Arch Steps Up – Debian Takes a Backseat

I recently did some soul searching regarding my GNU/Linux philosophy. I found that I wasn’t being true to myself.

For years now, I’ve run Slackware Linux as my primary operating system and a second, fully updated version of Debian as my  secondary OS. I’m a firm believer in simplicity and stability. I enjoyed both of those qualities in Slack and Deb, of course. They are both rocks when it comes to stability. I’ve never had a crash in either operating system that was due to the OS itself. Any crashes were usually caused by something stupid that I had done.

All that being said, while contemplating upgrading from Debian Lenny to Squeeze, I had an epiphany. Slackware and Debian are not very much alike, other than their common quality of stability. Where Slack has a relatively small application set; Debian’s repos are huge. Where Slack uses close to the newest versions of its software; Debian uses versions that are typically three to four releases old (VERY stable and proven stuff).

It was always difficult for me to sync Slack’s apps with Debian’s in my primary and secondary operating systems because of the discrepancy in releases; especially so with Mozilla apps like FF and TB. This got me thinking… maybe Debian, even though it had always been my fall-back operating system, might not be serving my purposes that well after all. Is there something better out there for what I want to do?

As most of you know, I have five tester slots on a dedicated drive just for trying out and learning other distributions of GNU/Linux. No, I don’t do virtual. I like to REALLY install and set up operating systems. Virtual computing is like virtual sex. It works, but it’s not nearly as much fun (or as messy). In one of my tester slots there is almost always an installation of Arch Linux. Why Arch? Well, it’s a cool distribution. That’s why.

Seriously, Arch is a very stable, very robust distribution of GNU/Linux. It’s been around about ten years now. It’s a fork of the old Crux branch of the Linux Tree. I started playing around with Arch about three years ago, I think. I was impressed right off the bat. One of the greatest things about Arch is its outstanding support community, particularly the wiki. There is an abundance of information for Arch users of all sizes and shapes. Support is a good thing!

As a result of all this deep thinking and philosophizing, I decided to install Arch as my official secondary operating system. I spent the past three days installing and setting it up. I’m using it now to post this article. I have everything set up to closely match my Slackware installation. I keep both sync’d (manually) and updated. If my Slack craps out, I can always boot Arch and seamlessly carry on until I fix my Slack. Odds of Slack crapping out? Null. You never know, though.

Give Arch a try. You might be impressed. For a very good tutorial on installing Arch, see securitybreach’s tutorial at Scot’s Newsletter Forums – Bruno’s All Things Linux.

My Arch w/ Xfce Desktop Environment



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  • leftystrat  On February 14, 2011 at 19:15

    yeah, but you won’t get herpes from virtual computing.
    Or something like that.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On February 14, 2011 at 21:55

      Virtual herpes are virtually forever, Lefty. 😉

      Thanks, Josh. Your experiences with and loyalty toward Arch were part of the reason I decided to go with it. Besides, since you’re nearly an Arch guru, I figured I’d have you around for brain-picking when needed. 😉

  • comhack  On February 14, 2011 at 21:09

    Great blog post Eric!!! I am glad you have gotten Arch setup to your liking and are enjoying it.

    I initially installed Arch because of the same reason you have given. I loved Slackware and its stability/simplicity but found it lacking in the amount of packages available. I tried out many different tools including Swaret and Slackpkg but most of the time I ended up having to build the packages from source. I pretty much figured out that Slackware required you to read changelogs and such to see when updated packages were available. This became an obvious pain as time went on, then Steel suggested Archlinux and after I got it initially setup, I never looked back.

    Also, thanks for mentioning my tutorial!!! I almost feel famous LOL


  • crass  On February 15, 2011 at 02:13

    I took the plunge myself and installed arch a few weeks ago. Myself also have been a slackware/debian user. I wiped debian lenny of the drive and replaced with squeeze 64 bit. I kind of regret that as now I have to go through getting it as I want and getting ati to work with fglrx/catalyst has always been a nightmare. Slackware has its problems with ati as well. Artifacts on the screen when fps is around 630. Sometimes it comes in at 750’ish sometimes 850’ish – but never consistent. Then theres arch. Consistently no artifacts on the screen and clean package upgrades – apart from today where there is something wrong with fetchmail – ha! Also running wine is incredibly slow as opposed to other distros. Arch is good – no doubt about it. But its not perfect – but no distro is perfect.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On February 15, 2011 at 09:42

      Hi crass…

      Don’t worry. Everyone has issues with Ati and Linux. 😦 And you’re most definitely correct; no distro is perfect, but some get very close. 😉

      Thanks for reading/commenting!


  • crass  On February 15, 2011 at 10:59

    Too true. It all depends on who you are and what you are looking for – and perhaps the hardware.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On February 15, 2011 at 11:08

      GNU/LInux is like reading books or listening to music. It’s a very personal thing sometimes. To each, their own and all that. That’s what makes Linux great… that it has the choices available for its users. What choices did you have in MS Windows? Desktop wallpaper? 😉

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