Ubuntu has been enjoying a monopoly over the home-user Linux Distribution market for a few years now. This article hopes to shed light on ArchLinux as an alternative.
I saw myself visiting a myriad variety of distros over the years, only to revert to Ubuntu eventually. Braving through GRUB issues, networking problems and other potentially devastating complications for the newbie, I clung to it due to the novelty and the freedom. Maybe the most appealing part was the learning process, unraveling the beauty of the Linux environment every day you use it.
Ubuntu deserves unparalleled credit for changing the perceptions of the non-geek audience. It gave the conventional users food for thought, by purging the “Linux Is Too Difficult” tag. The focus is on delivering a usable operating system that is easy to use and just works. By offering prepackaged choices between various desktop environments, it makes the learning curve for the newbie far more smoother, arguably more so than Windows.
2011 saw Unity being chosen as the default desktop environment on Cannonical’s flagship distribution, Ubuntu, a move which met a lukewarm reception from the users. Unity, although at its nascent stages, has shown great promise in enhancing the overall intuitiveness and integration of the interface. The genius behind the move may be realized in the future when the Unity interface will play a vital role in the convergence of multiple Ubuntu based platforms, with Cannonical showing intent in the SmartTV and the Phone markets.
The concept of simplicity differs greatly when it comes to ArchLinux. Arch has its essence in minimalism, avoiding unnecessary additions, modifications, or complications. Arch assumes that the user is responsible for knowing what they want and allows them to call the shots, starting straight from the minimalistic command-line installer. This involves a certain amount of effort that needs to be put in by the user in understanding the intricacies of the system, that Ubuntu users may not be familiar with. Of course, this can be avoided by installing other pre-configured flavours of ArchLinux like ArchBang and Manjaro. The time invested initially certainly reaps rich dividends in the future, leading to an above average understanding of the Linux environment. For the Ubuntu user, who is accustomed to utilizing a cracking interface, with minimal command line usage, this may seem alien. Taking your Linux familiarity to the next level may not be easy, but distributions such as Arch will definitely help because they make the user realize that there may be multiple methods to obtain the required result.
The ArchLinux documentation is extensive to say the least, with most usage scenarios covered in the reputed ArchWiki. The community embodies a “do first, then ask” approach, unlike what is seen on many Ubuntu support pages. Armed with the pacman package manager and the Arch User Repositories (AUR), it’s very unlikely that you will not find a package that you’ve been looking for. AUR is powered ArchLinux users who generously devote their time to adopt and maintain packages to give you the latest and the greatest. Arch is a proponent of the Rolling Release model which means that there are no release cycles like those in Ubuntu. With the robustness of pacman, you can easily get your hands on the cutting edge developments in the Linux community. For those looking for an OS change, ArchLinux may just be the option you might want to consider.
I’m going to conclude by citing a well-written post that I happened to encounter, which might help newbies with the switch (credits to the original author):
Steps to becoming self supporting for succeeding with Linux
- Decide that it’s worth it.
- Lower the stakes.
- Know your package manager.
- Master permissions.
- Get a sense of your amazing Desktop choices.
- The Command Line is part of the Desktop
- Know where to get information.
- Whatever works is the right way, but there’s always a better way.
- Be the community.
- Have a lot of fun.