I mentioned that I was thinking about installing Manjaro Linux… well I went ahead and did it. Not even just a little, by dual-booting with Windows 10. No, I wiped everything and just went for it as my one and only operating system. What follows is my notes from the install, so if I want to get back to where I was at some point in the future, I can retrace my steps.

“Live USB” Installer

Due to having a Broadcom wireless adapter in my self-built PC, the networking didn’t work “out of the box” for me. Which was a surprise, because it did work the last time I installed Linux. From what I’ve read, kernel 3 worked fine, but kernel 4 (on the Live image) has some problems with these cards, due to their drivers. This actually stumped me for a while, but in the end… iPhone tethering to the rescue! Put an iPhone into “hotspot” mode, then plug it in to the PC via USB, and Manjaro picks it up as a working network adapter pretty much instantly. It worked over Bluetooth as well. I’ll admit I was impressed by this.

This let me connect to the internet and test how to get the WiFi card working. Once I had a plan for that, it was on to the installation

Installation

Other than the network adapter, everything else about the installation was a breeze. Manjaro came pre-installed with the proprietary Nvidia graphics driver, and after picking a few options (user account, disk partitioning), the installer formatted the disk, set everything up, and prompted me to reboot within a couple of minutes.

Post Installation

So here’s where I had to fix a couple of things.

Network Drivers

With the iPhone still tethered, the process was something like this:

  • Perform a full system update using the package manager
  • Use the Manjaro Kernel Manager to install and switch to the latest Linux 5.0 kernel
  • Uninstall the broadcom-wl driver package
  • Reboot
  • Install the broadcom-wl-dkms drivers
  • Reboot
  • Configure the network connection in the connection manager

I configured my VPN by downloading the profiles from NordVPN, imported one of them, then set my WiFi connection to automatically connect to the VPN when the network started up.

Blank Screen during/after boot

I encountered a really strange issue where the login screen would not show after boot, and the system would appear to hang until I pressed some keys. It wasn’t a huge deal, once I figured out to press something, but it did start to niggle and made my system feel slower. After a lot of searching I came across this thread talking about similar symptoms. I installed the recommended package haveged, enabled the service, rebooted, and the problem was instantly fixed. After a little more reading, I replaced haveged with rng-tools, and everything has been fine since.

Other tweaks

I followed some of the suggestions from this video – namely install the fonts, reduce “swappiness”, install Pamac and a firewall.

Look and Feel

This was my first time using KDE as my desktop environment, so I was keen to spend some time customising it to my liking. So far I’ve settled on the “Adapta Breeze Nokto” theme, some additional icons, and played around with the panel + widget setup. It’s not fancy, but my desktop currently looks like this:

I’m generally a fan of darker themes, as they’re less of a strain on my eyes.

Other Random Notes

So far I’ve only installed a couple of extra software packages and tweaked a couple of small things.

  • I installed Lutris, for running Blizzard games. Hearthstone and World of Warcraft run flawlessly in my limited testing.
  • Visual Studio Code was also installed, for pretty much anything involving an editor.
  • Steam came pre-installed. A quick check shows around half my existing library is already compatible with Linux; the rest I’ll check through “Steam Play” and Proton.
  • I added a “bootsplash” loading screen using the (kinda vague) instructions in this thread. Basically: install a suitable theme, edit a kernel hook and rebuild the kernel, then add an option to GRUB. Given the speed everything loads at, this might be unnecessary – it’s shown for at most 1.5 seconds.
  • On SSD-based systems, enable the fstrim.timer service to enable TRIM support (recommended).
  • With the Nvidia driver, get better looking scrolling in Firefox by enabling layers.acceleration.force-enabled in about:config.

That’s all my notes for now. No doubt I’ll post up more as I get more comfortable with the OS and explore the capabilities a bit more ?

I’m getting an urge to switch my main desktop PC back to some flavour of Linux. It’s been a couple of years, and the Windows Subsystem for Linux has been adequate, but I’ve never been able to get it to work 100%. There’s always something complaining, that should be working “cross-platform” out of the box.

Although, to be honest, for all the time I get on the desktop these days it’s probably just change for the sake of change…

I mentioned a few weeks back I was considering my choices for how to upgrade my aging computer equipment, and of the choices, building my own custom PC would be the most rewarding path to take. I swithered a bit on whether I really wanted to do this, but in the end I gave in to the temptation to build something entirely my own.

Great, I know what I want to do, now how do I get there? It’s been several years since I built a PC1, and I haven’t been keeping up with the trends, or what’s the latest and greatest in terms of performance, price, or anything really.

I had a few ideas of what I wanted – it needed to be small, as space in the office is at a premium. It needed to be as powerful as I could afford, so it would last a decent amount of time until it needed major upgrades, while being flexible enough to tackle many different types of task – development, gaming, photo (and potentially basic video/audio) editing, for example. In a perfect world, I wanted it to be as quiet as possible and look good.

The last few weeks have been spent doing research, going back and forward over potential configurations using PC Part Picker before settling on an outline of what I wanted. I took it over to /r/BuildAPC for a sense check, and was told my best bet was to change the graphics card for something more powerful than I had picked out. I rejigged a few things to make that possible, and ended up with the spec below:

TypeItem
CPUIntel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor
CPU CoolerCooler Master Nepton 120XL 76.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
MotherboardAsus MAXIMUS VII IMPACT Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard
MemoryCorsair Vengeance Pro 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory
StorageSamsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive
Video CardGigabyte GeForce GTX 960 2GB Video Card
CaseSilverstone FT03B-MINI (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case
Power SupplySilverstone 500W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular SFX Power Supply

The graphics card might still be swapped for another, similarly specced one, but otherwise this is what I’ll be building in a little over a week’s time, when I have some time off. I’ll be talking more about the build, closer to the time, as I have a few things planned which will make it a bit more interesting than just a straight PC build


  1. It was in 2008. I checked my order history. 

I’m in the market for a new computer1, but I have no idea what way to go. I’ve been making do with older kit for the last few years, but all of it is pretty much at the end of its usable life.

I recently set up a new “office” area in the house, and the way I did it allows me to swap between my work-supplied laptop, and a computer of my own, just by plugging into the right monitor input and swapping a USB cable. This setup also allows my son to make use of the desk if he needs to.

Until recently, the computer I used most around the house was a 9 year old Dell Latitude laptop which I had made usable by putting an SSD into it, and building a lightweight Arch Linux installation. This was primarily because a laptop was all I had space for. Actually, I tell a lie – the “computer” I use most is my iPhone, but for times the iPhone can’t cut it (for whatever reason) I used the Dell2. While this arrangement worked, it showed its age, and it was fiddly at times.

I’ve had a 6 year old Mac Mini lying around for a while, doing nothing. It’s only barely more powerful than the Dell3, and the one time I had it plugged into the living room TV, it was just plain awkward to use. With the new office I was able to plug it in to a proper monitor/keyboard/mouse arrangement which made it more viable. So this past weekend I took the SSD from the Dell, put it in the Mac, and made that my “home computer.” It’s just fast enough to not induce rage when trying to do anything more taxing than surf the web and other light duties.

Now I’ve got a “proper” desk and space, I’ve been thinking I should look getting something which will last me another few years. The cheapest upgrade I could do is to spend ~£60 and double the RAM in the Mac Mini, going from 4GB to 8GB. I’m sure that will give a noticable boost to OS X, but it doesn’t really change the fact the system is on borrowed time. It could buy me another 6-12 months, but at some point, likely soon, something is going to fail. The way I see it, my choices are:

  1. Buy a newer Mac, probably a laptop for flexibility (plus that’s where all their non-iOS/Watch innovation seems to be going).
  2. Buy a Windows laptop.
  3. Build a custom PC.

Of the choices, #3 is likely the most satisfying, and would have the most upgrade potential further down the line, though I would be constrained later by choices I made now. It also has the potential to get very expensive; I priced up a high-end Mini-ITX system for a bit of fun, and it came to roughly £1000 before choosing a suitable graphics card. I could definitely price something for less, and would probably have to, but it would have to be weighed against longevity of usable performance and upgradability. I am a little space constrained, so a massive tower is never going to be practical, but there are plenty options between Mini-ITX and mATX nowadays.

A Windows laptop feels like it would be a cop-out, and there’s not much out there I feel inspired enough to part with my money for. There’s a couple of nice laptops I’ve seen4, but none I feel would last as long as I’d like them to.

Getting a new Mac has been the direction I’ve been leaning towards for a while, but I’ve always struggled to justify it vs. other spending priorities. Plus, when you factor in how fast Apple iterate their hardware, the lack up after-sale upgradability, and you’re always hoping to “time it right”. That said, as an iPhone/iPad owner there’s a lot of upside to getting a Mac, for example: close integration through Handover/Continuity (granted, which I can’t currently use with the Mini), and iCloud Photo Library. I guess I could set up something more “cross-platform” for the photo library, using Dropbox, but I found Apple’s solution to be that little bit nicer to work with.

So the jist of this much-longer-than-I-planned stream of consciousness is that I need to start thinking about replacing the old and almost busted computer kit I have with something new. I don’t know what that will be yet, and I’d hoped getting my thoughts out would help me focus my mind on what I want to do.

No such luck though. Any ideas?


  1. Anyone who knows me probably knows I’ve actually been talking about it for ~4 years. 
  2. And what of my iPad? I mainly just use it for Hearthstone and Games Workshop rulebooks. Since iOS 8 (I think), my iPad has taken a huge hit in performance, and just isn’t as capable as it once felt. 
  3. On paper, at least. In practice it was severely hamstrung by the old-school HDD and running OS X. 
  4. My work laptop is quite nice; it’s a Dell Ultrabook, thin, light, and performant enough. But the consumer pricing is higher than I’d value it at.