Why I started loving Archlinux

We like simplicity. We like everything new.

It's been some years since I switched completely to GNU/Linux. I always wondered at its stability, security, features, community and at the people who use it. GNU/Linux helped me to have exciting computing experience all the time filled with wonders and fun. I forgot about the existence of Antivirus software. Forgot the time I feared autorun.inf and weird executable files. Forgot BSOD and EULA. Now, everything is open. Met many new people, similar interests bonded us. People who use GNU/Linux have always been very helpful. They share knowledge instead of pirated software. They teach us to fish. A kind of special relationship rooted between us, in a world connected by computer networks and its underlying complex abstractions. At this moment, I would like to thank everyone who made lives of people like me colourful.

I had been using Debian Squeeze for a while and was happy with that. Had its complete repo offline which helped me to install any package in spite of the very slow internet connection I had then. Though the things went smooth, I faced some issues during that time with the compilation of new software from source. Fixing dependency issues were pain. The new source of package requires new version of dependencies which were not available in repo. Compiling them from source always created new pains. Updating software/repo was not possible because of the slow speed of internet. Taking laptop to college and updating from there also didn't work due to various technical and non-technical reasons. I felt like I was completely forbidden from trying new versions of software. I was in a kind of lock then. Suddenly, one fine day, I got a broadband internet connection!

I don't have words to express how much happiness I felt. Now the scenario has completely changed. I can now change the Debian repo to testing or sid, try new packages, configure backports or update what ever I want. But, I thought it was time for a change. Changes are the spices of life, indeed.

I wanted to install another distro from the mainstream. First, I thought of Fedora 15 which is a very good OS and hacks by Rajeeshettan in it always inspired me. Also I had used Fedora 14 for several months. But in Fedora too, I missed an element of simplicity and playfulness. The point with these type of operating system is that it comes with all basic packages preconfigured and giving us less opportunities to play with those.

Next choice was obviously Archlinux. I have been hearing about it since I met my another GNU/Linux guru - Ashikettan. He blogs about Arch much and talks about it often. Also, I had tried it once months before when I had speedy internet connection. The best thing about Archlinx is that it is a rolling distro, and new packages are always readily available!

To install, I got the 64bit iso image from Arch website and made thumb bootable with abock. The installation went smooth and had a nice time configuring various things along with my favourite desktop environment - KDE. I was not really able to use KDE since the version in Debian Squeeze was a bit buggy and it crashed often. I was using Gnome 2.x then. Now, I'm really happy with KDE 4.7.0 with a distro which can be updated easily using its sweet package manager - pacman. Arch also has a wonderful knowledge base - The ArchWiki. ArchWiki has many tutorials to play with for beginners and for expert users.

To talk about packages in Archlinux, I don't have words! I remember trying to install new version of Ipython in debian which comes with a new tool called qtconsole. Qtconsole can show the outputs of matplotlib embedded inside the window instead of showing as a pop-up. It was a bit pain fixing various python modules that depended upon on other packages in debian. But in Archlinux, a simple 'pacman -S ipython' after a system upgrade with 'pacman -Syu' solved the issue. (Please note that though 'pacman -Sy ipython' alone installs new version of Ipython, it may lead to dependency issues sometimes. Always install with '-S' and have an system upgrade with '-Syu' often). Upgrading the system obviously updates kernel, now Arch has kernel 3.0 in repo!

Please do not have a feeling that I'm saying other distro/package managers are bad or less useful than Arch/pacman, I was simply having a comparison under special conditions - Indeed, every GNU/Linux thing is great and well developed!

Another great feature I found in Archlinux is the rc.conf file. We can easily configure various system wide things in /etc/rc.conf file, like which all kernel modules to load, which all daemons to run at start, hostname, timezone, network interfaces, gateways and so on. There's also an application called 'rc.d' which is similar to 'service' in debian/ubuntu using which we can start various services like sshd, etc. Also, the support in IRC channel (#archlinux @ irc.freenode.net) and in Arch forums are very helpful.

Finally, as a student, I find Archlinux very useful and informative, Also it's so much of fun using it. I humbly recommend this sweet GNU/Linux distro to everyone who likes to add more spice to their GNU/Linux computing. I just started with Archlinux and hope I could post more about it in future. Thank you so much for reading. Greetings!

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