ITworld review: Arch Linux for Linux fundamentalists

By , ITworld |  Operating Systems, Arch Linux, Linux

I also found several 'interesting' things. For starters, Arch's GRand Unified Bootloader (GRUB), doesn't automatically detect any other operating systems on your hard drive. Yes, I know Arch is all about "do-it-yourself" Linux, but GRUB is infamous for being a pain to set up properly and there's nothing quite like not being able to boot at all from a hard drive to make you want to tear your hair out. Rather than get stuck in that situation, I recommend you read LinuxQuestions' GRUB HowTo and Trouble-Shooter Guide, and then carefully set up Arch's GRUB.

I was also surprised that while Arch supports my favorite Linux file system for speed and reliability, ext4, it defaults to using ext2 for the boot partition. Ext2 is not a journaling file system, so it's more vulnerable to crashes than ext3, ext4, or most modern file systems for that matter. Ext2 still has a role in flash drives and SSDs (solid-state drives) -- since it's believed that they can only be written to a limited number of times before failing -- but for a normal hard drive? I can't see it.

Although I didn't try Arch Linux on a Wi-Fi network it should work. That's because it allows you to select firmware, if needed, and hardware drivers during your setup for your Wi-Fi hardware.

Once I had it set up, I immediately saw one thing I really liked about Arch: It was fast. I've gotten used to distributions that come with everything and the kitchen sink. It's useful to have many of the most popular Linux programs at hand, but I'd forgotten just how much processor time and memory room they demand. With Arch, I was running only what I absolutely needed. The result was a machine that I found much peppier than with other Linux distributions, and let's not even talk about Windows.

Another nice thing about Arch is that it's online community forums and mailing lists are filled with helpful, informed fellow users. In addition, the online documentation is a notch above what I see in most Linux distributions.

Even so, I can't recommend Arch Linux for everyone because it's not a Linux for everyone. But, if you know Linux and you want to have ironclad control over your system, I think you'll like it a lot. I did.

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