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Sven Hettwer
Sven Hettwer

Posted on • Originally published at Medium on

Traveling through the Arch — Vol. 1

In this series of blog posts, I want to travel with you through my experiences with Arch Linux™ from the very beginning to the (hopefully) happy ending.

As mentioned in my first blog post, I’ll join a new company next week. Because they allowed me to choose my OS, I’ll go for a Linux distribution. I use Linux on my PC, my Netbook, my Smartphone, etc. So for me it’s a obvious choice. The only question I ask myself every time, if I want to install a Linux on new hardware is: What distribution should I use?

This time, I’ll try Arch Linux™. No clue what Arch Linux™ is? No Problem! I’ll try to give you a little overview of what I found out!

Currently I’m mostly using Debian GNU/Linux, Ubuntu or one of its derivatives. Both of them are easy to install and run on nearly every system. If a more stable system is required where up to date technology is not a must have, I go with Debian GNU/Linux. For development, I prefer Ubuntu or its derivatives, because the packages are kind of up to date. Nevertheless Ubuntu is a very heavy distribution consuming a lot of memory for it’s Unity Desktop (and Xubuntu with Xfce isn’t much better), it is shipped with a lot of software I’ll never need and every version has a expiration date (even the LTS versions). This is where Arch Linux comes into play.

Arch Linux™ is a very lightweight distribution which allows you to setup your system just as you want it to be. You’re able to choose what runs on your computer package by package. To be fair: You could also achieve that, if you use a minimal Debian GNU/Linux installation and do the rest of the setup manually.

Speaking of doing things manually…

The installation guide of Arch Linux™ is a step by step tutorial of how to setup a operating system with nothing more than a bootable medium and your own hands. If you ask me, this is not the way it works nowadays. Even though that I’m a software developer, I don’t want to set up all the little bits and pieces for my OS installation. Time is valuable! When should I write Blog posts, if I have to set up my OS manually first?

So I had to find something smarter. A friend of mine recommended Arch anywhere to me. This project provides a minimal installer for an Arch Linux™ based distribution called Anarchy with the option of choosing additional packages from the official Arch Linux™ repositories. So I’ll give it a go!

An additional advantage of Arch Linux™ is, that it’s a rolling release distribution. That means that you’ll never have an outdated OS as long as you perform software updates. There is nothing like a support limitation for your OS version. Every update is shipped to every installation out there. This is also interesting in terms of bleeding edge technology. You’ll never have the problem to obtain up to date packages for your OS, because there is no version number limiting the support or compatibility.

But where light is there is also shadow!

Working with bleeding edge technology harbours the risk of crashing your system because of unstable packages or updated. And this is one of the biggest concerns I’ve with Arch Linux™. I want an OS that is stable in any situation. For me it would be a nightmare to loose one day of work, because my OS crashed by some incompatibilities. So the only way to minimize the risk of breaking your system, is to update frequently and visit the official website and forums to find showstopper before you update. This will require at least a bit of time and effort to keep yourself up to date.

Another point I’m concerned about is that Arch Linux™ is using its own package manager called pacman. So if there is no official support for the software you’re looking for, you may have some trouble. Even though there is the Arch User Repository (AUR) containing a lot of community-driven packages, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find everything I need there.

Enough of theory! Let’s start with the “hands on” part in the next Episode of “Traveling through the Arch”.

You want to read more about Arch Linux™?

Just visit their website for more details!

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