Arch Linux

Arch Linux: The Best Rolling Release Distro Out There

Arch Linux is an independently developed, x86-64 general-purpose GNU/Linux distribution that strives to provide the latest stable versions of most software by following a rolling release model.

Without any doubt, Arch is one of the most well-known Linux distros. Well, Arch certainly won’t win any awards for user-friendliness, but at the same time, it puts all the freedom and choice in the hands of experienced Linux users for ultimate control over how their systems work and look.

Arch gives you an authentic Linux experience because the default Arch Linux installation is a minimal base system configured by the user only to add what is purposely required. So while going about your daily tasks, you learn new things about Linux.

In addition, the fact that you decide how your system should look and the packages it should have installed makes your system clean and does not have useless applications eating your memory and CPU.

In other words, you can only install what you need for your daily use. It will take a bit of your time to install the operating system, but no one else will know how your computer is running better than you.

Arch does not come with a graphical installer, and the whole installation process is done via a terminal. This can be intimidating for new Linux users.

So, if you want to make your Arch experience more straightforward, you could try one of the best Arch Linux-based distros instead.

Related: How to Install Arch Linux: Beginner’s Step-by-Step Installation Guide

Arch Linux uses a rolling release model, meaning no “major releases” of entirely new system versions. Instead, a regular system update is all that is needed to obtain the latest Arch software.

The installation images released every month by the Arch team are simply up-to-date snapshots of the main system components.

Arch Linux GNOME Desktop

Arch Linux Principles

The main philosophy behind Arch is KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Arch Linux adheres to five principles:

  • Simplicity
  • Modernity
  • Pragmatism
  • User centrality
  • Versatility

The project attempts to have minimal distribution-specific changes, minimal breakage with updates, pragmatic over ideological design choices, user-friendliness, and minimal bloat.

Arch Linux defines simplicity as without unnecessary additions or modifications. It ships software as released by the original developers with minimal distribution-specific changes: patches not accepted by upstream are avoided, and Arch’s downstream patches consist almost entirely of backported bug fixes that are obsoleted by the project’s next release.

Similarly, Arch ships the configuration files provided by upstream with changes limited to distribution-specific issues like adjusting the system file paths. It does not add automation features such as enabling a service simply because the package was installed.

Packages are only split when compelling advantages exist, such as to save disk space in particularly bad cases of waste. GUI configuration utilities are not officially provided, encouraging users to perform most system configurations from the shell and a text editor.

History

Judd Vinet, a Canadian programmer, and occasional guitarist, began developing Arch Linux in early 2001. Its first formal release, Arch Linux 0.1, was on March 11, 2002.

Inspired by the elegant simplicity of Slackware, BSD, PLD Linux, and CRUX, and yet disappointed with their lack of package management at the time, Vinet built his distribution on similar principles as those distros.

But, he also wrote a package management program called Pacman to handle package installation, removal, and upgrades automatically.

In late 2007, Judd Vinet retired from active participation as an Arch developer and smoothly transferred the reins to American programmer Aaron Griffin, also known as Phrakture.

Between 2012 and 2013, the traditional System V init system was replaced by systemd.

On January 25, 2017, the Arch Linux developers announced that support for the i686 architecture would be phased out due to its decreasing popularity among the developers and the community.

Package Manager

Arch Linux has its package manager called Pacman. Like apt for Ubuntu and dnf for Fedora, package installation in Arch Linux has been done using Pacman. However, as you probably know, unlike other Linux distributions, Arch Linux doesn’t have any GUI package manager.

The goal of Pacman is to make it possible to easily manage packages, whether they are from the official repositories or the user’s builds. It is written in the C programming language and uses the bsdtar tar format for packaging.

Related: How to Untar tar.gz File in Linux by Using the Command Line

Pacman is used to install, remove and update software packages. It is one of the major distinguishing features of Arch Linux. Pacman combines a simple binary package format with an easy-to-use build system.

The Arch Build System is a *BSD ports-like system for building and packaging software from source code into installable .pkg.tar.xz packages which Pacman can manage.

Pacman keeps the system up to date by synchronizing package lists with the master server. This server/client model also allows the user to download/install packages with a simple command, complete with all required dependencies.

It’s important to note that Pacman doesn’t support AUR packages, so you need to use an AUR helper like yay. For new Arch users, installing an AUR package without an AUR helper might seem difficult.

Many people would like to use Arch Linux but are deterred because they have to manage the software from the command line by using Pacman. But there is a solution. If you are new to Arch Linux and prefer to use a GUI to manage packages, Octopi is an excellent option.

Octopi is a graphical frontend to Pacman written in QT, designed to handle packages, with which you can manage packages within Arch Linux graphically and more simply. It is remarkable how fast it is in tasks like installing or uninstalling packages.

Octopi - Arch Linux GUI to pacman

Keep in mind that Octopi does not come installed by default on Arch Linux, and to get it, you will need to install it manually from the AUR.

AUR

On Arch Linux, the official repositories are core, extra, and community. These packages are already compiled, and they are installed through Pacman. There are more than 11,000 packages in the official repositories. But, there are many other programs available on Linux.

The AUR (Arch Linux User Repository) exists, so any Arch user can add a new program and become its maintainer or adopt an “orphaned” package without a current maintainer. There are about 55,000 packages in the AUR.

The Arch User Repository (AUR) is a community-driven repository for Arch users that hosts some packages outside the official Arch Linux package database.

It contains package descriptions (PKGBUILDs) that allow you to compile a package from the source with the makepkg command and then install it via Pacman.

Many new packages that enter the official repositories start in the AUR. In the AUR, users can contribute their package builds. Additionally, the AUR community can vote for packages in the AUR.

The Best Documented Linux Distribution

Arch Wiki is a treasure trove of information. It is Arch Linux’s comprehensive documentation in the form of a community wiki. Arch Wiki is beneficial for Arch Linux distro and other Linux distro users since the guidance and fixes are relevant effectively outside the Arch ecosystem.

Even though other distros package things differently from Arch, the Arch Wiki can give correct directions.

You will get everything you wish to know concerning the installation and maintenance of every component and detail of a proper Linux system.

This documentation can be a reference for general Linux administration. If you are new to Arch but have experience with other Linux distros, you have already read Arch documentation a couple of times.

Arch Linux Based Distributions

  • Archlabs Linux
  • ArcoLinux
  • BlackArch Linux
  • Chakra Linux
  • EndeavourOS
  • Manjaro
  • RebornOS

2 Comments

  1. debian sid can also be considered rolling release, and I’m unsing it since 10+ years on many machines, never had problems

    • Hi,

      I completely agree with you.
      Debian Unstable (SID) is rather a rolling development version of Debian so it can be classified as a rolling release distro.

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