A listing of random software, tips, tweaks, hacks, and tutorials I made for Ubuntu

Why I migrated to Arch Linux

First, yes, I am well aware that this is an ubuntu-related blog, monitored on planet ubuntu, etc… This is not a “XYZ is better than ubuntu” post, but rather a “Consider XYZ too” post.

I have been a loyal ubuntu user for around 5 years, and I have also tried my best to help the community for around 3 years (and still am). I never plan on leaving the community, as I find ubuntu is sort of like a gateway for windows/mac users to the open source world, and all of us need to make sure that each user can have the best experience in that gateway so that they can explore deeper and, in their turn, help out too.

Anyways, going to the topic of this post, I have had a very pleasant experience with ubuntu until 11.10. Ubuntu then tried to attract the public to it by, well, over-blinging it (I’m referring to Unity). I have to say they did an excellent job on keeping it beautiful and minimalistic, but it needs a mid/high-range computer to use it. On my computer (which I consider it to be rather mid-range), it was really slow (2-5 minutes to login, let alone using it). Another thing that I didn’t like was how ubuntu over-patched everything. From the linux kernel to GNOME 3, it’s no wonder that everything was really slow. I’m sure that there are good reasons for doing so, but still, I personally like doing my own patching as I want it, not as someone else wants it. Also, I am not a huge fan of the debian package managment system, as even doing “nothing” takes around a second or two… not interested in that. The API is seriously messy, horribly documented, and even from a “users” perspective (a more tech-savvy one, of course), it’s hard to understand the output (for example, do you have any idea what’s happening when you run “sudo apt-get update”?)

You are probably thinking of a thousand counter-arguments against what I said, and they are probably all right. The thing is, I’m talking from a hacker/developer’s perspective where I want everything my way, nobody decides for me (which I feel that ubuntu is sort of doing). I know that the average user is probably very happy from the decisions ubuntu took, maybe even for the exact reasons that I don’t like it.

So now that I’ve written a bit why I don’t like ubuntu, I’ll write a few things that I like about arch. First of all, the installer is awesome! Yep, no installer, you do it by hand. This initially repulsed me from arch, until I discovered how the install process worked, and then I really loved it. It doesn’t come preinstalled with loads of apps that you might never use, it just has the bare minimum of a good linux desktop (which, IMHO, is great). I also loved the package manager ever since I started using it. So simple, so fast (even the downloads are faster because of LZMA compression, and by the way, the uncompressing is lightning fast), and yet so powerful! It uses standard getopt-type arguments instead of commands, so it’s way easier to use. The other thing that I like is how arch is so community-based. It isn’t a project where there is a team behind it, and community can help as 3rd party devs. It works by the community donating PKGBUILDs (shell scripts that build packages) and scripts or whatever else is needed and then “trusted members” (people who have been donating to arch linux a lot) will then review it for safety before including it. Another thing that I like is how it is a rolling release. This means that there are never new releases of arch, you update it, you have the latest arch system.

So as I said in the beginning, this is not “Arch is better than Ubuntu”, but rather “Arch works better for me than Ubuntu did”. I have nothing against the idea of ubuntu, I love it actually. But I don’t want to use it anymore, that’s all :). That being said (and I repeat again), I do not plan on ever leaving the community, I will always try to help out the best I can :)

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below on your own opinions of this matter (and please, keep it nice, I don’t want to deal with a flame war).


40 responses to “Why I migrated to Arch Linux

  1. Arpad Borsos January 7, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Hm I changed myself recently as well.
    I mean I love Unity. Its awesome! But whereas 12.04 was nice, 12.10 regressed performance really bad. You could literally feel the delay when you were entering text into the dash. And that was with an SSD.

    Now I’m on Gnome Shell. I miss the Super(+Shift)+N shortcuts and the global menu, but I got a cleaner leaner system that just feels more modern.
    And as a node.js developer, I did something that would be impossible on a debian-based system: I actually installed node from the package repo instead of compiling myself from git :-)

    • Anonymous Meerkat January 7, 2013 at 7:45 pm

      Yes, I love gnome shell too, but I had to stop using it because something was always freezing the system (no idea what it was). And yeah, I like that aspect too, especially with the AUR (and yaourt, of course :P) ^_^

  2. postNuKe January 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Sorry, but do you tried xubuntu? or other ubuntu distribution like linux mint with mate, cinnamon?

    • Anonymous Meerkat January 7, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      Yes, I have, tried pretty much each desktop environment out there, even experimented with window managers and combos… Everything was slow, even after fresh install, and I had a rather fast computer (here, on arch, using enlightenment, it’s lightning fast).

      • Aahan June 15, 2013 at 3:49 am

        Hey! I was recently looking for an alternative as well. Ubuntu 13.04 seemed so slow on my Sony VAIO laptop, that I finally had to ditch it. I mean, really, isn’t 4GB RAM, 2.13 GHz Intel Core i3-330M processor good enough?

        Anyway, considering that Debian is very stable and that XFCE is a light-weight, yet neat-looking DE (only thing that sucks is the font rendering), I got running with Debian 7.0 Wheezy with XFCE. Voila! It’s awesome! My PC never been so responsive, even when I have a 1GB virtual machine running within.

        The only regret with Debian is packages. As each release freezes features, there’s no easy way to get the latest version of a package, unless you can complie it yourself and deal with any inconsistencies. This is where Arch caught my eye. I’ll be trying it soon! :)

        • Admiral Yaarxaath October 18, 2013 at 7:38 am


          Your point about Debian package freezing is most relevant. I’ve found being stuck with what is effectively an outdated package to be very frustrating. In Ubuntu, it can be even worse, e.g., with certain programmes/applications that have either not been tested enough (presumably) because they’re as buggy as buggy can be (e.g. default Abiword, which does not scroll with the mouse wheel), or the same problems occur (Brasero starts reburning a disk as soon as it’s burned it; and it’s been the same since 9.04). That’s not necessarily entirely Ubuntu’s fault (although with Abiword it was: they’d used the unstable version), but if Ubuntu is going for the ‘Big Time’, then they need to take these things into consideration, if they want to be taken seriously. When I used Windows XP, everything DID ‘just work’, at least until I’d hacked it too much (but I did get XP to boot to desktop in under 15 seconds, with some heavy REGEDITing (you’re not supposed to do that))!!!

          I’ve just ‘grocked’ the ‘rolling-release’ paradigm, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it goes both ways: one may ‘roll-back’ to the older version of a programme/application if the new one doesn’t work. This is more difficult with Debian-based systems, without ‘forcing’, which can cause problems with other programs, because of dependencies, although PPAs are always available.

          My main bone of contention with Debian, and increasingly recently with Ubuntu, is archive server failure, which can make updating/upgrading into a nightmare. Really, if a somewhat ‘hobbyist’ distro like Puppy Linux can be as reliable as it is, then cannot Debian, Canonical, Fedora, et al, do the same? Arch can, and does.

          A final thought: Arch Linux is always the ‘New School’. Other distros may just be too stuck in their ways.

          The concept of ‘sin’ (Old German ‘sunnen’) comes from archery: it means ‘to fall short of the mark’, to not reach the target.

          Arch Phone OS, anyone?!

  3. Jo-Erlend Schinstad January 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    It would’ve been nice if some of the people who preferred Gnome Panel would’ve tried to keep it alive, rather than just abandon it as if there was no choice. Since everyone makes it clear that they will not want to keep the classic desktop alive, I’d be surprised if anyone wants to keep working on it. That’s a shame, because the classic desktop really is quite nice for numerous use cases. But I guess, if nobody wants to use it, then there’s no reason to keep supporting it either.

    The really bad thing about this is that advanced users are convincing newbies that they just can’t do anything about it, which obviously isn’t true. But it is the impression that’s being given.

    • Anonymous Meerkat January 7, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      Sorry, you are referring to GNOME panel or GNOME 2/classic? The thing that I find quite weird about GNOME 3 is that you can only customize it if you are developer, even though GNOME 3 was supposed to be easier to use for normal users… I totally agree with you.

  4. chilicuil January 7, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    You can also try ubuntu-minimal[0] from there you can install|build basically any linux system from scratch and you’ll end with a system as responsive as any other minimalist distribution. As a side effect you can help to debug|fix the problems in the minimal ubuntu apps, for instance I’ve a system that way and I can give more resources to raring vms and work fast enough when not working on ubuntu development[1].

    If not minimal enough, then you can use ubuntu core[2] to build even more from scratch your environment. I think the performance is not a reasonable issue to change to other distros, specially when Ubuntu have alternatives to the average user (xubuntu|lubuntu) and to the power|developer one (ubuntu minimal, ubuntu core).


    • Anonymous Meerkat January 7, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      Good point, but as I said in the post, ubuntu (and debian) over-patches things, so it becomes slower (noticed this heavily when comparing it to arch). Anyways, I really don’t like the debian codebase (very messy)… 323 million SLOC, plus the debian utilities are not exactly optimized, if you know what I mean. Thanks for the suggestions though :)

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  6. ubudog January 7, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Big +1 to this post. I love Ubuntu; however, I completely agree with you.

  7. Phil January 8, 2013 at 12:48 am

    To each his own :-)

  8. Tim Richardson (@timrdsn) January 8, 2013 at 2:32 am

    I was a huge fan of sidux/aptosid, a rolling Debian with a strong community, but installed Ubuntu on another laptop not for my use: I just wanted a set and forget approach. It was so good I use ubuntu on all my linux machines (well, kubuntu and xubuntu) …but that’s because I lost the time to tweak everything like crazy. I’m sure there is room for both approaches.

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  11. divansantana January 9, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Love Arch Linux. Been using it for years. Just think Unity is the best desktop interface. I want to use Arch Linux+Unity. It seems to be in progress but not quite there yet. The longer you use Arch Linux the more you love it. I switched from Arch(kde) to Ubuntu 12.04. My experience, loved Unity, didn’t miss KDE to my surprise. After a whilte I couldn’t believe how backward Ubuntu feels compared to Arch. Like wrt ppas vs AUR and so many packages aren’t available in any repositories. Tried 12.10 it’s just shockingly buggy, slow, unstable and everything crashes. Hoping to switch back to Arch with Unity if Arch guys can manage to maintain Unity on Arch decently.

    • Anonymous Meerkat January 9, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      I totally agree. I think that the reason why unity is not supported on most other OSs than ubuntu is because it requires a patched version of GNOME 3. Though I agree that it would be great for Unity to come (even if it’s only an unofficial AUR package), I don’t think I would want to have a unity-patched GNOME 3.

  12. Dedy Martadinata January 13, 2013 at 3:15 am

    hmm, that is the same reason with me :) haha… i stiil love ubuntu so i keep the lucid for my last ubuntu :)

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  14. George February 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Only the fact that Arch is a rolling release is enough reason to try it. I also used Ubuntu for years but with the Unity appearance I turned to Linux Mint Cinnamon. For me, the Mint 14 is way better than Ubuntu and I really like it. But still don’t like the customizing of some basic programs like Firefox or LibreOffice.
    But the rolling release is something that can’t pass it easy. It means faster upgrades for all your programs without adding reps and ofc you don’t have to install a new version of Ubuntu/Mint every 6 months. Because I like Cinnamon DE I finally choose Cinnarch witch practical is an Arch Linux with Cinnamon and some mores utilities. It also comes with an installer so its easier to installed.
    I have to say that first I installed Arch Linux but was too messy to install cinnamon so I turned to Cinnarch.
    As I see it, Arch is not faster than Ubuntu/Mint but its a stable rolling edition. After you use it I think there is no turning back because you have no reason to do it….

    • Aditya Raj Bhatt March 23, 2013 at 3:29 am

      I agree with everything except the Unity-dislike. Its an excellent DE with nice keyboard-based functions (dash). The only problem is the performance lags and the lack of portability. I used Ubuntu for about 6 months but abandoned it in favor of Arch. Its lean and fast and the only problem is that it doesn’t have a *stable* Unity interface on it. But if performance is an issue get XFCE.

      Arch Linux + XFCE = Heaven on Earth

  15. curt246 April 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Have you guys tried Manjaro? Now, THAT is SPEED! Try to compare any DE to DE. Simply knocks your socks off.

    • Anonymous Meerkat April 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      Interesting… reminds me of linux mint, except it’s based on arch instead of ubuntu, correct?

      • curtis April 20, 2013 at 3:30 am

        Yes. It is based on Arch. The main differences are: 1) their own repositories that are updated a bit safer than Arch, by holding off for a few days. 2) Choice of graphical installer or CLI.
        3) The top team gets involved with replies to help solve any problems, within hours! That I have never seen! Great bunch of guys. Help and advice is often over-looked when choosing
        a distro. These guys are the best.

  16. leon June 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I like Ubuntu but I don’t like Unity. I am addicted to Gnome, so from boot menu I log into Gnome Classic without effects and I am happy with it. (I like XFCE too by the way.) I don’t understand why many people are swearing at new Ubuntu only because they don’t like Unity while they can choose whatever desktop they like. I like Debian too. They are both equally good. So far I am a fan of Debian-based distributions but I’d like to try Arch. I’ve started using Linux with Slackware many years ago but swapped to Debian eventually. Slackware was horrible with their dependencies. I also tried Archlinux and Vector Linux many years ago. The reason I went to Debian was that at that time Archlinux had not many applications to install, only few very basic. I’d like to have a new try with Arch Linux.

    • Aditya Raj Bhatt June 15, 2013 at 7:49 am

      Yes, you will love the new Arch. With our repos and AUR, we have nearly as many packages as Debian. And the community is awesome.

      • Anonymous Meerkat June 15, 2013 at 9:22 am

        …. and the package manager is WAY faster than debian’s, meaning that you can upgrade your system in less than 24 hours lol =P

        • Admiral Yaarxaath October 18, 2013 at 8:03 am

          From installation to fully upgraded in about 15 minutes, on mobile broadband.

  17. sepero111 August 10, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    I like Ubuntu, but unfortunately I haven’t got time for something like Arch. I’m still running on Ubuntu 12.04 and it runs great. I plan to upgrade my full system when the next LTS comes out. Until then, ppa’s will give me bleeding edge programs, while having a rock solid foundation.

    • Aditya Raj Bhatt August 12, 2013 at 10:58 am

      Oh yes that works too. Just that Arch is also rock solid and you do not have to go through the effort of adding each ppa individually since Arch is a rolling release distro and everything gets updated automatically, whenever you want.

      • Admiral Yaarxaath October 18, 2013 at 7:55 am

        Indeed, Sir, the Arch base seems to be the fastest so far: Yaourt/Pacman/Pamac (in Manjaro). It also ‘speaks to you’, it doesn’t presume or patronise you. I would now recommend either Arch Linux or Manjaro to newcomers/Linux-beginners, above any other distro: start learning your system by taking control of it from the onset.


        • Anonymous Meerkat October 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

          That’s a very interesting idea (getting newcomers to use arch instead of ubuntu)… but I’m not sure how much using the CLI on a frequent (or daily) basis would scare away windows users.

          • Admiral Yaarxaath October 18, 2013 at 7:01 pm

            That’s a very valid concern, but then, how many M$W/OS-X users/consumers ever do a reinstall, let alone use the CLI, let alone even back up their data onto an encrypted external drive?

            Manjaro would probably be an easier introduction for people used to GUIs. With Manjaro (OpenBox version at least) upgrading is as easy as Super+u, or clicking on the cute Pamac ‘Pacman’ icon to upgrade, when it turns red. This is surely more pleasant than being harassed and bullied by Windows’ update manager, or Ubuntu’s one, for that matter. How many end-users even know that these notifications can be switched off?

            The first thing that struck me about Linux, was how easy it was to use, and realistically, I used Linux before I used M$W. How many people are even aware that their budget level Android tablet is actually Linux? I’ve actually had someone dismiss Linux (without knowing anything about it), while saying how brilliant their Android device was! And most i-users have never heard of BSD, but that’s the basis of OS-X.

            True story: I installed Ubuntu 12.04 (Unity) on a friends laptop. “Wow, it’s just like using a mobile phone!” Within 24 hours, the same person, who knew nothing about computers or operating systems, who had only ever used M$W once or twice, when necessary, and hated it, had changed the appearance, updated the computer, installed proprietary drivers, configured networking, and set up online accounts. Given this, I’d like to see this same friend give Manjaro or Arch Linux a try: instant power user?

  18. Daf September 28, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    I’m a lifetime user of Windows, since Windows was DOS, but recently I’ve no reason to stick with Windows, except ease of us and familiarity. I also use no MS programs, except Windows itself, opting for anything OS I can get my hands on.

    Anyway, I know virtually nothing about how Linux distros work, but one thing I have learned is that when you do a platform update, Mint and Ubuntu want you to–gulp–reinstall every six months? Are you kidding me? Another thing that turned me off was the Phone like GUI for “apps” programs” and repositories. Really guys? I mean I can see it, but I want to install me own found programs when I need them. Of course offer install options for necessary programs, like Flash and wmv support, and of course drivers, but other than that, allow me to load what I want. (LibreOffice too, you can keep that in distros :) )

    Anyway, the reload for every update thing is a game stopper for me, except that I want to use Linux. So I thought, look, a good way to use Linux of from a Live USB with a persistent file on my local drive. That way, if I have a meltdown and don’t have the time to reinstall Windows, I can load the Linux USB and use that in the meat time. So Linux is still a go either way.

    But now I find Arch Linux and it’s update-able: image that?

    So–here we go. I have found my Linux Distro. Thanks for the write up.

    • Ilya Rezvin September 29, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      Debian-like distros have do-release-upgrade command which worked very smoothly for me since 2008. I switched from Ubuntu to Debian Wheezy (at work) and to Arch (at home)

  19. Admiral Yaarxaath October 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Like you, I have used Ubuntu for a few years, almost exclusively since 9.04, and Ubuntu-based CrunchBang 9.04, and MadBox since 12.04, and have built/remastered several custom versions. However, I have found even my custom MadBox to be increasingly slow.

    I have been increasingly referring to Arch documentation to find solutions, simply because I find Ubuntu help pages (especially AskUbuntu) to be scrappy, conflicting, and often mileading. Arch documentation/guides are very clear, in comparison.

    Yesterday, I installed Manjaro OpenBox on my Acer ZG5, and I’m pretty well converted, and already getting ‘Archy’, having found it essential to use PacMan/Yaourt.

    Today I installed Manjaro OpenBox on an EeePC 4G, with total success (the trick is to plug in a blank USB pendrive, to trick the installer into thinking that there’s more than 4GiB diskspace, otherwise the installer may freeze. I had already done this some time ago, when trying Fedora).

    The main differences I notice are speed, but perhaps more importantly, the transparency and ease of use of Manjaro (ergo Arch), and the fact that the system communicates to the user far more clearly, and ‘explains’ everything. Ubuntu seems to have become targeted more for the ‘click-and-go/install’ consumer, as have its offshoots. For a power-user like myself, this is no longer good enough.

    The other thing is that despite being ‘beta’, at version, Manjaro seems to be more stable than my 12.04.3 custom build, or even Precise, so I predict a system-wide move to an Arch base.

    I understand where Ubuntu is going, and no, I don’t think Canonical is another MS/Apple, and I think it fair enough that they have ambitions to break into the big time. Indeed, I think an Ubuntu phone/computer would be a pretty cool personal accessory to have, but I still like my netbooks, and I customise heavily, and the Arch base seems to be the best for that, for now, at least.

    I’ll probably end up using a totally source-based system, built from scratch.


  20. Abdel April 15, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    I’m just an average user. what I mainly look for in a system is speed, stability, and programs that are NOT a few versions behind. I don’t mind investing the effort it takes to get things working or learn how things work provided that the how-to is not contradictory and confusing. I tried lots of distros and linux “schools”. Opensuse, Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora. All of them are good despite the minor glitches here and there. But the Linux “school” that stands out is Arch. I still couldn’t use Arch as it is. I tried installing the system a few times before (the last attempt was last week) but didn’t manage. It seems that there is something that I’m still missing there. Instead I’m using Manjaro: Openbox on an old dell laptop ant it flies, Xfce on new laptop and it is fabulous. I’m fond of Enlightenment. I’ve tried it with bodhi linux and I loved it despite the ubuntu base. I wish I could have enlightement with Arch. I could very well see that it is the perfect match.

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  22. Arup R. Chowdhury October 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Every tests done at regular intervals with stock Ubuntu versus stock Arch and its derivatives don’t show Arch to be any faster and I run both on a dual XEON and i7 Haswell, the later with SSD and find absolutely no speed differential, on Arch its XFCE whereas Ubuntu 14.04 its Unity.

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