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Joel Leclerc: Why I migrated to Arch Linux

Published Jan 7 2013 via RSS

First, yes, I am well aware that this is an ubuntu-related blog, monitored on planet ubuntu, etc… This is not a “XYZ is better than ubuntu” post, but rather a “Consider XYZ too” post.

I have been a loyal ubuntu user for around 5 years, and I have also tried my best to help the community for around 3 years (and still am). I never plan on leaving the community, as I find ubuntu is sort of like a gateway for windows/mac users to the open source world, and all of us need to make sure that each user can have the best experience in that gateway so that they can explore deeper and, in their turn, help out too.

Anyways, going to the topic of this post, I have had a very pleasant experience with ubuntu until 11.10. Ubuntu then tried to attract the public to it by, well, over-blinging it (I’m referring to Unity). I have to say they did an excellent job on keeping it beautiful and minimalistic, but it needs a mid/high-range computer to use it. On my computer (which I consider it to be rather mid-range), it was really slow (2-5 minutes to login, let alone using it). Another thing that I didn’t like was how ubuntu over-patched everything. From the linux kernel to GNOME 3, it’s no wonder that everything was really slow. I’m sure that there are good reasons for doing so, but still, I personally like doing my own patching as I want it, not as someone else wants it. Also, I am not a huge fan of the debian package managment system, as even doing “nothing” takes around a second or two… not interested in that. The API is seriously messy, horribly documented, and even from a “users” perspective (a more tech-savvy one, of course), it’s hard to understand the output (for example, do you have any idea what’s happening when you run “sudo apt-get update”?)

You are probably thinking of a thousand counter-arguments against what I said, and they are probably all right. The thing is, I’m talking from a hacker/developer’s perspective where I want everything my way, nobody decides for me (which I feel that ubuntu is sort of doing). I know that the average user is probably very happy from the decisions ubuntu took, maybe even for the exact reasons that I don’t like it.

So now that I’ve written a bit why I don’t like ubuntu, I’ll write a few things that I like about arch. First of all, the installer is awesome! Yep, no installer, you do it by hand. This initially repulsed me from arch, until I discovered how the install process worked, and then I really loved it. It doesn’t come preinstalled with loads of apps that you might never use, it just has the bare minimum of a good linux desktop (which, IMHO, is great). I also loved the package manager ever since I started using it. So simple, so fast (even the downloads are faster because of LZMA compression, and by the way, the uncompressing is lightning fast), and yet so powerful! It uses standard getopt-type arguments instead of commands, so it’s way easier to use. The other thing that I like is how arch is so community-based. It isn’t a project where there is a team behind it, and community can help as 3rd party devs. It works by the community donating PKGBUILDs (shell scripts that build packages) and scripts or whatever else is needed and then “trusted members” (people who have been donating to arch linux a lot) will then review it for safety before including it. Another thing that I like is how it is a rolling release. This means that there are never new releases of arch, you update it, you have the latest arch system.

So as I said in the beginning, this is not “Arch is better than Ubuntu”, but rather “Arch works better for me than Ubuntu did”. I have nothing against the idea of ubuntu, I love it actually. But I don’t want to use it anymore, that’s all :) . That being said (and I repeat again), I do not plan on ever leaving the community, I will always try to help out the best I can :)

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below on your own opinions of this matter (and please, keep it nice, I don’t want to deal with a flame war).

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