Arch Linux Review

Hello! For the last several weeks, I have been using the Arch Linux distribution on my main laptop. It has been a really good experience and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I had committed to myself to use Arch for 30 days and my experiment has actually lasted a little longer. So let me tell you a bit about my experience, and what I have learned.

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I first installed Arch in the first week of May, 2014. I installed “true” Arch, using the ISO from archlinux.com and following the Beginners Guide from the Arch Wiki. I did not use an Arch-based distro like Antergos or Manjaro. For the most part, I found this to be a fun and interesting experience. I did not run into any major problems and I got my system running, with X and a DE in about an hour. I did not run into any problems with wifi or graphics, either. I should say, this was not my first time installing Arch this way, but it was my first time using it as my primary machine’s OS.

At the begining, I installed Gnome 3.12 from the repos, installed my basic applications, and set up all my network connections. The system performed really well from the first day. I quickly got the hang of pacman, the Arch package manager for intalling from the repos and yaourt for the Arch User Repository. For the most part, I use pretty basic apps. I use Chrome, LibreOffice, Audacity, Handbrake and various media players. My laptop has Intel graphics and a fully supported Broadcom wireless chip which were both detected at install. I had no trouble. I am not a big gamer and I didn’t install Steam, but everything I did install worked great.

I used this configuration for a couple of weeks and everything worked smooth as butter. I decided I really wanted to try out the new version of Cinnamon 2, so I worked through the steps of uninstalling all the Gnome packages and installing Cinnamon. I know I could have just installed Cinnamon along side of Gnome, but I hate it when competing DE’s spray their specific apps all over the other DE’s menus.

Installing Cinnamon with lightdm went well; I really love what they are doing with it. I used all of the same apps (which were still installed) as I did with Gnome. The desktop is slick and modern with some of the elements of a traditional desktop, including an applications menu, panel, system tray, etc. I used this new setup for a week with absolutely no problems, but then, a pacman -Suy changed everything.

I had been keeping track of the Arch Linux twitter and RSS feeds as I did each update, making sure I wasn’t heading for any known trouble. At first, I didn’t notice any problems, but one issue did continue to crop up. When Cinnamon would go idle, the lock screen came up. If I moved the mouse or tapped a key within about 3 – 5 minutes, the screen would go away and I could use the desktop. If, on the other hand, I waited an hour or two…. or overnight, the lock screen would freeze and not go away, or, if it did, the desktop would lock. The only cure was to Ctl+Alt+F2 to get a second Console and systemctl restart lightdm . Not a perfect solution, but I couldn’t find anything on Google that addressed the problem. I used this work around for a week or so, but still couldn’t find any references to this problem. In addition, I needed to get printing set up, but trying to get CUPS working on Arch was NOT working.

At this point, my computer was standing in the way of getting work done, so I decided to end my Arch experiment. I still think it is an outstanding OS and, after I finish my next round of distro hopping, I may go back to Arch with Gnome 3.12.

For my next 30-day challenge, I am debating between Crunchbang, Ubuntu 14.04, and Mint 17. Keep checking back for more info.

Thanks everyone!

Matt aka
@sahg33kdad

July 18, 2014

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