Arch Linux: First Impressions

NOTE: Check out the newer review, here!

So now that I’ve been using Arch Linux on my laptop for 2-3 weeks now, it is time for a review. Since I’ve already written (albeit a bit  indirectly) about the advantages of Linux (any distro) over Microsoft Windows, I will not repeat myself as to those points. I will first discuss why I decided to ditch Xubuntu, and then talk about why I think I made the right choice.

Why I Switched to Arch Linux

These were the most compelling reasons to make the switch:

  1. Faster boot times on my aging laptop.
  2. Freeing myself from the endless cycle of upgrading from one point release to another (e.g., getting rid of “Hardy” and installing “Ibex,” and so on).
  3. The desire to stay ultra-modern as far as software is concerned — i.e., getting the latest stable versions of software with ease.
  4. Freeing my system of any unnecessary packages (aka “bloat”) / keeping my system as simple as possible.

As for #1, I think this reason turned out to be the most misleading one. I don’t notice any significant gains in bootup times. But, it’s not like I can expect a whole lot from this Dell Latituded D505. As for #2, this is a huge bonus. As you may well know, Arch is famous for its “rolling release” system (like Gentoo). I.e., once you install it, and update it using the package manager (known as pacman), you are up-to-date with the latest software. I also appreciate how quickly the Arch maintainers update their packages to the latest versions, to make this all work. Reason #3 thus fits in with #2. As for #4, I can feel that there’s less bloat — since I installed almost everything manually, including XFCE, after the Arch installation finished!

Why the Switch Was Worth It

Yes, I have no regrets. The installation itself took around 2 days (one evening to get through the installation process, and another day to install XFCE and to customize most things back to how things were), and I learned a lot about Linux just by going through this process.

I don’t fear losing the direct applicability of the mountains of Ubuntu forum posts should I get in trouble or if something breaks. I’ve noticed that generally, the Arch community is composed of people who’ve used Linux for quite some time, and they are very, very active. Their community spirit is very impressive, and all the more helpful, since there are fewer first-time Linux users. The Arch Wiki pages are particularly well-documented, although a bit disorganized at times.

I also like how I understand most of my core files, like my xorg.conf and GRUB’s menu.lst files, since they do not come pre-installed with a bunch of comments and options that I didn’t put there. Both of these files are shorter and cleaner than before.

I will probably install Arch64 (the 64-bit version of Arch) on my desktop later this spring, or summer.