A rookie plays with Linux and puts away Windows
First of all I have to say that I am not a Linux expert. But I use Linux almost 6 years. At first, I used it only to learn something else from Windows. As many other Linux rookies I started with Ubuntu . Ubuntu was fast and light so I decided to try it. I learned the basics and soon I started to testing Kubuntu and other flavors of Ubuntu, but always I was returning to Ubuntu with the more familiar to me gnome DE. Over the years Ubuntu was becoming better and easier and I was learning more things about Linux. I also used other distros within virtual machines but I never found any real reason to abandon Ubuntu. At some point I started to work more with Linux and less with Windows. Ubuntu was booting faster, shutting down faster and wanted less memory than Windows. And ofc I could update all my installed programs at once with a simple click or with 2 terminal commands. The software wasn’t a problem because even with Windows I was using open source software for everything. So eventual I stopped using Windows for everyday’s work and I was booting my Windows partition only when I wanted to play my favorite mmo games.
Unity and Gnome 3. Oh my God….
And then Ubuntu presented Unity and Gnome turned to version 3. I didn’t like Unity and I didn’t like Gnome 3. I liked Unity less than Gnome 3 but I couldn’t work with Gnome 3 either. To make things more complicated, Unity and Gnome 3 saw me that Gnome 2 was too old. I wanted something else. I tried again KDE but (again) I didn’t really like it. KDE is pretty but it’s kind of heavy, with too many options that mess you up at first, and it looks to me that tries a lot to copy the Windows environment. For a new Linux user with experiences only from Windows world KDE is perfect, especially if someone else set it up for him. But I wasn’t a new Linux user and I was more familiar with the gnome environment (although I am jealous about Amarok, the fantastic KDE music player). From this dead-end the solution was given by Linux Mint with Cinnamon desktop environment. The Linux Mint Cinnamon was practical an Ubuntu with an interface I really liked. Cinnamon was pretty and simple, but not that simple as the Gnome 2. Its a fork of Gnome 3 because like myself Linux Mint developers didn’t like the Gnome 3 road. Perfect. I had all the familiar to me gnome utilities and no reason to punished myself anymore trying to get used Unity or Gnome 3. Furthermore, unlike Ubuntu, Linux Mint don’t use the silly Mac-style Global Menus or the left side position for the min/max/close buttons at windows programs. I know, Mac users really like them but as I said I have Windows roots. Although those things can change easily at Ubuntu, I had one more reason to stuck with Linux Mint. After all, Linux Mint was (and still is) a beautiful distro. For me, the latest version, the Lint Mint 14, is the most beautiful and eye-candy Linux distro.
Unity is the main Desktop Environment of Ubuntu. I don’t like it as I don’t like the windows without menus. I have Windows roots, I am not a MacOS user.
Gnome 3 Desktop Environment on Ubuntu 12.10. I prefer Gnome 3 more than Unity but I can’t say I like to work with it. I need something else…
I really like the Cinnamon Desktop Environment of Linux Mint 14. Cinnamon is based on Gnome 3 but it is simpler and more friendlier.
Ofc there were some clouds at Ubuntu/Mint sky
I never liked the Ubuntu/Mint customization to OpenOffice/LibreOffice because they change the default theme buttons. Many times I uninstalled LibreOffice just to install the official version. Many times I said? Yes, that’s the second and the greatest problem I had with Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Every six months I had to install a newer version of Linux Mint. Version upgrade never really worked. It wanted too much time and the result wasn’t the best. I learned to make a special partition for my home folder so the installation of the newer version was easier. But the fact was that every six months I had to install and setup a new operation system to my desktop computer and to my laptop. The third problem was the program updates. Many times I had to add repositories to get the newer version of some programs. And I always had to wait some days to integrated the newer version of Firefox and LibreOffice. I was feeling really bad with the thought that my Windows partition had a newer version of Firefox or LibreOffice days before from my fast Linux operating system. I had to do something even if a had to leave the Debian based distributions. I wanted a Cinnamon desktop, faster program updates and if it was possible a solution to the six-month operation system reinstall. As I said before I am not an expert Linux user so I googled/binged….
Rolling release distributions…
I googled//binged and I found something that called rolling release distributions. You install them once and with every update you get the newer programs. With rolling release system there is no need to reinstall the operating system every six months. So the solution was simple. I had to find a rolling release distro. But there was an asterisk. Most rolling releases are not for rookies Linux users. Ok, I was working with Linux more than 5 years. I wasn’t an expert but I wasn’t a rookie also. So, I decide to follow the rolling release road….
You can’t pass easily a rolling release distribution of Linux. When Arch Linux with Cinnamon had the version 1.7.1 of the Nemo file manager, the Linux Mint 14 had the version 1.1.2. Although Linux Mint creates Nemo I probably have to wait until Linux Mint 15 to get the newer version. Really?
What about Linux Mint Debian Edition?
I was a Linux Mint user so Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) was the first thing I discovered. At Linux Mint web site LMDE was described as a semi-rolling edition. I didn’t understand exactly what is a semi-rolling edition but they were saying that you install LMDE once and there is no need to reinstall it again. There is also a Cinnamon flavor. I thought that probably I found the distro I was searching. LMDE is a Debian distribution and Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu. Although Ubuntu is based on Debian they are not binary compatible. So there is a change that an Ubuntu program can’t run at Debian. On the other hand Linux Mint can run any Ubuntu program. But this wasn’t really a problem so I decide to install LMDE.
The installation process was slower of the Linux Mint, especially at the first updates. When all the updates finished and I rebooted the computer I discovered that LMDE is a fast and really stable system. I looked to me lighter than Ubuntu and Linux Mint. But soon enough I found out that the upgrades aren’t fast enough. Windows still had newer versions of everything. I changed the repositories but in vane. The upgrades weren’t as fast as I wanted. In fact they were too slow. Yes, I don’t have to reinstall LMDE every six months but my computer will never have immediately the latest version of my installed programs. I thought that I discovered why LMDE was described as a semi-rolling distribution. It was rolling for sure but not fast enough. At least, not as fast as I wanted. It is a good distro but not the one I was searching.
On the road again….
The Arch Linux way…
And than I discovered the Arch Linux . To tell the truth I had seen Arch Linux before at Distrowatch.com and I had read articles that it becoming more popular lately. But I also had read that it wasn’t easy to install and setup. So I never interested about it.
Ubuntu and Mint made some choices about their environment and after the installation you have a complete operating system with drivers, programs and an operating network. So everyone can install Ubuntu and Mint and after the installation simply decides if he likes the final result or not. On the other hand, Arch Linux let the user choose how he wants his computer environment. There is no default Display Manager, no default Desktop Environment. In fact there is not even an installation wizard program. There is only a text file with instructions how to install Arch Linux. And if you want to read them when you install it, you have to run the installation on another console using Ctrl+Alt+F1 and Ctrl+Alt+F2 and jump from one console to the other. Ofc, you must know that there are multiply consoles and how to activate them…
“Keep It Simple, Stupid” or the KISS philosophy
Arch Linux follows the KISS philosophy so it gives you only the basics. In other words Arch Linux let you choose for everything. This customization is too powerful but makes Arch Linux almost impossible to installed by new Linux users and too difficult for someone with limited knowledge. With Arch Linux you must know how things are working in Linux world or you are willing to learn how things works. Arch Linux has also a very good community and it is very well documented. If you have the will to read and learn you will find your way. Slowly, and some times dramatically slowly, but eventually you will find your way. And in the process you will learn many things.
Beginners: No entrance is allowed…
For those reasons Arch Linux is not suitable for beginners. Beginners should start their exploration in Linux world with distributions like Mint where all the choices are taken automatically by others. You can’t choose if you know nothing about the choices. Beginners also need a simple environment like Windows where everything can be done without entering anything at the console. Many distributions offer it that today. Sure, many things can be done much much easier with console commands. But you need to learn them step by step and only when you decide it. And eventually you will decide it. After all, if you enter at the Linux world you are not a typical Windows user. At some point you will search for help at the Internet and the help will force you to use console. This will not be because the “Real man do it with keyboard only” syndrome. Console commands are quick and work no matter if you have Gnome, KDE, Ubuntu, Mint or Debian. Some commands works the same way to any Linux distribution. Graphical solutions work only if you have installed the same programs. Someone can tell you how to copy a file with one console command (cp folder1/file1 folder2/file2). Otherwise, he must know what file manager you use (because different Desktop Environments uses different file managers like Nemo, Nautilus, Dolphin, Thunar, etc) and he has to guide you with many words how to copy a file. The console command solution is safer, easier and faster.
I want a unique operating system for me…
But for someone who learned all those things, who knows how to use the console and fells comfort with it, Arch Linux, or a similar to Arch Linux distribution, is the next natural step. This way he can learn more things and he can build a customized system the way he wants. This is something that no other operating system can offer. So, if you decided to step to Linux world and you are willing to learn, in time you can choose how your operating system will looks like. Windows and MacOS don’t give you this choice. Like Ubuntu or Linux Mint they had taken the choices for you so you simply accept them with no question asked. And this is not bad because this is the safer way to get a wide base of users. On the other hand Linux offers many many choices. Even the more friendlier distributions like Ubuntu and Mint comes with many flavors (Gnome, KDE, Xfce. Lxde, Unity, Cinnamon and more). Linux is a free operating system and if you want you can customize it and make a new operating system. And many people do this. This is unique but also quite confusing for new users.
As for me, I have found my way in Linux world and I had decide to build my own customized system with Arch Linux. The Arch way was not easy but I was sure I could follow it. After all the rolling release is something that you can’t pass it easily. Even if you know that sometimes it can lead you to a non working system. This is rare but not impossible. I decided to be careful so I made my first Arch Linux installation within a virtual computer. I read, I watched videos, I made notes, I lose many hours with fails and when I felt ready I installed Arch Linux on my computer. Even than I made many experiments. The first time I installed Gnome 3 DE and the second time I installed KDE. And than I installed Cinnamon.
The Cinnarch alternative way…
If you like the Cinnamon desktop and you want an easy way to install Arch Linux you can try Cinnarch . Cinnarch is an Arch Linux based distribution with Cinnamon DE. It comes with some programs preinstalled like Chromium, yaourt, some repositories of its own and with PacmanXG4, a graphical gui for pacman (the software installation program of Arch Linux) that can be used for several management works. Cinnarch installation is much simpler than Arch Linux because it uses an installation wizard. This makes things easier and faster, especially for Arch Linux rookies. I didn’t care about PacmanXG4 but I wanted to see the installation program and how good is the integration of Cinnamon. Cinnarch offers two different installations CD. One with a Cinnarch liveCD environment, witch could be very useful, and one installation CD without the live environment. Although Cinnarch team is a group of only a few young people they are quite active and they are working on an graphical installation program. The final installation satisfied me and I decided to keep it for a while and test it. After all Cinnarch is an Arch Linux with some extras. Although I don’t use those extras I like their work. The Cinnarch installation wizard is something Arch Linux is missing (on purpose ofc) but it can saves hours and make the migration from other Linux distros really easy and quick.
Is Cinnarch less stable than Arch Linux?
I am pretty sure that it as stable as any other Arch Linux installation with the same programs. Some days before an update crashed the lightdm display manager that Cinnarch uses. But this could happened to any Arch Linux installation with lightdm. This problem locked out my graphic environment but all I had to do was to install gdm (another display manager). Within seconds I logged again to my account. By the way, the fact that Cinnarch uses Cinnamon doesn’t mean you are tied to Cinnamon. After all, its an Arch Linux installation. You can install any other DE you like, log with it and delete Cinnamon DE and the gnome programs.
Cinnarch or Arch Linux?
I tried both and I finally ended with the pure Arch Linux distro. Cinnarch is an easy way to enter Arch’s world. It automates a lot the installation procedure and makes your life simpler. For example, unlike Cinnarch distro the Arch don’t installs by default the ntfs-3g driver and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t write my ntfs disks. If you like Cinnamon or you need help with the installation than go for Cinnarch. If you are going to use KDE desktop you still could start with Cinnarch but I think this could be messy. A good alternative may be the Chakra witch is a pure KDE rolling release with graphical installer.
Although Cinnarch installs Gnome, Cinnamon and other programs, you still have to make a lot of choices like the pure Arch Linux installation. You can use AUR (Arch User Repository), the Arch Linux wiki , the Arch Linux Forums and all the Arch Linux advises because Cinnarch is Arch Linux with Gnome, Cinnamon and soon with the gmd desktop environment.
As for me, I chose the clean Arch Linux solution with Cinnamon desktop. I would never consider myself as a pure Arch Linux user if I didn’t install Arch Linux the hard way. After all, I don’t use the Cinnarch extras and I wanted a full customized by me system.
At last I found my way…
At last I have a fast system, personalized by me for me and I really like it. Its a rolling release with fast updates. Now all my programs are up to date in short time and (in theory) I will not have to reinstall everything after six months. Every update pass first from the testing repo and if Arch Linux community finds it stable enough they release it to the stable repo programs. So there isn’t any major risk of crushing. I use the defaults repos but I have a virtual maching with the testing ones.
I still have many things to learn. For instance I don’t have installed yet the Catalyst restricted drivers for my AMD graphic card. I tried once and I failed. I am not sure why I failed but Catalyst installation is on my “To-Do” list and soon I will try again. There many other issues also. The journalctl log appears errors that need my attention. They are not causing problems but they need fixing if a want a smooth operating system. Wine don’t run some programs that they used to run with no problem and I have to find out why. As I said, Arch Linux documentation is excellent but its huge because it covers many situations and errors. Sometimes this can complicate some easy tasks.
But, I already wrote too much. Until the next time have fun…