Arch Linux

Since I’m not really enjoying the path Canonical is headed with Ubuntu I was somewhat forced to consider moving to another distribution. I considered OpenSUSE since I had it installed inside a VM and I had really enjoyed it and Tumbleweed would probably give me all I need in terms of package freshness. I also considered going back to Gentoo but I don’t think I’d have it in me to sit and wait for the compile times every single time I wanted to install or update something. In the end my curiosity got the best of me and I decided see to what all the fuss about Arch Linux is about.

I’ve been using it for roughly little more than a month now and I couldn’t be happier. It took some time to get used to it, there’s always a learning curve when changing from distribution to distribution but in this case the curve was gentle enough. It’s publicized as being a somewhat non user friendly distribution but in the end all you have to learn will help you later on. You’ll find yourself being able to fix problems instead of just reinstalling everything just because you don’t even know where to begin with a fix.

Pacman is quite probably the best package manager I’ve used and I’m throwing emerge into the equation. I’m yet to need any sort of software installed that I haven’t found on the Arch User Repository (AUR) and though you should really learn to install AUR packages by hand first, tools like Pacaur and Yaourt turn it into an automated process.

That said, the two biggest reasons I’m enjoying Arch so much is the fact it’s a rolling distribution and how close to upstream I am. I don’t have to “upgrade” it every X months. In fact, I could have it installed for years before I start considering a reinstall. It’s not based on a snapshot frozen in time who eventually (quite soon on the Linux world) gets outdated with backport support only. Software comes out upstream and it’s available as a package usually within a couple of days. Larger projects such as Gnome can take the larger part of a week to be available, but as an example once Cinnamon 2.0 was out it was within Arch’s repositories in a couple of days. I would probably not use it in a production server, where Debian stable would be my first choice but for a workstation it’s really really good.

The Wiki ~ though most expert users say the Wiki is always wrong as a joke ~ is a great source of information, there’s apparently no aspect of an Arch instalation and maintenance that isn’t covered. Some articles have even helped me loads before I even used Arch. It sometimes makes me think Arch is what Linux is supposed to be.

The Community, famed to be a bunch of elitist jerks, are actually quite friendly – provided you a) know how to get help in the first place and not just “how do I computer???”. Logs are actually useful for a reason. b) at least read the manual (RTFM) of the stuff you’re trying to use or do.

All things considered, if you’re willing to get your hands on something where you the user have control and not your Distribution Overlords (e.g. Canonical) give Arch a go. Installing it can be a pain since everything is CLI only but it’s well worth it in the end. Install it a couple of times inside a VM to get the hang of it, I did that and when the time came to install it on real hardware it took me ~15 minutes to get everything up and running with LUKS and LVM included in the mix.

There are Arch based distributions out there such as Manjaro and Archbang with installers that are a bit more user friendly but either you end up using a different repository in Manjaro’s case – a repository that is a snapshot of Arch’s repository from some time ago, defeating the purpose of staying close to upstream – or installing packages that you don’t really need in Archbang’s case. From what I’ve been told Antergos is pure Arch with a user friendly installer added and a small repo of it’s own, using Arch’s repositories and AUR for everything else . I haven’t used it so I can’t say I recommend it, but it may be something you’re willing to use.