While it seems like every distro is rolling out an ARM-compatible version, not all of them are attracting enough numbers to survive.
No Community Traction
dodgejcr didn’t start the Manjaro ARM project with the intention of becoming the lead developer. Instead, he wanted to lay the foundation for a community driven ARM distro based on Arch. This would be an alternative to the majority of ARM specific distros based on Ubuntu and Debian. He wanted to create an ARM distro that had the power and simplicity of Arch but was also easy to setup and run. It was designed to come in three editions (minimal, base, server, and media) with each preconfigured for a certain task.
However, the community that he was hoping to build did not materialize. He and fellow Manjaro developer Strit were the sole developers with only inconsistent help for others. After much discussion, they decided that there weren’t enough people using Manjaro ARM to be worth the effort. They had been using their own resources. dodgejcr said in the announcement, “Our families, careers, and time are all being sacrificed and at the current state, that sacrifice is not worth the result. We wanted to provide an easy to use and easy to setup distro for your ARM boards and I think we succeeded in that regard but the only problem is, we are doing a lot of work for just a handful of users.” (Only four people commented on the announcement.)
Still in the Early Stages
As you would expect from a year old distro, Manjaro ARM didn’t support many boards. According to the project’s website, it provided full support for Raspberry Pi 2 and 3. IT also lists Raspberry Pi 1 and Zero, Odroid C1/C2 and XU4 as only partial supported. While the Raspberry Pi boards are the most popular, there are a bunch of other boards on the market. It would take a lot to support them.
On Life Support
For now, Manjaro ARM is on life support. dodgejcr is hoping that someone will step forward and take over the development of the project. To give potential developers an incentive to take over the project, dodgejcr created a shutdown timeline.
All development, bug fixes, and package building have been shut down. Package adding, bug tracker, and the wiki will be shutdown on April 1st. The Manjaro ARM software repo will be shut down on May 1st. The Manjaro ARM website and forum will be shut down on June 1st.
As a fan of Manjaro for xb6 machines, I’m saddened by the news. I was one of the first people to write about it when it was first announced. Now I’m one of the mourners at its wake.
It’s too bad that it hasn’t attracted as big a crowd as it’s parent distro did. As I stated above, only four commented on the end-of-life announcement. This is not enough to make all that work worthwhile. Maybe someone will take it up, but I’m not too hopeful.
I’m sure that there’ll be a few people wondering why dodgejcr seems to think that building a distro is so hard. After all, it’s easy to knock together a custom distro with Ubuntu. Well, this project is a horse of e different color. The x86 technology found in modern PCs and laptops has been around for a while. ARM is a fairly new technology with dozens and dozens of manufacturers. (Raspberry Pis use Broadcom CPUs, while the Odroid C1 uses an Amlogic chip.) Each board would have to be tested to make sure that it works with the distro. If it doesn’t, then the headaches begin.
Currently, I don’t own any of the devices that Manjaro ARM supports. (Though I’m very tempted to get the new Raspberry Pi Zero W. ) If I did, I’d install it in a heartbeat, even with the end of the project in sight.
I wish dodgejcr, Strit, and the rest of the Manjaro ARM team good luck.
Have you used Manjaro ARM in the past? If so, how was your experience? Will you miss it?
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