Monday, 22 August 2011

Arch Linux at First Sight

Again I start a blog for the same reason: to have notes on my experiences about something that fills my everyday life generating accumulated thoughts in my mind - so I write them down for later use mainly for myself but probably others can find some useful stuff among them, too. And this time the topic is Arch Linux, the new operating system I use.

For some time I had been looking for a minimalist Linux distro on which I have full control. I came from old times' Red Hat, afterwards I used Debian and later Ubuntu. I liked those robust systems but after a while I had a feeling especially with Ubuntu that I could not control things as much as I wanted (i.e. running daemons that I did not even know what they were meant for, unnecessary applications that were installed because they depended on other - anyway necessary - packages, exclusive settings on the GUI without knowing how things worked behind the scenes). I have to mention that I like Ubuntu and their mission to make people closer to open source, congratulations to them (really!) but now its time for me to change and look for new challenges.

Some years ago I had a try with Gentoo with its brilliant BSD-based idea but I failed to install it, it was too techy for me and I did not find the right documentation how to solve basic problems (like making network available for the installation). I was afraid of Linux From Scratch because of the same reason (sorry, I never tried, maybe one day...). I needed something that I could install and use without any heavy technical knowledge and programming skills. I made some research and found Arch Linux. It was love at first sight with its "Keep it Simple" philosophy that is in general very close to me - not only in Linux world but in functional architecture, arts, cooking, etc. as well - and I was just looking for something like that to drive my computer.

Arch Linux has a Begginers' Guide that I followed and the installation went pretty fine. OK, I spent at least two whole days to have a working system but in return I got a beautiful clean OS with no garbages, just the things I needed. This is a real DIY distro: you have a set of an amazing number of tools and you put together the parts you need. And above all everything is very well documented, all the important (and also the less important) things have an article in the Arch Wiki, you cannot go wrong, everything is clearly explained. The unique pacman package manager is the best I have ever seen and if something is not in the official repositories you can pick anything, but really anything from the community repo: AUR.

Now I have been using Arch for about three months and I am really pleased to have such a beautiful, stable and fast system. After my home PC I installed it on my new office laptop (a lovely Thinkpad Edge 11) so now I am as happy with Arch in the office as I am with it at home.

Later on I am planning to write about laptop and Thinkpad specific settings including dual monitor usage, special battery and HD saving features, the window managers I use, some problems (sure, there are some as everywhere but here they are all solved which was not the case with other distros) I faced during my time spent with Arch.