Arch Linux

Starting a thread for general notes/news/tips about Arch Linux.

I’ve been using Arch Linux for years and highly recommend it. Some reasons:

  • rolling distro so always have the latest of everything
  • set things up and they just work forever
  • the pacman package manager is fast. Way faster than RPM based systems, and noticeable faster than DEB based systems.
  • very stable – upgrades have been very reliable – never any serious problems
  • the Arch User Repo (AUR) has about everything that is not packaged in the distro. I almost never have to install stuff from source these days.
  • build system is simple, sane, and easy to use. For example, I tweaked the KiCad build so that I could run the 5.1 released version and 5.99 pre-release version in parallel.

It is a little work more to install, but you can use Manjaro to make installation easier. However, installing vanilla Arch is a good way to learn a lot about Linux.

This looks like a useful tool:

Written in Rust and can be used to manage mirrors. Install rate-arch-mirrors-bin from AUR.

The yay AUR helper is very useful. It is statically linked in written in Go, so never break when there are libc updates, etc. A few other things I like about it:

  • it shows diffs so you can review the PKGBUILD file it is using to do a quick sanity check.
  • if you previously installed a package, it shows you a diff of the last PKGBUILD file you installed.

I really like installing packaged software (instead of make install from source) because the package manager then keeps track of what is installed, so it is easy to do clean uninstalls, etc.

This tools is another thing that makes Arch the “low friction” distro to use.

I’ll tell one other Arch story – my son is studying computer engineering and taking a digital logic class that uses Altera FPGAs. We tried installing the tools on Ubuntu, but we did not have a machine with the officially support version, so were fighting various issues. Since it was hard to get things working on Ubuntu, we figured it would be impossible on Arch – I was wrong. It turns out the Quartus support on Arch Linux is quite good:

https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/quartus-free/

With the Arch packages, everything came up working!

In the PKGBUILD, there is the following comment:

# NOTE: If you plan on using the usbblaster make sure you are member of the plugdev group.

This is the kind of polish that makes Arch a pleasure to use. One of the reasons I think there are so many high quality packages in Arch is the build/package system is relatively easy to use, so it is not a huge deal to create and maintain a PKGBUILD, so more people end up doing this as it saves them time and effort long term.

I really need to create a siot package for Arch …