November 2nd, 2014

Hard Stare

I've finally tried going through the Arch way.

I have been meaning to try Arch Linux for years.

As a former RPM user, once I finally made the switch to Ubuntu, more or less exactly 10y ago, well, since then, I have become so wedded to APT that I hesitate with non-APT distros.

My spare system on this machine is Crunchbang, which I like a lot, but is a bit too Spartan in its simplicity for me. Crunchbang is based on the stable version of Debian, which gives it one big advantage on my 2007-era built-for-Windows-Vista hardware: it uses a version of X.org so old that the ATI fglrx drivers for my Radeon HD 3470 GPU still work, which they haven't done on Ubuntu for 2 years now.

But there was a spare partition or 2 waiting. I tried Elementary -- very pretty, but the Mac OS X-ness is just skin-deep; it's GNOME 3, very simplified. No ta. Deepin is too slow and doesn't really offer anything I want -- again, it's a modification of GNOME 3, albeit an interesting one. Same goes for Zorin-OS. I've tried Bodhi before -- it's interesting, but not really pretty to my eyes. (Its Enlightenment desktop is all about eye-candy; as a desktop, it's just another Windows Explorer rip-off. If it shipped with a theme that made it look like one of those shiny floaty spinny movie-computer UIs, I might go for it, but it doesn't, it's all lairy glare that only a teenage metalhead could love.) Fedora won't even install; my partitioning is too complex for its installer to understand. SUSE is a bit bloaty for my tastes, and I don't like KDE (or GNOME 3), which also rules out PCLinuxOS and Deepin.

So Arch was the next logical candidate...

I've been a bit sheepish since an Imaginary Internet Friend, Ric Moore, tried it with considerable success a month or two ago. (As I write, he's in hospital having a foot amputated. I've been thinking of him tonight & I hope he's doing well.)

So I have finally done it. Downloaded it, burned it to a CD -- yes, it's that small -- installed it on one of my spare partitions and I am in business.

After a bit of effort and Googling, I found a simple walkthrough, used it, got installed -- and then discovered that Muktware only tells you about KDE, and assumes you'll use that and nothing else. I don't care for KDE in its modern versions, so I went with Xfce.

Getting a DM working was non-trivial but now I have LXDM -- the 3rd I tried -- and it works. I have an XFCE4 desktop with the "goodies" extras, Firefox, a working Internet connection via Ethernet, and not much else.

It does feel very quick, though, I must give it that. Very snappy. I guess now begins the process of hunting down all the other apps that I use until I've replicated all my basic toolset.

The install was a bit fiddly, much more manual than anything I've done since the mid-1990s, but actually, it all went on very smoothly, considering that it's a lot of hand-entered commands which actually do not seem to depend much on your particular config.