Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Arch Linux Fun

I just installed Arch Linux on my laptop, because I apparently have nothing better to do. OK, that's not true, there are lots of things I "Should" be doing, but today I'm messing with Linux instead.

Arch Linux with Cinnamon and an Awesome Wolf Background

Live USB Boot 

I hit a snags right off the bat. I installed the arch iso to a thumbdrive with unetbootin and it seemed unable to locate the media. Just sat there saying "Mounting '/dev/disk/by-label' to '/run/archiso/bootmnt'" and "Waiting 30 seconds for device /dev/disk/bylabel". After a brief search I discovered this was a common problem and the simple solution was to "dd" the image over your thumbdrive. Uh, what about the other files on there? Arch needs to work on this. I know Ubuntu and Parted Magic both fine from a unetbooting usb. So I hunted a bit more and found you can specify the right device as "archisodevice=/dev/sdb1" for example. Ha! too easy, if I specified it as sdb1 it would detect the usb drive as sda. Change it to sda and it's detected as sdb. WTF! Finally I set it to sdb1 and pulled the drive as soon as the kernel had loaded, plugged it back in and it booted right up. Whew, what a PITA just to boot a live USB!


The installation was complicated compared to Ubuntu or Mint, but I just followed the beginners guide and it went smoothly. Wifi worked and everything. I highly recommend a second computer / tablet / etc. on hand if you decide to install Arch. One reason I wanted Arch was the lack of junk cluttering up my system, things updating in the background, etc.I admit I install a bunch of junk myself, but at least I have some control. It took a couple hours, but I have a usable OS on my laptop. Lots more tweaking to do yet. Seriously, it took longer to get the usb to boot than install the system.

Things I Like

There are a lot of really nice features that appeal to me.
  • Boots unbelievably fast.
  • I'd eventually like to have a single distro on all my computers. With Arch you can do a headless server, a media center, a desktop workstation or a portable laptop. The base is the same, just install the packages you need for your application.
  • A local package cache / repository on my HTPC / Server would be cool. Most distro's can do that, so I don't know that this is a major plus, but it's availible.
  • I don't mind the pacman / apt-get / emerge command line tools, but synaptic is slow, and the "linux app store" doesn't appeal to me. So far I love yaourt when used with yaourt-gui, a bash gui for yaourt. It take a little fiddling to get installed, but it will manage pacman, AUR, etc. quickly and beautifully.
  • The AUR, it's huge! if you can't get an official package, it's probably in the AUR.
  • Arch doesn't hold your hand with tons of helper scripts to make everything "just work". While that can be good or bad, I'm counting it a good, as you get a better understanding of what's going on right from the start. That (hopefully) makes problems easier to solve later.
  • It's more up to date. I loved this about Gentoo, that you had recent packages. I installed MyPaint, because it works nicely with my laptop's Wacom penabled screen, and there are all kinds of buttons and options that weren't there on Ubuntu! Ubuntu has 1.0.0-1, Arch has 1.1.0-2.
  • Rolling release. In theory once installed I should never need to re-install. just update the system when I feel like it.
  • No "Update Manager" nagging me to update all the time. I hate windows for it's constant updates (always at inconvenient times) and some Linux distros seems to want that "functionality" too. It's running in the background without my knowledge too, I don't like that.
  • No "error reporting" pop-ups I get too many of these for a supposedly stable system, I understand the need for error reports, but I'm watching a movie and have to get up to get that dumb window out of the way.

Things I Don't Like

  • Arch is MUCH more complicated to install as opposed to Mint or Ubuntu. It didn't take me that long to have a working system, but I wouldn't recommend it to a beginner or at least not as an introduction to Linux. I used to use Gentoo, which I feel is even more complicated, but just didn't have the ambition to keep it working.
  • The installation ISO really sucked for me, YMMV.
  • I have a working system, but it's not nearly as pretty or complete as Mint 15 yet (I installed Cinnamon). I foresee a lot of tweak time to get it just the way I want. This may lead to frustration, like Gentoo years ago. I dropped Gentoo because, at the time, it took a ~3 days of compiling to install the base system and get X running with the basics (Firefox, Fluxbox, file manger, etc.) and the better part of a week for a full desktop environment (KDE at the time).


So far I like what I see. The install was a bit aggravating, but I shouldn’t have to do that too often. I love yaourt-gui, it really makes package management quick and easy.
I think I'm going to swap my HTPC / Server over to Arch eventually. I have some performance issues with Mint 15 and haven't been able to track them down. I don't know if it's Mint or just the my hardware. Either way I hope I can squeeze a little more out of Arch.
If you have an excess of free time try it, it's easier than Gentoo and you end up with a distro that's tailored to you. All the stuff you want with none of the stuff you don't.


Arch Linux - https://www.archlinux.org/
Yaourt - https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Yaourt
Awesome Wolf Art Source - http://www.deviantart.com/art/wolf-324819837

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