A lean machine
Arch Linux is a Linux distribution inspired by CRUX and intended to be lightweight and simple for advanced users. According to the project website; "Arch Linux is a workhorse distribution designed to fit the needs of the competent Linux user. We strive to make it both powerful and easy to manage, making it an ideal distribution for servers and workstations. Take it in any direction you like" .It is currently ranked #17 at distrowatch
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ with 2 gig of RAM, Nvidia 6600GS with 256 meg RAM and 19" wide screen monitor.
Arch Linux, on its own, does not provide a live environment. However, for the interested, FaunOS is an Arch derivative and provides live environment. So users can check out FaunOS as well. Also Archie also provides a live environment.
Arch comes in two flavors, CORE & FTP. Both ISOs are minimalistic and won't result in a working desktop environment. I chose core ISO for this review. Again instead of wasting another CD, I extracted out vmlinux and initrd files from isolinux directory in the ISO, and used them for starting the installation. A detailed procedure is provided in my earlier post.
Arch Linux has two main repositories "core" & "extras". The core repository contains minimalistic software, enough to provide a working command-line-interface. Rest of the packages(i.e. gnome, kde, xfce, xorg, e17) are contained in "extra". For the core installation the user has two option s, either to use the directory available in the ISO or copy the latest packages from any of the mirrors. The repository contains more and recent packages . I chose to copy the latest package from core repository. Copy all the core packages on to some spare hard disk partition before starting the installation
Once the user boots into the install system, there are five different terminals available and BASH can be started by hitting
The installer allows to create and specify partitions. I would like to mention that Arch loads pata modules before sata modules, and thus if you have two hard drives, first an IDE and second a SATA, then IDE drive will be named sda and SATA drive will be named sdb. User can change the module loading order in the final system configuration.
The installer then asks to select the packages for installation. Now its safe to select all the packages. I remember, in version 0.7, if the user selected all the packages for installation, the installation failed. After package selection, package installation comes into play. And it was really fast. The core system installed on my machine in less then 5 minutes.
After installation, system configuration comes into picture. I love the fact that almost all of the system configuration are concentrated in /etc/rc.conf. Spare some time and browse all the configuration files. Arch uses a BSD-style init framework.
Once the core installation is finished, user can reboot into fully functional command-line-interface. Now at this, point users have two options for "extra" installation. If the user can bring up network connection in the command-line-interface, network installation works fine. If, however, the computer is not having a functional network connection, user can download the "extra" repository from any of the mirrors and can copy the contents in "/var/cache/pacman/pkg" directory. Also "extra.db.tar.gz" file needs to be extracted to "/var/lib/pacman/extra" directory.
Once onto the newly installed system, user can customize the installation with "extra" repository.
"pacman -S kde" will install all the required packages to bring up KDE; similarly gnome, xfce can also be installed.In the last release, packages for keyboard and mouse were not installed automatically by the above command; but that is gone now
To boot into the new desktop environment, user needs to do these changes: change /etc/inittab to runlevel id:5, set login manager as kdm/gdm/slim, add hal and dbus to list of daemons (started at boot) in /etc/rc.conf, and execute xorgcfg to generate xorg.conf.
Being a KDE fan, I installed KDE first and then later tried to see xfce as well. I installed xfce4 by issuing pacman -S xfce4, but was never able to get to the xfce desktop environment. It just hung for me.
Being a workstation and server targeted distribution, not much has been done in the aesthetics department, except a custom wallpaper. But even the base KDE looks really nice. For GTK application to look nice under KDE, users have to install the gtk-qt-theme.
The core install only provides basic installation and whatever application the user wants, s/he has to get it from the extra repository. The extra repository is approximately 4 GB and provides almost all the applications in there latest version.
With the packages from extra repository, I was able to play all kinds of media.
Compiz-fusion is not present in the extra repository as of now. So user has to enable other repositories for the eye-candy.
Arch Linux should also think about a single DVD install flavor. Just pack core and extra onto a single CD, for workstation users. This will save the individual downloading of packages from the repository, and will make arch installer easier for system without internet connection. Also, please take some time and clean up the wiki.
Acrh Linux is lean, wicked and it allows all types to possibilities. It allows the user to custom tailor the distribution as per his/her taste. It has a great package manager. A package manager that is being used by lot of other distributions like frugalware, archie and faun. But I am unable the gauze the advantages pacman provides over apt-get.