Arch Linux review: Is it worth installing?

In today's open source roundup: DistroWatch reviews Arch Linux. Plus: SuperTux 0.4.0 has been released. And how to hack Linux with the backspace key

DistroWatch reviews Arch Linux

Arch Linux has a devoted user base that enjoys the challenge of customizing it and running it on their computers. But is it worth installing for the average Linux user? DistroWatch has a full review of Arch Linux that considers its pros and cons.

Jesse Smith reports for DistroWatch:

To install Arch Linux we need to manually walk through a number of steps on the command line. These steps include partitioning the hard drive (using parted, fdisk or cfdisk), formatting partitions and enabling swap space. Then we mount the partition that is to be used as our root file system and run a command that downloads and installs the base operating system. In total there are about 208MB of packages to download for the default operating system, plus about another 6MB of data if we want to install a boot loader. We then run through commands to set our time zone, enable locale information and set up a network connection. We should then create a password for the root account and un-mount the partition we have been working on. At this point we can reboot and see if the installation completed successfully.

...getting up and running with Arch Linux is a bigger investment in time and effort than most other Linux distributions. With most mainstream distributions we can put in the installation media, click "Next" through some installation screens, set up a user account and we will soon have a feature-rich operating system. Arch feels less like a finished product, like openSUSE or Linux Mint, and more like a collection of components we can put together however we like. I would compare it to the difference between buying a toy car and buying a model kit where we paint the individual pieces and glue them together. Putting together the model takes a lot longer and requires some skill, but what we end up with includes just the pieces we used and in the colour we wanted.

... I have never regarded Arch Linux as a particularly practical approach to getting things done. The distribution has a long set up time, newcomers will require access to an on-line wiki while setting up the operating system and the rolling nature of Arch is incompatible with most of my use cases. So, for me, Arch does not hold a lot of appeal today.

While I eventually moved on to other distributions for my daily computing needs, I hold a certain fondness for Pygmy Linux and its sparse, do-it-yourself approach. It taught me a lot. In a similar vein, I think of Arch much the same way. Arch Linux presents an investment in time, reading and maintenance that I do not find practical for my day-to-day needs. But I do think we could all agree running Arch Linux is an educational experience. Running Arch is something I think will appeal to people who like to build their operating systems rather than simply run them.

More at DistroWatch

The DistroWatch review spawned a brief but interesting discussion on the Linux subreddit that may have more posts by the time you read this:

Tsunami: ”Arch has one of the shortest installation processes because it installs pretty much nothing. You can argue it is "difficult" or "manual" but long? Hell no. It takes way less time than most other distros it doesn't have to download and copy as many files.

I'm pretty sure Arch is one of the most popular, if not the most popular desktop Linux system. The polls on /r/linux[1] every year have Arch take the plurality. If you go at /r/unixporn[2] it's pretty obvious that Arch is the most popular distro there as well. Arch seems to have this aura around it of being "obscure" but there's probably a reason why the Arch wiki and AUR are doing so well and that's probably because Arch is sick popular. Unix related IRC channels I go to, most people run Arch again.

It's a one time investment. I would buy it if it was a continued investment of more time like say Gentoo whose installation of packages typically requires inspecting, researching and modifting of USE-flags as well as more time to install stuff. But it's a one time investment, it's pretty insignificant.

In fact, once Arch is set up it probably takes less time than most systems to maintain because it's upgrade process is more simplistic.”

Tireseas: ”You're right. Takes me less than ten minutes as an experienced user with a fast connection to go from root prompt on the installer to a fully functional if vanilla gnome desktop. It's literally partition, run less than 5 scripts, install your bootloader, reboot and pacman -S whatever environment you want.

The only time consuming part of the process comes after it's finished when you're going through and tweaking your settings to where you want them. After that the average maintenance load consists of like 5 minutes a week of pacman -Syu and dealing with any config file merges you need to do.”

Omac777: ”Arch rocks! Manjaro Arch rocks also for very good reasons: 1)fastest boot thumb drive image 2)sleakest/most-streamlined calamares installer 3)access to all arch user repositories(AUR) packages with a flick of a switch in pamac gui package manager. Command-line "pacman" for arch packages and "yaourt" for AUR packages. 4)access to all the different gui desktops, but Manjaro favors xfce.

I have been giving it a go for some months now alongside my Debian Gnome boxes. The verdict is in. Xfce is light-weight yet fully functional and sits on top of GTK3 just like gnome does. Gnome apps can run within xfce i.e. gnome-disk-utility and gparted. 5)any package you've seen in another distro will probably exist within Arch/AUR repos. 6)Manjaro Arch is a good distro to start with. It's as easy as Ubuntu or Debian. I highly recommend it as a go-to distro for GNU/Linux newbies. It has the newest kernels in their repos days or weeks ahead of other distros and they are easiest to install.

When 4.4rc5 kernel came out, it was in arch repos either the same day as the release or the day after. Debian came out with kernel 4.3 on their repo just a few days ago and the experimental kernels are harder to install and require special tweaking/pinning to make it happen(it's just harder to deal with).”

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