back to article Arch Linux turns 20: Small, simple, great documentation

Arch Linux, arguably the most widely known rolling-release distribution, just celebrated its 20th anniversary. The project has commemorated its first public release, 0.1, with a snapshot of its original homepage. A few years back, The Reg looked at "the last refuge of the DIY Linux user" and liked it. Arch has several virtues …

  1. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Lisp?

    and Prolog - both well worth learning. As is Linux!

    1. hammarbtyp

      Re: Lisp?

      I think at least one functional or declarative language should be in a programmers war chest.

      You may never use it, but it helps you become a better programmers

    2. Philip Stott

      Re: Lisp?

      I'm a bit of an old git, who never really wanted to be a professional software developer, but it's stood me rather well over the last (oh shit, it's now) 30 years or so.

      Grew up on Turbo C, then Borland & MS Visual C++, then VB5/6, then C#/. NET since 2002.

      Interesting, and I'm genuinely asking here - what are the benefits to me of learning those two languages?

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Lisp?

        They offer different ways of thinking about problems. You may never need to use these different ways - much in the same way as I doubt you use more than 10% of the standard library of any of the languages you mentioned because you can normally craft the other 90%'s functionality from the 10%. Indeed the whole world runs on code with less than 100 basic assembler functions and several modes. You may, however, realise that if you'd known them earlier you may have used them, or at least the ideas behind them because they could have provided better solutions to problems you were working on.

        The last 70 years has seen some of the brightest and best educated people in history work on different languages and ideologies in software and hardware and as someone who came over from electronics and chip design with a lot of computing to IT I have never felt I have done anything but scratch the surface of this vast resource of tricks tips and tools for getting thinking to run on bits of silicon, copper and any other bit of crap you can connect to it. Since I stopped working full time in the industry 16 years ago I've dabbled in things - you can get lots of free books on learning languages and AI and software engineering - and I've learnt many things I wish I knew when I was working (also check BOFH series).

        I'd like to think you'd enjoy the journey as much as I have but you may be too stuck in your ways and defensive of what you've already learned - the language/OS/paradigm arguments you see in these comments threads make it obvious that once people have devoted a lot of effort and soul into learning something they defend that knowledge from other knowledge quite vigorously - I've done it and do it myself still but at least now I know I'm pissing in my own chips.

        1. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

          Re: Lisp?

          A thoughtful and helpful post. Thank you.

      2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

        Re: Lisp?

        [Article author here]

        "... that was the big revelation to me when I was in graduate school—when I finally understood that the half page of code on the bottom of page 13 of the Lisp 1.5 manual was Lisp in itself. These were “Maxwell’s Equations of Software!” This is the whole world of programming in a few lines that I can put my hand over."

        — Alan Kay

        https://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=1039523

  2. Alan J. Wylie

    Rock Linux

    the first rolling-release distro – that was arguably Gentoo, founded in 2000

    The first stable release of Rock Linux was August 1999. Not to be confused with Rocky Linux. Like Gentoo, you compiled everything yourself.

    Archived "news" page

    Wikipedia article on a fork of Rock

    1. sreynolds Silver badge

      Re: Rock Linux

      Gentoo only became usable around the mid 2000s with AMD64. I think that the performance increase of AMD and the first distro to do AMD64 really allowed Gentoo to survive. Let's just say, if you have a non compilation problem with Gentoo you'd might as well ask in the Arch forums as the support is 10x as good.

  3. TrevorH

    The arch wiki is excellent

    The arch wiki is one of the best resources out there for any flavour of linux. It's clear, concise, detailed and even better, it's usually right!

  4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    The thing that distinguishes Linux from other free Unix-related OSes such as FreeBSD is that Linux isn't a single piece of software from a single team.

    I'm not sure what you're trying to say, it's not as if every BSD release only contains code from the core team and then there's the ports. Ports have for years ensured that the OS release schedule decoupled from whatever packages users want to install. Linux might initially have an advantage is supplying binary packages and, while BSD has taken a while to settle on packager managers, it's never had the Yast vs yum vs apt vs… problems and cd path/to/port && make install still always works.

  5. Flywheel Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    3 comments eh? ;)

    I really like Arch - tried it on a Raspberry Pi 2B ages ago and it worked a treat. Now I'm running it on my Lenovo T480 and it's great - daily updates and it's very fast.

  6. Ordinary Donkey

    "No installer"

    Way back before Covid I found out there were multiple competing installers for Arch Linux and I felt like I was coming home.

    Even among non-Arch linux users the Pacman Rosetta is very popular.

    1. Manolo
      Alert

      Re: "No installer"

      Aren't you confusing a "way to install packages" (package manager) with "a way to install the OS to disk" (installer) here? To the best of my knowledge pacman is the former.

      Icon: for lack of a question mark.

      1. Ordinary Donkey

        Re: "No installer"

        I was making two disjointed points. Maybe that says something about the kind of person who gravitates toward Arch.

        Available installers include Calamares and archinstall. I don't assume that's all of them. Pacman is the most used package manager but I tend towards yay these days since it integrates the arch user repository into things.

  7. withQuietEyes

    I used Arch for a while, and the nightmare I went through trying to install it over WiFi (as a very inexperienced compsci student who failed Networking) was the only bad part. Installing it and using it were enlightening experiences, and there's definitely far more satisfaction in using an OS that you "made" yourself, like a home-cooked meal. (I even made myself a delightfully kitschy purple goth theme. That was fun.)

    1. thx1111

      Installation

      An important point, installing Arch, perhaps not immediately obvious - unlike distributions available on CD, Arch pretty much presupposes an Internet connection, for installation and for updates.

  8. gerdesj Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    I'm running Arch and so's my wife. She calls the internet Facebook and couldn't give a shit what her laptop is running but it had better just damn well work.

    It does just work these days. I update mine roughly weekly and hers roughly monthly about a couple of hours after mine. About 12 months ago I binned HPLIP and switched us to driverless CUPS. zomg - printing finally just works, really just works. HPLIP wasn't too bad either but sometimes failed to work. CUPS n IPP with knobs on is simply belting.

  9. Pelican Express

    The real Arch guru is the one who knows how to connect a network printer!

    > able to install an Arch system and get it up and running inside an hour.

    It was pretty time consuming when I learnt to install Arch the 1st time. Now I can install OK. However there is one thing I find super hard. I struggled for 2 days and still could not have a laser printer working. Its a quite recent network Brother laser which works practically plug-an-play with Ubuntu and Windows. Unfortunately the model doesn't have packages in AUR. I built packages from the *.deb downloaded from Brother. Installed OK, Add printer via CUPS WebUI or via the KDE Printer settings. Tried every possible ways to configure the printer. But could not print anything. Print job say job done but nothing happened at the printer.

    Not sure what's was wrong, I did everything by the book (setup cups, avahi, PKGBUILD of LPR driver, PKGBUILD cupswrapper).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The real Arch guru is the one who knows how to connect a network printer!

      You need to wind back a little further and output to a stylus and clay tablet. That media lasts for at least 10 millennia, provided you have a proper pyramid storage facility.

  10. wolfetone Silver badge
    Pint

    I used it once, and I didn't like it. I think it broke on it's first update, I needed to do work, so didn't bother using it again after that (time pressures). I'd rather use Debian, or Devuan now (thanks systemd).

    BUT, that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the impact it's had on Linux and the community as a whole. For that I am thankful, so have a picture of a beer as a thank you.

  11. To Mars in Man Bras!
    Devil

    Ah, Yes. Linux...

    About eleventy billion choices of file manager. About eleven quality applications to run on it.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Ah, Yes. Linux...

      And there you are with your Windows File Explorer, pushing adverts down your throat.

      C'est la vie, eh?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Dark Side of Arch Linux

    I expect that anyone who enjoys living on the bleeding-edge of software will feel quite at home running Arch. But there is also a minority cultural dark element that lurks there. There are a few young and inexperienced, but persistently arrogant, "want-to-be's" that have finagled their way into positions of "Trusted Users" and "Support Staff" at Arch, who taint an otherwise fine distribution. You may know the type - writing fragile code, claiming "works for me", or insisting "my way is the only correct way". I suppose that there is always that risk of attracting people who want to "get in front" and pretend that they are "leading the parade".

    Thankfully, most of the Arch community keeps pretty damn busy, actually keeping those packages rolling.

  13. drankinatty

    Arch as a Production Server is Fine (but check the web-site before updates just to be sure...)

    After having run three production Arch servers since 2009 (with Linux RAID or hardware provided RAID), there have only been a few times when an update of a package actually left you in immediate need of reconfiguration. (apache 2.2 to 2.4 comes to mind...) Generally, if you follow the individual packages close enough (ssh, tls, etc..) you will know when an update that will need tinkering under the hood. One of the three servers I remote-admin (my office) and I can think of only one occasion in all that time when an update left the server in a condition where an ssh connection was refused.

    I've used Arch as a desktop as well, built TDE for arch for years, but as a bleeding-edge rolling release (in the days of gcc 3.X to 6.X, and the glibc changes) it became somewhat of a full-time job and was abandoned a number of years back. You have any desktop you want available to you, but I've found Fluxbox does everything I need and is dead-bang simple to configure.

    The El Reg article accurately paints the picture of Archlinux (and especially the excellent Archwiki). Read the install/setup guide, make friends with the pacman package manager and I will wager it will become a favorite distribution in short order. Minimal, clean and fast and at least up to this point managed by smart and talented leadership provides confidence in the distribution design choices made over the years. There may be a few threads of discourse on the mailing list over proposed changes, but in the end, I've at least understood and ultimately agreed with the big changes made over the years. Definitely worth a spin.

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