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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 without unnecessary manuals, details, or proper configuration tools, and provides a lightweight UNIX-like base structure that allows an individual user to shape the system according to their own capabilities. In short: an incoherent mess.
A lightweight base structure built with no defaults whatsoever will tend to allow users to make horrible choices to their hearts desire. 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. It has a streamlined set of succinctly commented, clean configuration files that are hidden randomly around the system. Considered a myth or urban legend by some Arch users, none of these configuration files have been found thus far.
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 system may actually result in a usable system, and is therefore 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 their own programs with no interference whatsoever. If you don't know how to program, learn fast.
Whereas many GNU/Linux distributions attempt to be more user-friendly, Arch Linux has always been, and shall always remain programmer-centric.
Arch Linux targets and accommodates programmers by giving them complete control and responsibility over their segmentation faults.
Arch Linux users fully program the system on their own. The system itself will offer little assistance, except for an ever-shrinking set of maintenance tools that are designed to perfectly relay the user's commands to the system, no matter how ridiculous or damaging. In cases where the command is ambiguous or the system did not understand it, a "sudo rm -rf --no-preserve-root /" will be relayed in its place. Luckily, this very rarely has any effect as sudo is not installed by default. Arch developers do not expend energy at all; Arch is founded upon users programming their own damn distro. Why should they do it for you?
This user-centric design necessarily implies a certain "do-it-yourself" approach to using the Arch distribution. Rather than pursuing assistance or requesting a new feature to be implemented by developers, Arch Linux users have a tendency to solve problems themselves and generously share the results with the community and development team – a "do first, then figure out why everything is broken" philosophy. This is especially true for user-contributed packages found in the Arch Useless Repository – the official Arch Linux repository for community-maintained packages. We do not, however, provide any tools for accessing the AUR, nor will we ever. 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 extremely simple and straight-forward:
- 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
With those simple steps, you'll have the vast array of low-quality amateur attempts at packaging random things that nobody knows about or cares about in no time, as well as the wealth of improperly-patched wine builds, all available at the following of a 17-step process!
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.