Arch Linux

Arch Linux is a GNU/Linux distribution that started in 2002 with the goal of being simple. Unlike distributions such as Ubuntu, Arch takes the position that the complexities of setting up a GNU/Linux box, such as adding a new service to run at boot time, configuring servers, etc., should be left out in the open rather then adding complexity by hiding these activities under configuration tools.

Getting Arch and Following up the Install

The install process is nicely written up in the official wiki. When the install is complete, you are left with a minimal installation of Arch Linux. And it is up to the user to install the needed packages. From this point, you could go for a pure command line environment and save all the resources that a fancy GUI uses or you could install Gnome, KDE, *Box, etc., and enjoy a nice desktop environment. The aforementioned wiki also contains many how-to’s on various customizations and third party software for usage in Arch.

Package Management

Arch Linux packages a tool called Pacman. For those familiar to Ubuntu/Debian’s apt-get or Gentoo’s emerge, Pacman will not take long to learn. Similar to other package manager tools, the local repository of package information needs to be refreshed occasionally via “pacman –Sy.” After updating the repository, a user can issue “pacman –Su” to see if any installed packages have any updates available. Other common commands are:

To install new packages: pacman –S <packageName>
To remove a package: pacman –D <packageName>
To search for a package: pacman –Ss <search expression>

Final Opinion

Arch Linux is definitely not built for GNU/Linux beginners. Packages that require configuration after install lack the pretty setup helpers and safe defaults that Ubuntu provides. However, for those that have worked with a command line and have some knowledge of how Linux works, terminology, etc., will find an easily customizable GNU/Linux distribution.