Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Distro Review - Arch Linux

I have now given Arch Linux a "fair shake" and while I have not tried to use it as a substitute on my office workstation yet (I will be doing that in the coming week) I did spend a solid 4 days using it exclusively.

I would install this on a non-production machine or older machine and be very happy with it.  I was completely impressed with it's speed which I blame on every bit of code being compiled on install.  I was moderately impressed that between official repos and the AUR I was able to find 99% of the software I was looking for.  I would not recommend this to any new Linux user but would happily recommend it to anyone with some Linux experience under their belt.  The Arch Wiki was truly impressive for content.

I need to preface my tone with the declaration that I completely expected to not enjoy Arch very much.  I am an Ubuntu user now for quite a few years and while that might upset some, it is my pragmatic step to ensure that I have ease of use, a vast repository, and an enormous community.  This article is just my opinion.  It is in layman's terms and isn't trying to be the technical digest of the Linux community.  

It was after a phone call with one of my friends that has fallen completely in love with Arch that I thought to give it another try.  I don't normally have a lot of time to review full blown distros just because to learn their quirks and getting to really know a system I feel takes more time than I normally have to spare for that kind of activity.

I like Arch, and that is my official declaration.  Official repos plus community maintained.  Automatic dependency resolution while compiling all apps in real time.  This is a great cross of the speed/performance increases you normally see with a Slackware (custom compiled) system but with the software management ease of apt-get or aptitude.

In fairness, the repo's aren't as large as Ubuntu.  But most of my needs were found in the official or community repos.  There were only a few apps where source installation was needed.  I also must give great credit to the Arch Wiki.  While not  the prettiest wiki I've ever seen, the documentation on it is accurate and complete.  Any reasonably experienced Linux user could follow the guides that are online at the wiki and have no issue using the system (command line time required).

The speed is insane.  On a VM using 1/4th of the system resources, large apps (i.e. opened in order of magnitudes faster than on the native OS and hardware.

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