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Thread: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

  1. #1
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    A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    UBUNTU - This wonderful beginner friendly distro helped me get started with Linux and I've been using it for about 18 months. Though I wanted to switch to Linux back in 2004, I couldn't stick to it (SUSE) until I discovered Ubuntu. Thanks to Ubuntu and the community. I heard good things about Arch in the forums and blogs and last week was perfect to get my hands dirty with it as I had a bit of leisure time.

    The basic Arch's philosophy is to keep things simple. That does not mean things would be easy with Arch which became clear as I began the installation process

    I downloaded and burned the iso (~150 MB), freed up 30 GB on my hard disk and fired the installer. Though command line based, I found the installer to be fairly intuitive. I chose to install from CD rather than FTP as I wanted to get up and running fast. The CD contains 'core' packages, sufficient enough to get a basic linux system running.

    Unlike ubuntu's installer, there is no 'Use largest contiguous free space' option to automatically install onto available free space. Partitioning should be done manually in Arch. I created root and swap partitions and filesystems using the 'cfdisk' utility supplied with the installer. At the end of the installation I chose to install GRUB to my boot partition (and not MBR). Then booted into Vista and used EasyBCD to set-up dual boot using Vista's Boot loader. I rebooted and kept my fingers crossed. Arch booted fine - A sign of relief for me.

    One thing that I immediately noticed was that Arch booted quickly. I did not time it but it was apparently faster. The base system has no desktop environment. I added an user account for me and then as a root changed timezone, locale and host information in /etc/rc.conf. Most of the system-wide configuration like locale, hostname, IP, kernel modules, startup daemons, etc. is centrally stored in this file. Simple and elegant.

    The installer automatically configured static IP for my interface. Though I didn't have to do this, I changed the config to use DHCP. Internet was quirky until I disabled IPv6.

    Arch uses pacman for package management. I find pacman to be flexible, robust, fast, simple and takes care of managing dependencies well. Its command-line based (there is also an optional GUI to it) and is similar to aptitude/apt-get in ubuntu. Here is a comparison of the most commonly used commands:

    aptitude update => pacman -Sy
    aptitude dist-upgrade => pacman -Syu
    aptitude (re)install <package> => pacman -S <package>
    aptitude remove <package> => pacman -Rs <package>
    aptitude purge <package> => pacman -Rsn <package>
    aptitude search <keyword> => pacman -Ss <keyword>
    aptitude clean => pacman -Scc

    'pacman -Syu' (full system upgrade) was not responding at all. But I could ping to the repository server. pacman started working now, found a few updates and installed without a hitch. I still had to ping to the repository server every time I wanted to use pacman. Strange. I found that DNS was incorrectly configured in /etc/resolv.conf. It had my router's IP instead of my ISP provided DNS. I changed the file with proper nameserver values and configured dhcpcd not to overwrite resolv.conf on subsequent reboots. Ah.. fixed my pacman issue. The best part of pacman is that it can be configured to use download managers (like aria2, for example) to download packages from multiple mirrors simultaneously for faster downloads. Impressive. You can also prioritize your mirrors by editing the files in /etc/pacman.d/ folder.

    Arch has Arch Build System (ABS). If you are familiar with Gentoo's portage, its similar to that. But for now I decided to stick with the binary repositores.

    Now that I have a basic working system I also enabled 'community' repository and installed gnome, gdm, alsa, networkmanager, nvidia binary driver, compiz(-fusion), open office, firefox & plugins, brasero, mplayer, f-spot, banshee, conky, cpufreq-utils, bluetooth and a couple of packages to optimize font rendering on LCD - pretty much everything for my 'desktop' use. Unlike ubuntu, I had to configure most of the packages manually but thats how Arch has been designed to work. It took me a good 4 hours to get everything customized and configured to my liking. It was a good learning experience. It was fun to setup an Operating System starting off with just a kernel and then add only the packages that I need and use (much less bloat). I often referred to Gentoo's wiki wherever I needed help configuring a package. Arch's wiki was also useful but I advice beginners to exercise a little more care as they could be out-dated.

    Things I like about Arch:
    - Lean setup.
    - i686 optimized and fast.
    I know this is subjective. But Arch is definitely faster on my hardware compared to Ubuntu. Apps load faster and feel snappier. Firefox, Openoffice and Acrobat have never been as snappier and light as they are in Arch for me. These were the most sluggiest in Ubuntu for me.

    - Rolling release cycle. 'pacman -Syu' keeps me up-to-date with the new releases of the packages. I do not have to download and burn another iso to upgrade.
    - Rich official repositories.

    While Arch is fast, customizable and lean, it probably will not appeal to you if you are a linux beginner. If you are willing to learn and have time, I suggest you give Arch a try. Every distribution is unique in its own way and what works for me may not for you. You are your best judge.

    Have I completely switched over to Arch?
    Not yet. So far I'm happy with Arch and I was successful in my first install. Arch tends to be more 'bleeding edge' as newer versions of packages are continuously added to the main repository as they are released. I'm not sure if that would ever break my setup. I think I'll wait for another few weeks and take a decision. So far its been stable for me.

    - Have a nice day.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    Checkout Arch installation screenshots here http://news.softpedia.com/news/How-t...ux-59239.shtml

    The Arch Philosophy http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/The_Arch_Way
    Last edited by kpkeerthi; November 6th, 2007 at 09:39 AM.

  2. #2
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    Re: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    Thanks for the review. I too have heard good things about Arch, and I especially like some of the eyecandy available for KDEMod However, even though I have been using Ubuntu/Linux for quite some time now, I feel that I still need just a little hand-holding, particularly through the installation process. It's not that I wouldn't be able to muddle my way through eventually, but rather that I have a lot of sensitive data that I can't afford to imperil So even though it sounds like a great disto, I think I'm going to stick with Ubuntu for now; at least until I get another PC besides my current two.

  3. #3
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    Re: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    you should have that data backuped as soon as possible in any case then or moved to a separate partition.
    Learning Linux - my blog about getting to the bottom of my Debian system.

  4. #4
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    Re: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    Quote Originally Posted by kpkeerthi View Post
    UBUNTU - This wonderful beginner friendly distro helped me get started with Linux and I've been using it for about 18 months. Though I wanted to switch to Linux back in 2004, I couldn't stick to it (SUSE) until I discovered Ubuntu. Thanks to Ubuntu and the community. I heard good things about Arch in the forums and blogs and last week was perfect to get my hands dirty with it as I had a bit of leisure time...
    A good and fair review. I'm just looking back through the notes and aide memoires that I made when I was installing Arch and there really wasn't anything nasty or unpleasant to cope with, though sorting out usb device permissions and groups names took a little effort (I'm always happier when devices belong to their proper groups):
    Code:
    User Groups
    ===========
    # gpasswd -a david audio
    # gpasswd -a david video
    # gpasswd -a david optical
    # gpasswd -a david disk
    # gpasswd -a david storage
    # gpasswd -a david floppy
    
    Sound
    =====
    # pacman -Sy alsa-lib alsa-utils alsa-oss
    
    Make sure that snd-mixer-oss and snd-pcm-oss are at the end of the list of sound-related MODULES in /etc/rc.conf, after snd-hda-intel. Add alsa to the DAEMONS in /etc/rc.conf.  (Possibly add the following to /etc/rc.local: /usr/bin/amixer set Front 100% unmute >/dev/null 2>&1)
    
    Fonts
    =====
    Display Size/DPI
    In order to get correct sizing for fonts the display size must be set for your desired DPI. For nVidia drivers you may have to disable automatic detection of DPI to set it manually. There is also an easier way to set DPI on these cards. Either or both of the following lines can be set in the device section for your nVidia card.
    
      Option   "UseEdidDpi" "false"
      Option   "DPI" "96 x 96
    
    Install X Fonts
    # pacman -Sy xorg-fonts-100dpi font-bitstream-speedo gsfonts ttf-ms-fonts ttf-cheapskate artwiz-fonts ttf-bitstream-vera 
    
    Download free PowerPoint Viewer (PowerPointViewer.exe) from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=048dc840-14e1-467d-8dca-19d2a8fd7485&displaylang=en
    
    # cabextract PowerPointViewer.exe
    # cabextract ppviewer.cab
    # ls *TTF
    
    Then goto the Adding Fonts Wiki page (http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Adding_fonts)
    
    Check the font paths in /etc/X11/xorg.conf for the correct path to the TTF fonts directory: /usr/share/fonts/TTF
    
    NTP
    ===
    http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/NTP
    
    Lirc
    ====
    http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Lirc
    
    CUPS
    ====
    http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/CUPS
    
    CUPS-PDF
    ========
    Hint: The cups-pdf printer is Postscript/Color.
    
    To make ~/PDF the print destination edit /etc/cups/cups-pdf.conf and change the Out key:
    
    ### Key: Out
    ##  CUPS-PDF output directory 
    ##  special qualifiers: 
    ##     ${HOME} will be expanded to the user's home directory
    ##     ${USER} will be expanded to the user name
    ##  in case it is an NFS export make sure it is exported without
    ##  root_squash! 
    ### Default: /var/spool/cups-pdf/${USER}
    
    Out ${HOME}/PDF
    
    Gnome Menu Editor
    =================
    # pacman -Sy alacarte
    
    More Gnome Themes
    =================
    # pacman -Sy ubuntulooks tango-icon-theme tango-icon-theme-extras
    
    No Wastebasket on Desktop
    =========================
    Run gconf-editor and then change apps -> nautilus -> desktop
    
    DVB-t and DVD
    =============
    # pacman -Sy linuxtv-dvb-apps kaffeine libdvdcss
    
    Dictionary
    ==========
    # pacman -Sy aspell-en
    
    Enabling shellcompletion
    ========================
    # pacman -S bash-completion
    
    and add
    
    if [ -f /etc/bash_completion ]; then
        . /etc/bash_completion
    fi
    
    to .bashrc
    
    Firefox Branding
    ================
    Problems with online banking and "Bon Echo":  http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Firefox
    
    Arch 64 32-bit Compatibility
    ============================
    # pacman -Sy lib32-glibc lib32-qt lib32-alsa-lib lib32-nvidia-utils
    
    Part or all the nspluginwrapper wrapper stuff, some of which overlaps:
    
    pacman -Sy gtk2 libxt linux32 lib32-gcc lib32-libxmu lib32-libx11 lib32-libxext lib32-libxt lib32-glibc lib32-libxau lib32-libsm lib32-libice lib32-fontconfig lib32-libxrender lib32-libxinerama lib32-libxrandr lib32-libxcursor lib32-libxfixes lib32-libxft lib32-freetype2 lib32-zlib lib32-expat lib32-gtk2 lib32-atk lib32-pango lib32-glib2 lib32-cairo lib32-libxi lib32-libpng lib32-pcre lib32-alsa-lib
    
    and (!!!)
    
    # pacman -Sy lib32-libx11 lib32-libxcb (but not lib32-libxml2, which just seems to make everything else fall over)
    
    Totem gstreamer plugins (minimum)
    =================================
    # pacman -Sy gstreamer0.10-bad gstreamer0.10-ugly gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg gstreamer0.10-mpeg2dec gstreamer0.10-lame gstreamer0.10-mad
    
    More Multimedia
    ===============
    # pacman -Sy ffmpeg mplayer mplayer-plugin mplayer-skins transcode acidrip
    
    USB Device Permissions
    ======================
    # groupadd -K GID_MAX=999 usb
    # gpasswd -a david usb
    
    Then edit /etc/fstab and add the following line, substituting the GID for usb (from /etc/group):
    none                   /proc/bus/usb usbfs     devgid=101,devmode=664,nodev,noexec,nosuid    0      0
    
    Add /etc/udev/rules.d/local.rules:
    
    <------Start------>
    # My local udev rules
    # Updated 26-Oct-07
    
    ACTION!="add", GOTO="local_rules_end"
    ENV{DEVTYPE}=="usb_device", GOTO="local_rules_begin"
    SUBSYSTEM=="usb_device", GOTO="local_rules_begin"
    SUBSYSTEM!="usb_device", GOTO="local_rules_end"
    
    LABEL="local_rules_begin"
    
    # Epson Perfection 3170 Photo
    # Also set correct owners and permissions in /dev/bus/usb here because of the problems with 54-gphoto.rules and 53-libsane.rules
    ATTRS{idVendor}=="04b8", ATTRS{idProduct}=="0116", MODE="0664", GROUP="scanner", ENV{libsane_matched}="yes"
    
    # Photosmart D6160 printer
    # Create device node with correct root:lp owners in /proc/bus/usb
    ATTRS{idVendor}=="03f0", ATTRS{idProduct}=="c502", RUN+="/bin/sh -c '/bin/chown root:lp /proc/$name;/bin/chmod 0664 /proc/$name'"
    
    GOTO="local_rules_end"
    
    # Scanner only: The following rule will disable USB autosuspend for the device, copied from libsane.rules
    ENV{libsane_matched}=="yes", RUN+="/bin/sh -c 'test -e /sys/$env{DEVPATH}/power/level && echo on > /sys/$env{DEVPATH}/power/level'"
    
    LABEL="local_rules_end"
    <------End------>
    
    VirtualBox
    ==========
    http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/VirtualBox
    
    There are problems with USB (devices detected but communication is not reliable).  This seems to be something to do with VirtualBox not liking kernel 2.6.23.
    
    "IMPORTANT:
    Anytime your kernel version changes due to upgrade, recompile, etc., you will need to rebuid the virtualbox kernel module using "vbox_build_module". This binary will be located in one of the following locations: /sbin, /bin, or /usr/bin and must be executed with superuser priveleges. After rebuilding the module, don't forget to load it with: modprobe vboxdrv.!"
    
    Compiz-Fusion
    =============
    The Arch Wiki (http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Compiz) is not up to date with the latest packages!
    
    If compiling from the git source using AUR PKGBUILDs then make sure that kdebase, dbus-qt3, pyqt4 and pyrex are installed first.
    
    AUR compiz-fusion git packages, in compilation/installation order:
    compiz-git.tar.gz
    compiz-bcop-git.tar.gz
    compiz-fusion-plugins-main-git.tar.gz
    compiz-fusion-plugins-extra-git.tar.gz
    libcompizconfig-git.tar.gz
    compizconfig-python-git.tar.gz
    ccsm-git.tar.gz
    emerald-git.tar.gz
    emerald-themes-git.tar.gz
    fusion-icon-git.tar.gz
    
    If the Fusion-Icon icon is missing from menus then run the following command:
    # gtk-update-icon-cache -f /usr/share/icons/hicolor
    
    ProjectX
    ========
    Add "export LIBXCB_ALLOW_SLOPPY_LOCK=1" to /etc/profile.d/xorg.sh if ProjectX fails to start with the following error:
    java: xcb_xlib.c:82: xcb_xlib_unlock: Assertion `c->xlib.lock' failed.
    Last edited by david_2001; November 6th, 2007 at 10:26 PM.

  5. #5
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    Re: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    Thanks for the review.. well done.
    I wonder if an Archer just got born.

  6. #6
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    Re: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    I know this is subjective. But Arch is definitely faster on my hardware compared to Ubuntu. Apps load faster and feel snappier. Firefox, Openoffice and Acrobat have never been as snappier and light as they are in Arch for me. These were the most sluggiest in Ubuntu for me.
    That's mostly because of the lean part you mentioned. If you were to do a base (no gui) install of Ubuntu where you chose only the packages you needed, you'd get roughly the same thing. They're both definitely awesome distros, though.
    "There ain’t a penthouse Christian wants the pain of the scab, but they all want the scar" - Sam Beam

  7. #7
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    Re: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    I installed Arch linux in one of my laptop. What I feel the difference is Arch will give the learning curve and the Ubuntu will work out of box and ready to go. Arch's bleeding technology keeps your machine up to date with the price of some bugs( you can roll back and avoid further updates thro' pacman config file). I feel all Distros are good enough to try and I will come back after trying debian and gentoo.

  8. #8
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    Re: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    This helped me a lot, I've been looking for a faster disto that's more of a challenge. Thanks!
    Don't work for my happiness, my brothers--show me yours--show me that it is possible--show me your achievement--and the knowledge will give me courage for mine.-- Ayn Rand

  9. #9
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    Re: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    I have made the full switch to arch and I couldn't be happier. One thing that bugs me about Ubuntu are the metapackages. I tried to do a minimal build and was dissapointed when I tried to install xf86-video-intel. Installing that one driver meant that I had to install every other available X driver. So either way, you're going to get uneeded bloat.

  10. #10
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    Re: A long time Ubuntu user's review of Archlinux

    I used Ubuntu for 1,5 years, I wanted to try Arch Linux because Arch Linux users having to much fun! And I tried it, learned about Arch and set it up. Now I am never going back to Ubuntu unless something amazing happens.

    However my opinion of Arch Linux users, are people who want the computer to do exactly what you want it to do, and as well this requires some knowledge about Linux.

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