In answer to some questions about possible Arch replacements, here is what I’ve been up to.
I’ve been gradually experimenting with both FreeBSD and Gentoo. I have some extra partitions I use to test new setups, so I can take my time and always boot back into my primary partition when I’ve had enough. I highly recommend this approach, especially with distros like these.
FreeBSD is pretty slick package-wise – can install from source (ports) or packages. Reminds me of Arch in many ways, and was one of the inspirations for Arch’s design. But it isn’t Linux, even though it can run most Linux software – there are some differences, particularly the filesystems. But nothing huge and it’s well documented. It’s still a candidate for me. I got X, Openbox, and Firefox running without much trouble. I am next getting ready to try my printer with it, which is non-trivial.
Gentoo is also Arch-like, but seems to require a little more finesse. Because everything is built from source, you have to set ‘USE flags’ which tell it what you do and do not want/have on your system. It’s a little confusing determining what USE flags to use, but you pick it up as you go. The handbook resembles the Arch wiki, although it’s more out of date in some places. Mostly I have been very successful thus far – I got X, Openbox and Firefox running in about a day without any major hassles. Security seems very good and they have regular updates. Everything compiles from source, so it takes more time, but since I run a light Openbox desktop, it wasn’t bad. X and Openbox downloaded and compiled in under 10 minutes each, and Firefox (known as one of the larger builds) took about 20 minutes (including download on my connection, which isn’t blazing fast).
The biggest challenge for me is usually my Brother laser printer/scanner, which uses a binary blob in the driver. It’s also a 32 bit blob, and I run 64 bit. Still working on that when I have the time free. Gentoo won’t run it at present – I think I’ll need to try their forums to get a solution. I think it’s doable.
Other distros that interest me but which I haven’t tried yet include:
Slackware – Not as up to date as Arch, but is supposed to be quite vanilla and stable – Linux the old-fashioned way. Has many devoted fans. KDE by default, but you can do a minimal install and put on what you want. If you don’t need bleeding edge and don’t mind compiling some things from source (their repos aren’t as thorough), I think this has good potential to Arch users, who will know how to handle it under the hood.
Aptosid – Debian’s bleeding-edge, which is supposed to be quite stable. Packages are also supposed to be more vanilla than Debian/Ubuntu (where they mod and usually break things), but there are still some mods. Looks promising though – one Arch user told me I would love it but miss the AUR.
All of these are rolling release (except Slackware), can be minimal, and have good security protocols. Of course every distro has its plusses and minuses. Arch’s package system + AUR is very convenient – the devs put a lot of work into making it rolling release and fairly stable, dealing with the library versions, etc, so we don’t have to. Except for some of the Arch-derived distros (some of which use pacman or a modified version of pacman), I don’t think you’ll find anything just like Arch in that area. But Gentoo has advantages too. You build your own kernel in Gentoo (pretty easy), so that opens up promising opportunities. I like what I see, and if I can get my printer happy, I think it could grow on me. I’ve learned a lot from Gentoo already that I never learned on Arch – the setup procedure is a neat experience. FreeBSD also has advantages – I think the kernel is more secure as is the system overall, lots of software available as both source and binary, and BSD is a new world to explore. It’s growing in the desktop area.
There’s nothing like experimenting and trying a few of these out for yourself, even if you don’t stick with them. More to come…
UPDATE 2: My Move From Arch To Aptosid
(Also, for those interested, I contributed a brief review of Arch Linux to LinuxQuestions.)
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.