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Arch Linux Review, reviewin one of the most used Linux distributions

Date: 2009-03-21 00:00:00 -0400

You may want to read this updated version

Introduction Arch Linux is a bleeding edge Linux Distribution, that is mainly focused on simplicity, according to them "...without unnecessary additions, modifications, or complications..", read its philosophy. It has a powerful and efficient package manager Pacman

I will in this Arch Linux review, to be fair and not biased.

Release cycle Arch Linux is a rolling release distribution, meaning there is no specific dates for new releases, it is continuously developing, it is almost always at the bleeding edge, with the most updated versions of packages. This means you only have to install once, and then just keep updating arch, and you will always have the most "recent release", this is one of the aspects I like the most about Arch Linux

Installation

You can install Arch Linux from a CD or from a USB flash memory, they provide you with ISOs for the CD installation and with USB images for the flash memory installation. They provide with two ways to install, from the network or from the media, anyway you end up with a very minimal installation, it is a base system. From this point you have to install all the software you may need, if is more or less like installing Debian minimal CD, and choosing nothing when running the tasksel. This is another thing I like about Arch Linux, you may install only the needed software and do not end with a bunch of software you will never use, and do not be afraid about the process of installation their wiki pages are a great source of information, and everything is explained there.

Configuration

Configure Arch Linux is really simple, and I think they achieved their goal of keeping it simple, you mainly have two configuration files. /etc/rc.conf where you can define the modules to be uploaded, and the daemons to be started, among other things, I like this way to configure modules and daemons, I am a Debian fan, and like this even more than the way Debian does. The other configuration file is /etc/pacman.conf where you configure all necessary to install new packages and keep your system up to date, including mirrors.

Repositories

Arch Linux comes with four official repositories, they are:

  • core, which contains all the packages needed to set up a base system
  • extra, which holds packages not required for the base system, including desktop environments and programs
  • testing, a special repository, with packages that are candidates for the core or extra repositories.
  • community, which contains packages built and voted on by the community; includes packages that have sufficient votes and have been adopted by a "trusted user".

You will find all you need for a normal work on these repositories, at least they were enough for me so far.

Hardware requirements / Optimized for i686

Arch Linux is optimized for i686 and x86-64 microprocessors, so you need:

  • An i686-based or x86-64 computer (PPro, Pentium 2 or higher, Athlon/Duron, etc. Note that AMD K6, Transmeta Crusoe, CyrixIII, and VIA-C3 are NOT supported.)
  • 128 Mbytes RAM minimum, more is better to run graphical environments

As I said Arch Linux is optimized for i686, this means the Linux Kernel is compiled for i686 architecture, and the GNU software is compiled with --march=i686 FLAGS, this makes this Operating System extremely fast on modern computers but it can not run on old ones, if you want a system optimized for those, you can opt for Gentoo.

Pacman

pacman is the package manager utility for Arch Linux it is coded in C, and as far as I could see it is fast, reliable and secure, from the official web page we got

"pacman is a utility which manages software packages in Linux. It uses simple compressed files as a package format, and maintains a text-based package database (more of a hierarchy), just in case some hand tweaking is necessary.

pacman does not strive to "do everything." It will add, remove and upgrade packages in the system, and it will allow you to query the package database for installed packages, files and owners. It also attempts to handle dependencies automatically and can download packages from a remote server.".

It uses mirror servers to download the software you I really recommend you to look for the fastest ones in your area, you can optimize pacman to be faster.

pacman was developed by Jud Vinet, the creator of Arch Linux specially for it, but now also frugalware uses it, pacman is a great tool, fast and capable of keeping your system up to date and also can install user's compiled software using ABS (Arch Linux Build System).

Default Desktop

Arch Linux contrary to other Linux distributions does not has a default Desktop, you can install Gnome, OpenBox, KDE, or any other you may like and there are instructions in their wiki pages for each of them.

Read this Xorg configuration wiki and Desktop Environments for Arch, to configure your system with your favorite Desktop Environment or window manager.

Conclusion

Arch Linux is a great distro, it has almost always the latest package versions available, it is optimized to run on modern computers, and is a great option for the Desktop user, it may require a little of work to make it work, but do not be afraid it is actually easy to make it, you just need some time.

Another good thing is that you will never have to worry about upgrades, you do not need to edit any file and run upgrade process, or burn new CDs, as Arch Linux will be always up to date, and at the bleeding edge, download Arch and have a great time with it.

I hope you have enjoyed this Arch Linux review, let me know.

References Wikipedia ArchLinux Official web page

More about Arch Arch Linux on Distrowatch Arch Linux art and screenshots

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