First impression of Arch


Fareware, Gentoo.

After 7 years emerging world, I decide to move on. I still want the control, but I do not want to spend the whole weekend, plus several weekday nights most likely, just to bootstrap to a barely usable environment, then keep tuning for couple weeks to finally get a perfect working space. Quoted from Marco:

We may just be past the era in which many geeks were interested in messing around with their computer’s (or phone’s) hardware or software internals.

Arch Linux makes a perfect tradeoff between the flexibility and usability. Sure, we may end up installing redundant dependencies to hard disk and loading unused bits into memory, but the overhead is really marginal compared to the massive resources in the modern computers.

Arch takes the LiveCD approach as Gentoo, with a text-based installer to save your some keyboard strokes. The installer is quite intuitive for the new users, but it does not cover all the corner cases. For example, cfdisk used in the installer can not handle any partition that does not end in the appropriate boundary, and it fails the installer. You have to use fdisk to manually delete/new the partition. Also, if the installer exits in the middle, you have to restart from step 1, and the installer does not rollback to the previous status. This is very annoying when you prepare bunch of partitions and the installer fails miserably due to the effect of last vgcreate.

By the way, the network install image fails to support neither wire or wireless network adapters in my Dell Latitude E6410; while Gentoo LiveCD at least support the wire connection. I had to download the Core Image LiveCD and installed the base system offline.

The installation is like shortcut compared to Gentoo, but that just barely a quarter of the journey. I rebooted the machine, and saw the familiar grub, scrolling messages, and then the console became blank. I searched the web, and found it was reproduced in Ubuntu as well; and ultimately this bug. The temporary solution is to disable KMS by feeding console parameter, i915.modesetting=0. It works, but I lose the hardware acceleration in X, and current xf86-video-intel explicitly requires KMS to load.

The appropriate solution is to upgrade the kernel to 2.6.35+. As I plan to use TuxOnIce’s hibernation anyway, it makes sense to me to upgrade to kernel26-ice using AUR. It took so loooong to compile as yaourt built every single modules! I would prefer it just syncs the source, and applies the patch for me and let me build the kernel manually.

The rest journey is much more smooth escorted by pacman. With quick installation, I now can try different desktop flavors, gadgets and eye candies for better experience. I will talk about it later. Stay tune.