While I mostly use my MacBook these days that runs macOS, Arch is the primary distro that runs on my desktop system. But then I also run Windows 10 on a virtual machine as my journalistic work requires me to be updated with all major platforms. Using different platforms also ensures I am neutral and not biased.
The bigger question is, why did I choose Arch Linux over others and what does it have to offer that others don’t.
#1 By the community, for the community
One of the strengths of Arch Linux is that it’s a pure community driven project. It doesn’t have to worry about the market, customers and ROI, which can affect its development — and could, in fact, derail it.
I am not even aware of any organizational structure of Arch. The Arch page clearly says “Arch Linux survives because of the tireless efforts of many people in the community and the core development circle. None of us are paid for our work, and we don’t have the personal funds to sustain server costs ourselves.”
What they do have are release managers and maintainers of core components such as pacman and main repositories, but beyond that it’s all for the people, by the people. And this has been working quite well, as it turns out.
Arch Linux doesn’t patch anything. It’s more or less like a ‘stock’ Android experience where you use what the upstream developed. When you use a package there is no tweaking – it flows down right from the glacier.
#2 The ‘biggest’ software repository
I have yet to find a package that is available for other Linux distribution but not for Arch (minus some distro specific packages). Credit goes to the mega-bank of software packages called AUR – Arch User Repository.
It’s a user-maintained repository that enables users to ‘compile’ and install packages from source. Compiling packages doesn’t require a computer science degree, it’s fairly easy. Just two commands and the package is installed. To make the process even simpler there are tools like Yaourt that not only compile and install packages for you, but search desired packages in AUR. At the same time it’s also fairly easy to create packages (using PKGBUILD) for other users so anyone can create them, and once again it’s not rocket science.
Users can vote on AUR packages, which helps users in installing the ones which are more popular. It also helps developers because popular packages hold the potential to enter the official repositories.
I have found AUR to be much better than Ubuntu’s PPA, which lacks any centralized search feature, requiring you to search for packages on Google (just the way we used to do for Windows) and then manually add the PPA to system. openSUSE’s software.opensuse.org is better than Ubuntu’s PPA in that regard but there is no way to search and install packages from the terminal or any system tools. AUR beats them both as you can run the yaourt command with packages name from the terminal and install the packages. Yaourt can install packages from both AUR and enabled repositories.
If there are any bugs or problems with AUR packages, you will also see other user’s comments in the terminal. You can fix the problem then and there just by editing the pkgbuild file.
In my experience, Arch is the first distribution where the latest packages land first. If you are like me and want to test out the latest version of any given software, then Arch is for you....