Posted by: Brian Masinick
on July 18, 2008 06:00 AM
Arch Linux is a distribution that is optimized to perform package management in an outstanding way and to only configure precisely what you instruct it to configure. These are the two differentiators it has from Slackware - the roots from which it evolved. With Slackware, particularly in the old days, you installed numbered groups of packages, though you could select additional packages or remove packages from those lettered groupings. Those letters were originally based on packages included on floppy disks! I cannot imagine even a tenth of those packages within most of the letters even beginning to fit on one floppy these days!
Today's Slackware typically just installs the entire set of packages. Arch is different. By default you install only a core operating system and core utilities. From there, you decide what to install, and you also set up the configurations yourself. That is where Arch does help. There are not fifty different configuration locations to deal with. All of the run configuration programs can be found in the same directory and they are driven off of a single configuration startup location, as described in the article. You have to set that up yourself. If you are not familiar with doing such things, it takes a while to get used to this the first time or the first few times, but after that it can be a very rapid experience - copying and editing the contents of a simple text configuration file. Installing the software is even easier. There is no binary packaging tool that is faster or more effective than pacman.
I say all of that while continuing to be a Debian based system user. I definitely keep a copy of Arch Linux on a test system though. I ran it last weekend as I updated all of my test systems and Arch was easily the fastest system on that box, Other systems were pretty tightly clustered together in overall speed and responsiveness, but Arch stood out. Once initially set up, it is painless to maintain, even more so if you take a few minutes extra to either write an alias or two to speed up typing commands or completely hands off if you use cron or some other scheduler to periodically update your system at your convenience. But tying in sudo pacman -Syu from a console terminal once a month is no big deal, and that is all it takes to maintain Arch Linux once it is initially set up!