Update on Arch Linux

After having started my switch to Arch Linux in June 2011 I have now also switched my main desktop PC and my local server.

The general experience is great, most of the time I don’t miss Ubuntu. The only thing that works great with Ubuntu where I didn’t yet find a good alternative on Arch is vmbuilder to bootstrap virtual machines in a KVM/libvirt environment.

I really like the up to date packages and the rolling releases. The ArchWiki is very helpful and the community is great.

My First Steps with Arch Linux

I’ve been using Ubuntu for quite some time now on my desktop and for my servers. It works well and I like the Debian style apt package manager. However I am less happy with the more recent developments. Ubuntu packages differ more and more from the upstream packages and with their focus on Unity I started wondering whether there is a better fit for my Linux needs.

For my new T420s I decided to give Arch Linux a try after I had a short look at Mint, Debian, Fedora and openSUSE.

The Arch Way makes Arch different as it values simplicity and takes an elegant, minimalist approach. The core installation installs just what you absolutely need so you are greeted by a friendly command line when it’s done. After that you can easily install a graphical environment including Gnome 3 with or without shell, KDE and Xfce along with whatever packages you need. Software patches are kept to a minimum so most Arch packages are identical or at least very close to their upstream counterparts. The difference is similar to the “Google experience” of a Nexus One or Nexus S and the modified Android versions sold by the manufacturers. New versions of upstream software end up in Arch within days.

Arch is a rolling release distro that allows for a one-time installation and perpetual software upgrades. There is no need to reinstall or upgrade the system from one version to the next. Everything in Arch is bleeding edge.

Installation on my T420s did not work as smooth as Ubuntu. The latest official installation ISO is from May 2010 and does not support the network card of the T420s. There are newer testing versions but they have issues setting up full disk encryption. So I went with the official ISO and installed the updates via WLAN which worked well.

If you come from the Debian world you are used to apt for package management. Arch comes with pacman which is similar but a lot faster. Bringing your system up to date just means you have to run pacman -Syu instead of apt-get update && apt-get upgrade. After that you have the latest kernel (2.6.39 as of now). I Installed a few additional packages including XF86, Gnome, Chromium, Thunderbird and Libre Office and had a nice working system. Sound and the Touchpad including scrolling worked out of the box. For the network I decided to use Gnome’s NetworkManager so I installed network-manager-applet and modemmanager and got an easy to manage network setup with support for wired lan, WLAN and wireless broadband. My Ericsson F5521gw was recognized automatically and UMTS worked right away.

The Arch Wiki is a great resource and the home of the excellent documentation of Arch. For each part of the system you have multiple options to choose from and they are well explained.

Up to now I am really happy with Arch.

A few notes:

To setup focus follows mouse in Gnome run

gconf-editor /apps/metacity/general/focus_mode

and change the value from click to sloppy.

To make the massive Gnome 3 title bars a bit less high run

sed -i \
 "/title_vertical_pad/s/value=\"[0-9]\{1,2\}\"/value=\"0\"/g" \