When switching to Linux over a year ago I decided originally that I use Mint. But when I read about the suggested upgrade path which essentially said that you should re-install on each distribution upgrade, I searched for another solution. And that’s how I found distributions with a rolling release cycle. Most distributions release a major version of their distribution and between those major releases updates usually contain mainly security and bug fixes. With a rolling release you get “all the time” updates and there is no major release. Right now the best known rolling release-distribution is probably Arch1. But Arch is kind of intimidating since it installs only quite a minimal system and after the installation you just land in a TTY, no graphical user interface at all. In addition it seemed too bleeding edge and has a reputation for being unstable. But it has right now the best documentation in the Linux-world in my opinion2. So I searched for an alternative and found Manjaro. Manjaro is based on Arch but with a delay. They take the packages from Arch, test them more and apply additional patches for more stability. So far so good. When I wanted to get newer software I had to switch to more unstable repositories from Manjaro and ended up on unstable which is more or less on the level of Arch stable. I used it for months on end without getting into any trouble. So I decided to switch to Arch since I can start from anew and can have only the software installed I want. Manjaro comes with a lot of software installed to be more comfortable to use.
The installation was surprisingly easy. I use full disk encryption. After finding a guide it was easy to install. Since I keep /home on a separate volume, I could keep it and needed only to install the base system. The fstab, the file that tells the system which volumes to mount, was not generated in a way that I could boot at first. But after a little bit of fiddling3 I could boot. And after that I only had to install the stuff I needed. I used my old config files for Xorg which were already customized for my system. And in a couple of hours I was up and running. Slower than with most Linux-distributions but the system has so far only the software I need.
But then I noticed something else: The system worked better. Things I couldn’t get to work in the past, I could get to work now. I am using only a window manager (i3) and not a desktop environment. Thus I have to get stuff to work because some comforts are missing in comparison to using KDE, Gnome, Xfce, LXDE or whatever. In the past I had to start pcmanfm to automount the attached USB-hard disks. With Arch I suddenly could get udisks to work as it should work. So automounting happens now on boot and I don’t need to start pcmanfm anymore. In the past I never could get my bluetooth headset to work with my computer. It might connect but directly disconnect or no audio reached the headset etc. I tried a lot but it just didn’nt work. Today I tried it again with Arch. After 10 minutes there was audio coming out of my headset. Some AUR-packages4 were problematic or didn’t work at all. Now I have no problems at all so far.
I will see how stable my system will be and if anything breaks. But so far using Arch is a real improvement over Manjaro. But Manjaro gave me an entry to the world to Arch that eased me into it. Thus I am happy now to using Arch, but I am grateful for projects like Manjaro or Antergos for being an entry-point to distributions like Arch.