Updated: March 16, 2018
If you think SWAG is reserved to teenagers only, step off the cool bus now. Because we're going Archtown, where the Linux is hot and the desktops are pretty. Yup, someone decided to put together a derivative of the labor-intensive Arch Linux into a pretty, modern and hip distro called SwagArch.
Ignoring the hype, perhaps it's actually a good system, right? After all, my expectations from the likes of Manjaro and Antergos weren't high either, but then, they proved to be delightfully clever. So maybe this swagster can also deliver. Testing version 18.02 on my olden LG laptop, what be blessed with an Nvidia graphics card and many years of age. After me.
Live session be okay. Now, in the live boot menu, there's an option to select other OS, the ones already installed on the disk, except this did nothing. It was just a random little check, but Swaggy Archon didn't pass it. Anyway, up, up, up, text and flicker, and we've got ourselves an Xfce desktop. Pretty, nice icons, excellent fonts, dull dolors.
SwagArch goes for a somewhat modern approach with fancy icons and a few top-panel applets, but in essence, it's just an Xfce desktop. Simple, frugal, practical. The odd choice - but the correct one - is the use of Ubuntu fonts, as they make for the superior experience in the Tuxsphere.
However, the experience wasn't perfect. If you play around with the anti-aliasing settings, the default RGB/Slight gives you nice, if somewhat condensed fonts, while None/Full gives you wider spacing between letters. In fact, with the combo of semi-dark themes used in the desktop, it makes for a tricky arrangement.
Not that good. Wireless worked fine, but Samba wise, nothing. Printing, the same thing. While the Samba option is there, the button remains grayed out. The distro did detect my Wireless printer though.
But the bigger problem is - the system does NOT sync time once you connect to the network, which resulted in all sorts of warnings from Firefox. On second attempt, the error message was clearer, and I understood I needed to fix the time. I have not played with date and hwclock commands in a decade, and it was annoying. The settings menu for Xfce does not seem to have an option to change the date & time, but the Swag settings menu one does, only I found it after I've resolved my issue manually.
date -s "27 FEB 2018 13:16:00"
hwclock --set --date "27 FEB 2018 13:17:00" --localtime
While I couldn't get any files from my network, luckily, I had some stored on the laptop's disk from my existing dual-boot setup. Music and HD video both played fine, but MPV did crash once when I tried to drag the player window across the desktop.
Another problem is - MPV has its own transparent border - not like other apps. Several programs also use their own Adwaita (Gnome 3) theming, and this does not align well with the Xfce desktop. A typical Linux problem, where pieces are sourced from all over the place with zero integration. Not a Swag problem per se, more sort of a #yolo (you only linux once) problem.
The music player (Quod Libet) is okay if somewhat odd. Dark theme, why. It did not show the currently playing track in the list in the bottom half of the interface. All in all, it works fine, but it doesn't have any specific advantage over one or two heavyweights in the media space.
Calamares comes with its own theme - and distinctly Plasma/Qt looks. Odd and visually jarring. There were no surprises here. Detect the local setup check, replace one of the existing two distros, check, answer a few questions, and let the slides slide. Didn't take too long, only about 15 minutes.
SwagArch booted fine - plus the mandatory fireworks of text and color. No live session setting was preserved, not even the Wireless configuration. I had to start fresh. The desktop is very fast. No argument there.
Package management & updates
I went the GUI way first, and the updates seem to hang. I had to open the command line and ran the quintessential pacman command to get the system to eat some bytes. The update process was fast and non-intrusive. After that, the GUI frontend worked fine.
While running the manual update, you're asked questions that seemingly make no sense:
:: Replace compositeproto with extra/xorgproto? [Y/n]
The default set is fairly frugal. For a 1.1GB distro, it's a bit disappointing. A few unique, non-standard Xfce-esque programs, plus Firefox ... You don't get an office suite but GIMP is there, whereas it should be the other way around. Steam is in the repo. I couldn't setup either Skype or Chrome. The official sites only have RPM and Deb packages. There's no convenient way to add new Arch repos. Well, there is, sort of, but then, there's nothing to indicate you should yaourt your distro. If the sentence does not make sense, it's okay, it should not.
So yeah, I tried installing Steam. It complained about missing dependencies, and naturally, the installation failed. I mean what. Why would the package manager not sort this out on its own? In fact, this angered me so much, I pretty much stopped testing at this point.
Actually, I also tried VLC. Would not start. Weird. Command line, aha:
VLC media player 2.2.8 Weatherwax (revision 2.2.7-14-g3cc1d8cba9)
[000055f0795b92c8] core libvlc: Running vlc with the default interface. Use 'cvlc' to use vlc without interface.
[000055f0796f8418] skins2 interface error: no suitable dialogs provider found (hint: compile the qt4 plugin, and make sure it is loaded properly)
[000055f0796f8418] skins2 interface error: cannot instantiate qt4 dialogs provider
I didn't spend too much time fiddling, but fiddle I did. The default icon theme only comes in the light-colored flavor that works well against a dark background, so if you switch to a light theme, the top panel looks weird. I had to install Papirus instead.
On its own, the distro did not prompt or ask or anything. I had to manually search - and select the correct drivers for my card (the 340.xx family). Install, reboot, Nvidia splash, all good. Very nice. Shame that there's no automated way, like in Antergos.
Some annoyances & problems
I definitely dislike the Redshift app thingie. It's as bad as eating tidepods. A fad based on nothing more than novelty for the sake of it. At least it did not destroy screenshot colors like we saw in Ubuntu Aardvark, but once I had it turned off, the desktop color balance did change. I absolutely don't need something like that.
The terminal window assails you with color - an entire screen worth of text buffer is lost on a splash of system data that really does nothing useful.
Searching through the system settings, sub-menus/categories cannot be found using the built-in search field. This can make desktop customization a frustrating experience, if you do not know what you're doing.
LibreOffice (6.0) cannot be pinned to the dock.
I tried to use a different theme for the top panel - there are several presets, except the default (current) one does not have a backup. So I had it accidentally overwritten and couldn't get it back. Resizing windows is tricky, and there's no fine movement. No right click on the desktop - nothing. If you log out and log back in, the dock takes about a full minute to start and load. Some of my icons suddenly disappeared, and I had to re-add them.
And the rest of it?
Yes, there's a lot more to do, like smartphone support, hardware support, webcam, performance, resources, and all that. But I did not want to continue. Package management was flaky, and the Steam fiasco really nailed it. I could live with the visual niggles and woes, every distro has those, no biggie, but the core elements of the functionality were flawed. If you can't install programs and run your distro with confidence, then what's the point really?
SwagArch sounds like an interesting concept. The aesthetic side of things is reasonable, although brown as a color and a dark theme make for a tricky choice. The fonts are pretty good overall. But the visual element is the least of the distro's problems. SwagArch 18.02 didn't deliver the basics, and that's what made Dedoimedo sad.
Network support plus the clock issue, horrible package management and broken programs, those are things that must work perfectly. Without them, the system has no value. So you do get multimedia support and a few unique apps, however that cannot balance out all the woes and problems that I encountered. All in all, Swag needs a lot more work. Also, it will have a tough time competing with Manjaro and Antergos, which are already established and fairly robust Arch spins. Lastly, it needs to narrow down its focus. The overall integration of elements is pretty weak. Eclectic, jumbled, not really tested. 2/10 for now. Let's see how it evolves.