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ArchLinux, Not Just For The Elite (standardsandfreedom.net)
79 points by Nic0 on Nov 8, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

I like arch, except for the stupid command line arguments to pacman. I wish they had just kept it more standard. There's nothing wrong with naming "install" install and "search" search. Feels to me like a case of inventing complexity just to make it feel a little more elitist.

   pacman -Ss gnome # searches for gnome
   pacman -S gnome # installs gnome

That's just how CLI apps work, there is nothing elitist about it. Its "cd" and "ls -la" and "cat", not "change-directory," "list-directory long-format everything" and so on. The learning curve might be steep, but it's well worth it, especially for those of us who "live" in a shell.

In the particular case of pacman, I really like the design of the arguments, in particular the top level ones. -S is for syncing, -R is for removing, and -Q is for querying and so on. Nice!

Yes, but why rename install to syncing and search to query? Why not just call it install and make it -i for install and -s for search which is still search. I think that is what the OP is trying to say.

Searching isn't the same as querying. -Q is for operations dealing on the _local_ repository. -S synchronizes your local repository with the remote repository. In a way installing could very well be -Si (-S --install), but installing is the default action in -S mode instead. Pacman is maybe somewhat idiosyncratic, but I find it very useful and simple once you get the basics.

Oh, i used it. Found it delightful, actually I am yet to encounter a very bad package management system. They are all really good since I started using linux.

I guess it's a matter of what you're used to and once you get used to pacman/pacaur/yaourt, then I guess it becomes fairly standard.

Package managers are funny beasts. They're like children, when someone rips the flaws of one, the community comes rallying to its defense.

Having said that, I've personally always hated Zypper.

Command line tool use much more often -x or --foo arguments that a word. Also -S is still faster to type than install, personally I won't switch for 'install'.

Nevertheless, you may add some alias to change the behavior if it's annoying you.

I never liked CLI tools that have a "mode" switch that then overloads command arguments.

Pacman is especially confusing since -S actually means the sync mode. Which doesn't really fit with the idea of installing a package. Also, why do you use sync mode to install a package, but have a special remove (-R) mode to remove a package? Shouldn't there be a -I to install?

To take it further, standard use cases for a package manager should be install, upgrade, search and remove with standard arguments -i/--install, -u/--upgrade, -s/--search, -r/--remove.

It seems that most of the package managers get this wrong. For apt-get what's the difference to update, upgrade and dist-upgrade? For yum why is there both an update and an upgrade and why is there a special groupinstall? I know the answer to these questions, but it's confusing until you wrap your head around it.

> Pacman is especially confusing since -S actually means the sync mode. Which doesn't really fit with the idea of installing a package.

The idea is that you are synchronizing your copy of the local package (which is currently empty/nonexistant) with the remote copy. It's also the same command you use to update that package. So,

pacman -S foo

will upgrade foo if it exists locally, and find and install the most recent version of foo if it does not.

Once you get used to it, the command-line switches in pacman actually address your second concern (the one with apt/yum). In pacman, everything is built on top of a very simple database model - it just so happens that that simple database model is also powerful enough to serve a range of complex functions.

I had the same reaction at first, but its pith became a selling point as I learned the flags. Of course there's nothing stopping you from wrapping the command.

It's pretty stupid, but the only problem I have with using something like Arch on my desktop is I can never seem to get the fonts to look nice (ie. like they do in OS X or Ubuntu) when I've installed/configured Xorg myself.

That is quite a normal concern. Fortunately, the Archlinux wiki has good info on how to configure fonts: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Font_Configuration#Ubun... (that link leads to the section about Ubuntu-patched packages, but the whole page is a good read).

If you use Archlinux, make sure you use the wiki and bbs to their full power. Most of the problems you think of have been solved in a way or another. It usually just requires installing some packages, which is a breeze.

I use the Ubuntu patchset. The difference between that and stock fontconfig is night-and-day; installing it is a constant reminder that for all the controversial moves Canonical has made in recent months, making Linux fonts not look like ass was one thing they did about as well as they possibly could have.

Have you tried this? https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Font_Configuration

Fonts needs some setups indeed before to get something good.

I generally use the Ubuntu patched LCD packages via AUR and this page was very helpful in helping me get it set up. I've heard the Infinality patchset is really good too but I haven't tried it yet.

Personally speaking, since I am so xterm oriented, the best thing I did was install the bitmap font Tamsyn, which I just adore. Easy to read and use. It is available from AUR, but I just download it to a directory in my home folder and use xset to add it to my fontpath.

(And Arch's wiki has an incredible wealth of information. It is one of my favorite online resources, along with OpenBSD's FAQ.)

You should try the Infinality patches, they are really nice. I've tried them a few months ago and they are great.

i am running arch-linux (migrated from ubuntu after a botched upgrade removed /bin/mount) and my fonts are looking waay better than ubuntu. fwiw, i am using infinality patches for cairo/fontconfig etc.

I don't use Arch personally, but I have found that every time I've looked for documentation on something lately (like setting up xmonad), I would be directed to the Arch wiki and forums quite a bit. They seem to have a good community going on over there.

The community is amazing. The forums are a wealth of information, and I've tracked down almost every single bug just by searching. The wiki is updated regularly and is just as rich.

In my experience Arch users are very happy and proud to be running such a powerful, flexible system, and they give back by helping others. I ran Slackware for a year, then messed around with Mint before trying Arch. I can't see myself trying anything else -- except maybe LFS ;).

"Arch Linux is a very fun and stable distribution that successfully blends the bleeding edge, stability and hackability of Linux"

let's define 'stable' http://www.tuxtips.org/?cat=3

I would say it has a bit of both kinds.

Anecdotally, ArchLinux has bitten me before with its rolling releases. They moved the hostname utility to a new package, but pacman (their package manager) didn't prompt or download the new package. This promptly broke my laptop's network stack right before I left for a weekend trip. Now I didn't have internet, and I didn't have internet to find out how to fix my internet. It all worked out fine by writing a bash script named hostname sitting on my path that echoed a constant string, so I could connect and download the new package.

If you are looking for a pain-free linux system, Arch Linux isn't it. You will run into little things like this, living one step behind the bleeding edge (basically someone compiles your software for you, does a sanity check, then you get it ASAP). Don't get me wrong, I love it, and will continue to use it as long as it has the most flexible and clean system, because I appreciate their dedication to simplicity of implementation.

It is absolutely recommended to check their http://www.archlinux.org/news/ before update. They (usually) do warn on stuff like this.

I ran Debian unstable on my desktop for a number of years and the experience sounds pretty comparable. For the most part I just got working bleeding edge packages with minor quality control. Occasionally you would get some breakage (which was usually mentioned in apt-listbugs before upgrade anyway), and the nice thing about debian was I could either pin the package to the current more stable version, or if I had already upgraded I could just grab the previous package off of the debian snapshot mirrors.

I would argue that yes, debian unstable and arch are both rolling release distros, so the experience will be sort of similar, but I think that's where the similarities end.

Arch on one hand has a large user base (everyone) using the rolling release packages, this means that bugs get quickly found and squashed. There is also a testing repository which is used for the "base packages" so major bugs don't get get past into the "stable" repos. For example, kernel 3.1 is still in testing because of some problems that the testers experienced.

On the other hand, debian unstable has bitten me more than once very hard. So from my experience, it feels like debian does very little if any Q&A on debian unstable. I would compare Arch to Debian testing more since by then, packages have had some time to test and mature.

That said, I've experienced less crashs on arch than on any distro. Mind you I actually read the news. I honestly can't even remember the last time I've had a crash on archlinux.. maybe several years ago with some kernel update.

I wouldn't call making /usr/bin/python point to python3 stable. I got nothing against their philosophy per se, but let's not make it something that isn't. a primary feature of a 'stable' system is that you wake up to the same one you left the day before.

The python move was the only stability issue I've ever had.

Tried to install it last week, almost everything was done until GUI. Could not make to install & configure one of window managers.

That's bad luck - but was there a reason you needed to build your own wm? If you were able to get X and a *dm running, you could just install one of the many prepackaged ones (I go with Xfce, myself), and then edit ~/.xinitrc .

I had installed X, tested. Afterwards, wanted to use xmonad, installed it using pacman however couldn't configure. I think I will give another try some time later, since everything I have done so far is still in my laptop.

What window manager are you talking about? And when you say install & configure, are you talking about compiling from source or installing via Pacman?

I only ask because I have never had a problem with a window manager on Arch.

I used Arch for a while, and really loved it... in theory. In practice, updates would often break things, especially when those updates were x.org-related.

Using Arch also really made me appreciate all the work Ubuntu does to make a desktop that isn't ugly. I found myself installing Ubuntu-patched versions of many Arch packages just to get things like a decent notification system and non-ugly fonts. (And even then, OpenOffice fonts never did work correctly.)

I was raised on Slackware, so I'm no stranger to DIY-style Linux, but these days I'm happy to install Ubuntu and have a working, decent-looking desktop system in 20-30 minutes.

That said, if I was looking to build a minimalist dev box or something other than a general desktop system, I wouldn't hesitate to install Arch.

>The installation process may take a while (several hours.. or less)

It depends on what you're talking about. With relatively fast internet (I have 20Mb/s), I can have a functional box up with my favorite DE in just an hour or so. It's true that I configure things here and there for the next couple days as I need them, and each configuration is simple and only takes a second or two, but several hours seems a lot longer than the average install to me.

My first Arch install took well over a couple hours, and was a pleasurably educational hassle. I think it took me over a day to get the system completely working back then. And that was despite my background using Slackware. But every time I've installed since then, the duration has more-or-less halved, and my most recent install was easily under 30 minutes.

The biggest gotcha for me as a newcomer was trying to install on a laptop, having no ethernet access handy, and not knowing that I'd need to install wireless_tools when running through the initial setup in order to get online.

The amount of time it takes varies greatly according to what you consider to be complete. I never stop tweaking my system, and there are always some points of dissatisfaction with it. But Arch is a great distro. It's very well-documented, and is pretty much delightful to configure.

Two things helped me a lot with my Archlinux installation:

1) I previously tried in a virtual machine 2) I had a second machine next to mine to look up stuff in the wiki and follow the installation guide.

I agree. Arch Linux configuration is educational and well worth the few hours it takes on your first try, but you should definitely have another computer with the wiki open while you do it.

I can't recommend this configuration enough. The wiki is super-informative and got me out of many jams during setup.

It's true that Arch might be fast to install, and can get something working very fast, in less than half an hour, but this post is aims for beginners, and it's probably not that fast for them, so I thing it's better to say "you wanna try Arch? take a day, and do it with the documentation". It seems to me more fair than say 30min top, you have Arch. You probably won't disappointed new users, with wrong surprise when few hours after they still stuck without Xorg running.

Am I right in thinking that Arch is the new Gentoo?

Hmm, I don't really think so. Arch packages are distributed as pre-compiled binaries (not counting AUR), and the emphasis is on simplicity (not customization or performance). I've found I can get Arch up and running satisfactorily in about an hour.

The intersection of Gentoo and Arch is that they both require more configuration than your average Debian-based distro, and they both have rolling release models, but in my opinion that's about it.

Gentoo spirit, without long compiling time.

I remembered my first time trying gentoo took some 12 hours to compile KDE... Well that was really long time ago.

No. Arch keeps backups of its wiki.

if you squint hard enough, then yes. maybe.

[..] Arch Linux is a very fun and stable distribution that successfully blends the bleeding edge, stability and hackability of Linux. Don’t be fooled by the rumours saying it’s for the elite. [..]

Agree! I have been using it for almost a year and the most atractive thing is the rolling release update. I don't have to worry about upgrading the whole system like others distros.

Arch taught me a lot about my computer. I use a libre/Free Software distribution of it, Parabola GNU/linux-libre.

"almost as easy than Ubuntu or any other distribution"

But if Ubuntu is easier, why not use Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is not easier when they change their init sysyem every other release to get one second faster boot. Or when they make Unity default when it barely runs.

If you are not a power user and Ubuntu likes your hardware then Ubuntu is easier. If you need to mess with things in /etc then you hit its roadblocks quickly.

nano is easier than vim to use, so why everyone bother to learn vim then ?

Ease to use is not the only thing mater for everyone, and having something powerful, more customizable, more understandable, those kind of things mater to some persons.

You know, my question was serious. There are several reasons for using vim, like maybe you can edit faster if you know the commands, there are more plugins and so on. So if my question had been "why use vim instead of nano", there would have been possible reasonable answers.

But what is the advantage of Arch over Ubuntu? They are both Linux... My question was serious, I really don't know why I should prefer Arch.

My answer was almost serious as well, and was answering the question "why not use Ubuntu if it's easier" and not "what is the advantage of Arch over Ubuntu?". They are two different questions.

Your question, now, is a much more open one, then more difficult to answer. This page try to explain the Arch Way https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/The_Arch_Way

I wrote something that tried to explain why AUR is an important part of Arch Linux http://www.nicosphere.net/why-aur-is-part-of-the-arch-linux-...

I thought my question was kind of the same. If there is no advantage of Arch, then it doesn't make sense to use it if it is harder to use. Unless you want to work on improving Arch.

You're right, if Arch would not have some advantages, nobody would use it.

Simplicity of use, packaging, configuration, understanding. No default choices as Unity, it's light and fast, a great distro to learn from, great community and documentation, and much more, that make Arch a great distribution widely used.

If packaging really is easier, it might be interesting. It seems to be quite complicated to create debian packages.

Arch's advantage is simplicity. That does not, absolutely does not, mean that it's easier.

Also keep in mind that to a large degree these things are a matter of preference. I like Arch's package manager over Debian's. Things like that have pros and cons, but on some level it breaks down to simple preference.

that's it ... i'm moving to gentoo.

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