A second look at Arch Linux

Fri 25 January 2013 by Lars Kellogg-Stedman

This is a followup to an earlier post about Arch Linux.

I've since spent a little more time working with Arch, and these are the things I like:

  • The base system is very small and has a very short boot time. I replaced Ubuntu on my old Eee PC with Arch and suddenly the boot time is reasonable (< 10 seconds to a text prompt, < 30 seconds to a full GUI login).

  • I feel better about the Arch installation process after seeing what happened to Anaconda (the Fedora installer) in Fedora 18.

  • I have been pleasantly surprised at the speed with which bug reports have been addressed.

  • I really like the fact that Arch has completely converted over to systemd. There are no legacy init scripts, the base system relies on the systemd journal for logging, etc.

I run a KVM-based virtualization environment at home, and I've switched to Arch on the physical host because of its small footprint (and because it tends to have very recent versions of the various libvirt-related tools).

Things that still bother me:

  • The Arch User Repository is a train wreck. The fact that there are no tools in the standard repositories for working with the AUR is a good sign that nobody really trusts it, and despite language to the contrary there does not appear to be much movement from the AUR in to the Community repository.

  • Packages in general are not curated with same care as in Fedora. It is much more common in Arch to find packages that either have broken dependencies (e.g., they require a shared library that is not actually installed) or they have unreasonably broad dependencies (which can happen if a package includes both GUI and command line tools, rather than splitting them into separate package). In particular, my experience here highlights the value of (a) the automatic dependency mechanisms invoked by rpmbuild (finding shared libraries, Python/Perl/Ruby modules required by scripts, etc) and (b) the use of a tool such as mock for building packages in a "pristine" environment.

  • The average age on #archlinux appears to be 13. I'm not sure what's up with that (does anyone maintain age demographics for Linux distributions?). Do we really need "b00bs" in the /topic?

Also, and this is completely unrelated to anything else, I am terribly disappointed that the Arch forums are hosted at http://bbs.archlinux.org but there is no actual BBS (e.g.) running on port 23. Because that would be cool.