Arch Linux. What makes it different from the other distributions? Why is there some weird elitism paralleled by disgust around it?

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Arch Linux. What makes it different from the other distributions? Why is there some weird elitism paralleled by disgust around it?

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It’s a very bare-bones experience with minimal hand holding. You have to really understand your system in order to get everything functional, because you’re hunting down drivers for basically everything. Have an uncommon component in your system? You might be compiling drivers yourself.

This has become less true over the years, but that was the gist of it when I put together my first Arch system about a decade ago.

The elitism comes from the fact that you don’t really reach for arch unless you have a very specific use case, want the learning experience, or see it as a flex. You’re not going to hear from the previous two scenarios often.

The disgust comes from people who’s interactions have been with the people trying to flex, with a light sprinkling of people who have tried to put together an arch system and turned away with nothing but frustration.

As part of a society that uses computers for nearly every facet of daily life, we typically know astonishingly little about how they operate. Arch Linux breaks up all the fixtures of computer operation into manageable chunks to be put together (assuming it’s user knows how they work) so that if anything ever goes wrong, there is a small presumption it can be repaired (for excellent ego points).

However, this is like building your own home in a way. You may be able to go on the Sears catalog (or Menards catalog for this century) and get all the parts of a house delivered, but putting it together and having a house you’re proud of that seems stable and pretty to other people isn’t always possible if you don’t care to learn how houses work. Many people would just like a house to be built by professionals because they would rather everything work without them knowing how than try to fix a magnitude more problems that they do know (usually) how to fix.

Gentoo is the next level deeper. If Arch Linux is an apprentice carpenter, then Gentoo is the journeyman. Masters would be the distro developer.

Ubuntu is like a full option car. Things are easy to fix, it mostly works, if something breaks you can just get an off the shelf component.Arch is like a kit car, without a manual. it’s got headlights, but you gotta make the cable that connects them to the battery or hunt it down in some really obscure corner shop that only sees 5 customers / year.

It’s a rolling release, for starters – meaning you don’t have specific versions of the OS, but rather a constant stream of updates as software packages get new versions. This can break things sometimes (though it’s been pretty rare for me the last few years). Second, their approach to dependencies and meta-packages is pretty lightweight. I don’t want to say it’s just to be difficult, but their idea of “you can make this whatever you want” means you get a system that kinda requires some knowledge to get into a working state.

It’s not as hardcore as it used to be, and they’ve gotten better about holding updates for core packages to avoid breaking bugs. The archinstall script is pretty decent if you want a standard desktop install without the hassle of manually configuring everything. But it’s still easy to wind up in a state where one little thing doesn’t work right because you forgot an optional dependency.

As for the elitism…I think that kinda stems from a portion of the community just being toxic and elitist. Obviously you gotta use a “real” Linux distribution like Arch or you’re just not skilled enough! If it wasn’t Arch, it’d be something else like Gentoo. It’s a meme at this point.

This, IMO, intersects with the kind of people who’d judge you for playing games on Story Mode or whatever. Just assholes looking for any reason to feel above another person, and giving the rest of the community headaches in the process.