Arch Linux Review

I have been using Arch as my main operating system for about ten months now, prior to this I mainly used Debian unstable, KUbuntu and Mint, choosing a distribution is quite a difficult task and in this article I'm going to explain why I eventually decided on Arch, and in which situation I'd not recommend it.

Vanilla Software

One thing that attracted me to Arch right away is their policy on not modifying software packages, what you install is exactly as the developer intended, any changes are up to you which encourages you to go through the configuration process, in most case however the defaults are sane so you can just ignore the configuration if you really want to.

Cutting Edge

Arch being a rolling release distribution often gets several updates a day which means you typically always get the latest software with a lag of often no more than a week or two for non-critical packages, this is important for anyone interested in gaming or trying out new things, rolling releases are often said to be unstable but in the ten months I've been using it there has only been a couple of instances where I've had to rollback a package, or adjust a configuration.

Arch User Repository

The AUR is a repository of user created scripts which when run can download, build and create a package for the desired software, this makes dealing with cutting edge source releases easy and avoids unwanted interactions with other packages, this is also useful for more obscure software that doesn't make it in to the Arch package repository, this is by far one of my favorite features giving you the power of a source distribution, like Gentoo, with the ease of a regular distribution.

Strong Community

Arch also benefits from a strong and dedicated community, that combined puts a huge amount of effort in to making Arch one of the top distribution, the Arch wiki in particular is well known for being an excellent source of information by all Linux users, at times Arch users get accused of elitism but in my opinion using Arch carries the expectation of being able to fix basic problems yourself, Arch certainly is not targeted towards the unskilled or the unable, that said if you're willing to learn there is no reason you should avoid Arch, it's certainly not as hard as it's often made out to be.

Freedom of Choice

Unlike some distributions Arch permits non-free software, this makes it easy to get proprietary drivers, DVD playback and other things working, while supporting free software is something I strongly encourage, ultimately I think it's more important to give users the freedom to decide what software they use on their own system.

No Bloatware

The Arch base installation is very bare indeed leaving it up to you to decide exactly what you want, this can be a bit intimidating for new users but once you learn what you need you end up with a system that is free of unnecessary bloat, Arch can be used for practically any application within reason including regular desktops, servers and even x86_64 embedded systems.

Conclusion

While Arch may not be the best choice for everyone, those with a reasonable amount of Linux experience will appreciate the power and choice it offers, and if you're put off by the installation consider trying Manjaro instead which is based on Arch, for me it does everything I could possibly want and more so I encourage everyone to give it a go, as usual the best place to start is the Arch wiki.


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