, comments, screen shots, the zodiac sign of the author, and all sorts of other extraneous information.

        Do we really need to go to a lot of trouble to try and make Linux software management look like some kind of an app store? On top of everything else, those sorts of things make me nervous, I'm still expecting the next step to be that they will start trying to sell me apps through their fancy software manager.

        Equally important, I like having software/package management and updates in the same program - or perhaps it is better to say that I don't like having to deal with two completely different programs, and two different interfaces and nuances, for these two related tasks. Ubuntu is a good (bad) example here - software management and updates were split a while ago, and getting the software update utility to tell you, in detail, what it is going to do is just really tedious.

        The Arch User Repository (AUR). Technically not really Manjaro-specific (or else it would be called the Manjaro User Repository, duh), but because Manjaro is derived from Arch, it is still possible to install packages from the AUR.

        Xfce Package Manager

        I really want to emphasize here that you have to be very careful about this because there are no guarantees of any sort on it so you use it at your own risk. You should read the Manjaro Wiki AUR page before using it.

        If there is some specific package, application or driver that you need and you can't get it from the Manjaro software repositories, then this can be a lifesaver. There are literally thousands of packages in the AUR. The AUR can be accessed from the GUI package managers on KDE and Xfce, or from the command line using yaourt.

        Yakuake is pre-configured on the KDE panel. The yakuake drop-down terminal is part of the KDE family of utilities, and thus is obviously not specific to Manjaro. I just think that having it placed on the KDE panel in the base installation is an excellent idea, because it makes it obvious, and it might bring it to the attention of users who are not otherwise familiar with it.

        Yakuake Drop-down Terminal

        If you're an old-time Unix/Linux user like me, and you still use command line utilities for all sorts of things, it's unbelievably handy to be able to just hit F12 to get a terminal emulator. When you're done with it, just hit F12 again and it zips back up off the top of the screen. Even hitting Ctrl-D when you're done doesn't hurt anything, it zips away just the same and it comes back again the next time you hit F12 (i.e. Ctrl-D or exit terminates the shell, which causes yakuake to retract, but doesn't actually terminate yakuake itself).

        Clean, simple, easy-to-use desktops in both the KDE and Xfce versions. Not a lot of clutter on the desktop or in the panel. The KDE version uses the Homerun Kicker menu, which I think is an excellent choice.

        Manjaro KDE Desktop

        The Xfce version uses the Whisker menu, which is also an excellent choice. Both desktops have package manager update status symbols in the panel which are green when the system is up to date, and red when updates are available.

        Both use flat 2D icons and symbols on the desktop and in the panel, again reducing clutter and distraction. These are just good common-sense default desktops, you can easily customize them to fit your taste, but they could well be used out-of-the-box very comfortably.

        Silver white winters that melt into springs... gaa, wrong list again, sorry. This winter isn't melting into spring anytime soon, anyway.

        So there you have it. Some really good/nice/useful things that I like in Manjaro.

        I have probably overlooked some things - if you have a favorite that I didn't mention, feel free to tell me in the comments.

        If you don't agree with some of my choices, well, remember this is nothing more than personal opinion, so don't get too worked up about it, but feel free to tell me that in the comments too.

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