Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Making the Switch from Ubuntu to Arch

I'd like deviate from Go for a moment. These last few weeks I've been distracted from programming due to switching my main desktop from Ubuntu to Arch Linux and helping my wife with our home-based business Geekling Designs. The Christmas shopping season is busy enough as it is but we're also in the midst of some major upgrades to our business. What with setting up a new small-business ERP software system (an oxymoron, I realize), building a new custom light exposure unit and purchasing a commercial grade screen printing press, we've been a tad busy. And then there's the desktop switch.

As I stated in a previous article, I've been a long-time fan of Ubuntu. Say what you will about it, it allowed me to move from a casual Linux user to a full-time user. It gave me the experience required to build an LFS system for the first time and encouraged me to finally grow as a programmer and invest in Open Source Software.

I've now finished the process of switching over my main system from Ubuntu to Arch Linux. I elected to use LXDE for my desktop environment for something with a little more pep. Neither my wife or myself care too much for the flash of most modern desktops (KDE, Gnome 3) and LXDE can be made quite elegant in its own right without all the cruft that come with the other two environments. I considered using Lubuntu but I felt it was time to cut my ties with the whole Ubuntu ecosystem for a little while. It's nothing personal against Lubuntu, I run it on my venerable laptop and I've installed it on friend's computers, I just need my space. It's not you, it's me.

Of all the things that Arch has going for it, I must say that it's wiki documentation and  forums are absolutely top-notch. It's rare I can't find an answer to my issues in either source. Even my wife has supported the change and has been impressed with the difference in speed between the two systems. I even changed to using the nouveau graphics driver. For regular desktop use, it appears to work superbly, much to my surprise!

Every system has it's quirks. Take, for example, installing the Eclipse IDE. Now, let me first preface this by saying this is less an Arch issue but an eclipse one. The version of Eclipse in the pacman repositories does not come with the Marketplace plugin installed. Nor could I get it installed. Needless to say, it struck me as odd that the version of Eclipse recommended by it's developers was not the one I found in the repositories. I'm sure there is a valid reason for it but it irked me none-the-less. I ended up uninstalling the Arch version and installing it from the Eclipse website. What can I say? I'm lazy and I like the ease of installing plugins from within Eclipse itself.

That said, the move has gone as smoothly as can be expected. No loss of personal data (thank's to keeping my /home directory on a separate HDD) and just the usual issues with installing required software and tweaking settings to work with the new system. Tough things usually "work out of the box" like they tend to do in Ubuntu some packages do need a little extra work.

That's the price you pay for freedom!