Would I recommend Arch to someone new to Linux ?

I have had over a decade of experience with a multitude of distros.
One of the members of one of my forums literally begged me for a year to try Arch.  Finally I relented and installed it.
It was like having an epiphany !  OMG – This is AWESOME ! PERFECT ! I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR THIS FOR YEARS !
I guess the prior years of experience let me know right away that Arch Linux was the distro I had been looking for. There was this almost instantaneous recognition of the simple elegance of a system you could control completely, the speed, configuration, ease of keeping things updated that made me so happy it was hard to contain myself.

Arch is the only distro I run at home now, the only one I truly love to use.  The perfect Linux for me. Desktop and Server distro, I use it for both with great success.

Would I recommend Arch to someone new to Linux ? Absolutely NOT. For a multitude of reasons.  No more so than I would hand over a Bostich Air Nailer to a 10 year old to use. True, it’s way more powerful, but with a regular old 16oz hammer, the kid won’t shoot a hole in his foot before he gets started. He might  actually learn to love carpentry and eventually get to use the air nailer and learn the power and usefulness of it, once he’s big enough to hold on to it without shooting himself in the foot. No more so than I would give a 17 year old a Ferrari,  nope, he learns the ropes on the station wagon and learns to drive first. Then after a few years, and lots of experience, he will appreciate the Ferrari :) Could he drive it at 17, year probably, would he wreck it……… oh yeah, probably.

Do I think that some individuals are capable of using/learning Arch with no prior experience ? Yes I do. They are the exception to the norm, those people that are here and have did it, are obviously dedicated and deserve credit for the tenacity it must have taken to pass the extreme learning curve it must have been for them.  However, I would say that “most” people would not have the dedication to do this, and I wouldn’t want to tell newbies that Arch is easy, because it’s not. Once you have a base knowledge of the command line, and and understanding of Linux in general, it becomes easy, but not until then. There are great resources to use, the wiki, the forums, irc, google and others, but for newbies, nah, in general, I would have to say it’s not a good choice. I don’t think Arch was ever meant to be “newbie” friendly. There are plenty of those types of distro’s out there. Arch is absolutely perfect for those with a few years of Linux experience.
With the years of experience myself and dealing with many many many newbies on my forums, here is a path that makes more sense to me, and what I personally recommend if someone asks me what they should try.

1. initial contact with linux …Slax. — A live linux that works on darn near anything. Allows newbies to run Linux without changing anything. Highly customizable if desired.
2. first install -ubuntu.. great for newbies…. lots of community help available.
3. after a few months/years …. other distros… seeing how they do things differently.
4. after enlightenment ……. Arch .  After all the rest, you REALLY appreciate Arch for everything it does, and doesn’t do.

If you can skip steps 1-3, your ahead of the game. Go to the head of the class, I applaud your success and efforts. I just wish I had started with Arch years before I did.
True, probably anyone with enough time/dedication/patience could follow the install guide and get arch working, that definately doesn’t make them experienced.

Experience will teach you things like how to do things without relying on google to tell you.
Your network doesn’t connect…. how do you fix it.
X won’t start now … what do I do.
How do i configure my web server
how do i configure  php
how do i configure mysql
how do i install an email server

the list is endless and while no one would  probably know everything, experience with other distros makes you understand the beauty of the Arch system, and it’s elegant design makes fixing those issues simple when compared to some other distro’s.

People really won’t truly appreciate Arch until they have had experienced with other distro’s, it’s really that simple. Promoting Arch to new users imho would be a big mistake, and probably make many more would be Linux users turn back to Windows vs converting them.

All the above is just my humble opinions though, ymmv. ;)

4 Comments

  1. magma says:

    Hi, pretty much honest opinion.
    I must say after a post like this not having a comment is quite offensive, ill try to do one.
    Iam a linux newbie, i just use it almost for a year, im not a programmer or a computer student, i study engineer and i do some programming in Matlab, but thats another story. The common point is this conversation is Arch i find pretty amazing the principles and the philosophy behind it. Well i am a Ubuntu, no shame on saying it, i think they are doing a fabulous job in their mission. I dont pretty much understand about Linux, but i am a curious person and i like to always learn a little more. Yes i tryed to install arch but, in some way i failed the initial fire proof, i couldnt get the installed base system to connect to internet and proceed with the installation, even so i have learned a few more things. Like you say i think there is right tool for the right job and i agree, again, when you say arch needs some kind of “preparation” allow me to say it this way to full understand and enjoy it, i think im not ready. So what i would like to ask you is in your opinion how can i improve my linux knowledge in not such a hard way, for example is there any distribution you advise, any reading, any tutorial. I will be glad if you have some kind of advice for a newbie who wants to learn a few more things with some kind of a “help”.

    thanks in advance

  2. crouse says:

    Hello magma,

    The best thing you can do to learn more about Linux is probably to get comfortable at the command line.
    Learn bash, learn command line commands (not bash, but can be used in bash scripts). Install a few “servers” from scratch, not with a package manager, get the hang of manipulating things from the command line instead of a gui. If you don’t know how to use vi and emacs … learn the basics of both. That will get you a long ways towards being the master of your system vs just getting by. ;) If you want more help, and aren’t ready for Arch, feel free to stop by http://usalug.org ,lots of people willing to help with anything they can.

  3. magma says:

    thanks for the ready response, i wonder if there is any other distro you recommend so i can at the same time experience some troubles but be able to solve them by myself with the available resources?
    Also when you say install a few servers are you suggestion to put some old computers to function as server for files at home?

  4. crouse says:

    OpenSuse Mandriva Slackware CentOS Debian , these give you a good cross section of the major distros, if I had to choose one, probably slackware would be the closest to Arch, and give you the most command line experience.

    When I say servers, I mean using one computer, install a web server, an ftp server, a mail server etc…. that gives you lots of experience installing and configuring things from the command line. Good luck and have fun :)