Manjaro: Day 3

Spoiler: This is the final part of my Manjaro series.

Continued from the second post, found here.

So far I have not been describing the many issues I've been having during this whole process. To be honest, I wanted to give it my best try, so often chose to ignore issues, assuming these would be related to my limited knowledge on things Arch, or just because it's something new, and new can be uncomfortable at first.

But, there's a limit to this and to my patience. Let's go into some of the issues I ran into in this post.

1. Failed to boot from encrypted disk

This, as I described in a previous post, was my very first experience with Manjaro after its otherwise quite good initial impression. Their live bootable stick works great, as you probably have come to expect from live bootable linux distributions. But after installing Manjaro on its own dedicated SSD using the setup guide's "use full disk" option with encryption enabled, I believe I was able to boot successfully from it once or twice, though when I came back to my computer a day later it refused to boot.

I could've spent more time with it, trying to check the Grub configuration file perhaps, or re-installing Grub altogether, but quite honestly if my first step of installing an OS requires that level of debugging and troubleshooting, I'd rather stick with a pure Hackintosh setup.

2. Completely locked/frozen computer (twice)

Two times I ran into an issue that did not seem to be related to anything specific I was doing at the time, but my computer just completely locked up. I have no idea why this happened nor what caused it, and to be honest I also did not want to spend too much time wading through logs to try to figure it out either.

This happened so early on during my time with Manjaro while I was barely running anything (certainly nothing intensive) at the times it happened, on more than capable brand new hardware to boot. It simply indicated to me that the OS itself is either fundamentally unstable, or otherwise requires more setup/maintenance time than I am willing to allocate to an operating system. It's just not what you would want from an OS.

3. Long freezes, especially after login/unlocking

Related to but different from the above, during my full day of working I would have the issue where every now and then, after I come back from pouring a cup of coffee or so, I unlock the computer and it proceeded to fully lock up for a while, sometimes up to 20 seconds. Perhaps the source of this is the same as my above point, but again, this really shouldn't happen.

I had left System Monitor running to see if there perhaps was a rogue resource that went crazy, but nothing looked out of the ordinary. All threads were calm, memory usage was fine, but somehow the OS needed to take a minute to meditate almost every time I unlocked it.

4. Weird browser resource usage issues

Perhaps less related to Manjaro and more Firefox, but as I have yet to run into the same issue with Firefox on other operating systems, and given other signs of instability specific to Manjaro, I am going to add it to the list here.

A few times I noticed CPU and Memory usage go up quite substantially, and once a rogue resource even went so far as to gobble up almost all 16GB worth of RAM (this was before I swapped the RAM I borrowed with my own, which arrived a bit late). As best I can tell this resource was related to a tab I had just closed, but somehow got stuck. I had to fight the system's stalling/freaking out due to having no memory available to be able to kill the resource. I managed to kill it fortunately, or this would've ended in a third complete system freeze.

5. Wake from sleep graphical glitches solved only by rebooting

Ultimately this was my the drip that made the proverbial bucket flow over for me. Sunday morning I woke my computer from sleep and was greeted by my screens glitching like crazy, and it wouldn't stop until I had rebooted.

This, on its own, is already fairly annoying, but put together with the other issues I had been dealing with really made me realize that Manjaro is just not for me.

Bonus. Multi-GPU woes

This one is not a full main issue as I ended up not spending too much time trying to make it work, but it's mention-worthy anyway. I tried to run two GPUs for a specific setup I would like to have. My main graphics card is AMD, and the secondary card I wanted to use purely to drive a monitor (nothing graphically intensive) is a NVidia GT710-based GPU. I knew that this would be asking a lot of whatever OS I would try this on, so didn't have high hopes in the first place. I was just interested to see if it would work.

In Manjaro, this did not work. I am at least partially certain that one of the reasons this didn't work was due to the screen tearing Xorg config file I had added, as that seems to confuse the OS, but I am not 100% sure. Regardless, using the open source drivers for both I could only get output on my main GPU, and with NVidia's proprietary drivers installed I only got output on the NVidia card. I'm certain with more time and patience one could find a way to make this work, but I just didn't really have the interest given all aforementioned issues.

This was my personal experience

The problems I ran into are probably caused by a combination of things. Perhaps I did some things wrong. Perhaps Manjaro is not yet optimized for the hardware I have. Perhaps an experienced person intimately familiar with Arch would have quick ways to solve all issues mentioned here. I am sure Manjaro and Arch are great solutions for some, if not many other people. It just isn't working out for me.

I am not a person who wants to spend considerable time configuring things. While I don't mind going through a multi-step process like I have when setting up a Hackintosh, I at least understand why those are required, as I'm trying to use something in an environment it isn't designed for. But Manjaro —and indeed pretty much all other Linux distributions alike— is designed for this environment. So I want it to just work. At least its fundamentals.

I of course understand the out of the box experience can't be as smooth as (earlier versions of) macOS on real Mac hardware. I don't expect that. But I do expect the operating system I have to rely on every day for work is able to perform consistently and be stable. My experience with Manjaro, unfortunately, is that it is less stable and less consistent than macOS has been on non-Mac hardware.

That's kind of crazy to me.

What next

So, I decided to give up on Manjaro. I feel I've spent enough time trying to make it work for me, it's just not worth spending even more time on. Perhaps in a few years things will get better, but that's kind of always what people say about Linux for desktop usage. I have to admit that when things did work, I was quite pleased with the experience. KDE Plasma feels quite nice (although I didn't enjoy that sliding menu thing they went for) and when things weren't freezing up things felt smooth and snappy.

But, I didn't invest in a whole computer build to have an inferior experience to my Grandpa Hack, of course. And so, I chose to give Ubuntu another try. It has been a while since I used it in a desktop environment, and while I'm not a huge fan of GNOME, it should do what it's supposed to do. I have already installed it on a separate SSD for some initial tests and I like what I am seeing so far (after an initial hiccup).

This is most likely the final post in my Manjaro series, but if you have enjoyed these posts, fret not. I'm planning to continue to document my journey, so day four will come. Let's give Ubuntu a try.

Continued with the Ubuntu series here.