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Arch Linux is Tops In the Server Room - page 2

Playing Pacman with Arch Linux

  • January 13, 2011
  • By Akkana Peck

AUR

Arch has a fairly good selection of packages ... but its repositories aren't quite as comprehensive as those of Debian, Ubuntu or Fedora. But when you need something pacman doesn't have, don't give up hope: it might be in AUR, the Arch User Repository. The Arch community contributes packages to AUR, and it's only a few steps to build the package: follow the steps on the AUR wiki page.

To simplify the process, install an AUR helper app like "yaourt", which has a syntax similar to pacman:
$ yaourt -Ss infinality
aur/freetype2-infinality
    TrueType font rendering library with infinality patch
aur/lib32-freetype2-infinality
    TrueType font rendering library (32-bit) with infinality patch
aur/openoffice-uglyfix-freetype2-infinality
    Compiles freetype2 .so files and puts them in the openoffice directory
    to fix font ugliness

# yaourt -S freetype2-infinality
  (this will install the package)

The Arch Wiki

The Arch wiki is one of the biggest strengths of Arch. It's a treasure trove of clear, well written information on how to do nearly anything in Linux. I've used it even when debugging Ubuntu problems -- the Arch wiki tends to explain what's happening "under the hood", not just where to click in a default desktop.

For instance, check out the Wireless Setup page -- a great reference when debugging tricky wi-fi problems no matter what distro you're using.

Other considerations

Arch isn't perfect. I've had a few issues with it, such as fonts looking jagged and missing pixels; installing the Infinality package from AUR helped the missing pixels, while copying the whole /etc/fonts directory from an Ubuntu system made the fonts look prettier. (Try that at your own risk: messing with /etc/fonts like that is not sanctioned by the Arch team.)

But overall, Arch has been one of the most painless distros I've used. It's an ideal system for someone who really wants to understand how and why Linux works, not just which buttons to click. You can solve most minor problems with a quick search of the wiki. Arch is fast, booting in about half the time Ubuntu requires on the same system. Most important, it gives you control over what you run on your own system.

And really, isn't that one of the best reasons to use Linux?

Akkana Peck is a freelance programmer whose credits include a tour as a Mozilla developer. She's also the author of Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional

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