Demystifying Arch

There is always a lot of buzz around the Arch Linux distribution in the Linux community. Those who are switching to Linux as a desktop operating system are very reluctant to go the Arch way and those who have experienced with Linux as well. IMHO it’s only because of the mystery prevailing around this distro. Here in this blog we’ll try to address some of those and help to embrace everyone to Arch world with out any concerns.

Arch principles are: Simplicity, Modernity, Pragmatism, User Centrality and Versatility.

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. The default installation is a minimal base system, configured by the user to only add what is purposely required. In other words Arch is a DIY Linux instalaltion where the user is having full control on each and every component getting installed and configured.

The original creator of Arch Linux, Judd Vinet was in total love with the simplicity and elegance of Slackware, BSD, etc. He wanted a distribution that could be DIY, you make it yourself from ground up and it only has what you want it to have.

The solution was to use a shell based manual installation instead of the automatic ncurses or graphical based installations that lead you to learn almost nothing and you know nothing about what exactly was installed on the system. The ZSH based installer of Arch Linux means that you do everything using commands. All this means that you know exactly what is happening, since you are the one doing it. You can customize everything right from the pre-installation steps. You don’t install the OS in Arch. You just download the base system and install it in the root partition/directory. Then you install other required packages needed by you by either chrooting into the system or booting into the new system and it will be a terminal, as it is only base system install the you’ve done. Install and configure each package, you must know what are your required packages and how they are installed and configured. That is how Arch Linux haelps you install your on custom Linux (DIY) and help you to learn by doing, breaking & repeating.

Arch Linux doesn’t care about being easy for Ubuntu/Debian/Redhat/Fedora style to set up. But, there do exist easy-to-install variants if anyone wants to have a touch and feel os Arch Linux; Antergos & Manjaro is essentially Arch with a graphical installer.

Typically in a more simpler steps Arch installation will be like,

  • Download ISO Image
  • Burn the image to a DVD/USB
  • Boot Arch from the media
  • create disk partitions
  • Setup network with/without DHCP, including wired or wireless network
  • Optimize gcc for the specific CPU
  • Config/compile Linux kernel & modules
  • Base packages
  • Environmental configuration
  • Necessary softwares/tools/applications
  • setup X server and GUI

In one word, the installation bundle in those distributions like Debian and CentOS does all things above in a more user-friendly way or even automatically, which you will have to do manually step by step in Arch Linux. But it is not at all a hard to do thing as it sounds. We’ll walk through the installation in the next post.

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