A Month with Manjaro 0.8.13

Greetings, Linux users old and new!

I’ve not posted a thing here in at least a couple of years, but I’m feeling a desire to share my desktop Linux experiences once again.

Over the past two and a half years I’ve been running Zorin OS (6.2) on my main desktop computer. This is by far the longest period of time I’ve used any one Linux distro. And the reason for this is, I had Zorin configured just the way I wanted it. It looked beautiful and worked flawlessly. I’ve had no problems in all that time. I had all the applications I like and everything worked perfectly!

But then, over the last few months, I started feeling the sluggish stirrings of the old distro-hopping fever slowly returning. Well, that’s not quite true. I’m always looking at the changes in some of my favorite Linux distros, and new distros sprouting up here and there, and I can’t help but wonder how they would run on my 5 to 6 year old AMD Desktop machine. As updated versions of distros come out, I’ve downloaded and tried out many of my old favorites. But because of newer kernels and my not-so-Linux-fiendly hardware, many of the new versions of Linux did not run well with my graphics card.

But after reading and watching numerous reviews and videos about the ever-changing world of Linux distro development, I started becoming more and more curious about Manjaro Linux. I’ve always used Debian/Ubuntu-based Linux operating systems. Manjaro is based upon Arch Linux, which is fast and light and been around a long time, but also has a reputation of being much more difficult to set up and use for us ‘non-geeky’ Linux users.

But Manjaro is quite a different beast altogether from it’s parent. The Manjaro developers have taken all the package-building, command line tediousness out of using Arch, and created a very user-friendly, gui-driven desktop experience. They’ve created system tools that are simple and intuitive and made the power of Arch Linux accessible for even the least-experienced computer users. So about four weeks ago, after trying out a couple of Manjaro Live DVDs on my computer with no problems at all, I crazily took the plunge and installed it!

Why would I install a totally new operating system over one that worked perfectly for all my needs for two-and-a-half years, and still had a year-and-a-half of support left, you might ask? I really don’t know. I must be crazy, but the thrill and challenge of trying something new, based on Arch instead of Ubuntu, was just too tempting for me! So after making triple-sure I had everything backed up, and that all of the software that I regularly use was available through the Manjaro repositories, I installed Manjaro Xfce addition. So here is my experience so far:

The installation was very quick and easy, and everything went great with copying my backup /home settings and preferences. I have a separate Data partition, which was untouched during installation and made the process very simple. Reinstalling all the applications I had on my Zorin OS installation was wonderfully easy, using the Manjaro Xfce package manager, Pamac. Manjaro maintains it’s own software repositories, which have all the open-source software you could want, plus a few more obscure applications that I like; and everything is the newest version! Manjaro users can also access the Arch User Repository (AUR), for anything that might not yet be available for Manjaro, but that is generally discouraged. I did install two applications through the AUR, and Pamac built the programs and installed them with no problems at all. Installing software is point and click, just like using Synaptic in Ubuntu-based distros. Below is my current desktop. I decided to move the Xfce panel to the top of the screen and installed Docky to launch apps at the bottom. Plus I have Rainlendar desktop calendar and Conky-Manger top right.


After using Manjaro for a while, though, I did encounter some graphics glitches, and twice my system froze and I had to reboot. Now here is another amazing thing about Manjaro: the Manjaro Settings Manager, within the Manjaro Xfce Settings Manager, lets you install and uninstall several Linux kernels, as well as graphics drivers. After experimenting a little, I found that using the proprietary Nvidia driver instead of the open source driver, and downgrading the kernel to the 3.12 series, my graphics problems are gone. Just click, click and reboot!


I had a couple of other small software glitches, which I posted on the Manjaro forums and found quick fixes to in a very short time. The Manjaro forums and online documentation are excellent! Also, getting my HP printer working in Manjaro was quick and painless. Since the first couple of days, I’ve had no problems at all with Manjaro Xfce. I really couldn’t be happier with this operating system!

Some other perks of this distro: Manjaro comes in two main official flavors – KDE and Xfce. But they also offer community editions with other desktop environments like Mate, Cinnamon, Enlightenment, Gnome, LXDE, Openbox, LXQt, even Deepin! The software selection is huge, cutting-edge, and the  software managers are dead-simple to use, making an Arch-based system available for users with a minimum of computer skills. And Manjaro is a rolling release, so there is (theoretically) no need to install a newer version; by installing updates when they appear in the update manager, the OS and software is always upgraded to the newest version.

After one month using Manjaro, I am quite glad I took the plunge. For a more thorough look, please check out these video reviews:



Coming soon: Linux Lite keeps getting better!

Linux Mint 16 RC

I noticed a couple of days ago that Linux Mint 16 (Petra) release candidate is available, so I downloaded the iso and burned it to a DVD.

I’ve been a fan of Mint for a few years, up until Linux Mint 10. With Mint 11 and 12 and the transition to Gnome 3, Mint got a bit fragmented and I strayed to other distros; but the past year or two I’ve been drawn back to Linux Mint, and especially the Cinnamon desktop. So even though I am very happy with Zorin OS 6 on our main machine, I had to try out the spanking new Mint 16 with the new version of it’s Cinnamon 2.0 desktop environment!

After booting from the DVD and playing around with Mint 16 ‘Petra’ for about half an hour today, here is what I found:

Mint 16 Screenshot01

The Good: 

Mint 16 had no trouble with my Nvidia graphics card, even only using the open source nouveau driver (unlike OpenSuse 13.1 RC that I tried a couple of weeks ago).

Mint 16 looks as lovely as ever. After changing the desktop picture from the default white one, I checked out the Cinnamon 2 System Settings. Under ‘Themes’ there are only three default themes installed. But when clicking the ‘get more themes online’ button, it refreshes and you have a choice of many dozens of new themes that you can install in seconds, which I did.

Under ‘Extensions’ you can also install a vast number of new extensions to increase the functionality of Mint 16. As shown below, there are a huge number of new and exotic-sounding applets (since I last checked out Cinnamon 1.6) that can also be added to the Cinnamon panel. The Cinnamon panel is extremely configurable compared to when it first came out! As well as adding applets, you can resize the panel, or move it to the top of your screen, or have two panels if you want. I even added the weather applet to the panel, and, unlike in the past, it worked with no mucking about!

Mint 16 Screenshot02

Mint 16 Screenshot03

Even when I had System Settings, System Monitor, several open File Manager windows and Firefox running a Youtube video, Mint only used a little over 500 Mbs. of RAM, with very low CPU usage. It definitely seems lighter and quicker than the previous Mint 15!

The Bad:

In my time playing with Mint 16, the only thing that didn’t work flawlessly was a sound effect for unmaximizing a window! In the Sound preferences for Cinnamon there is a new (at least I never noticed it before) section where you can configure groovy sound effects for different functions. And Mint 16 comes with Firefox 24 instead of version 25, which was updated in my Zorin OS a couple of weeks ago.

Among some other nice changes I discovered: Nemo (the Cinnamon File Manager) version 2.0.4, and the Software Sources application now has a built-in PPA Manager, which is very cool. For a comprehensive list of changes and improvements in Mint 16, look right HERE.

If you’re looking for a polished and easy-to-use Linux distro, the new Mint 16 Petra is just beautiful! Sleeker, faster, more features, and I am loving the Cinnamon desktop environment more than ever! And this is not the final release yet! It should be available very soon, though.

Keep watching Linuxmint.com for more news.

A Few Links of Interest

I’m here today with just a few links for people looking for an easy to use, full-featured, Ubuntu-based Linux desktop distro.

Of course, Ubuntu 13.10 was recently released, along with all the related community editions based on it, like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Edubuntu, etc.

So without further ado:

Infinitely Galactic Ubuntu 13.10 Review – Also check out Blaine’s other fine distro reviews!

Desktop Linux Reviews: Kubuntu 13.10

Desktop Linux Reviews: Xubuntu 13.10

Another great Linux disro for beginners, based on Ubuntu core: WebUpd8: Pinguy OS 13.10 Alpha Released

Here’s a good in-depth review of the pros and cons of Ubuntu 13.10 and where it’s headed from Ars Technica

That’s all for now!

News About Solus OS


I just discovered a nice article about one of the more interesting Linux distros out there (in my opinion), Solus OS.

I’ve been keeping tabs on the development of Solus OS and it’s creator, Ikey Doherty, on Google+. And over the past many weeks there’s been a lot of activity going on! Solus OS is being rebuilt from the ground up, so to speak. And as it seems that we’re getting nearer to the first Beta release, I’m getting really excited to check it out! I’ve mentioned Solus OS in the past, but this article does a better job than I could about explaining concisely what it’s all about. So check it out Here thanks to Ken Starks and FossForce.

I had the original Pardus Linux installed on an old box about three years ago, and really liked the Pisi Package Manager that it used (Pisi, pronounced ‘peezee’, as the article adeptly aludes to). Pardus was my favorite KDE distro at the time.

It will be very interesting to see what Ikey has made from Pisi and Gnome 3 and a whole lot of innovation.

From what I’ve seen so far, it should be something quite beautiful and unique.

And here’s a link to Ken’s website Reglue, a project that provides used computers running Linux to kids who might not be able to afford a computer. It’s a pretty great idea!

Customizing Your Desktop Linux Operating System

One of the many things I like about Linux-based operating systems is the ability to make them look and behave the way you want them to.

I’m a visually-oriented person, and I enjoy being able to change the way my computer’s graphical interface looks. When using Windows or the Mac OS there are some options or third-party tools to change the look of the OS, but they are still pretty limited compared to what’s possible with Linux.


The first picture above is of my main computer using Zorin OS 6, which uses the Zorin desktop environment with conky manager, a weather screenlet and Rainlendar desktop calendar app that I’ve added. The bottom picture is of the default Zorin OS desktop without modifications.

First off, Linux operating systems can use numerous different Desktop Environments and Window Managers. Some of the most popular being: Gnome, KDE, Xfce, LXDE, UnityCinnamon, MATE, Enlightenment, Razor-qt, Openbox, and Fluxbox, among many others that are more geeky and obscure.  I’m still not sure what the difference is between ‘window manager‘ and ‘desktop environment‘, (for example: I thought Enlightenment, or E-17, was a desktop environment as well as libraries for creating applications; but on the website it’s called a window manager), but they can drastically change the look of the desktop GUI and the way the user interacts with the operating system. There are an increasing number of Linux distros that have forked off of a traditional DE (desktop environment) to add more features or improve performance, like Cinnamon or MATE, or created their own new DE.

Here’s a nice web page on Renewable PCs that provides an overview of many of the above-mentioned desktop environments.

Another customization tool you can try are Screenlets, which I mentioned above, for adding information about numerous things in graphical form to your desktop for Gnome/GTK-based operating systems. Also see Here and Here for additional info on screenlets. As I mentioned in a previous post, Conky Manager is also another way to add more information to your Linux desktop in different visual formats. Fun stuff!

Another great way to spice up the look of your computer is to add different Themes and Icons. If you use any Gnome/GTK-based DE, you can find community-designed icons and themes Here, or if you use KDE, try Here, or for the Enlightenment-based distros, have a look Here. Although Bodhi Linux has their own customization resources Here to make installing E-17 themes quite easy!

There are also numerous ways to search for and launch applications in Linux distros. Different DEs have different launcher menus from within their panel bars, and there are a few nice Dock-like applications you can use that have varying degrees of customization options. (The Zorin OS panel is a customized Avant Window Navigator in panel mode).  Check out Docky and Cairo-Dock too. They can be found in most Linux distro’s repositories through the App Center or Synaptic Package Manager.

But really the sky’s the limit for changing the look and feel of your computing experience in Linux. From the complex to the sublimely simple:

Desktops_complex_simpleA KDE desktop with plasma widgets or a default Crunchbang Linux desktop with Openbox.

Ubuntu_BodhiWhether you prefer Ubuntu’s Unity Desktop or Bodhi Linux with Enlightenment, there are many ways to change your Linux distro to accommodate your workflow and visual taste.

The possibilities can be a little overwhelming, but looking around the web and reading articles from Linux-related web sites can give you lots of ideas to spice up your stock vanilla operating system and even increase your productivity. Just finding some different desktop pictures/wallpapers can provide a refreshing visual change if you’ve been staring at the same old screen for a while!

So have some fun, and turn your Linux computer OS into your own personal work of art!

elementary OS Luna: Simply Fantastic!

Last month, elementary OS (small ‘e’) came out with the first official, non-Beta release of it’s operating system that’s been in the works for almost 2 years. I just happened to notice it on DistroWatch the day it came out. I’ve heard about elementary OS for quite a long time. I’ve checked out the Beta version (called ‘Jupiter’) in the past, and though I liked the concept behind it, I wasn’t all that impressed with the earlier version. But many Linux enthusiasts have been waiting a long time for this, and I just had to give it a try! It’s based on the Ubunbtu 12.04 Long Term Release core.

After downloading the ISO and booting elementary OS 0.2, ‘Luna’ on our main computer, I found myself very pleasantly surprised! The elementary OS developers have a philosophy that ‘it’s not ready till it’s ready’, and though it was quite a long wait for the final product, I can see how much love and effort they put into every detail of their distro.

My first impression: “Peppy”. Navigating the desktop, using the custom-made application launcher (top left on the panel bar) and opening apps felt instantaneous!  And this was running from a CD! Even desktop animations like opening and closing windows was very quick and smooth, without a proprietary driver installed. Other impressions: Clean, Light, Beautiful! There was something very refreshing about using this darn distro. It’s fun!

Elementary_Screenshot02After using elementary OS for about twenty minutes from the Live CD, I was hooked! I was impressed enough that I also tried it out on the kid’s old computer with a Pentium 4 processor, and it ran just as fast on that! So I installed elementary, very quick and easy, and it’s been running on that PC for over a month now with zero problems.

The elementary team began a few years ago with a fresh, simple icon theme; then a visually-appealing, streamlined version of Gnome’s Nautilus file browser called ‘nautilus elementary’, which was very popular. The operating system they’ve created is based on the concept of simplicity, with a few basic applications for the things most people use a computer for; a clean visual style and a consistent look and feel throughout the OS.

Elementary_Screenshot04elementary OS uses it’s own desktop environment, which obviously is based on Gnome 3, but reduced to the bare essentials. They’ve also made their own music player app, movie player, Instant Message App and a Calendar app which, for now, is quite basic, along with Plank, a simple Dock launcher at the bottom of the desktop. The OS also comes with the Midori browser and Geary Mail application. There’s an App Store installed, because you’ll most likely want to install more than the minimum of apps that comes with elementary OS. But with all the applications for Ubuntu available, you can find anything you’re likely to need. 

I forgot to mention earlier: while testing elementary from the Live CD, I tried out the Music application to play an mp3 file from my hard drive. A dialog box popped up telling me I didn’t have the appropriate codec to play it, but offered to download and install it for me. I clicked OK and in moments the mp3 codecs were installed and my music file played! You can’t get more user-friendly than that! (Of course, once I had installed the OS to my hard drive, the proper plug-ins and codecs were good to go).

CONS: For computer users who are new to Linux, I think elementary OS is a pretty good choice. It’s clean, simple to use and things just work. However, for more advanced users there is a certain lack of configuration ability that may be a little frustrating. elementary OS comes with a System Settings control panel that is very similar to the one in Gnome 3, but it’s limited. The dock app Plank has no right-click configuration options; themes are limited; the OS does not come with a firewall or back-up software installed.

But fear not! There is an essential website that supplies  much-needed information for filling out the functionality of elementary OS right HERE, called elementary update. Even more essential, just go to Top 10 Things to do After Installing Luna. Adding elementary Tweaks to your System Settings will allow many more options (similar to Ubuntu Tweak). Also this User Guide is quite helpful. A few more tips: to access options in the File Browser, right-click on the browser window background (but only in ‘Icon’ view, apparently) to show hidden files, etc. (See below).

Elementary_Screenshot05I also installed Synaptic Package Manager, just because I like it, and GUFW for my simple firewall, as well as Firefox (Midori has some problems with Flash, which can be rectified through previous link). As for backup software, I initially installed Grsync, which always works great for me. But in elementary OS it would not run my backup once I set it up! I Googled around some more and found Cronopete, by Rastorsoft, which is made to run on elementary OS. It’s a clone of Apple’s Time Machine app, and it works beautifully!

So in closing, I would highly recommend elementary OS for a clean, fast and attractive operating system that works well and gets out of your way to use your computer. It may not appeal to some Linux power users, but for the average person looking for a free alternative to Windows or Mac, this one is a beauty!

If anyone out there uses Luna and has any more tips, please share them!

Elementary OS Interview – Iconic Design

Add ‘Open in Terminal’ to Pantheon Context menu in Elementary OS

Conky Manager

Well, it’s been a long hiatus! With a new job and Summer and kids, the last three months just flew by!

And the world of Linux is ever moving along.

This evening I’d like to draw your attention to a very useful application, and something I’ve been hoping would come along for quite a while now. I’ve mentioned Conky before, a lightweight system monitor for the X window system that can display all kinds of information about your computer hardware, operating system, network, weather forecasts and more on the desktop. It can display any kind of information or graphics and there are tons of Conky scripts you can download and run in Linux operating systems. I’ve tinkered around a tiny bit with some of these scripts to change what and how Conky displays information, but I never felt ambitious enough to learn the scripting language to make my own Conky scripts from scratch. And there was no GUI application for lazy bums like me to make using Conky easier. Until now!

Conky04_2013-09-05 09:10:30

Conky Manager is a cool little app that makes adding Conky to your desktop a breeze. Conky itself can be installed from most Linux distros, or if you use an Ubuntu or Debian based distro use the Software Center or Synaptic Package Manager to install. Then check out the Conky Manager website. All the info you need is there, plus a link to install a huge number of extra Conky Manager scripts. The application gives you many options for tweaking the scripts, too. On my computer running Zorin OS 6.2/Ubuntu 12.04, some of the CM scripts don’t run quite right, though, or they’ll run briefly when I check them and then quit. But most of them work fine, like one of my favorites called ‘Pencil’ above, a variation of the ‘Gotham’ Conky theme.

And here’s some more info from WebUpd8 on extra Conky scripts and updates. There are many very different and very wild visual styles you can use to decorate your beautiful Linux desktop. Go nuts!

Linux Mint 15 is here, and better than ever!

After a long absence (Spring is such a busy time!) I’m back with great news for Linux lovers.

Mint 15, ‘Olivia’ was released a couple of days ago, and it looks like the best version yet of the Ubuntu-offshoot distro. We’ve been using Mint 14 with the Cinnamon Desktop on the computer my kids use (an old HP Compaq with a Pentium 4 processor) for several months. I have been loving Cinnamon more and more with each update, and Mint 14 has been working beautifully on this machine. Everything works! I don’t recall having a single problem, except initially getting the Cinnamon Weather applet to work, which took a little bit of internet searching.

So when I saw that Mint 15 was out, with a new version of the Nemo file manager and Cinnamon 1.8, I had to download and check it out. And I must say, I love Linux Mint more than ever! It comes in two flavors: Mate and Cinnamon. The Mate Desktop Environment is actually pretty cool, using the old MintMenu and all the Gnome 2 panel applets and such; but after trying both Desktop Environments I find Cinnamon is the one I prefer. It looks and feels like a modern OS, and it seems Cinnamon 1.8 is a lot leaner on resource usage than before. Even on that old Pentium 4 computer, Cinnamon 1.6  runs quite smoothly, no proprietary graphics drivers needed.

Right now on the newer computer I’m writing this on we’re using Zorin OS 6.2 (which, by the way, also has a new release out this past week: Zorin 6.3, based on Ubuntu 13.04). I’m still really enjoying Zorin OS. Everything works and it looks great. And version 6.2 is based on the Long Term Support version of Ubuntu, 12.04. The new Mint 15 is based on Ubuntu 13.04 and will only be supported with software and security updates for 8 months. That may be a drawback to some users, but for me it’s not that big a deal to reinstall the next version of Mint, as long as you have a reliable backup. Also creating a separate ‘/home’ partition before installing an OS makes a clean install much easier.

So I have no compelling reason to switch to Linux Mint 15 at this time. But still… I’m tempted to install it anyway! It looks that good. For anyone out there interested in trying out Linux for the first time, I would say you can’t go wrong with Mint 15.

Also with a new version out this week: Pinguy 13.04 is another great distro that comes with everything but the kitchen sink pre-installed.

Mint, Zorin OS and Pinguy OS are all full-featured and easy to use Linux distros. The best way to choose is just to download the Live CDs/DVDs and give them a spin on your computer.

Linux Mint 15 – Linux Distro Reviews by InfinitelyGalactic

Mint 15: Today’s best Linux desktop (Review)

Linux Mint 15 – The best Linux distro gets better