looking at arch linux and its derivatives

Although I’ve settled, as it were, on using Fedora Linux (Fedora 36) as my main development OS, I’m still willing to look at other distributions rather than become complacent again like I did with Ubuntu. In spite of having had a bad time with Arch back in the mid-2010s, I decided to give Arch and some of its derivatives another look. After all, seven-plus years is an eternity in open source OS development, and assumptions made back then really don’t apply anymore.

I have Parallels and a big beefy MacBook Pro on which to easily spin up Linux virtual machines. There’s no reason not to give them a look. While I looked at nearly all of them, the two I’ll talk about is Manjaro Linux and Arch Linux itself.

I’ll start with Arch. Before I get started let me mention where I watched Arch being installed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZpkjtyvvO0 . After watching this YouTube video I was able to download and quickly install Arch as a VM. The key to a frustration free Arch initial installation is to run archinstall when the first stage installation is finished and you’re dropped to a text prompt in the VM. Watch the video to see what you need to do after that. I chose to install KDE as the desktop manager. I’d tried Gnome and wasn’t satisfied. KDE by comparison is very polished these days.

I’ll cut to the chase: Arch 5.18.3 (see neofetch output above) is very performant and has a remarkably small footprint (see htop Mem out above), especially when compared to the latest Ubuntu. I’m constantly pleased with how fast Arch’s pacman will perform necessary updates, necessary because it’s a rolling release. And I’m quite comfortable with KDE. The KDE developers have poured tremendous time and effort into polishing the KDE desktop environment, and I for one certainly appreciate how it looks and performs. If I were more comfortable trusting Arch, I can see how I would use it in place of Fedora. I’m still not quite past the problems I had running Arch on Raspberry Pi (which I documented in years past on this blog), but I’m getting to a good place with Arch. On x86 architecture systems it appears to be very well behaved and solid.

Manjaro was easy enough to install, especially using its graphical installer, but its operation is definitely unique.

I can handle unique. But there’s one quirk that Manjaro has which I’ve screen-shotted above. Manjaro has an “Automatic suspend” feature that locks up the VM and requires that I use macOS’ Activity Monitor to force kill the VM. I can go back in again. In the mean time note the attempt to do a pacman update, and its failure. Not sure what that means, as I couldn’t scroll up to read the full list of messages. But that won’t bother me anymore as I deleted the Manjaro VM instance. I suppose that if I could install the Parallels Toolkit it might behave better, but attempting to build the kernel modules fails. It’s the same kind of failure I get with Fedora 36, Alma 9, openSUSE Tumbleweed, and Arch.  In other words, distributions that have Linux kernel 5.17 or later.

Vanilla Arch is sufficient for my experimental needs. It would probably be a good alternative to Fedora 36 on bare silicon. Of all the Arch distributions regular Arch is the only VM I have left.

2 thoughts on “looking at arch linux and its derivatives

  1. It’s a testbed for me as well, especially regarding pipewire for using it in creating (not only consuming) music. And I have to say that it’s far easier to handle than my main Debian stable machine, because to have something like a permanent system-wide headphone correction (using Sonarworks) on that, I have to use Carla/Claudia from the KXStudio repos which behave badly when starting Ardour afterwards, so I’ll have to delete all kind of connections on that one. To be fair, I don’t have a systemwide correction with Sonarworks on Arch, where I only use easyeffects to load some eq curves for my headphones. Far easier to bypass that than the Carla/Claudia/Sonarworks construct (of mine) on Debian…
    So these days when *creating* music I normally boot into Arch, while my main setup is still Debian stable. Wife and daughter tho are both on Ubuntu (with one desktop and two notebooks), and they’re pretty happy with it. I almost never get asked for help, so that must be a good sign…
    On Android with our mobiles, but I think I’m the only one who tries to integrate that with Linux (using KDE Connect / GSConnect on Gnome).
    Regarding KDE: I’ve tried it on Arch but went back to Gnome with which I’m much more familiar, keyboard layouts and all…

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  2. 🙂 I am quite satisfied with vanilla Arch Linux.

    One messes up Arch Linux the first time that they try it.

    As a matter of fact, I broke Arch Linux a few times in the past.

    The learning curve is absolutely high.

    Arch Linux is fun when one learns how to keep it well-maintained.

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