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.
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.
While looking through my old VMs I found this guy. I made this VM while distro hopping a few years back so I could keep working versions for a few things as I bounced between distros trying to find the right fit. I didn’t know I still had this and it made me remember how I thought LMDE was a great idea. It was originally billed as a rolling release that would use Debian testing with all the ease of LinuxMint. After short time problems kept arising and the Mint team completely overhauled it with LMDE2. LMDE2 is not a rolling release and is based on Debian stable. It’s not like Debian comes out with new releases often so that wasn’t a big deal but it did mean the packages would be even more dated. The original LMDE was an interesting idea that I thought would be great, but instead it became a battle to keep a working system and eventually ended up in a lot of manual tweaking. So after creating a snapshot of this machine I figured I’d try my hand at getting it updated. Right off the bat I had issues. Most of the repos I had were dead. I was able to update a few Mint specific packages and as part of this my repos were updated. I got it as far as an “apt-get upgrade” would take me (the 1st screenshot) it was now time for an “apt-get dist-upgrade” which I figured would completely destroy it. Surprisingly it did boot after but I had errors and weird issues. I found most of my errors were due to hal being killed off. After removing it most of the errors were gone. Updating the VBox guest additions also helped out a bit. The rest of my issues seemed to be from an XFCE upgrade that took place during my updates. This one took a bit to figure out but after clearing my cached and saved XFCE sessions it looks like all is well. With the problems I had when using this I never imaged that years later I’d be able to get it up-to-date after not touching it for so long.
After fighting with rolling release and bleeding edge distros, I decided I needed a VM of a stable distro that I didn’t need to worry about. I went with LinuxMint 18 XFCE as it is LTS, lightweight, and compatible with the piles of apps made for Ubuntu. Similar to LinuxMint 18 MATE, once I got this installed I needed to make some adjustments (but not as many) to the theme. I need a good dark theme and Mint-Y-Dark is perfect. Don’t forget to change the WM style as well though or you end up with some really ugly looking windows. All the LinuxMint versions have similar setups but XFCE is the easiest for me to tweak just how I want so I opted for it over MATE which is a bit lighter. The Cinnamon version is good as well but a bit too heavy for how I want to use it. I’m taking a look at the KDE version still but it is also heavy. I wish LinuxMint still had its Fluxbox version as LinuxMint 9 Fluxbox was great and ran awesome on a Pentium III laptop with only 256MB of RAM. Anyway back to the XFCE version. I wish it was a main version as it has been my favorite spin of LinuxMint for a few versions now. The roughly one month later release starts to become annoying especially when it is time for a major version jump and the packages fell very outdated. For a low maintenance and stable distro, this is a champ.
After using OpenSUSE with Enlightenment I had high hopes for the XFCE version. As soon as I logged in though I began to worry. Where Enlightenment had a nice theme and minimal applications, XFCE had no theme and a ton of extra junk. After removing some junk and giving it a quick shine, it is now looking and working good.
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.
Oh god what happened‽ The super colorful icons, ugh! I really liked how Peppermint 6 looked so now I was worried before even getting it installed. After getting it installed everything ran fine but I couldn’t get over the theme. I played with the theme and icons and got it to a look I could deal with. Once cleaned up it was back to a distro I could deal with but there was nothing about it that made it stick. There is nothing that sells it for me over Xubuntu or LinuxMint XFCE. Yes it has some distro specific programs but they are not anything I use. Also it is built on Ubuntu LTS releases so it will end up quite out-of-date before the next version comes out (an issue it share with LinuxMint). Is it a bad distro? No. Is it good enough that I want to throw it on some physical hardware and keep using it? No. With this in mind it comes off as just another middle of the road Ubuntu spin.