Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology
Those with more of a do-it-yourself approach to life will value Arch, but there is a growing number of more user-friendly derivatives too. After all, the pacman command line package manager is one of the best in the world of Linux.
While activity appears to have stalled since 2020, I am adding this to the list in case things restart again. The desktop images look swish and ape the macOS feel, so a return may be no bad thing if that were to happen.
Arch has two main selling points for me. The first is that it is a rolling distribution so six-monthly upheavals are avoided while the second may not appeal to everyone. That is that using Arch is very D.I.Y. in its approach and that means leaving all the choices to you. In an age when GNOME 3 and Unity are causing so much rancour, that can help to quell complaints because you are not constrained by the choices of others or finding the right version of a distribution. Speaking of desktop environments, be warned that this takes a few hours of your time with Arch and needs another computer so that you can search the Arch wiki for the instructions.
The wiki is very good so it’s a case of providing the instructions to users instead of doing the job for them, possibly in a way that some dislike. It is an approach that is educational too and having to work a little for a solid system set-up is no bad thing either because you can look at the results of your efforts with a sense of satisfaction. The distribution may be cutting edge but I have found it to be a solid offering and that comment also applies to software installed from the AUR. Speaking of software installation, this exclusively is a command-line process and pacman works very well as the tool for the job. All in all, this is a distribution for the hobbyist who likes to have solid documentation to advise them of their way.
Some may think Arch an aberration in a world where user-friendliness is king but I was so impressed with it that it replaced Fedora on my secondary home PC. However, an update caused an unrecoverable error in GNOME and I have moved on from it because of that. The laborious installation ended up making me choose something that was quicker to install, and the font display seemed to have been an issue in terms of sharpness too. Maybe, I’ll give things another go when I have a bit more time again.
The website could do with a better design, yet there is an intriguing idea at work here: using software tinkering to learn about the underlying Arch Linux basis and even about Linux itself. There are different spins catering for differing levels of expertise and interest. One way to think of all this could be to use it as a stepping stone to working directly with Arch Linux.
Speed and security are the catchphrases with this Arch variant. The project even forked Firefox to create Cachy-Browser, such is its commitment to hiking its own hike. It also is highly customisable with a range of desktop environments on offer.
Antergos is no more, but EndeavourOS appears to have become the project that follows on from it. It also offers an ARM version as well as the more mainstream x86 builds, and there are plenty of desktop environments from which to make a choice.
Not only is this prettier and more user-friendly than its parent but it also has gone with BTRFS when it comes to formatting its disks. It also has its own browser derived from LibreWolf, FireDragon, for an added sense of security. The AUR is accessible here too and you can get to game installers if that is your thing.
Once, Manjaro was available with the OpenBox desktop environment, but that is no longer the case and it looks as if this lightweight distro is addressing the niche. There only is so much that can be addressed by any single effort, especially a “relaxed” rolling release operation like this one.
This offering uses Arch as its basis but is vastly more user-friendly than the distro on which it is based. There are versions with KDE, GNOME and XFCE desktop environments for your explorations. It, too, is a rolling release distro as I found when package updates caused a breakage in a VirtualBox instance that I had.