Arch Linux: A simpler kind of Linux?

Also in today’s open source roundup: Protect your privacy with a VPN for Android, and 4 Linux distributions for Mac users

Arch Linux: A simpler kind of Linux?

Arch Linux certainly has its share of fans, with some being quite passionate about their favorite distribution. Recently a writer at wrote a post about Arch and considered it to be a “simpler kind of Linux.”

Carla Schroder reports for

Arch Linux is called the simple Linux because it eschews the layers of abstraction and "helper" apps that come with so many Linux distributions. It as close to vanilla Linux as a packaged distribution can get.

Consequently, you need to be more comfortable with do-it-yourself than with most modern distributions, and more comfortable with the command line and editing text files. I would rather take 10 seconds to edit a text configuration file than spend all kinds of time wading through graphical configuration menus. You know what would make me like graphical configurations more? Batch operations. Sometimes I like to change more than one thing at a time. No, really, it's true.

But I digress. Arch's being simpler means more work for you. Installation is a lengthy manual process, and you'll have a lot of post-installation chores such as creating a non-root user, setting up networking, configuring software repositories, configuring mountpoints, and installing whatever software you want. The main reason I see for using Arch is to have more control over your Linux system than other distros give you. You can use Arch for anything you want, just like any other Linux: server, laptop, desktop. I had Arch on an ancient Thinkpad that was left behind by modern Linux distributions.

Arch is a rolling release, so updating your installation regularly keeps it current. It has its own dependency-resolving package manager, pacman. Arch's standout features are the superb documentation, stellar maintenance, and stability.

More at

Carla’s post caught the attention of Linux redditors and some of them took issue with the idea that Arch was simpler than other distros:

Rohboat: “Really? People are still flouting arch as a simpler Linux? Since it's adopted systemd and every other freedesktop project there's nothing any different between it and Fedora other than the fact it's rolling release and doesn't have a GUI installer.

In case folks weren't aware, all that anaconda does is give you a graphical way to partition physical disks and configure lvm. It then bootstraps a base system into what you've partitioned and installs a boot loader. This is all you're doing in arch, but with cli utilities instead. I'm not seeing why one could be called simpler than the other.”

E-ng: “There are a number of reasons why I find Arch simpler than, say, Fedora.

As a developer, life is so much simpler. Need to develop against a library foo? pacman -S libfoo, done. With every other distro, I would have to figure out where their packagers put the header files for that library...I don't know, often it is a trial and error process and just time wasted. Arch packagers don't change the name of a package because of debatable distro policies. Upstream releases a tarball named kcoreaddons.tar.xz? The arch package will be called kcoreaddons. Not kf5-kcoreaddons (like in Fedora) or libkf5kcoreaddons5 (like in Ubuntu).

As a normal user, life is so much simpler. Need a package not in the official repos? Go look in the AUR. Not there either? Just create the package yourself. Good luck doing that in rpm or deb based distros. The ABS is so useful for the very same reason.

Need to check the PKGBUILD of a package? Just type the package name in and with one click I get everything I need to know about that package. Same with the AUR. This is incredibly harder with most other distros, in my experience.

Arch isn't perfect (lack of debug packages is a shame), but hell yes, is so much simpler for me.”

Insomniac_lemon: “Arch user here, not because I'm attached to it or anything... but just that it has been the best option (AFAIK) for ANY software from the AUR and not needing to reinstall. So I hope Tumbleweed is a better solution.

The thing with the Arch and the AUR is, from what I have seen, it has more users. If you want something and it exists on Github or as a .deb/.rpm, chances are that someone has already put it up on the AUR. The problem with that is that doesn't mean it works properly, for instance 2 emulators on the AUR were added by the same maintainer using forked github repos that are outdated and have Vulkan removed/not present (tried modifying the PKGBUILD for the true github repo and it didn't work).

With that said, I watched a video you posted in another comment (FOSDEM 2017) and am unsure about a few things.

I've already found a few (albeit lesser known) applications that I have from the AUR but aren't in the OBS... so how are those added? Is it just plugging in a github/source URL and it figures it all out and compiles when the servers get around to it, or is there some work to be had like manually writing a file like a PKGBUILD?

Servers seems like an issue. With Arch, the system packages have a TON of mirrors and the AUR (and even supported non-system) packages are pulled straight from the source (github or packages on websites). And since you compile basically everything on your machine, I don't think server computing is much of an issue, either.

Can you build your own packages and do the smoke testing on your machine, either for your own use or for the OBS? If a build fails... are there automated tools to not only find the issue, but if it's a simple one can it use a rolled back instance of the (broken) needed libraries to make it work?”

Rohboat: “I agree that ABS and AUR simplify the creation of new packages and the installation of those not in the repos. This is my favourite aspect of arch. However I think this is the only area arch is really simpler. Other aspects of using the system are simpler because arch documents them so damn well. Not really a testament to arch's simplicity but a glaring omission by other distros which don't bother. This is especially true of Red Hat systems, who's documentation is written by non technical staff to suit very specific use cases.

In the article the author goes on about a bunch of tasks he claims to be simpler than other distros, but which are the same on all of them; they just seem simpler because of Arch's outstanding wiki.

Hmmm I thought it was possible to get debug packages in Arch...”

Duane534: “Really, if you switch to Rawhide, Fedora is rolling release, too.”

Endbringer: “It is simpler. I've been using it for years as well as regularly checking out other distros and arch remains the most problem free of them all. After the initial setup it just works whereas in ubuntu for example in my experience something annoying constantly pops up. Also building stuff from source is much simpler on arch too. Project says install boost. On arch you install fucking boost. On debian you have no idea which of ~30 packages to install which is very confusing to a new user.”

Masteryod: “Different strokes for different folks. It's what Linux was always about. Both Fedora and Arch are great distributions but they're targeted at different users.

Arch is simple but not in a regular meaning of the word. It's easy from the home-pro-user point of view. It doesn't try to hide system from the user and it stays very vanilla with the packages. And being rolling-release is nothing to be easily overlooked, it's a major difference in philosophies. Arch doesn't force you to use anything specific. Did you ever tried to configure bash prompt in another simple distribution let's say Debian for example? There's like 5 different files interlinked together and by default filled with lines and lines of configurations. It's simple from another point of view.

On the contrary Fedora is very RedHatish, it's very SELinuxy and it has almost nothing needed for a regular home user in the official repos. Is adding thirt party repo simple? It's great distro but tell me do you still have like 3 different deamons for network configuration, nmtui and and sysconfig scripts laying around the system by default? That's not very simple either. See my point?”

5heikki: “My favourite thing about Arch is the wiki. It's a great resource for all GNU/Linux users. I've been meaning to setup Arch on my rPi3 just to see if F2FS makes any difference in speed.”

ABaseDePopopopop: “To me Arch felt simpler for its developers, not for its users.

Simpler as a user means you don't have to do anything.”

DrDoctor13: “There's more to Arch than Pacman and the AUR. It's not simple. Not at all. Linux distros like Manjaro and Mint are dead simple. Arch is not simple.”

More at Reddit

Protect your privacy with a VPN for Android

Privacy has become a very important issue for many people who use mobile computing devices. One writer at PCWorld has a helpful post about how you can protect your privacy by using a VPN for Android.

Ryan Whitwam reports for PC World:

Using a VPN on Android can help you access content that’s blocked in your region and help maintain your anonymity around the web. There are plenty of apps that offer VPN services for free and as a paid service, but which of them are worth your time?

I tested six of the most popular VPN all-in-one apps (with Speedtest and the HTML5 test) on Android to see how they stack up. You can also go your own way and use Android’s built-in VPN tool. With a few tweaks, you can make it a little easier to use, too.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is basically a way to funnel all your web traffic through a remote server. This makes it look like you’re in a different location and obscures your real IP address. VPNs encrypt the traffic passing through them, making it harder for anyone else to listen in on your connection, even if you connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network.


Opera VPN


Turbo VPN

Hotspot Shield


Manual VPNs

More at PCWorld

4 Linux distributions for Mac users

Apple’s recent Mac releases have left some users unhappy and looking for an alternative to macOS. A writer at Make Tech Easier has a roundup of four of the best Linux distributions for Mac users.

Derrik Diener reports for Make Tech Easier:

In late 2016 Apple released a new Macbook that they stated would be everything everyone wanted. The result was that the public wasn’t so happy with it. People found themselves needing to use dongles for everything, even SD card readers. The escape key and top command keys were replaced with a gimmicky “touch bar,” and as a result the Macbook had a lukewarm reception.

As a result of all this, Linux PC manufacturer System76 reported getting the highest amount of Mac switchers in its history. It’s safe to say that when it comes to macOS, the honeymoon is over. Longtime users are starting to get fed up with Apple from the way they force everyone to use dongles, to their amateur file system, to the way their operating system takes away advanced functions longtime users are used to using.

In this article we’ll go over four of the best Linux distributions that Mac users can install on their new Linux laptops.

1. Elementary OS

2. Solus

3. Linux Mint

4. Ubuntu GNOME

More at Make Tech Easier

Did you miss a roundup? Check the Eye On Open home page to get caught up with the latest news about open source and Linux.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.