first experience with Archlinux

So, I kinda messed up my desktop right after the upgrade to karmic, because I was too greedy for performance and converted my root file system to ext4. Well, that worked like a charm on my laptop, but it broke my desktop. This is in no way karmic’s fault, it’s my own misbehavior. Thankfully I could rescue most of my data.

Since I’d had to reinstall anyways, I decided to finally try out Archlinux. I find the rolling release mantra very intriguing. Together with a “simpler” packaging, namely no splitting between -dev and -dbg packages like debian/ubuntu does, this is destined to be a good environment for a developer. I always hated it to track down missing -dev packages when compiling software. And don’t get me started on outdated software in repos… I just compiled kdelibs and the only missing build dependency was hspell, that I don’t need anyways. Under Jaunty I had to compile stuff from kdesupport to fulfill updated dependencies. And the list of not-found optional dependencies was huge, since I did not spent time to install all those -dev packages by hand…

My first impression of Archlinux is very good so far. I also finally migrated to 64bit wich works like a charm, no issues with flash or anything. Since I never used a 64bit Ubuntu/Debian I’m not sure, whether the perceived performance increase is due to the switch to 64bit or whether Archlinux optimized packages are responsible. Probably both. Nevertheless I can safely say that my system feels snappier than before.

Of course, the installation and initial setup is not as straight forward / easy as with Debian/Ubuntu: Yet it’s no big deal for anyone with some Linux experience. And, once everything is setup, you are running KDE again, so no real difference. Thanks to the Chakra team for kdemod, it works like a charm!

I might have spent a bit more time during the installation / initial configuration, but I think this would have happened also if I’d installed any other distro I’ve never used before, like OpenSuse or Fedora.

Oh and since I can install sudo I can keep my old habits. Neat.

The only thing I miss so far is aptitude with it’s straight forward command structure. Yaourt/Pacman is fast and nice, esp. with pacman-color, but the commands don’t feel as straight forward to me… Personal preference I’d say.

To conclude: Archlinux is very nice, I can wholeheartedly recommend using it so far. Probably nothing for a novice Linux user, yet perfect for advanced users. Very good as a development environment. Fast. Up to date. I like it :)

Now I can finally continue hacking on Kate/Kdelibs again :) I’m currently in the process of refactoring Kate’s implementation of the TemplateInterface. Even in it’s current state it already implements features like mirrored snippets and the like. But once I’ve finished with the cleanup I will try to implement some more of the features that are found in e.g. yasnippet for Emacs. I really wonder why nobody else did that already…

Once this is finished, you can expect that I will deeply integrate that feature in various places in KDevelop, especially for code completion, snippet plugin etc. pp. Stay tuned!


Want to comment? Send me an email!

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) (2009-10-18 20:56:00)

For faster boot speed try this package:quick-init.

I have reduse my boot time to 9 secs from about 20.Give it a try.

And try to put in your menu.lst fastboot quiet like this one.

    kernel /boot/vmlinuz26 root=/dev/disk/by-uuid/6df42aea-f4e6-4beb-8c67-077b85c8b75e vga=773 fastboot quiet ro 5

And at least try to make kdm start from inittab and change these lines

    su:S:wait:/sbin/sulogin -p


    rm:2345:once:/etc/qinit.multi > /dev/null
    su:S:once:/sbin/sulogin -p

Note: edited to add formatting

Comment by Spanky O'Shaugnessy (not verified) (2009-10-18 19:35:00)

I’m going back to Arch soon, I miss it badly. I used it for a few months about a year ago, then went back to Ubuntu. It really is the ‘funnest’ distro and I learned more about linux just by virtue of the install. I also noticed it to be noticeably faster than other distros I’ve tried.

Thanks for this article!

Comment by sebastian (not verified) (2009-10-18 19:30:00)

I would like to know how far along Kdevelop and especially the PHP plugin is? I have read from betas so often and new features every day some months ago. But since several weeks I have heard nothing. Is there a estimation when it will be released?

And what about Quanta? Is it in development? Or will it be some kind of successor from Kdevelop’s PHP implementation?

Comment by Milian Wolff (2009-10-19 01:31:00)

We actually hope to release KDevelop with KDE 4.4. The PHP plugin is up and running :) We will release the first beta along with the next KDevelop beta.

And Quanta is still pretty much dead, use KDevelop in the meantime. Though note that all the features I’m currently writing for KDevelop are eventually available for Quanta as well, since it will also be build upon KDevplatform.

Comment by Dustin Casler (not verified) (2009-10-18 18:26:00)

I have also been thinking about moving to Arch recently. I am currently running PCLinuxOS 2009.2 with the KDE 4.3.2 desktop. I am a little wary of trying the Arch install without printing out the install guide though. Were you able to get through the install, or did you need to use a manual? Also have you used wireless. I haven’t been able to get my wireless to connect in KDE with any distro except for PCLinuxOS. I have about a year and half experience running only Linux, but would still consider myself a bit of a novice since I have primarily used Fedora and Ubuntu in my time.

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) (2009-11-07 23:30:00)


Wireless works perfectly in Arch. I have it installed on 3 of my portables, and had no problems getting everything working on all of them. One of them is a Toshiba Qosmio, another is an HP and another is the Samsung Q1 ultra.

Comment by Milian Wolff (2009-10-19 01:29:00)

Yes, the installation is pretty easy. And you can read the docs during the installation, they are shipped with the live medium. Though the only thing you’ll probably need to know is how to add a repo for KDE. But maybe even that is not required if you don’t need KDEmod anymore. (See comments above).

And no, I did not test wireless, my laptop is still running Kubuntu.

Comment by Andreas Marschke (not verified) (2009-10-18 17:50:00)

The very reason why Debian made these diffrent package types like *-dev and *-dbg is solely to save space on the hardware that debian is running on. Debian is not only platform building for lots of Desktop systems. Also it is used in very small, densed systems such as embedded devices. There is no reason thanks to the magic of chross compiling to have development packages on an embedded device be it a testing breading board machine or a stable off the line product that gets its setup. It is actually not debians fault that people like Ubuntu are using this schematics. The packaging system in debian based systems is , to my view, powerfull enough to support things like you have on arch.

Comment by Milian Wolff (2009-10-19 01:27:00)

Don’t get me wrong, I love Debian. We use it at my university for over 300 workstations and many servers, and that’s only the Physics faculty!

And I know that it is helpful for some platforms to split the packages, it’s just not what I personally want. For a desktop it’s just kinda convenient to not split the stuff, since plenty space is available.

Comment by matt (not verified) (2009-10-18 14:25:00)

I was using debian testing/sid + KDE on my laptop for more than 2 years. I’ve had no problem with this setup. Recently I’ve changed my HDD and decided to try arch. Overall my impressions are very good. Configuration is straightforward, pacman gets the job done, abs is simple yet powerfull. I haven’t tried downgrading some packages or migrating from stable to testing branch in arch, done it in debian (withs some minor issues). One thing is that you like the not- splitting package approach, I don’t (I also do some more specific c++ developement). So I’m back to debian testing/sid. And I must admit that I don’t see the difference in speed between arch + kdemod and debian + kde (4.3.2), plus my debian box is booting in 12 seconds, while arch boot took 19 s (with all additional services like network-manager).

Comment by Milian Wolff (2009-10-18 15:10:00)

As I said: the speed improvement could be due to 64bit, I don’t really now. It could even be that my Ubuntu was exceptionally slow because I upgraded it since back in 7.XX days.

And boot time… well it’s my desktop. I usually start it and make me a coffee anyways ;-) I don’t care whether it’s 19 or 12 seconds, both is blazingly fast imo.

Comment by matt (not verified) (2009-10-18 23:16:00)

I wrote about a very simple and clean debian install, not about ubuntu which IMO was very slow when I gave it a test run (I think that waz more than half year ago). I gave the speed comparison between arch and debian because people often write that arch is more snappier due to i686 optimization and I haven’t noticed that. On both configs I was using almost the same set of pcakages - there may be minor difference in versions. That are my experiences.

Comment by Phlogi (not verified) (2009-10-18 14:03:00)

Hmm why did you use chakra, I think the normal kde packages are fine and even thought that chakra is dead.

Comment by Milian Wolff (2009-10-18 15:04:00)

I did not use chakra, only the kdemod packages, since I thought that was the preferred way. See also:

If it’s outdated (though it’s 4.3.2…) and not recommended, please tell me. As I said I’m new to the Arch world :)

Comment by Andi Clemens (not verified) (2009-10-18 15:55:00)

Since the normal KDE packages are now split into every single application as well, I see no need for KDEmod anymore. I had several issues with KDEmod in the past, because they tended to apply patches from trunk into stable releases (mostly for eyecandy). I like to have an vanilla install, so I switched back to the KDE packages in [extra] and I’m pretty happy with it. The tip for using KDEmod is from a time where KDE was just the 8 or so huge major packages (kdebase, kdelibs etc)…

Comment by Andre (not verified) (2009-10-18 18:00:00)

Chakra is not dead at all. They have very recent packages in their repos. They just don’t post so much at the frontpage. Have a look at the Forum to watch the progress:

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) (2009-10-18 13:24:00)

And what about Qt 4.6 needed for KDE-trunk? Did you manually installed it from git or did you used a precompiled package?

Comment by Milian Wolff (2009-10-18 15:02:00)

For kdelibs development I use a second user, that compiles Qt 4.6, kdelibs, kdebase and kdesdk. With my normal user I only do KDevelop development, i.e. apps that don’t clash with the system. Using xauth I can simply run apps from the devel user and they appear on my normal screen. Really neat and works fine. And I don’t lose any stability.

Comment by Cedric (not verified) (2009-10-18 12:46:00)

Same here, i’ve migrated from Sid to Archlinux, it’s so perfect et i’m not a developper

Comment by Elvis Stansvik (not verified) (2009-10-18 11:39:00)

Your post echoes my thoughts exactly. I am too a happy recent convert to Arch, and the only thing that bugs me are the aptitude command lines that are in my spine, but I’ll get over that :)

Comment by Andi Clemens (not verified) (2009-10-18 11:34:00)

Yes, and another one… I use Archlinux for about 6 years now (never reinstalled, just rsynced it to newer hardware ;-)). I’ve been through all the major Linux distributions before, but never felt like I finally came home: SuSE, RedHat, Debian, Gentoo, Ubuntu, Sidux, Fedora, FreeBSD, OpenSUSE and then finally Archlinux, I never looked back and never will look for something new.

The mixture of BSD like configuring and the Linux subsystem is what I really like. And although it is a rolling-release distro, it is the most stable one I ever used, yes even more stable as Ubuntu (because I don’t have to mix older and newer libraries as a developer). Pacman is the most simple, but with ABS, also the most powerful package manager I ever used. I always hated writing deb packages for Debian, but in Archlinux it is a snap.

Hmm somehow I have the feeling Archlinux is taking over the world, as I started with it, no one ever heard of it and many packages were missing, nowadays everybody is blogging about it… :-)

Comment by eMerzh (not verified) (2009-10-18 11:02:00)

Don’t forget to try Yaourt if you are on archlinux ( It’s a nice colorised frontend for pacman and the aur system….

Comment by ian (not verified) (2009-10-18 09:15:00)

by rescuing your data, do you mean you converted a file system without backing it up first? :o)

Comment by Milian Wolff (2009-10-18 14:59:00)

Actually yes, though even if I’d lost my data - most of the stuff is also on my Laptop :) The external HDD with my backups is a bit dusty :D I’m lazy…

Comment by MichaelK (not verified) (2009-10-18 08:47:00)

I made the switch from Ubuntu to Arch as well. It takes some getting used to, but I’ve greatly enjoyed my experience. Pacman and Yaourt are great package managers, but I found I could not remember all the options. Bash aliases were the solution. Was playing around with customizing my bash prompt when I ran across this list of aliases:

    # pacman aliases
    alias pacsync='sudo pacman -Sy'        # Sync
    alias pacup='sudo pacman -Syu'            # sync and update
    alias pacin='sudo pacman -S'              # install pkg
    alias pacout='sudo pacman -Rns'           # remove pkg and the deps it installed
    alias pacclean='sudo pacman -Scc'    # Clean package cache
    alias pacs="pacman -Sl | cut -d' ' -f2 | grep " #
    alias pac="pacsearch"                     # colorize pacman (pacs)
    pacsearch () 
         echo -e "$(pacman -Ss $@ | sed \
            -e 's#core/.*#\\033[1;31m&\\033[0;37m#g' \
             -e 's#extra/.*#\\033[0;32m&\\033[0;37m#g' \
                -e 's#community/.*#\\033[1;35m&\\033[0;37m#g' \
            -e 's#^.*/.* [0-9].*#\\033[0;36m&\\033[0;37m#g' )"

Of course, you could change the alias to something their apt-get equivalents.

Comment by dhunter (not verified) (2009-10-18 04:44:00)

I would love to try out Arch, but in my college we only have Ubuntu repositories updated, so we have to bite the rope, the idea of a i686 distro without compiling (I have no patience for gentoo) seduces me.

Comment by sandsmark (not verified) (2009-10-18 03:32:00)

When I first switched to KUbuntu from Gentoo, I never thought I’d get used to aptitude, but I eventually did.

And when I switched to Arch from KUbuntu, I had just the same queasiness about pacman, but I eventually got used to it.. So just wait, it will eventually get familiar. :-)

Comment by ScottK (not verified) (2009-10-18 03:31:00)

FYI, the complex process to get all those -dev packages is sudo apt-get build-dep.

Comment by Milian Wolff (2009-10-18 14:54:00)

Yes, I know. But I’d have to do this for every app I install. And there has to be some version in the repos in the first place. And new dependencies are not handled. And it does not install the -dbg packages.

Sure, it’s not that much work, but still: it’s work. I’m a lazy person. Archlinux makes it easier.

And don’t get me wrong: Debian is a great distribution! It just looks like Arch makes some things easier for a developer…

Published on October 18, 2009.