Arch Linux is currently one of the most popular distributions of the open source Linux operating system. It has quickly gained the enthusiasm of technology aficionados thanks to its seemingly endless possibilities of configurations, unparalleled in the technology world. Is it just for advanced users though? Who else should take interest in Arch Linux?
Arch Linux – key tenets
Among the numerous Linux distributions one can find systems dedicated for both those using their PCs for common basic purposes, and the more advanced users. Thinking about distros considered the most difficult in terms of navigating through, Arch Linux is the first one that comes to mind.
But in fact, the core principle which Arch Linux is based on is ironically… its simplicity of use. The creator of this distribution, Canadian Judd Vinet, decided to create a clean, graphically ascetic, and easily configurable system with plenty of possibilities for further expansion for the use by either the enthusiasts contributing to the Arch Linux’s developers community, or by the end user himself.
The core motto Judd Vinet had in mind while creating the system was KISS – an acronym (meaning ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid!’) introduced in the sixties as a design principle for designers of advanced systems and machines. Holding onto that advice, designers have been trying to solve problems in a straightforward way, creating pieces of technology as simple and easy in use and maintenance as possible. Initially, the KISS rule was applied in aeronautical engineering; soon it found its way into business and computer science.
Arch Linux – a system run by a text-based interface
The aforementioned modesty in the use of graphics leads to the predominance of text-based elements in Arch Linux. Thus, the user interacts with the system by means of a text-based interface on essentially every stage, starting from the installation of the system. A significant amount of interaction with the system is based on typing simple standardised commands sent via dedicated text interface software, commonly called ‘the terminal’.
The installation of software coming from outside sources is similarly managed by means of text commands typed into the terminal. The software itself comes from repositories – servers on which verified and double-checked for bugs and viruses installation files are located. In order to install the software, the user, instead of downloading the files from the internet, needs to simply type into the terminal the following command: ‘pacman -S package name’.
What is said ‘Pacman’ appearing here and there in the commands across the system? Well, it’s nothing other than a reference to the ‘package manager’ – another piece of code handling installation, upgrades, downgrades, removal, and various features of the software installed on your PC. It is simply the main tool for managing the system. It also allows for getting access to the information about all of the installed programs, cleaning the cache memory and updating the Arch Linux OS itself.
Similar to the rest of the system, the Pacman itself is graphically simplified. It resembles a typical terminal known from any other distributions of Linux – a text window. But as much as Pacman itself will always look the same – the rest of your system may be personalised and tailored to your particular needs. Arch Linux lets you install a plethora of more sophisticated skins, making the interface more user-friendly and similar to other operating systems environments you are familiar with.
And what you get in exchange for graphic simplicity is fast action. Reduced number of elements in the graphic interface saves a lot of processing power, RAM memory and the graphic card performance.
Arch Linux – distro for everyone?
While choosing Linux distribution, one needs to consider the various purposes they can serve. Versions like Ubuntu or Mint are cut to the needs of an average computer user. Others, like Arch Linux and its derivatives, tend to require rather more advanced computer knowledge.
The installation of Arch Linux itself involves execution of several dozens of steps, which are necessary for the system to run properly and for its proper interconnection with the hardware components of the device it is installed on. Among those, are steps as fundamental as typing commands for keyboard or mouse control. The knowledge of the right graphic environments suitable to install is necessary as well. In the case of a device with components of low efficiency, the wrong choice of a graphic environment might render the system itself slow and inefficient.
The above examples are only a few of the things to remember. After the installation, the system also requires a bit of an effort due to the text-based interface. As mentioned, most of the operations are executed by typing commands in the terminal window, an action which requires specific knowledge often looked for and found online. For these reasons, Arch Linux might not be the best option for everyone.
Who might find Arch Linux useful?
Arch Linux is a suggestion for users on at least a semi-advanced level, who are willing to increase their knowledge of the Linux environment. Another group of potential users are fans of the Linux systems keen to try out different distributions and decide which one suits their needs best. Finally, it could also be a good training platform for someone attending computer science or IT courses.
The variety within the distributions of the operating system with a penguin logo allows everyone to choose something appropriate for themselves. Arch Linux is a great example – a unique version of Torvalds’s system. Its configuration capabilities will be appreciated especially by computer scientists, programmers and technology enthusiasts. However, the system is not for everyone. Those less familiar with the obscure nooks and crannies of computer technology, who are simply looking for an alternative to Windows or iOS, should rather look into other Linux distros, such as Linux Mint or Ubuntu, which are much easier to navigate and maintain.
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