Why I Hopped from Manjaro Linux to EndeavourOS

Written by
Dave McKay/How-To Geek
Manjaro is a great distribution, and I used it for nearly two years. It’s based on Arch Linux but it doesn’t claim to function just like Arch, which is what I realised I wanted. I found that EndeavourOS better suited my needs.

I used Manjaro Linux for two years, but my initial delight with Manjaro dwindled over time, and I felt less and less comfortable with it. Here’s why I hopped over to EndeavourOS.

Table of Contents

I’m Hardly What You’d Call a Distrohopper
I’ve Used a Lot of Distros
Underneath the Surface
Manjaro and EndeavourOS Are Both Arch Based
The Differences Between Manjaro and EndeavourOS
So If You Don’t Use the AUR on Manjaro You’ll Be OK?
Why Use EndeavourOS Instead of Arch?
Your Manjaro Mileage May Vary

I’m Hardly What You’d Call a Distrohopper

I started using Linux back in the mid-1990s, with RedHat Linux. In 2003 it morphed into a commercial product called RedHat Enterprise Linux. A fork of the last free version of RedHat Linux was used to launch Fedora Linux.

Nowadays, Fedora is well-known as a rock-solid distribution. But twenty years ago, I found it a little picky about the hardware it liked to run on. To some extent, that was par for the course, regardless of your distribution. It was just life on Linux. Resolving issues was part of that whole scene. But it did grow tiresome.

I started hearing good things about a new and, almost, hardware-agnostic distribution called Ubuntu. It had big backing behind it, too, so it wasn’t going to go away anytime soon. The philanthropic sentiments behind the distribution appealed to me, too. I decided to give it a go.

I think it was Ubuntu 5.04, the Hoary Hedgehog. I used Ubuntu as my daily driver until Autumn 2019, when I moved to Manjaro. I’ve already written about the thought processes behind that move.

Two years after moving to Manjaro, I migrated to EndeavourOS. Here’s why.

I’ve Used a Lot of Distros

I might not be a distrohopper but I’ve installed more distributions than I can remember. The vast majority of them were virtual machines inside a hypervisor like VirtualBox.

Sometimes it’s no more than curiosity. I’m interested in seeing someone’s ideas or motivations for yet another Linux distribution. At other times I’ve needed to familiarize myself with a distribution I was going to administer or support in someway. Firing it up in a virtual machine let’s you go to town in ways you can’t on somebody’s live production system.

All in all, I’ve installed many different distributions, pondered their differences, and asked myself “Why did they do that, that way?”

Underneath the Surface

Underneath, it’s all Linux, as the saying goes.

The heart of all Linux distributions is the Linux kernel which, together with the GNU core utilities, make up most of the operating system files. The boot and init systems and other vital components complete the basic architecture.

The significant differences are in each distributions underlying philosophy, and their choice of supported and default file systems, shells, and desktop environments. Their package manager is important too, as is the size and quality of their software repositories. Very few distributions are truly their own thing, created from scratch. Most are derivatives of other, well-established, distributions. That means they’ll use the package manager of their upstream ancestors.

Distributions may or may not bundle in some unique tools for system administration or to make your transition to using your new distribution smooth and easy. These tools simplify one or more aspects of looking after a Linux computer, but they’re another layer of abstraction between you and the real, naked Linux experience. It’s similar to the many variations of Android that you get from the different cellphone manufacturers. To a greater or lesser degree, they each overlay their own UI, apps, and utilities on top of stock Android.

So although it’s true that if you look deep enough below the surface all distributions are the same, you still need to grapple with the idiosyncrasies of each distribution.

Manjaro and EndeavourOS Are Both Arch Based

Manjaro and EndeavourOS are both based on Arch Linux. Arch is a rolling distribution. It receives frequent updates. Operating system and application changes are made available as soon as they have been accepted for release. By contrast, point release distributions have one or two annual releases that include all the changes since the last release.

The ArchWiki is probably the most comprehensive Linux documentation and information resource on Earth. It’s that good; users from all distributions use it as a source of truth.

Arch is fast and lightweight. A fresh Arch install gives you the minimum required to get you up and running. Everything beyond that is selected and installed by you, using the pacman command-line package manager that was written specifically for Arch.

Arch has two different types of software repository. The standard repositories hold the packages that have been officially-sanctioned by the Arch maintainers. The AUR (Arch User Repository) is another massive repository containing user-supplied build scripts. The build scripts download the application source code and build the application on your computer.

RELATED: Arch Linux vs. Ubuntu: Which Should You Use?

The Differences Between Manjaro and EndeavourOS

Manjaro and EndeavourOS are both Arch-based, but Manjaro is much further away from Arch in its construction and use. As official documentation itself says, Manjaro is a different kind of beast:

In fact, the differences between Manjaro and Arch are far greater than the differences between the popular Ubuntu distribution and its many derivatives, including Mint and Zorin.

Manjaro has its own repositories, and users can access the AUR too, although it isn’t officially supported. EndeavourOS has its own, very small, repository for the few EndeavourOS-specific applications it provides, such as the welcome program, and uses the Arch repositories for everything else. EndeavourOS can also access the AUR.

Manjaro is a curated rolling release model. Updates and patches are held back for about two weeks while testing and approval is carried out on them. This means you’re a step or two away from the cutting edge, which is generally a safer place to be. EndeavourOS doesn’t do this. With EndeavourOS you get updates and patches at the same time that Arch users get them.

Manjaro provides a GUI-based software installation tool called pamac . This is a front-end to pacman . The AUR is supported by pamac . It is turned off by default, but it’s a single click to turn it on. This is surprisingly easy, since the AUR isn’t officially supported by Manjaro. And for good reason. Using the AUR on Manjaro can cause serious problems to your system.

The AUR setting in Manjaro Linux

Put simply, the AUR naturally expects it is working with plain old Arch. EndeavourOS isn’t 100 percent plain old Arch. But it is identical to Arch in all the ways that matter so it can use the Arch repositories and the AUR seamlessly.

Manjaro is less a doppelganger, and more of a celebrity lookalike. And, because of the delays that Manjaro introduces with the patches and updates, the AUR can find itself working with outdated libraries and applications on your computer. When I said the AUR expects you to be working on plain old Arch, I was fibbing slightly. It expects you to be working on plain old but patched up-to-date Arch.

The bottom line is, using the AUR on Manjaro is a gamble. And because I use the AUR a lot, I lost the gamble too many times and far too frequently.

RELATED: Ubuntu vs. Manjaro Linux: Which One Should You Choose?

So If You Don’t Use the AUR on Manjaro You’ll Be OK?

Sadly, no. Manjaro seems to be dropping the ball more and more in other ways. Multiple times now, it’s let security certificates expire. When the certificates expired, access was lost to resources such as the archived old forum, the Manjaro software center, and even the Manjaro download page.

It’s so easy to set up automatic certificate renewal that it shouldn’t have happened once. But to me, the bigger issue is one of governance. The first incident should have been the trigger to put a process in place to prevent recurrences. That couldn’t have happened, or it didn’t happen in an effective way.

Editor’s Note: We reached out to the Manjaro development team, and they told us that they’ve shut down the archived forum as the migration to the new forum was complete, that they’ve created internal tools for monitoring software center certificate issues, and that certificates for the Manjaro download page are now maintained by their content delivery network.

Patches submitted to open-source projects are reviewed and tested before they are rolled into the stable release. Manjaro has a habit of picking up unmerged, unverified patches and merging them into their versions of the software packages, and rolling them out to users. Work in progress is just that, a work in progress. It is ongoing, not finished. It isn’t ready to be put in front of end users.

Manjaro is not the only distribution that has done this, but it is a repeat offender. It’s one of the reasons the Do Not Ship It website was created as an open letter to Linux distributions. It is endorsed by almost 20 open source developers and maintainers.

Ironically, merging work-in-progress patches undermines the security and stability that holding back updates and patches for a few weeks is supposed to improve.

Why Use EndeavourOS Instead of Arch?

As I say, I do use Arch on some of my laptops. But on my daily driver desktop, I wanted the best of both worlds. I wanted Arch, but with a fast, simple installer, that gave me all the options during the installation that I may want to choose from, including basic software and desktop environment choices.

The Arch archinstall installer has improved a lot, but it’s still very easy to make a wrong selection if you’re trying to go fast. If the computer I earn my living on needs to be rebuilt, I’m going to be moving fast. EndeavourOS uses the familiar Calamares installer. You can still make mistakes, but it’s easier to get it right.

When the installation is finished, you’re left with an Arch-based distribution that uses the standard Arch package manager and the upstream Arch repositories, and the AUR is supported. Everything that the AUR expects, it gets, because EndeavourOS is Arch, with a theme and some lightweight utilities. I’ve found using the AUR on EndeavourOS to be as stable as it is when I use it on Arch.

RELATED: How to Install Arch Linux on a PC

Your Manjaro Mileage May Vary

Manjaro is a hugely popular distribution, it just no longer feels comfortable for me to use it. That’s no reason for you not to try it for yourself. Only you can decide what works for you.

If it doesn’t suit you, and you want the closest thing to Arch that isn’t Arch, give EndeavourOS a spin. The only thing closer to Arch is Arch.

RELATED: Is EndeavourOS the Easiest Way to Use Arch Linux?

Article Categories:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *