Considering mabox as my next distro

Hello there !

I am looking to switch distro and mabox has an impressive 9.4/10 score on dw as of today. I tried rolling releases two times in the past, sabayon and manjaro, with many failures, especially on updates, so I tend to prefer fixed releases and get stuck for years by fear of upgrading to the newest version (which also breaks, users advise to reinstall instead of upgrade).

So my question is : is there an easy way to recover from a broken system ? like, not just after a kernel upgrade, I can easily switch between kernels at boot times in case something goes wrong, but also on “normal” updates, especially libraries. Is there an easy way to also revert that ?

Cheers !

Hi @ychaouche, and welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

How it is possible to broke the system by simply update?
Which Desktop Environment you use when that happened?
I run Manjaro with Openbox for more than 6 years now and never have any serious issues after update.
I think using rock solid LTS kernel + 100% complete and bug free window manager like Openbox makes a very stable base - so nothing to broke here :slight_smile:

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How it is possible to broke the system by simply update?

I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic or serious. I’ll assume were serious. I have no idea why the systems I use broke with simple updates, my guesses are :

  • some critical library doesn’t work anymore like expected, or is being updated while other software requires the old version and hasn’t been updated.

  • an update in some driver or kernel module

  • broken local package tree/system/subsystem

  • interrupted updates (no more battery, doing updates via wifi) leaving the system in an unstable state

I think I used MATE and KDE, and nuked both systems with updates within like 2 months of operation.

I was asking seriously. In the 6 years on Manjaro I had a serious problem once but it was due to the failure of the disc. Maybe I’m just lucky.

Back to your questions…

Some people uses things like Timeshift - for me personally its overkill. I always backup my important data remotely.

Partial updates are unsupported. Developers rebuild all the packages in the repositories that need to be rebuilt against the libraries.
Occasionally you need to rebuild packages from AUR … with yay it is a piece of cake :slight_smile:

It is always good to read update anouncement on Manjaro forum → Stable Updates - Manjaro Linux Forum

Thanks for the nice reply. May I ask what are those ?

Packages Changes (Thu Apr 15 23:26:14 CEST 2021)

  • stable community x86_64: 1806 new and 1814 removed package(s)
  • stable core x86_64: 36 new and 36 removed package(s)
  • stable extra x86_64: 697 new and 687 removed package(s)
  • stable kde-unstable x86_64: 364 new and 363 removed package(s)
  • stable multilib x86_64: 27 new and 27 removed package(s)

Are those repos ?

Yes they are Manjaro stable branch repositories. Mabox uses all of them except kde-unstable.

hi @ychaouche

This is my thought on this topic…

I have been using manjaro for years and I had to re-install once (when I bought my new pc a couple of years ago).

I am very conservative about updates; I never update before reading the update announcements, and surely not before checking out that any bugs found will not affect me (having older hw is a bleshing some times, as bugs do tend to affect newer hw).

Also, having a more stable Desktop (xfce instead of kde) or even having a Window Manager (like openbox that mabox has), is a good thing; not many thing change and when they do they are usualy properly tested beforehand.

So, having a mabox system means:

  1. You don’t have to worry about your graphical environment giving up on you (I suffered the transition from KDE3 to KDE4, a long-long time ago, and let me tell you it’s ugly AF)

  2. You have to only watch out for kernel issues (kernel - hw combination) that might make your machine unbootable

  3. You also have to watch for specific apps you just can’t live without, so that they do not break ufter the update.

That’s all

BTW… :slight_smile:
I just updated to the latest update (not yet announced by manjaro, but already on the servers) and got no problem. (well, vbox has problems, but that does not bother me at this point)… But kernel 5.12 does not (yet?) work for me…

You see I inspected the packages of the update and thought it would be ok to update early… I might do such a thing in 10 years time, or with the next release, who knows? I usualy am not so brave!

Final word: as @napcok said: always read the Stable Updates - Manjaro Linux Forum and you will be ok on mabox even if you are not an experienced user.

Oh, one thing I forgot!
Always download the update (from a terminal) with

sudo pacman -Syyuw

but always switch to a virtual console (Alt-Ctrl+F2) to perform the actual update. This will save you from a lot of pain!

sudo pacman -Syyu

Oh, yes and another thing…
Updates are always performed fully. You cannot just pick and chose which packages you will update. You either go on with the update, or you don’t. This is very important, as a partial update will surely lead you to a broken system…


Thank you for your wonderful input @sng. Since I can’t cherry-pick what packages to update, this means that if an update has a single problematic package I should refrain from updating the whole system right ?

Also, the kernel updates are the less problematic for me since you always have the option to boot last working kernel at startup (I hope ?).

It would be very nice if there was an easy way to revert the last update in case something goes wrong. A tool would track what packages were updated on last operation and allow to revert all of them in case something goes wrong (since you can’t cherry-pick the updates I guess you won’t be able to cherry-pick the downgrades too).

Yes, it’s all or nothing.

There is a way to hold back specific packages, but you will really have to know what you are doing when going down that road…

Another thing about updates… Never miss one. If you do, you may break your system when you apply the most recent one.

So, if you have a machine that you open like once a week, once in two months, etc. you better stick with a stable release cycle distro (like mint or mx, or such). Running a rolling distro on that machine (not just mabox, any rolling distro) will just bring you pain :wink:

I always keep the older kernels (I currently have all LTS kernel since 4.14)
If sometinhg goes wrong with kernel updating, you can always go back to the previous kernel (or any of the LTS that works for you) until the problem is resolved.

Just make sure that, no matter what distro you are running, grub has some delay and that you know how to make its menu visible if its hidden.

Only one that I know of: AUR (en) - timeshift
There is a filesystem that has such abilities but I haven’t tried it and I don’t know how stable it is… Btrfs - ArchWiki


Timeshift allows you to go back in time for a particular file, assuming you were able to both boot and login. I recently had a conversation on Openindiana (a Unix system derived from OpenSolaris) ML, where they solve this problem by automatically creating separate boot environments on each system update. This means that if something goes wrong when you reboot, just chose the last working booting env and you should have the same state as you left before the update. Pretty neat.

Now, that’s interesting!
Is there any documentation on that?