After reading about the new antiX release I decided I had to give it a try. A Debian based distro with Fluxbox is just what I’ve been wanting. Once I got it installed I realized there was a lot more to it. First thing I found, which is really cool, is you can switch the desktop on the fly. No logging out need to switch between IceWM, Fluxbox, and JWM. Being a fan of Fluxbox I spent the majority of my time there. I didn’t love the way it looked but some tweaking got it to a point where I rather like it. The next thing I found was there is a ton of junk installed. While some people may like this, I don’t. This meant time spent removing programs. However, another cool thing I found is the metapackage installer. It makes a nice, simple way to get the programs most people want installed quick and easy including things like Spotify, Google Chrome, Steam, etc. I then jumped into the Control Panel, it is a nice central spot to edit most things. It is so-so though. While it puts most things you need to edit in one spot, it is very basic in what it does. The most noticeable thing I found was the wallpaper picker was quite spare and didn’t even have an option for tiling. Back to the good stuff, iso-snapshot. It is more or less a Remastersys for antiX. This is one of those things I wish every distro had. Let me tweak things to exactly where I want them then I’ll create and backup or distribution ISO that I can install on other PCs. I’ve used Remastersys for years and started using PinguyBuilder in the last few distro release cycles. For benchmarking hardware these can be great as it removes OS differences from the equation making it so you can compare machines apples to apples.
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.
Another new Manjaro release is out and it doesn’t look like the Fluxbox or Openbox spins will be updated anytime soon. This gave me a reason to figure out what I needed to do to set them up on my own. I’m not a huge Openbox user but I really like Fluxbox. I started with Manjaro XFCE 16.08 and added in Fluxbox and Openbox to the install. I started by basing it off the last releases for both and tweaking it to my liking so all 3 have a number of similarities. I reused a number of applications between them to cut down on the extra junk I needed to install. I ended up going with most of the Manjaro XFCE default programs (thunar, mousepad, xfce4-terminal) since they were already there and they worked without an issue. For this project I used an old HP Pavilion dm1 laptop that I had sitting around and now that I have the process down I am starting to setup my Dell XPS 13 the same way. While the dm1 is slow it runs all 3 desktops great. The only time you feel how much older and slower it is, is when you are opening a few apps (Chrome, Wmail, Slack) or compiling a program through yaourt (Chrome takes forever!). Overall this process has been great for learning differences between Fluxbox and Openbox and figuring out how they are configured. I plan to add a few more desktops into the mix eventually so I can learn more about them as well. I’ve also starting working on building them from just the Manjaro net edition to slim it down some more but there are a few things I need to get worked out before that will be ready for real hardware.
I like Fluxbox and I like sid so this should be great right? Well right away I realized the installer needs some work. It kept hanging like there was a window stuck open somewhere but I couldn’t find one. It took some time but I did get it installed. After getting it installed I still couldn’t get it to feel right. It just felt hacky and not thought out. The dock decided to hang over on the left due to a bunch of empty space and the network would not stay up. At that point I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. If Fluxbox is your thing Manjaro is your best bet. If Debian Sid is your thing go with siduction.