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The Arch Way

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I have recently replaced ubuntu 10.10 on my home laptop with Arch Linux. I have been wanting to try this distro for a while, but as I am getting older the need for long nights struggling with new linux installations, configurations, package installations, tweaking and fine tuning this and that is getting much smaller. I just want something that works. Then again I am still curious, and I still remember the good things about Gentoo (although it took almost one week of compiling X, gnome, openoffice, firefox etc. back in 2004), the bsd-like portage system, I also like apt, and the high availability of pre-built binary packages, but I am not sure I agree 100% with the direction of Ubuntu. Furthermore I have been looking for a distro that supports the gnome 3 desktop.

A long story short, although the installation of Arch is not as polished as e.g. Ubuntu, OpenSuse, etc., and the fact that only a base system is installed from the beginning (no X, no desktop, no GUI browser etc), it is not that difficult thanks to the great documentation (
Official installation guide and Unofficial beginners guide). One thing to mention which I missed in my first attempt was to include the wifi driver in the packages to be installed, this caused some confusion, but in the second try everything went fine. With Arch some of the system configuration must be done by editing a few configuration files (again this is very well described in the documentation), the most common and pivotal being /etc/rc.conf. Basically it is about setting the hostname, specifying DHCP or static IP for network adapters, specifying kernel modules, specifying which daemons to start at boot etc.

The thing I am most impressed by is the pacman package manager/dependency handler. I mean if you like apt, you will probably also like pacman. The build system is also very easy to get familiar with (again good documentation is the key). It is very easy to build packages (including dependency handling by pacman) from so-called PKGBUILDs (see e.g. AUR for additional user supplied package build instructions for building packages). I was impressed to find a PKGBUILD for the Citrix Receiver (ICAClient). I found that this PKGBUILD specified openmotif as a dependency. Set this to lesstif instead, else some dependency issues may occur with applications specifying lesstif as a dependency (e.g. xpdf, xmgrace and other legacy stuff), since either one or the other should be used.

It was very easy to get Gnome 3 thanks to these easy basic steps. Install gdm as well and start the daemon on boot (edit /etc/rc.conf) in order to have graphical login screen after boot-up. I also like the NetworkManager applet in Gnome, which makes wireless networking a breeze. I installed vpnc and the netwokmanager-vpnc packages to connect to a cisco VPN. As with previous attempts in Ubuntu, Fedora, and Centos, it seems necessary to log out and in again in order for it to work properly in the applet.

Should I also mention that installing plugins (flash, java, video etc) and codecs etc is also accomplished in a very easy way. Other things to like is that default python is 2.7.

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Written by aandreasen

May 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm