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Arch Linux is a Linux Distribution which combines the user-friendliness and ease of installation of Gentoo with the power and flexibility of Ubuntu. It is a meta-distribution, meaning that it is just barely better than linux from scratch. Arch Linux is designed according to the principles of the "Arch way", not to be confused with Junction Ward, London.
edit The Arch Way
“Simplicity is ballin', yo.”
Simplicity is absolutely the principal objective behind Arch development. Many GNU/Linux distributions define themselves as "simple." However, simplicity itself has many definitions.
Arch Linux defines simplicity as with loads of unnecessary manuals and details, as well as minimalistic configuration tools. A lightweight base structure without defaults allows users to make uneducated decisions from the ground up. The base system is devoid of all clutter, such as drivers, tools or even a base system that may obscure important parts of the system, or make access to them difficult or convoluted. Arch Linux has a known set of succinctly commented, well established configuration files that are scattered around the system.
edit Complexity with complication.
Arch Linux retains the inherent complexities of a GNU/Linux system, and adds more over time. Arch Linux developers and users believe that trying to hide the complexities of a distribution may result in a usable system, and is to be avoided.
edit Code-correctness over convenience
“Correctness is clearly the prime quality. If a system isn't configurable with a magnetized needle and a steady hand, then everything else about it matters little.”
The Arch Linux system places precedence upon simplicity as well as clean, correct, simple code, rather than unnecessary automation tools, periodic updates, working defaults and other trivialities. Software patches are therefore kept to an absolute minimum; ideally, never. Simple code and the willingness to adapt it shall always trump simple usability. This allows programmers to patch the system in order to consume time.
Whereas many GNU/Linux distributions attempt to be more user-friendly, Arch Linux has always been, and shall always remain crash-friendly.
Arch Linux targets and accommodates programmers by giving them complete control and responsibility over their segmentation faults.
Arch Linux users fully re-program the system each update. The system itself will assist in shrinking the set of maintenance tools and anticipating when the system should be rebooted. If the given command was too unambiguous, a "sudo rm -rf --no-preserve-root /" will be relayed in its place.
Rather than pursuing assistance or requesting a new feature to be implemented by developers, Arch Linux users have a tendency to want to solve problems on their own through trial-and-error. This is especially true for user-contributed packages found in the Arch Useless Repository – the official Arch Linux repository for community-maintained packages. Tools for accessing the AUR, however, will not be provided. Tools to access the AUR are readily accessible in the AUR.
Openness goes hand in hand with simplicity, and is also one of the guiding principles of Arch Linux development.
Arch Linux uses simple tools, that are selected or built with openness of the sources and their output in mind.
Openness removes all boundaries and abstraction between the user and the system, providing the unparalleled ability to create an unholy amalgamation of programs that together are far, far less than their component parts.
The open nature of Arch Linux also implies a fairly steep learning curve, but experienced Arch Linux users tend to very quickly develop a superiority complex about mastering the subtle art of masochism.
Another guiding principle of Arch Linux development is freedom. Users are not only permitted to make all decisions concerning system configuration, but also choose what their system will be. Some choose to create paper-weights, some choose to make dumb-bells, still others melt down all the silicon and make a sword out of it.
By keeping the system simple, Arch Linux provides the freedom to make any choice about the system, including the choice to not have a system at all.
edit Package Management
Because Arch developers are an extremely inventive and creative group, they named their package manager "pacman", which is short for "Package Manager". It features automatic dependency checking, something that no other distribution's package manager does. The packages themselves are in .pkg.tar.xz format, which only won out against the .tar.gz.msi.bin.pdf.odt.txt format due to the fact it is a binary format, and thus sufficiently mysterious. There are approximately 12 different packages in the official repositories. For everything else, the AUR is used.
edit The AUR
One of the biggest features of Arch Linux is the AUR, or Arch Useless Repository. The process for installing from the AUR is quick and painless in just these 17 steps:
- Search the AUR website, accessible with any browser
- Realize you don't have a browser, because Arch is all about freedom
- Install a browser
- Search the AUR website, accessible with any browser
- Fail to find the package you're looking for because the search is terrible
- Search google for your package
- Find a forum thread on the Arch bbs from 1998 (N=1998)
- Find a link to the software you need on page 10 of the thread
- Find out that the software is horribly outdated
- Search google for the outdated package's name
- Find a forum thread on the Arch bbs from N + 4 comparing the outdated software with the new software
- Repeat steps 8-11 until you find the latest version
- Find out you don't have a package manager for AUR
- Search the AUR for yaourt, a package manager for the AUR
- Download the yaourt tarball
- Pretend you're on slackware for 10 minutes
- Forget why you wanted to use the AUR in the first place
In short, Arch Linux could best be described as Slackware for the new generation. Between the powerful package manager, the wealth of software available through the AUR, the simplicity of configuration and the easy installation, it is very surprising how slow adoption of this innovative operating system is. Perhaps next year will be the year of the Arch Linux desktop.