Recently, I’ve been on a hunt for a lightweight GNU/Linux operating system for my Asus Pundit P1-PH1. As one can gather from my last entry, I chose BunsenLabs Linux. However, I did use AntiX on a half-broken Dell Latitude d520 some time ago and became quite fond of IceWM and JWM (Joe’s Window Manager) as desktop environments (sort of). Truth be told, both of those are lighter than Openbox and IceWM in fact may work as a full desktop environment (minus desktop icons, though). Thereby, I decided to give Manjaro Linux 16.04 JWM edition a try.
To begin, I think that the comparison is absolutely unfair. BunsenLabs is built on Debian Stable, while Manjaro packages are derived from cutting-edge Arch Linux. Hence, the kernel, desktop and app versions differ. What is similar though, is the concept of lightweightness, and therefore the software selection partially overlaps. When comparing, I had several criteria in mind – RAM & CPU usage, theming/look, ease of use, stability/reliability.
First, RAM and CPU usage. Both systems are very snappy, though because Manjaro Linux utilizes JWM, ambient RAM consumption was somewhat lower on Manjaro than on BunsenLabs’ Openbox. In addition, Debian does a lot of behind the scenes work preemptively to assure smooth user experience. On the other side of the spectrum, minimalistic Manjaro avoids interfering with user choices, though some basal configuration is done by various scripts. A slight favor to Manjaro Linux on this one.
Next up, theming and look. Manjaro Linux relies quite heavily on flat themes, which seem to be the craze since the inception of Windows 10. In regards to computer use I am a truly old geezer (sage, hermit, you name it!). I prefer a simple, slightly opaque look, preferably with emphasis on the color grey (in less than 50 shades, mind you!). Crunchbang Linux piqued my interest in the past, hence I give this point to BunsenLabs, which continues Crunchbang’s legacy. To be fair though, both operating systems have a very unique and consistent look that simply appeals to different demographics.
One but last, ease of use. Again, both operating systems are rather easy to use, at least according to my doggish, Arch Linux influenced standards. Manjaro sports the Manjaro Settings Manager that allows one-click kernel installation & selection, and easy driver selection for all devices, much like the Drivers app in Ubuntu. In fact, Manjaro strives to be at least as user-friendly as Ubuntu, with much success. BunsenLabs is a lot more conservative in comparison. Basic configuration is done for the user, but adjustments may require delving into text files. Fortunately, I am familiar enough with Openbox and completely don’t mind such incoveniences. A point for each contestant then!
Finally, stability. Here the difference is the most significant in my opinion. BunsenLabs was built on Debian Stable, the most tried and tested GNU/Linux distribution, save for CentOS and FreeBSD. Things can go wrong, but this happens very rarely. Usually, there are problems with the initial setup on partially supported PCs (for instance, laptops with nVidia Optimus graphics). Once those are solved, things run rather smoothly. Debian’s vetting process sieves out almost all bugs before they get to the Stable release. While Arch Linux is incredibly stable, considering its cutting-edge nature, Manjaro often suffers from the instability of the added bling. On standard hardware (read: T-series Thinkpads), Manjaro works fine. However, with dubious devices like my Realtek 8188eu USB WiFi dongle things can go awry. Point to BunsenLabs fo making a good call and choosing Debian Stable.
To wrap it all up, my comparison favored BunsenLabs, though I feel I am biased due to my legacy inclinations. Both Manjaro JWM and BunsenLabs are great in their own regards, however to each his/her own. BunsenLabs for those of us who prefer a stable and reliable working environment and Manjaro JWM for pirates and people who like to live on the edge.
Disclaimer: the images were taken from the Manjaro and BunsenLabs websites. I do NOT own them!