I installed Arch Linux for the first time on January 5th, 2009. From that time till now, apart from a very brief stint with Debian for a few weeks, Arch has been my primary operating system.
I have re-installed it only once – after i wiped Debian. The rolling release system has kept my system up-to-date through these two years. yaourt and these days, clyde, help me with additional software I need from AUR.
The system so far hasn’t broken, or has never let me down when I really needed it. I was using KDE4 till 2011 January at least, and shortly after switched to using openbox + xcompmgr as a desktop, with a disconnected set of utilities including pcmanfm, Firefox 4, gnome-terminal, picasa, mplayer, feh, leafpad and emacs.
Why I’d recommend Arch Linux for a student/technically minded user :
- The system makes you learn about a GNU/Linux distribution and how it operates.
- The documentation is great – its the best I have seen so far, and beats even the mighty Ubuntu wiki.
- Its simple to install and once configured, can be left alone. Updating can be delegated to a cron job.
- Customizing a package is easy via ABS.
- Maintaining a package via AUR is easy because of the great packaging tools.
- The tools are simple and get out of your way to help you get things done – no dialogs asking you to click next and provides clear and concise messages as to whats going on.
- Package maintainers, IRC channel, forums and mailing lists are all friendly. Not in the spoon feeding way, but in the teaching you to fish way.
- If there is broadband, then you can safely setup the system for anyone and run an automated update every month or so. It will simply *work*.
- Features a simpler BSD style init that’s far easier to understand and maintain
- Killer feature : New packages arrive fast – very fast. Arch users usually get the latest version of their popular desktops a few hours after the release announcement. This is one of the reasons why Arch is one of the best OS’s to have KDE4 running on – bug fix releases arrive fast.
Why I won’t recommend Arch Linux to everyone :
- No GUI installer.
- Default installer doesn’t install a graphical desktop.
- Requires reading documentation ( quality documentation, lot of it).
- Some packages may not be available at all – you’d have to roll your own
- Requires fiddling with configuration files
- Requires broadband – this is a must if you want an up to date system.
- There are no particular “versions”. If people run into issues, they cannot simply say that they are running a particular version of Arch when reporting an issue.
I haven’t stuck this long with a distribution except for Slackware. ( I like Arch because this is what Slackware should be, IMHO).
If you haven’t tried it yet, you can either start off with Chakra, which is a distro based off Arch that comes with KDE or you can simply install Arch. Read the “The Beginner’s guide” which will walk you through the installation – it is well maintained and covers everything. It teaches you to fish.