Manjaro Linux Left Me Cold

I had a short but intense affair with Manjaro that ended in our going our separate ways. It was not I who ended what seemed to be a promising relationship, though. Obviously, Manjaro had had enough of me after only 4 days and left me cold. I’m still confused as to just what happened but I will recount my experiences as best as I can. The breakup is so fresh in my mind that it still stings to think about it for long but I shall endure the pain for you, Dear Reader.

 

Manjaro is a project that launched in mid-2011 with the goal of being new-user friendly while offering the many benefits of an Arch base and a rolling release model. Manjaro maintains their own repositories but users have access to the Arch User Repositories, which contain just about every single piece of software ever coded for the Linux platform. What a great idea, huh?

Manjaro is offered in “snapshots” from time to time. The current release is 15.12 “Capella”, which arrived for download on December 23rd, 2015. These are not hard and fast releases like you get from Ubuntu or Fedora. Manjaro is a rolling release, which means it is constantly updated. You can install it once and not have to worry about reloading it. All one must do is install the latest updates to be in step with where the project is at right now. This is quite attractive for those who don’t want to bother with periodic upgrades but it can cause problems. Rolling releases are prone to breaking as new versions of programs are introduced. Being on “The Cutting Edge” has its benefits but stability is not one of them.

JUST ONE MORE TRY….

I have been flirting with Manjaro for a long time now in Virtual Machines and I have, on occasion, actually put it on hardware to see how it would go… My experiences in the past have been disappointing but I decided to give it another shot. So many nice folks in the community were telling me about how wonderful it has become that I could no longer resist the shiny AUR (Arch User Repository), with all of its cool software. And the thought of never having to upgrade again does make one tend to ignore the risks of living out on The Cutting Edge.

I took the plunge last Saturday and downloaded a minimal install ISO of Manjaro Cinnamon, a community-supported spin. You can have lots of desktops on Manjaro but XFCE is the default. The first install attempt went surprisingly well on my all AMD Dell Inspiron and I was able to get everything updated with no issues.I also found and installed all the software I needed. So far, so good. I went ahead and tried it on my HP laptop, which is all Intel and runs most anything I throw at it. But that’s when the heartaches began. After taking all day on Sunday to set it up, I found the performance to be just terrible. It was slow, the fans ran all the time and it had difficulty playing video with anything close to a decent frame rate. Bummer. But, it seemed to be working well on the Dell desktop so I just reloaded the HP with Ubuntu MATE 16.04. I was happy to have it on just one machine. I chalked it up to hardware compatibility issues with the HP and left it at that.

Manjaro Desktop

Manjaro offers some really nice software and system Management tools. The XFCE version has a very nice implementation of that desktop environment but I chose to start with Cinnamon for sentimental reasons. I am a long- time Linux Mint fan and I really like the Cinnamon Desktop. I did find that the Manjaro/Cinnamon combination left something to be desired, though. There were no major issues but lots of little ones. The mouse pointer was funky and changed appearance and behavior when floating over certain applications. I changed its color to black in the Themes applet, only to find that it turned white when I used Google Chrome. Strangeness. Speaking of Themes, that app stopped working after just a couple of days and would no longer allow me to download new themes. Annoying. I enlarged the text a bit and found that it was being cut off in the menu search box. I could only see the top three-fourths of what I typed. The fonts were inconsistent from app to app and some were very tiny even though I had applied desktop scaling. This would be a major problem on a new high DPI display.

The Pamac package manager and updater is a nice application, indeed. It allows you to graphically install and remove software from both the main Majnaro repos and the AUR. I did take some time to learn more about using the pacman and yaourt commands to do the same things but most of my tinkering happened in Pamac. It happily alerts you if there are updates and will install them with just a couple of clicks. However, the build service provided for AUR programs is shaky and it worked most of the time but not all. There were a couple of occasions where I resorted to a terminal to install and build a package from the AUR.

Manjaro Pamac

The one thing I found disconcerting about Pamac was the fact that you could not search for a package easily by anything but its name. The app does break them down into logical groups but doesn’t accept anything other than all or part of a file name in the search. Comparing it to Synaptic Package Manager, which searches names and descriptions, I started to sort of miss Ubuntu.

The Manjaro Settings Manager gives you control over things like kernels and language packs. I used it to upgrade the Linux kernel from 4.1 to 4.4 with no problems at all and I installed all recommended language packs.

Manjaro Settings

Manjaro uses a nifty Hardware Discovery Tool at installation to find and install drivers for your hardware at installation time. I did not have my HP printer turned on and didn’t get printer support so I had to install it manually. No big deal really. I just had to install the manjaro-printer-support package and restart the system to set the HP up.

If you’re using SSD’s, it is worth noting that Manjaro sets up continuous TRIM support on install by adding the ‘discard’ option to the drive partition mount commands in /etc/fstab. Having TRIM enabled all the time cuts performance for SSD’s. This is also a rather old way of doing this and these days it is more common to set up a cron job to run the fstrim command on a weekly or monthly basis. Ubuntu has been doing just that at least since 14.04 and it seems to be a good way of handling wear leveling for SSD’s. I was a little surprised to find that Manjaro was still doing it the old way. I elected to remove the ‘discard’ options in fstab and I planned on running fstrim manually or setting upa corn job later on.

It was at this point that I made my first YouTube video. If you care to watch it, you’ll hear the excitement in my voice. I do so love shiny new toys…

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ends because it was just two days later that the Cinnamon weirdness started to add tarnish to the shininess that had blinded me at first. It was also the less-than-stellar performance on my HP laptop that started me thinking about changing things up a bit. Maybe the grass was just a bit greener with Manjaro XFCE. My wife Cindy also complained about Cinnamon. She uses the Dell more than I do these days and she said that she wanted her MATE desktop experience back. Well, I could easily configure XFCE to look and act like I had configured Ubuntu MATE for her so that clinched it; I would re-install!

I downloaded Manjaro XFCE and went as far as to install it in a Virtual Machine before taking the time to put it on hardware. It worked just fine in the VM so I went ahead and burned a DVD. While it worked fine in the VM, it refused to install on the Dell at all. I tried all three installers and the issue was the same each time: The installer could not create partitions on my hard drives. I even went so far as to open Gparted to create said partitions in advance and still no dice. Same errors.

On closer inspection, I found that the installer was trashing the partition tables and creating tiny little partitions, not more than 1 GB in size. Strange. I decided to grab the original Manjaro Cinnamon installer I had used just a few days before and found it would no longer boot at all. It simply hung up with a blank screen and refused to do anything more. “What the?…”

At this point, I was fed up and had spent an hour just trying to get Manjaro re-installed. Looking at the clock, I decided that it was high time to throw in the towel, so I grabbed my Ubuntu MATE 16.04 installer and tried that. It worked flawlessly and I had the system back to where it was before Manjaro in no time at all. Now, before you Manjaro fans jump to write comments explaining to me what I did wrong and how I could have made it work with a few simple terminal commands, don’t bother. I’m sure I could have worked it out sooner or later but I didn’t have the time or energy to troubleshoot the problem nor did I want to.

You see, I have this crazy notion that things ought to work as advertised and I strictly budget my time when it comes to trying to make something work that isn’t. I’ll give anything an hour or so but after that, I’m going to be very inclined to move on and find an alternate solution. The four days I spent working with Manajro on this latest go-round were enough to tell me that it’s not for me… Yet.

Here’s the video I posted shortly after completing the re-install of Ubuntu MATE:

It is also worth noting that as soon as I started talking about Manjaro on YouTube I was flooded with comments from folks who complained of similar issues. They couldn’t boot the installer; the installer wouldn’t work. They couldn’t install updates; the system broke after updates were installed; the system didn’t work with their hardware; on and on it goes. This leads me to conclude that the Manjaro project has more work to do before I can recommend their distribution. There are obvious problems with hardware compatibility and long-term stability here. I do hope they get it fixed, though. I wanted so much to love Manjaro because it’s just such a damn good idea.

I hate to level any criticisms toward those who labor in the Open Source software world because they often do it for no money and little reward other than the satisfaction of making a contribution. That said, I also have this crazy notion that things ought to do what they say they will do on the can. Manjaro promises simplicity and ease of use but does not deliver, not for me, at least. I will continue to keep an eye on it but it will be a long time before I commit to installing it again.

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Joe Collins
Joe Collins worked in radio and TV stations for over 20 years where he installed, maintained and programmed computer automation systems. Joe also worked for Gateway Computer for a short time as a Senior Technical Support Professional in the early 2000’s and has offered freelance home computer technical support and repair for over a decade.

Joe is a fan of Ubuntu Linux and Open Source software and recently started offering Ubuntu installation and support for those just starting out with Linux through EzeeLinux.com. The goal of EzeeLinux is to make Linux easy and start them on the right foot so they can have the best experience possible.

Joe lives in historic Portsmouth, VA in a hundred year old house with three cats, three kids and a network of computers built from scrounged parts, all happily running Linux.

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21 Comments on "Manjaro Linux Left Me Cold"

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bubs
Guest

As alluring as the arch world is with the latest wizbang apps, i just prefer the stabilty of ubuntu as like you, the days of messing around and tinkering with linux are pretty much done with work and family.

klwi3329
Guest

I installed Manjaro after giving up on Suse Tumbleweed, using KDE. This was about 6 months ago. While not everything has been perfect, it has been a better experience. I am a heavy user of libreoffice, synfig, kdenlive, audacity, inkscape, and GIMP. Plus I have Windoz 10 installed on Virtualbox. All told, I am a happy and satisfied Manjaro user.

Albin
Guest
I was unable to test any Arch release to my own satisfaction because live USBs don’t support “persistence” to maintain updates and installations. Everything I read about it corresponds to this writer’s experience – not for the faint of heart. Seems to me the whole concept of a “rolling release” desktop OS should be set it and forget it, but apparently it doesn’t work that way. I’ve settled on Mint 17.x which implemented a series of “point releases” for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS that has been polished and stable, updating in place for two years now. I’ll be testing a persistent… Read more »
Arun
Guest

I had a different experience with the LXQt edition:
https://tuxdiary.com/2016/04/03/dual-boot-manjaro-lxqt-ubuntu-uefi/

Do give it a try!

some dude
Guest
Maybe try just pure Arch? Arch has been rock solid for me for a long long time. I think it’s actually easier to use and more stable than ubuntu and debian based systems. My problem with ubuntu/debian is it’s always a pain to get the newest stuff and they always mess with everything making it more difficult to configure. Arch just got the new version of cinnamon before mint even got it, everything is easy to configure because it’s not patched and tweaked with. Their wiki covers pretty much everything, so you never have to dig through forums to figure… Read more »
CDN2015
Guest

I’m currently running Netrunner Rolling which is based on Manjaro. I haven’t had any problems and I’m getting my updates from the Unstable Repositories.

klwi3329
Guest

I tried to install Netrunner before going to Manjaro. Wouldn’t install on my ‘puter.

Nadir Boussoukaia
Guest

netrunner is pointless: on Arch base, it”s either Antergos or Manjaro.
Antergos if you want to be close to Arch (repos). Manjaro else.

I am running Manjaro for almost 1 year, next will be either Antergos or LMDE.

Nik Gnomic
Guest
I jumped around distros for 18 months, mostly Ubuntu based. I intended to head towards a solid reliable Debian, but my Linux guru (he runs Slackware!) suggested I give Manjaro a try I didn’t like the default theme and icons. I never wanted a rolling release with lots of updates, expected it to break and move on within a couple of months, but somehow, completely against expectations it just worked better than anything else, I only had 3 big problems in the last year, and the wiki and forum already had the solutions. Now I wouldn’t want to give up… Read more »
Patrizio Bekerle
Guest

Thank you for sharing your experiences! I had the the same installer issues but always got it to work somehow in the end… 🙂

mandog kelvin
Guest

Why did you try to install with a DVD you use a usb and not unebooting read the idiot guide in the wiki,
Saying that Arch is easy to maintain used it for 11 years never had to reinstall and Manjaro for 4 years.

James Van Damme
Guest

I tried Manjaro with KDE, but I couldn’t resolve all the rough edges enough for a daily driver. I boot Mint and something else (usually xBuntu, currently Ubuntu MATE) but Manjaro has a strange setup in grub that I haven’t figured out yet (mutually exclusive with the others) so that’s an, um, medium priority. I have enough hobbies.

Orbmiser
Guest

Been running Netrunner Rolling edition for about 2 years without major breakage.
But do not use proprietary drivers with my legacy Ati 4350 running dual 22″ displays.

But there are issues and little breaks that adds to the annoyance level for me.
And do contend that there are others having much more severe and valid issues.

Sorry it didn’t work out for you. And maybe a try at the end of the year?
As still been the best of the Plasma 5 Arch derivatives for me.

Nadir Boussoukaia
Guest

I almost had the same path: Manjaro XFCE+openRC then Manjaro Cinnamon (very close to windows daily usage, but unstable), and now I ended up with manjaro Mate. It is perfect.

Bob Fletcher
Guest
I too have had issues with Manjaro. I installed Manjaro with Cinnamon. No problems there everything worked fine. That is until I had rebooted about 5 or 6 times and it just froze early in the boot sequence. I reinstalled it and the same was repeated. ctrl+alt+F1 that should show the boot sequence would not work. I gave up and installed Antergos but there where white lines down the screen. I bit the bullet and installed Arch with the Arch Anywhere installer. No problems at all. Joe seems to have experienced something similar but in the Manjaro installer. That’s more… Read more »
Nadir Boussoukaia
Guest

There 2 things to add: Cinnamon is not officially supported by Manjaro (its community’s). I am running Cinnamon, it is improving. Otherwise Mate is very fast.
Second, you could also try Manjaro OpenRC, https://sourceforge.net/projects/manjaro-openrc/.

Bob Fletcher
Guest

Thank you very much for your reply. I don’t think it has anything to do with Cinnamon because it freezes far to early in the boot sequence. I have Arch running well with Cinnamon and I think It would be silly of me to change now. It has still got me baffled. Joe’s problem is even more strange. It is rare what makes me think it is hardware compatibility.

Nadir Boussoukaia
Guest

I had an unexpected crash, and I decided to move to Antergos. So far so good. Cinnamon seems faster.
2 annoyances anyway:
– When I insert my Iphone6, I have to use some command line to make it appear in the file manager.
– It appears the file manager sometime crashes (when there’s too many opened): I experienced the same with manjaro

But for now, By bye Manjaro.

Wensleydale
Guest
Like you I was lured to the Manjaro side by the prettiness of the new KDE desktop and the promise of oodles of new and interesting software. I should have known better. The KDE desktop was flaky, unstable and seemed to enjoy tormenting me with unpredictable behaviour. The mouse pointer would spontaneously change themes. Icons sets wouldn’t stick. The panel wouldn’t autohide no matter how many times I instructed it to, and the fonts were just… ugly. I spent two solid days tweaking this thing in the hope I could get it looking and behaving consistently, but no dice. So… Read more »
Nick Kocurek
Member
I have been a very happy Manjaro user for the last month. I have it installed on multiple netbooks (including an old eee 701) as well as a creaky old Inspiron 9100. I’ve been using the Ubuntu flavors for years, so I have had to learn to do some compiling for some of my preferred packages, but otherwise the experience has been very smooth. I’ve really appreciated the excellent speed and up-to-date packages in the distro. That said, the first time I tried installing it I used the “Thus” installer, which produced a broken installation. Subsequently, I’ve used Calamares with… Read more »
Eugene Wong
Member

I had the same problems. What I did was install XFE 16.08 then did an upgrade which took 6 hours, not pretty for sure. After a reboot things leveled out and after using it for 4 days now everything is stable with only a few niggly issues.

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