ITworld review: Arch Linux for Linux fundamentalists

By , ITworld |  Operating Systems, Arch Linux, Linux

Once you have the image, reboot your system with it and start the install process. Let me warn you right now that the interface is pure NCURSE character-based GUI. That means, among other things, you'll be using your arrow keys, not your mouse, to navigate through it. I also recommend that even if you are a Linux power user that you have a window on another PC open to the Official Arch Linux Install Guide and the Arch Beginner's Guide. You'll need them.

The latest version of Arch Linux is 2010.05, but don't fret over not having the newest bit. Unlike many popular Linux distributions like Ubuntu or Fedora, Arch uses a rolling release system. That means that the latest "stable" version and all the rest of the distribution's programs are constantly being refreshed with the latest software releases as fast as they arrive and are tested out.

This is done with Arch's own homebrew software package manager, Pacman. Don't let the name fool you. The Pacman package manager has no relationship to the poplar openSUSE Packman software repository.

Installing Arch, if you don't remember how you used to do it back in the early 2000s and late 1990s, isn't going to come easily. I didn't have any trouble installing it on my workhouse Dell Inspiron 530S PC. This older computer is powered by a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800-MHz front-side bus. This box has 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB SATA (Serial ATA) drive, and an Integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) chip set.

I also had minimal trouble installing it on a VirtualBox virtual machine (VM) under Mint Linux on another Dell 530S. You must, however, be certain to follow the directions for running Arch as a guest operating system or you will end up having trouble running the X Window system, the foundation for most Linux GUIs, down the road.

On the other hand, I was already installing Linux in the early 1990s and I work with Linux every day so it darn well had better be relatively easy for me to install. The only thing I stumbled over was that I missed that, by default, Pacman, isn't set up to use any repositories. You need to edit the /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist file before you can start updating and installing software.

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