Arch Linux: The last refuge for purists?

Also in today’s open source roundup: DarkDuck reviews Kubuntu 16.10, and 5 alternatives to Microsoft Office in Linux

arch linux kdemod4 screenshot
Credit: Gallaecio

Arch Linux has much to offer experienced users

Arch Linux has long been known as a very powerful desktop distribution, but one that is not well suited for newcomers to Linux. In order to get the most out of Arch Linux, a user needs to learn the ins and outs of the command line.

A writer at The Register recently took a look at why Arch Linux has so much to offer experienced users that want a great deal of control over their systems:

Scott Gilbertson reports for The Register:

…there’s one very widely used distro that’s almost totally ignored: Arch Linux.

Arch gets very little coverage for a several reasons, not the least of which is that it’s somewhat difficult to install and requires you feel comfortable with the command line to get it working. Worse, from the point of view of anyone trying to appeal to mainstream users, that difficulty is by design - nothing keeps the noobs out like a daunting install process.

It’s a shame, though, because once the installation is complete, Arch is actually - in my experience - far easier to use than any other Linux distro I’ve tried.

But yes, installation is a pain. Hand-partitioning, hand-mounting and generating your own fstab files takes more time and effort than clicking “install” and merrily heading off to do something else. But the process of installing Arch teaches you a lot. It pulls back the curtain so you can see what’s behind it. In fact it makes the curtain disappear entirely. In Arch, you are the person behind the curtain.

More at the Register

Scott’s article at The Register spawned a back and forth discussion in the comments section about the advantages and disadvantages of Arch Linux:

Pascal Monett: “I really see no reason for this article other than to unveil Yet Another Linux Distro.

Touting the expertise needed as a bonus for a Linux distro ? Since when was that necessary, or even useful ?

I like Linux, always have. I like the independence, the stability, the solid architecture. But if Linux is only a few percentage points in the desktop market it is because of how hard it is to grasp to the basic Windows user. Some distros are attempting to bridge that difficulty and bring Linux to the forefront of market share, and they are doing a good job of it.

But please, let’s not start panicking. Linux will always have distros that true experts will be the only ones to use, while basic users will have other distros to use. That is the beauty of this OS - there is a version for everyone.”

Fihart: “Absolutely. To popularise Linux what we don’t need is elitist nonsense putting barriers in the way of those trying to flee Windows.

After several bad experiences (sound not working, video not working etc ) I refused to look at Linux until a friend bullied me into trying Peppermint Linux. It’s not perfect but is simple to install and usually stuff, including WiFi, works without having to hunt for drivers.

For the first time, I have been recommending Linux, if only on netbooks too slow for XP, as it is fine for web browsing and emailing.”

AndyS: “The point of the article was very clearly laid out - considering it’s an old, and fairly well known, linux distro, it is perhaps surprising that there are very few reviews of it.

The conclusion is that this is logical, because there is really nothing to review.

It’s actually quite an interesting situation. I suppose the automotive equivalent is trying to review a home-built car in the same way as a Ford Focus or BMW 318. It’s just… not really possible, as you can build it out of whatever you want. So the only noteworthy thing is the tool kit which is supplied, which the article talks about (the rolling update philosophy, the lack of patches, and the involved install process).”

Nijam: “Yes, knowing what you’re doing should always be described as “elitist nonsense”. Especially in our field of endeavour.”

Unicorn: “There’s a reason I buy ham at the deli instead of keeping and slaughtering my own pigs. I am by no means a Linux guru, but I’ve been using Linux off and on for about the last 18 years and at the least can read and understand technical documentation. It’s not a lack of skill or being intimidated, mostly laziness I guess. For me, I’m plenty happy with Mint, and it allows plenty of tinkering if I wish, but why reinvent the wheel when you’re not going to make it significantly rounder?

I’m not denigrating anyone that wants to roll their own, quite the contrary. But working with technology all day, I feel that for me personally there’s not enough hours in the day to willingly be a masochist and do every little thing by hand.”

Teiwaz: “- I think you are confusing your boil-in-the-bag flavour of ’Linux with the likes of LFS.

Honestly, Arch is more of ‘cook a meal from quality ingredients’ vs. the instant ready meal from the likes of Mint or Ubuntu.

Not that I’m a cook, I microwave a lot. With Arch, you may have to set up the meal yourself initially, but after that, it’s not much of a chore to keep going. The overhead is only a little more pacman vs apt (basically check archlinux.org for advisories before an update.

I also run Ubuntu on a netbook.Updating every six months is more of a chore than an entire year with Arch.”

Khaptain: “Ok less bloat, but that can be achieved on many distros.

Breaking ones balls just to install the system makes no sense, what the point ? Being able to master the install does not make you a Jedi, it just means that you are spending your time doing something not very productive, oh and when things break you are left feeling very much alone…..

There are far too many distros available that are lean, easy to install and get you up and running without the ball breaking attitude of the purists…”

Anonymous Coward: “Yes and no. Having to choose what goes on your system does give you a much broader idea of how everything fits together and can teach you a lot.

My poison of choice is Gentoo. The old style stage 1 bootstrap install was a bananas ground up process that took two to three days. Worthless in terms of productivity but it taught me a LOT about Linux.

It’s also worth nothing that Arch’s documentation is exceptional, so you never actually feel alone when something goes a bit Pete Tong.

It’s very much a case of choosing the right tool for the job. If you just want to install Linux then Ubuntu or Mint or whatever is the tool for you. If you are an unashamed tweaker like me then it’s Arch, Slack or Gentoo.”

Nematoad: “It’s horses for courses. That’s the beauty of Linux. You pays your money and takes your choice. With Linux of course you don’t have to pay anything if you don’t want to.

I too use a rolling release distro PCLinuxOS. It’s stable and because I have been using Mandrake derived distros since 1999 I’m used to its ways and peculiarities so it’s the one for me but probably not for you.

The article does seem to involve a bit of “willy waving”. That’s fine but as an old hand at trying out distros I’ve made the decision that life is too short to have to get down to bare metal with distros like Gentoo and Arch. That’s not to say that I haven’t tried them, I have. I enjoyed the experience but decided that for me Linux would be more of a means to an end rather than the end itself.

I see recompiling the kernel and installing the likes of Arch and Gentoo as a rite of passage. You learn a lot from doing so but in the end the main thing is what you want to get out of using Linux. For me as I said it’s a tool. For others a hobby, a way of educating oneself into how Linux works at the lower levels and so on. At least with Linux we have all the tools available to fit our Linux to our needs.”

Wolfetone: “What puts me off Arch Linux is stability, not the fact it’s more involved to install than the other distributions. I use my machines for development and if I update the system - which you should do - I don’t really want the surprise of a borked system on a Monday morning. It’s a sure fire way to ruin your day and cost you development time.

However, I would’ve thought the purist would be involved with Slackware? That’s hard as nails to configure to begin with, but rock solid when it’s working - even after updates. I tried it once, got bored and abandoned it. But that was down to depression rather than me being lazy.”

More at The Register

DarkDuck reviews Kubuntu 16.10

Kubuntu has proven to be a fairly popular Ubuntu spin over the years. Users that love Ubuntu but who prefer the KDE desktop environment to Unity have always appreciated what Kubuntu has to offer. Version 16.10 was released a few weeks back and DarkDuck has a full review of the latest Kubuntu release.

DarkDuck reports for the Linux Notes blog:

I downloaded the 64-bit version of Kubuntu 16.10 from the torrent, whereas you may also download it from one of many mirrors. The ISO image size is 1.5 GB. Once downloaded, I used the dd command to “burn” the image to the USB stick.

KDE Plasma in the Live run of Kubuntu 16.10 left a very good impression on me. It was fast, snappy, quick, responsive, or find another synonym for that. Applications opened and worked remarkably fast, although not without small hiccups here and there.

The only slowness was when I opened a few YouTube windows in Firefox.

Generally speaking, Kubuntu 16.10 is a nice system, but you need to be an experienced Linux user to run it. Don’t expect too many wonders, prepare to get your hands dirty, and it will obey your needs.

More at Linux Notes

5 alternatives to Microsoft Office in Linux

Microsoft Office still reigns supreme in terms of office suites, even after all these years. But Linux users do have some great options if they prefer not to bother with Microsoft Office. Linux and Ubuntu has a helpful roundup of alternative office suites for Linux.

Mohd Sohail reports for the Linux and Ubuntu blog:

Microsoft Office is the de-facto standard office suite there in the world, but unfortunately it is not available to we, the “free” folk on linux. Sure there are quite a few number of ways to use it on Linux, either by using a virtual PC or employing ….. Which also allows you to run it on Linux. Either way the experience might not be the best.

Fortunately also, this has also allowed for the creation of some very capable alternatives on Linux, and today, we’d take a look at 5 of the very top office suites that are available on Linux.

LibreOffice

Calligra Suit

WPS Office

Apache OpenOffice

OnlyOffice

More at Linux and Ubuntu

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