Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: D/L | Rating: 10
very fast, lightweight, customizable, clean, good package manager, easily updated, good user community
may be hard to install for novices, light on the documentation, that's about it...
Well, I used to play musical distros, trying almost everything. I found Redhat/Mandrake too large, ie: A thousand packages I never used taking up disk space, RPM troubles etc...
Gentoo was cool, but took way too long to emerge a basic system for someone with as little patience as me. Slack was cool, but missing a good package manager/software update tool.
I read about Arch Linux from linuxiso.com and decided to give it a try, and since I installed it 9 months ago I have booted nothing else. Arch is a non-commercial distro, that is, they do not produce an 'official' box set or anything like that. The only way to get it is to download and burn it. It is only 1 550MB iso file. Arch is maintained by a dedicated core of volunteers.
I will admit that it is difficult to install sometimes. One thing was that I could not get kde/gnome to install from the disk, so I installed a base non-X system then booted and installed the software after the fact. Also the documentation is sparse, but this is offset by the fanatic user community who use Arch. There is a great user-forum where any question you ask may be answered by one of the Arch maintainers whithin 30 min or so. There is also a irc channel where the maintainers can usually be found.
The real reason I use Arch though is because of pacman. Pacman is the Arch package manager. It is very similar to gentoo's portage, except that Arch uses i686 optomized binary packages, so they still run fast, but it takes minutes to get kde installed instead of 10 hours. Pacman keeps a database of your installed packages and a single command: 'pacman -Syu' will compare your packages with the packages from the Arch FTP server, and then download and upgrade any that are out of date within minutes.
You can also create your own packages and submit them to the 'unofficial' tree so others may download and use them. The official tree has 325 packages, and the unofficial tree has 563 packages (as of today ;)). And yes, pacman -Syu will upgrade your unofficial packages as well. There are about 10-20 packages being submitted every day, so if it's not there today, it probably will be soon.
Arch Linux will appeal to those who like Slackware (because it is clean and minimalistic), or to those who are sick of the bloat from Redhat or Mandrake, and what their distro configured their way rather than Redhat's out of the box. It will also appeal to user's of gentoo who are getting tired of the long build times.
A new version will be released soon, in which the developers have promised an easier installation. Like gentoo however, versions mean little, because a single command will update your distro to the newest versions of all software packages.