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Old 06-07-2006, 10:42 AM   #1
BobNutfield
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Arch Impressions of a New User


Hi Everyone,

In my never-ending quest to learn as much as I can about Linux, I have installed ARCH as both a new learning tool and a usuable system. As you can see by my profile, I have a number of distros installed and I wanted another that would be a challenge to install and configure for a not-yet-expert user. My main computer is of reasonable specs (AMD64, nVidia graphics, 1.5GB mem), so I have installed Arch on a lower spec machine (PIII 1.0GHz, 512mb) because I have been reading about how fast this distro is on this type of machine. So, I thought I would offer my impressions of Arch to anyone interested in reading this.

1. Installation. I expected a number of difficulties during the installation, but unfortunately for my learning curve I didn't experience any real difficulty at all. I downloaded the base install (145mb) and installed on a pre-prepared partition with Mepis (using the Mepis grub file to boot Arch). After some minor tweaks to setup my NIC for DHCP, I was online and downloading the updgrades. No hitches at all.

2. Xorg. This was the only time consuming part of the whole installation because my chipset for the card I have installed was not part of the database (nVidia FX5200). I thought that odd because this is a very common card. Anyway, after running xorgconfig, I downloaded xfce4 as my WM. X was up and running in about 30 minutes.

3, Installed software. At this point, I still mostly have just a base system (except for X and a web browser). I am so far pretty impressed with the package management (pacman). Very easy, dependencies handled for you, and installation is fast. I have only had the system installed for a few hours, so I still have a little learning to do in package management.

4. Speed. One of the reasons I chose to try Arch (except for the reputation for being a non-newbie distro), was the speed I could enjoy on this type of hardware. Unfortunately, I have not found this to be true. It is not slow by any means, but is certainly no faster than the Slackware installation I have, and is only moderately faster than the Fedora Core 5 installation. The boot and shutdown routines are roughly the same as Slackware (which has far more software installed.)

5. Sound. The single failure so far. XFCE comes with xmms, but I have not been able to enable sound yet. The problem seems to be that even though /dev/dvd and /dev/cdrom are in fstab, neither can be mounted. This is probably minor. ALSA is configured, but no device is found for sound.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: A smooth, seemingly stable distro with good package management, very configurable to taste/needs, and reasonably fast on this old system. However, overall, nothing really special about it. I believe its reputation for being a difficult distro is unwarranted as I am difinitely not an expert and I had very little trouble with it at all. I began the installation about two hours ago and I am writing this from Mozilla with everything but sound intact and running. It seems I may have to look a little further for that "challenging" distro. However, I plan to keep Arch (for a while at least to learn it).

Thanks to all who reads this

Bob
 
Old 06-07-2006, 11:04 AM   #2
slackie1000
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hi there,
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobNutfield
Hi Everyone,
...
4. Speed. One of the reasons I chose to try Arch (except for the reputation for being a non-newbie distro), was the speed I could enjoy on this type of hardware. Unfortunately, I have not found this to be true. It is not slow by any means, but is certainly no faster than the Slackware installation I have, and is only moderately faster than the Fedora Core 5 installation. The boot and shutdown routines are roughly the same as Slackware (which has far more software installed.)
...
Bob
nice review. care to elaborate a bit more the point above mentioned? how did you compare the speed? which software? same filesystem?
regards,
slackie1000
 
Old 06-07-2006, 12:13 PM   #3
BobNutfield
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Hi Slackie,

I certainly did not use any scientific method to judge the speed.I simply timed the boot process from start to login. I have both Arch and Slack to login at runlevel three (CLI), and FC5 to login at runlevel 5. All three systems are using ext3. On the Slack system, I have various network tools that load up at boot (NFS, Samba, etc.), and on the FC5 system I have the full boat (Network, sensors, nVidia glx, tons of others, can't remember them all). I have virtually nothing installed yet on the Arch system as I mentioned in my post. The boot up time to login for all three:

Arch: 38 seconds
Slack: 44 seconds
FC5: 55 seconds

I have to concede that the Slack and FC5 system load from the AMD64 machine, so I do not know what Arch's time would be on that system. Arch is fast, but on this same machine I boot Mepis to the GUI in 50 seconds. So my comment was based on the presumption that Arch should have booted a little faster. But who can complain about 38 seconds?!!

Bob
 
Old 06-07-2006, 12:40 PM   #4
ethics
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Good aint it

I love arch, had FC before, i won't be returning any time soon.

As for speed it's considerably faster than my FC 5 was, and a bit faster than FC4, same speed as Debian sarge really though, this is without any custom kernels, ext3 FS and the same services running in the background.

Pacman is ok, i prefer yum to be honest (i think arch has large repos though).

As for your sound problem, this fixed mine:
http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Alsa_setup

The wiki is an excellent source of information for Arch, and the place i check first:
http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Special:Allpages

Their site also has great forums where i constantly see the devs conversing with the community, which is nice to see.

Not too sure about your quest for a challenging distro, do you want things to be diliberatly obscure and complicated? Arch to me just seems sensible and functional, it does everything in your face, nothing behind the scenes as such, so it's a pretty true representation of the core Linux. I suppose there is LFS though.
 
Old 06-07-2006, 12:41 PM   #5
Ipsofacto
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Hey, glad to see another Arch user on board! And yes, as long as you're dilligent, the install is not *too* difficult. And as Slackie said, nice mini review. Hopefully this will encourage other users to try.

I have, however, a few comments to make:

Xorg
I dont quite see what you mean by this. I too, have the same card. I set this up effortlessly in about 5 minutes. I installed xorg, then the nvidia drivers through pacman, and then installed and ran hwd-xa to generate my xorg.conf. Ater uncommenting the dri module and changing the driver to nvidia and I was good to go. As I said, 5 mins tops.

Boot times
This is a fresh install, you will therefore have about 140+ modules being loaded to boot your kernel. You can customize your initrd and load only the modules needed to boot your kernel, and blacklist others once your kernel has been booted. See the wicki for more info, its really quite simple. In addition, you can background some of your deamons via your /etc/rc.conf - this makes a small, but nonetheless, difference to your boot time. Also, if your're booting reiserfs then this makes a significant difference to boot time (eg longer), than say ext3. A very big difference I must say.

Sound
When you installed, did you make your user part of the 'audio' group? This could be why. Relatedly, I could only burn cds as root when I first used Arch, and then I realised that I wasnt part of the 'optical' group. The reason for not being able to burn cds being because Arch couldnt see my cd-rw. You should install hwd and include this in your deammons as stated above. Could by why its not being detected.

Anyways, I hope you stick with it. Throwing in my 2cents. It's a great distro - so much to learn - certainly keeps you busy.

Keep us posted on your experiences, i'd be very interested to know how things progress.

Ips.

edit - sorry, just noticed in your post re the file system your bootin.

Last edited by Ipsofacto; 06-07-2006 at 01:05 PM.
 
Old 06-07-2006, 01:04 PM   #6
BobNutfield
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Thanks to ethics for the links....VERY helpful. Thanks to Ipsofacto for the tips. I probably should have waited a little while to post a review, but I thought it would be interesting to anyone considering trying Arch since it has a reputation for being non-friendly to newbies. Ipsofacto's comments about the nVidia driver exposes a little prematurity to my post about Xorg. I tried to configure xorg simply with xorgconfig after downloading and installing hwd. I do not have the proper nVidia drivers installed yet.

I did add myself to the audio group, and I have installed kde desktop since my original post. I installed k3b with no issues and it works fine (it certainly found my optical drives with no problem.) The only app I currently have installed to test the sound is xmms, which is not very configurable and only looks for autodetected hardware. I will eventually get it sorted.

Thanks again for your helps and comments

Bob
 
Old 06-07-2006, 01:58 PM   #7
BobNutfield
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UPDATE: Thanks again to ethics and Ipsofacto......

Sound and nVidia glx/dri working.

This really is a great distro for learning. I may have to amend some of my original comments. I am beginning to really like this distro.

Bob
 
Old 06-07-2006, 02:01 PM   #8
auditek747
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I have just installed Arch myself. (a week ago)
As a long time Slackware user I must say... I feel kind of dirty
"pacman -Sy foo" and software gets installed and works. I mean,
shouldn't I need to do something else? It all seems a little too
easy.
I've tried "automatic" type distro's before, and have always gotten
frustrated over some thing or another. They seem burdened with hard
to figure out, inconsistently working sysadmin tools that keep you
from actually getting things done.
In just a couple of days I was totally at ease with Arch. It's as
fast and feels just like my Slack box, without all the compiling.
I feel guilty... I'm waiting for a cranky "School Marm" type to walk
in and wash my mouse out with soap
I did compile crrcsim as I didn't see it in any of the
respositories. That went without a hitch.
Video (Nvidia FX5500) and sound (via8237 type) were no problem.
I am really considering making Arch my permanent distro.
There are so far only two things that I have not had success with,
"xvidcap" and "winex-cvs"
The winex might not be Arch's fault, as the problem appears to be
with the new "freetype2". (maybe)
"xvidcap" bothers me though. I use it a couple times a week and
It doesn't work with Arch.
I'll keep at it though, who knows.
For anybody thinking about Arch though, I would certainly recommend
giving it a shot.

Whew!.. that's enough of that.
 
Old 06-07-2006, 02:12 PM   #9
BobNutfield
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Quote:
As a long time Slackware user I must say... I feel kind of dirty
My feelings exactly. This has turned out quite differently that I had thought.http://images.linuxquestions.org/que...es/biggrin.gif My heart still says Slack, I feel like a cheating partner a little. Oh well.

Bob
 
Old 06-07-2006, 03:58 PM   #10
slackie1000
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hi there,
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobNutfield
Hi Slackie,
I certainly did not use any scientific method to judge the speed.I simply timed the boot process from start to login. I have both Arch and Slack to login at runlevel three (CLI), and FC5 to login at runlevel 5. All three systems are using ext3. On the Slack system, I have various network tools that load up at boot (NFS, Samba, etc.), and on the FC5 system I have the full boat (Network, sensors, nVidia glx, tons of others, can't remember them all). I have virtually nothing installed yet on the Arch system as I mentioned in my post. The boot up time to login for all three:
Arch: 38 seconds
Slack: 44 seconds
FC5: 55 seconds
I have to concede that the Slack and FC5 system load from the AMD64 machine, so I do not know what Arch's time would be on that system. Arch is fast, but on this same machine I boot Mepis to the GUI in 50 seconds. So my comment was based on the presumption that Arch should have booted a little faster. But who can complain about 38 seconds?!!
Bob
interesting but comparing boot does say much about a distro. it will be interesting comparing something a bit less relative. some huge app. that can use the advantage of the compilation differences.
regards,
slackie1000
 
Old 06-07-2006, 04:13 PM   #11
BobNutfield
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Hi slacki1000

That is good observation and I would never try to make judgement about a distro simply on boot speed. I have had severl more hours now to examine this distro and as I said in my previous post, I am really getting into it.

Regards

Bob
 
Old 06-07-2006, 07:24 PM   #12
Ipsofacto
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobNutfield
UPDATE: Thanks again to ethics and Ipsofacto......

Sound and nVidia glx/dri working.
Hey, that's great news Bob.

Quote:
This really is a great distro for learning. I may have to amend some of my original comments. I am beginning to really like this distro.
For sure, simple and robust. You should check out the Arch User Repository, for other packages you may want that are not in the main repositories. There's also the Shadowhand repo which has lots of beta software. All information is on the wiki.

Happy tinkering.

Ips.
 
Old 06-07-2006, 11:07 PM   #13
soulestream
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As a slackware -> Archlinux convert I cant second the "feeling dirty" comment. Arch is an amazing and up to date distro. Its like the perfect cross between the simplicity of slackware, the repos of debian, and the "currentness" (is that a word) of gentoo.

As far as the speed comment. Distros are not faster or slower than one another. I guess if you did full installs of each distro you could say that. However, FC5 with the same services running and the same kernel and kernel config, running the same WM will be the almost the exact same speed as any other distro. (Hope none of the gentoo folks read this )

Configurations make a distro fast or slow. Some distros go with the turn on everything approach and some go with the turn off everything and let you figure it out. The later will be faster until you start turning stuff on and turning stuff off in the first.


Speed is about configuration. thats it


Soule
 
Old 06-07-2006, 11:44 PM   #14
ozar
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Another Arch fan here... it has kept me happy for almost 18 months now. That's the longest I've been able to stick with any distro, and that's after experimenting with more than 40 of them over the last 7 years.

Welcome to Arch, Bob!
 
Old 06-09-2006, 01:37 AM   #15
DeusExLinux
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I agree.. I've used arch for about 14 months. And in the 2 years I've been using Linux, I went though about 10 different distros. Some lasting a day, some a month, some one install.

But welcome to Arch. It's nice to see new faces in the cult.
 
  


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