With LXQt taking over for LXDE I wasn’t sure we’d see another Manjaro LXDE release. After firing this one up, I’m glad I was wrong. Immediately after booting the LiveCD I saw that they had fixed the ugly icon setup they had last time I tried this. Then while going through the install I noticed something awesome, The Calamares netinstall functionality. Finally a way to cut out some of the unwanted programs before they ever get installed. I unchecked a chunk of programs and breezed through the rest of the install without an issue. Once into the installed system I switched the theme to dark, ran updates, installed a few programs and was in business. I then also found out that this spin supports SMB connections out of the box. No more needing to install gvfs-smb manually. While I haven’t put a ton of time into this spin yet, I am quite happy with the changes made since last using it and plan to put in some more time with it.
Category: Arch Based
Going into this I thought there was no way the Raspberry Pi 2 would handle this. To my surprise it was ok…mostly. Loading the sdcard was easy; dd, boot, resize, done. After getting the base setup I ran updates, changed the password, and was ready to take it for a spin. Things worked rather well. I was able to quickly flip through the system and only stumbled into minimal issues. Issue #1 Manajaro Settings Manager took some convincing to get to open. Issue #2 Clicked the user avatar, mugshot not installed, tried to install mugshot, not in the repo. Minor issues though, no showstoppers. Then it happened. I opened Chromium, signed in to a Google account, the opened a Google Sheet. 1st try after a couple minutes it crashed. 2nd try it worked but required a couple minutes of waiting. While I am liking Manjaro on the Pi I think I’ll have to put this sdcard in the Pi3 because the Pi2 struggles when trying to do real things.
What the hell? The terrible login screen is back. At least it is easy to change. Every release of LXQt is a little bit better and closer to being a proper LXDE replacement. After getting past the login screen this distro is pretty good looking. One problem I found though is some text in the settings windows is not visible due to the theme. There is also not an abundance of programs installed which I rather like. A slim install gives me the ability to install what I want and not waste time cleaning up the junk that was preinstalled. While I like where things are going, I still think LXQt isn’t ready for daily use. There are things that are part of LXDE that are missing and some things are there but don’t seem fully baked yet. While I was almost ready to take this to some hardware I hit a roadblock, the lxqt-common package won’t update due to an invalid signature. I got all the other packages updated but this is another quirk keeping me from finding actual use for this distro. After the new arch-keyring package arrived today I was finally able to update lxqt-common but this isn’t the first time Manjaro has had issues with updating packages.
Over the last year I’ve tried a number of distros/OSs and felt I need to wrap things up with what I liked, didn’t like and what I am looking forward to. So without further ado, here goes.
Best Distro 2016: Linux Mint MATE 18.1
My main machine runs Manjaro XFCE 16.10 but I have had some issues with certain updates. For anything I use that needs to be reliable, I go with Linux Mint MATE. It works and I don’t need to worry about an update leaving me dead in the water.
Biggest Letdown 2016: Manjaro LXQt
I really want a good LXQt distro but this not it. It has so much promise but keeps letting me down. Whether it is updates that just won’t install or weird design choices, I want to like this but I just can’t.
Best DE/WM 2016: XFCE
I really like Fluxbox but can’t find a good distro for it. It looks like KDE5 and Budgie are coming around but they are not there yet. I also like MATE, but run into the occasional quirk. XFCE is so solid though. It is customizable (is that a word?) and relatively low on resources (I’d call it mid range for resources). XFCE is my daily driver and I prefer it over everything else right now. Whether it is LinuxMint, Majaro, Xubuntu, or Debian; XFCE is great.
Best OS 2016: Linux
This is pretty obvious. I’m not a complete Windows hater like some but Windows 10, while nice at times, really irritates me (quit reinstalling “Modern” apps I removed!). But that is nothing compared to OSX. OSX is good for basic things, but I need more out of my PC. If I didn’t, I’d just use my tablet. OSX blows Windows out of the water for running Photoshop and Premier but mapping a network drive, have fun with that. Chrome OS is getting better as well (I can finally run Team Viewer!) but it is still a bit too limiting.
Now that I have closed out 2016, here is what I am looking forward to in 2017
I wish I could say LXQt but it seems only ROSA has figured out how to make a decent LXQt distro (seriously, give ROSA a shot). I started playing with Budgie using Manjaro’s spin and while it had rough edges, I could see a lot of promise. As Budgie has matured it keeps getting better. I have a machine I use just to store VMs I’ve tested and it runs Ubuntu Budgie Remix. While it hasn’t been pain free, I really like what I see. With Budgie getting an official Ubuntu spin I think it can only get better.
I quite like Lubuntu and I am really hoping that when they switch to LXQt I finally get an LXQt distro I like. I know they keep delaying the move but I hope to see it this year. Both Lubuntu 16.04 and Lubuntu 16.10 have been working great for me so I can only hope for a great LXQt based Lubuntu this year.
Some other thoughts going forward
Bring back Manjaro Fluxbox or create an Ubuntu spin. Fluxbox is great but is really in need of some love. I’ve kept my Manjaro Fluxbox install running on an Acer C720, it is absolutely great but requires careful updating to keep in one piece. I’ve also built a Fluxbox setup from the Manjaro Net install just to learn more about how it works. I have tried the same with Ubuntu but have not go it dialed in yet. Besides Manjaro (whose Fluxbox spin hasn’t been updated since December 2015) the only other distro I have tried with Fluxbox is VSIDO (I’m open to suggestions) which was rough.
It is so close to being great again. Maybe 2017 will be the year it gets back to being my favorite DE but it needs to cut down on resources and run a bit smoother.
I’ve never been a fan, I don’t expect Gnome or Unity to win me over any time soon.
Cinnamon is good and always getting better but the resource usage gets me. It also has a bit of a dated look which I don’t mind if the resources match.
I really want to see Androids apps come to Chrome OS and run stably. Chrome OS is great but it is lacks the apps to be a full fledged PC replacement. Android apps can fill this gap but stability is a must. My Chromebook is rock solid and I want it to stay that way.
I’ve given up on this OS, it will never work the way I need it to.
Don’t become OSX, let the user decide what they want to do. I still uses Windows (almost daily), and don’t like the direction Microsoft went when Windows 8 came out. Windows 10 has started to rectify the problems and they need to stay the course of listening to users.
To wrap this overly long post up, here are a few things I have in the works
Fedora 25 LXDE- hint it is just as good, if not better than Fedora 24 LXDE.
Pixel Desktop – I’ve only started playing with it but I always love a new (ish?) DE.
Manjaro LXQt 16.10 – I’ve been having issues but hope to wrap this up soon.
Something with Lumina – I’ve used this with PC-BSD and Manjaro, not satisfied yet.
RetroPie – It is awesome, I’ve actually spent too much time with it lately.
It’s been awhile since I’ve taken Manjaro’s MATE version for a spin and the first thing I noticed is it looks a ton better. The last version I used did not look good. Nothing seemed to match and I had to do a lot of tweaking to make it look decent. Right out of the box this one looked good. It also didn’t have an abundance of software installed like some versions of Manjaro. While I do like this distro it still doesn’t feel as good as LinuxMint’s MATE spin or Ubuntu MATE. If you want MATE with a pacman base it is good though.
One thing I can say is every new Manjaro JWM release looks different from the last. This release isn’t bad but it does have a few issues. While it is labeled Manjaro JWM 16.10, it actually runs on the Manjaro 16.08 release. It also lacks the fakeroot and build-devel packages out-of-the-box. Neither of these are major issues and can be fixed/updated quite easily. I also needed to make a couple adjustments to the conky config but again, not a big deal. After getting this distro up-to-date nitrogen stopped automatically starting. It was still in JWM’s autostart file but I had to add sleep 5s to get it work again. While I do like this distro, the number of little quirks are a bit irritating. Even with the quirks I could see myself using this distro if my Manjaro Fluxbox install broke.
If you like Manjaro you will probably like Antergos as well. They are both based on Arch and function similarly. The differ however on the installer. With Manjaro you download the ISO for the version you want, pick one of the three installers and end up with an install looking just like the live image. With Antergos it is one installer that lets you pick the version you want and letting you choose what features you want as well. While I’m not a fan of the live image using the Gnome DE, you only have to deal with that until you are done with the install. I went with the Openbox version and so far it has been great. You get a nice slim Openbox install needing minimal to no tweaking. Also as a big plus, Openbox auto generates its menus keeping it up-to-date as you add and remove programs. This distro left me happily surprised and I plan to definitely keep it around.