Arch Linux (Day 6 of 20 days of SCALE)

In today’s post in my prep for my yearly weekend at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to cover the subject of Arch Linux.

I’m going to have to admit to a little bias on this one. I’ve never really cared for Arch Linux. I gave it a try when I used to listen to a popular Linux podcast I liked called the Linux Link Tech Show. They loved this Linux distribution and I felt exactly the opposite. I discussed in an earlier blog post what a package manager is. Well, this one uses one called pacman. I can not show how much I don’t like this package manager. I had to struggle with a media system I had hooked to my computer that I absolutely loved. Mythtv (well actually a MythTV variant call Linhes). Don’t get me wrong. I really liked that system a lot HOWEVER, whenever I tried to go deep into the guts and update stuff it would either make it crash or break. I hated that. I had to backup often. I ended up just not trying to add features to it because I was scared to touch it. I’m not one to be scared of touching any technology.

All that said, I decided to give Arch a try again and force my sour feelings to the back. Spoiler alert: I still don’t like it. First I realized that it only runs on a certain specific types of processors. Ok, I can live with that. Then I got the bootcd and was very disappointed. It wasn’t a Live CD where I could just throw it in and run it. Wait, let me correct that. It wasn’t a Live CD I could get a graphical interface from. I seriously thought the thing crashed when I got a command prompt. Not only did I get a command prompt but it had system log stuff showing up on the prompt so I had to hit enter again to get a real prompt. is where I go to keep up on what’s new with Linux distributions and they have it labelled as a distro for advanced Linux enthusiasts. I think that’s serious peer pressure to make you like it more. I live on the command line but I just don’t care for this one too much. I’d love for it to be simpler and if others can make it so I would love to hear it or why they like it.

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me giving the SCALE tours (Phillip Banks) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.

10 Responses to “Arch Linux (Day 6 of 20 days of SCALE)”

  1. Chrishas says:

    You should probably read the Arch Way which is a description of the philosophy behind Arch and you’ll understand why it’s not a liveCD with graphics and why it takes the approach it does. It’s weird that you had so many problems with pacman, I’ve never had any and I’ve recently built a media system which used XBMC with very little hassle. The only downside is that being bleeding edge an update could break a system, but I’ve found it easier to fix compared to Fedora which is also bleeding edge. Maybe I’m a little biased myself in not liking distros like Ubuntu, but that’s why we have so many choices, you can find the distro which suits you.

  2. shadowed says:

    install archbang to have an almost-ready-to-use archlinux with interface…

  3. Jim says:

    “I seriously thought the thing crashed when I got a command prompt. Not only did I get a command prompt but it had system log stuff showing up on the prompt so I had to hit enter again to get a real prompt.”

    Poor Baby. You got a command prompt? RTFM.

    “A real command prompt”? Really? It had ‘system log stuff’ sent to the standard output — meaning ‘your screen’? Poor Baby! RTFM.

    If you’re disappointed that your computer doesn’t automagically hold your hand with a ‘Windows-like’ GUI, you’re absolutely not qualified to be publishing a review about it.

  4. Beemer says:

    While Jim was a tad harsh IMO, his basic point was sound. I’m not sure I understand the point of the article at all unless it was simply to bash Arch Linux for not having a desktop ‘Live CD’.

    From what you describe, it sounds like you booted Arch Linux simply expecting it to be like any other of a dozen distributions and got upset when it wasn’t.

    I switched from Ubuntu/Linux Mint to Arch about two years and love it, despite the occasional ‘bleeding edge’ issue. My 12 yo daughter uses it as well (tho not at my level).

    If you want a quick desktop setup, grab ArchBang or CinnArch – both have a desktop ‘Live CD’ which you can install from.

  5. UnixAnt says:

    I agree with the above constructive posts, and I think you are ultimately disappointed/disillusioned with Arch Linux because it isn’t meeting your expectations as a distro. It sounds like you are expecting Arch Linux to present you with an installer, then subsequently just work. If this is what your needs are, in addition to ArchBang or CinnArch recommended by Beemer, I would also have no hesitation in recommending Manjaro, which is XFCE or OpenBox out of the box. Vanilla Arch is stripped down to the absolute basics, which is a solid foundation upon which to build the distro you want/need. Don’t be disheartened, just choose a distro appropriate for your requirements…

  6. Vellon says:

    Having read all that, I’m still not clear why you “don’t like it”, apart from it not having a graphical live CD (lack of basic research there). You “live on the command line” (I find that statement questionable, given what else you say), but are not happy with Arch. What did it do differently? It uses bash by default like everything else. You don’t like pacman, but you didn’t specify any reasons. I could guess at lack of graphical interface and different switches to apt, but I didn’t come here expecting to have to guess.

  7. Erik says:

    TL;DR: I don’t research before I install, and despite the fact that I “live on the command line”, I don’t understand how to use TTYs.

  8. phillip says:

    I love that the Arch user base loves it so much so definitely feel free to constructively enlighten me. My experience with Arch was mostly due to a distribution of a media center known as LinHes. I know the guy that is the package maintainer for it so I should have gotten his input on this too but I PROMISE a followup post on this using your input but because all of these SCALE prep articles are me giving the projects I don’t know well only a short amount of time and not the usual deep research I like to do. As for pacman I can tell you I have an emotional response to the dependecy issues I’ve had with it in the past but like Chrishas said, I have also had some mind blowing ones with Fedora too but just fought through them since I’d been using Redhat for many years.

  9. phillip says:

    LinHes is a fantastic media system for a neophyte as it is meant to be but I just found this. I might be a little early but I just found out that LinHes is not totally Arch and may have been some of the causes of my problems with it.

    I’ll check it out but I may owe the Arch peeps a bit of an apology in the next post about it.

  10. Amy says:

    I’m not sure what happened with pacman for you, but I’ve never, not once, had a dependency problem with it. In fact, I’ve found that it’s been great at handling dependencies and removing orphaned dependencies. Just make sure you pacman -Syyu before anything else and be careful about unoffial (AUR) packages.

    The installer used to be ncurses, but due to a lack of maintainers it was dropped for some simple install scripts. The Beginner’s Guide here walks you through it very clearly:

    With all that said, it sounds like Arch just isn’t for you. Which, it goes without saying, is fine. Just find a distro that works for you.

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