The Linux Experience – Part 3 – Simplistic Beauty of Arch Linux

Posted on October 14, 2012

Arch Linux is considered to be one of the most stable distros available, owing in no small part to its relatively fluff-free installation. The latest Arch release at any time takes up only about 400MB of disk space and comes packaged with only a completely terminal-based install. For newcomers, this can be a frightening experience but Arch makes up for it with the best documentation for any major distro I’ve read. The entire installation process is explained step-by-step and as I read somewhere on the Internet, “If you can read, you can install Arch linux.” I got Arch installed and setup with absolutely no hitch at all and you know what the best part was – the microphone worked!

Arch’s biggest claim-to-fame and why it is decidedly one of the favorite distros is that you only get what you paid (figuratively speaking since Arch is free) for. If something doesn’t work as you expected out-of-the-box, it means you’ve screwed up something with the install. For example, I actually made the mistake of installing the kdefull package, instead of the much leaner kdebase one; thereby putting in a lot of unnecessary software into my system. I’ve made a mental note to set that right the next time around. But that’s the beauty of Arch linux in a nutshell. Besides the linux kernel and all the essentials, whatever you put in is as per your wish. If you don’t like KDE (and many don’t!), you can go ahead and install any other desktop environment you want. You are only limited by your knowledge of your PC’s innards as far as Arch is concerned.

Besides giving you all the power, Arch has a couple of other things going for it. The first one being that it is a rolling distribution. People who know me can attest to me having OCD when it comes to using the latest versions of any software that I use. I feel like something is missing when I know there’s a newer version out and I am on an outdated version; I simply cannot work if that situation ever arises. With Arch, I never have to worry about it. That is the power of a rolling distro, you get all the latest versions of your software and you don’t have to wait for the next major release or use backports/dev/beta repositories to get your hands dirty with them.

That leads me to what I consider to be the best benefit of using Arch – The Arch User Repository. In essence, AUR is linux freedom. Any software you might want for your use that is not available in the Arch core repositories, you’re sure to find it in the AUR. The major difference to note here is that they won’t be official, but they would’ve been provided by helpful users who’ve gone through the trouble of writing a PKGBUILD for it. All you need is to install a simple little tool called Yaourt and you have the power of AUR in your fingertips. (Big thanks to InfinitelyGalactic’s Arch Linux review for pointing me to yaourt.) AUR is powerful enough even without yaourt, but the latter makes it significantly easier to search for, find and install unofficial packages that might suit your needs.

The rolling releases and the AUR, when combined with the already lean and mean distribution, make it easy to recommend Arch as the Linux distro of choice. One of the major excuses for being a distro hopper is to whet your appetite in using every flavor of Linux out there. With Arch you already get to do that and more in a single distro. I don’t ever see myself switching from Arch for the foreseeable future.

So, there you have it folks! That was a fairly long recount of a my trysts with various Linux distros, but the experience itself was a worthwhile one as well. When I started on this quest many months back, I never knew I’d learn so much about the Linux platform. But I can proudly say that I am at the point where I can debug my Linux issues with at least as much ease and competency as I used to do on Windows before. Speaking of Microsoft’s OS, I still have the Windows 8 RC installed and fully expect myself to buy the OS when it hits markets next month. Windows is still my go-to OS when I fuck something up in my tinkering or when I want to play games, and I am so used to it by this point that I cannot exist without it. If you’ve been like me and stuck on Windows for a long time, I would advise you to give linux a try (preferably Mint or Ubuntu) and test the waters for a bit. Who knows, you may end up becoming a compulsive Linux-user like I have.