Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen several distros take the spotlight like Ubuntu and Fedora. However there is one distro which is occasionally heard about, but does not grab the media's attention and this is Arch Linux.
This review intends to touch upon Arch Linux as a whole and does not look into the installation procedure since they are covered extensively in the Arch Wiki.
Arch Linux was founded by Judd Vinet, a Canadian programmer. Its first release was in March 11, 2002. In fact Arch Linux is older than Ubuntu which came into existence in October 2004. In late 2007, however Judd Vinet stepped down and now Arch Linux is led by Aaron Griffin. One of the driving reasons behind the development of Arch Linux is a strong package management system.
Arch Linux is targeted at users who have some experience with using and tweaking Linux and not at users aiming to migrate from Windows and Mac OS to Linux.
Tobias Kieslich one of the arch developers quote”There are a lot of people out there driving cars. The majority of them are intimidated by looking under the hood. Arch Linux is targeting people who are not.”
Arch Linux Principles
If you are one of the few who have actually tried out Arch Linux, you will see that it screams Simplicity as one of its main driving principles. Second comes Freedom..and when I state freedom, note that this is the ultimate freedom and control over your system.
Simplicity (K.I.S.S – Keep it slim and simple)
This can be noticed by the installer that is presented to you. You can download the net image from Arch's website for a mere 160 MB. You boot it up and you are greeted with a console from where you
start the installation and proceed to configure the system. That being said, it has to be noted that Arch Linux is not meant for users just migrating to Linux from Windows or MAC OS. That is because Arch Linux is targeted at users or developers who know what they are doing and have at least some experience with Linux.
Freedom – You only get what you installed
Once you finish the installation of Arch on your system, reboot it, you will find yourself facing a console window again asking for your login information. Why? Because Arch believes that you the user builds and maintains his own system and is responsible for it. This means that you have to proceed ahead with installing a window manager or desktop manager like Gnome, KDE, XFCE or LXDE. To summarize, Arch presents you with all the tools you need to build your system. It is however up to you to choose which ones you want to try out.
Advantages of using Arch Linux
Arch Linux offers lots of advantages over other distros like Ubuntu, OpenSuse and Fedora, which is one of the reasons of its popularity. Distrowatch.com ranks Arch Linux 6th among all other distros. Well, let's go through some of the advantages of using Arch Linux.
Bleeding Edge Technology – Rolling release Distro
Arch Linux is a rolling release distro. This means that you don't need to upgrade your system every 6 months (like Ubuntu), since your system is always up to date with the latest software. One install on your system and you don't need to worry about upgrading from then on. Arch Linux developers always make sure that only stable software migrate to their core repositories which makes sure that your system is stable.
Documentation – Arch Wiki
One of the strong points of Arch Linux is its documentation. The documentation covers every little aspect right from the installation process to installing individual software. Arch Linux documentation is very helpful and precise unlike other usual documentations which sometimes are not very clear and beat around the bush. You can visit the Arch Wiki at https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Main_Page
Package Management - Pacman
A rolling release requires an efficient package management system which can install and uninstall application without breaking your system. In Arch Linux, Pacman is the package manager which is very easy to use. If anything out there can rival apt-get it is Pacman. It handles dependencies efficiently and intelligently. Meaning at any time you can simply remove gnome without having to worry if it would break existing software and install any other desktop manager like KDE. Pacman will remove all the dependencies of gnome which are not used by any other installed application.
Suppose you install a distro and face some issues. You consult the documentation and still cannot solve the problem. What do you do? You get help from the community. Communities are essential and are the key ingredients for the success of a Distro. This is also the case of Arch Linux. Their forums and Arch User Repositories (AUR) help you get what you want and solve any problems you face.
Also, in case a recent update causes a problem in your system, it is the community as a whole which strives to solve it since everybody faces that problem. This is not the case of Ubuntu, where you might be running Lucid (Ubuntu 10.04) while someone else might be running Natty (Ubuntu 11.04) and the problem you are facing might only apply to few other users running Lucid. But in the case of Arch, everybody tries to solve the problem which increases the probability of it being solved and also reduces the time before they release a patch or a solution. Community!! One of the strong points of Linux itself!
You can visit the Arch linux forums at https://bbs.archlinux.org/
What all this means to you (the user)?
Well, you install Arch Linux in your system, you are guaranteed to have stable and up to date software. You might face some hiccups during the installation but it is all worth it for such a stable system.
Next, in the process of all this you learn a lot about your system since you build it from scratch all by yourself. This way you learn a lot about Linux. To be honest, I learnt a lot about Linux by running Arch on my system for a few days than when I ran Ubuntu for the past 3 years.
Don't have to worry about upgrades..install it once and you can forget all about it.
K.I.S.S (keep it slim and simple) ensures that you only install the required packages keeping your system lightweight.
Well, install Arch on a virtual box and let us know about your problems or experience by commenting below.