Arch Linux – First Impressions

So thanks to the recent Creator’s Update from Microsoft, my Ubuntu partition became inaccessible due to what I believe is a dirty bit being set. After recovering all my data and ranting about the ordeal online, I decided to reinstall Linux so I could get back to work. That’s when it hit me that I finally had the opportunity to really get Arch Linux working on my laptop and make it my primary distro moving forward. After silently thanking Microsoft’s bad update, I got to work.

Now fair warning, installing Arch is crazy hard, simply because you have to do everything yourself. All the way from configuring the BootLoader to partitioning your device to mounting your filesystem, it’s a lot of work and very overwhelming at first. Thankfully, the Arch Wiki is one of the greatest resources for all things Linux on the internet today.

After 4 painstaking hours of going through mounds of documentation and double checking various things to make sure I wasn’t making mistakes, I finally had Arch installed. I did document each step to streamline the process so hopefully it should take far less time the next time I attempt this herculean labour again. I now had a fully functioning Arch Linux desktop.

Finally, I began installing the necessary packages to set up my development environment. Let me go ahead and say this, pacman is one of the best package managers out there! Every package installation was smooth, the output messages were clear and meaningful, and I could see the benefit of the Arch philosophy since I always had the latest version of everything.

Software that did not have dedicated packages could be easily installed using the ArchLinux User Repository and the makepkg command, which is simply just git cloneing a repo and running a make like command on it to install the software. Indeed, this is how I installed a lot of packages such as VS Code.

The best part about Arch though was the speed. My previous Ubuntu installation would often lag on the UI end, but even with the GNOME desktop, Arch was smooth as butter.

Battery life also improved significantly. It helped that Arch was so trimmed down and didn’t waste time installing useless junk I wouldn’t use.

The main downside to Arch was its lack of mainstream support. ROS isn’t as easy to install, RVM was considerably broken due to its own fault of not supporting OpenSSL 1.0, and lots of the latest packages were just simply missing. While I hope Linuxbrew gains more momentum as the de facto way to install packages, my productivity did take a bit of a hit.

That said, Arch Linux was well worth the patience and burden to get installed. Given the option, I would always choose Arch and encourage others to do the same. Hopefully, a time will come when Arch does become mainstream and the Arch way continues to prevail without facing the same fate as Canonical.

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Arch-ing In

Alright, so I had an interesting day yesterday:

  • Opened my newly won laptop.
  • Booted Arch Linux from a USB Flash drive.
  • Setup wi-fi connectivity via terminal.
  • Installed the whole damn thing from a terminal (no GUI whatsoever!).
  • Did something dumb.
  • Erased the Window EFI System partition and hence the entry from the bootloader as a consequence of doing something dumb.
  • Managed to install an intermediate bootloader – Gummiboot (nice name).
  • Couldn’t boot into Windows at all.
  • Did a network boot to recover the Windows bootloader. May have to reinstall Gummiboot now.

So yeah, overall, a day of epic hacking around with some pretty cool learnings, such as how to manually set up mount points, create partition layouts, how the EFI bootloader works and why is it better than MBR and loads of other things.

Eviva!