Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Playing With ArchLinux

One of my friend has suggested me to try on ArchLinux since last year (or probably two years ago), but i haven't had time to try that Linux distribution, even though i have heard about it since long time ago. Well, that day is now over as i have successfully installed ArchLinux on my old laptop replacing Fedora 14 which has been installed since last year.

I started to download the latest ISO of ArchLinux which already contains the basic packages needed for minimal installation yesterday and prior installing it, i read some tutorial described on their website. It's very detailed and since i have been using and installing Slackware several times, i didn't have problem understanding it in no time.

So last night, i decided to overwrite Fedora 14 with ArchLinux after i burnt the ISO into a CD and boot with it. It installed without any problem. The key of success was to read the instructions that has been given. I bet you can also do the installation if you know basic knowledge about device naming and have been using Linux before. Since it was basic installation, it ended up without no X, no KDE/GNOME, no fancy apps, etc. It's just a plain shell with some basic utilities.

First thing i did was to configure the network as it's the primary means of updating my systems. I finally use my cable to connect my laptop to my D-Link wireless router and start installing several packages, starting from XOrg, KDE/GNOME, and many other packages i need for daily activities. Somehow, GNOME wasn't working on my laptop, so i decided to threw it away. I'm already used to KDE and it worked out-of-the-box on my laptop, so i'm using it. I'm also comfortable with it.

So far, i'm quite impressed with ArchLinux. It boots very fast (i can have my login prompt under 10s in 1.5 GHz Intel Pentium M processor and 1 GB of RAM) and it's very stable (just like in Slackware). Since ArchLinux and Slackware share similar philosophy, i have no problem adapting to ArchLinux's way. There are some differences between ArchLinux and Slackware, but i get the main idea.

One of the biggest difference is the package management tool. Pacman is like apt-get in Ubuntu. It can help users to resolve dependencies during new package installation, but sometimes it could be a problem as well, since it could bloat the system just because it's linked to other libraries and packages, so even if you don't need that library/application, you still need to install them just because it's part of other package dependencies.

I must admit that i really like how bleeding-edge ArchLinux is. Their repository is very up to date and i could get new update everytime i ran pacman -Syu on my terminal (let's say once per hour). Since they use a rolling-release model, it's natural for them to have the up-to-date packages on their repository so fast. For most of their users, it's no big deal, but for someone who isn't used to it, it could be a problem as users (we) are responsible for our own system. If you do full system upgrade, you must be prepare that the upgrade process could break your machine. No one can predict that from happening.

Lucky for you, ArchLinux has (probably) one of the best documentation on their Wiki page. Everything you need to know about ArchLinux including their package details is already written there. All you need to do is search and read it.

ArchLinux also has AUR (ArchLinux User Repository) which works like SlackBuilds project. It provides users with a PKGBUILDs script that could compile a source code into ArchLinux's native format (tar.gz).

Even though i like ArchLinux, i never said that i would leave Slackware and move to ArchLinux. Slackware will still be my favorite distro and probably i will add ArchLinux to be my second one.