It’s been a month since I’ve fully switched to ArchLinux, “a lightweight and flexible Linux® distribution that tries to Keep It Simple” and so far the experience has been very positive. That’s quite an understatement though.
Mine is a pretty old Asus A8HE with Duo T2130, 1Gb of RAM and a Broadcom wifi card. The only extra work that I need to do regarding drivers is to abandon the default “b43″ module to compile the proprietary driver (broadcome sta) provided by Broadcom. No sweat!
Here’s what I really love about Arch, and they’re also what make Arch stand out of the crowd:
- Extremely lightweight: Arch installs a minimum set of software that gives you a functional system on the command line. If you want the GUI, just go ahead and grab it. Configuration needs some keystrokes but it’s not that tough. At the moment I’m using Gnome as my main desktop environment. Gnome may be bloated but it’s running ok for me.
- Centralized configuration: most system-related configurations are put into /etc/rc.conf which makes it a lot easier to tweak around. What I find really interesting is the prefixes “!” and “@”. Say you want “mysqld” to start at boot you just need to add it to the Deamons section. But if you want to start it silently, use @. I give all the daemons the prefix @ and my boot time has reduced dramatically. IMHO, it can boot even as fast as Ubuntu Jaunty.
- Rolling release: I’m a weird guy who’s always on the look out for something new and broken. Arch serves my needs. As long as a new version of the software comes out, Arch has it. The downside is Pacman, Arch’s package manager, just grabs and puts them in your system without caring about wheather they will break it or not. You need to be really attentive to the upgrade log to figure out what might have gone wrong with X or Y. I haven’t experienced any major hiccup except for once when my sound stopped working. Other than that, no big deal.
- ArchLinux User-community Repository (AUR): This is similar to Slackbuilds. These are unsupported packages maintained by Archlinux users. I’ve only used some of them, especially the Intel graphics driver. These are often newer and more bleeding edge. Some don’t work out of the box such as Dropbox, which is a pain in the ass. Apart from that, things are working well for me.
- Simplicity and customization: I like Ubuntu because it works very well. At the same time I like Slackware since it gives you a lot more control over your system. Arch gives me the best of both worlds. Something that works out of the box on the desktop side but lets you play with it as much as you want.
- Nice development platform: I find Arch even better than Ubuntu as a development platform. I use Eclipse everyday (but dreaming of Vi every night) and Arch always rolls out the latest version. Ubuntu and Slackware are rather conservative. Running the static build is ok but it’s always better to use packaged software on systems like Arch. RoR can be easily set up. The Arch wiki article on RoR setup didn’t help much so I referred to the RoR help from Ubuntu and ran back and forth until I got all I needed. So far so good.
I will stick with Arch as long as I can, until something better comes out. Kevin has a very good opinion of Pardus but well, no time to rotate distros every few months.
In a nutshell, Arch rocks! You might want to take a look at my simple desktop: