Initial Thoughts on Arch Linux

About a month or so ago, I decided to give Arch Linux a whirl. Debian hadn’t let me down, but I’ve been using Debian as my primary workstation OS for about six years, so I was looking for something different. I first installed Mint, though oddly enough not the Debian Edition. That lasted about a week, mainly because it used the same repositories as Ubuntu, and I just couldn’t stand for that.

So next I try Arch. From the get go, it felt very much like installing Gentoo for the first time, only this time I didn’t have another computer to rely on (for whatever reason I didn’t want to use the MacBook Pro issued to me by work). It was a maddening experience, I appreciate the installer Debian provides much more now, as with Arch everything needs to be done by hand, from the partitioning of the drive, to the bootstrapping and installation of the system software.

This would have been fine, only I elected to encrypt the root and home directories, with LVM inside the encrypted drive. Unfortunately the Arch installation documentation doesn’t contain all of the information to install in this fashion in one place, I had to bounce between at least three different wiki articles using elinks2 to get the right magic to get it installed.

I can’t say that it has been smooth sailing. Practically on a daily basis I find some package which isn’t installed (because nothing except the bare minimum of packages is installed by default). Things like the display manager, X.org, desktop environments… all need to be installed manually, through pacman (“PACkage MANager”). This is not a problem for me, but there have been things that I assumed would be installed by default, that aren’t. Reminds me of my Gentoo days negatively. Maybe I just don’t remember installing that stuff on Debian, since this workstation went through the Squeeze->Wheezy->Jessie cycle before I put Arch on.

That being said, having up-to-date, stable packages on my system has been nice. No more waiting for the Debian team to make available the version of the package that has the feature or the non-essential bugfix I’m looking for. No scouring the backports repository (which always seemed to give suboptimal results). Pacman is fast, and I haven’t had too many issues installing things from it. AUR is another story entirely.

I like Arch well enough to have put it on the used laptop I got for a steal from my employer. Once I got it configured right, hibernation with the laptop has been awesome, albeit a bit slow to recover. Power management has been pretty good too, for an old laptop. I ended up replacing the battery, and it looks like I get about three hours and 15 minutes out of a full charge, which I don’t think is too shabby.

I still use Debian on my router, and my VPS (where this blog is stored). That will continue for the foreseeable future, as I want to keep my Debian skills up to date.

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