Saturday, 27 November 2010

Arch Linux review

I believe it is time I can provide a substantial review of Arch linux distribution. I have already written about my switch to Arch linux; so I will not reiterate those ideas here. I will just attempt to clarify your view towards Arch linux because most distributions are merely reflections of viewpoints of the developers of the distribution.

Arch linux is a rolling release distribution that provides bleeding edge software. That is all to it. Now, with bleeding edge software, there are always stability issues. If you are looking for rock-solid stability, go for Debian without any further thought. However, do consider the fact that if software is bleeding edge then most likely the bugs are upstream than with the distribution. This notion is reinforced by the fact that Arch does not mod packages. Arch branding is optional. When I started using Arch, I had reported a firefox issue which turned out to be an upstream problem. This was within 24 hours. Then there was the valgrind issue which I did talk about at length. So, basically Arch people respond fast. However, the IRC channel #archlinux is not very friendly (may be I still have a hang over from #gentoo). Arch is good at performance; boots up fast. It has decent support for hardware. Installing drivers for my WLAN was not at all difficult.

On the downside, some aspects that are not addressed by upstream properly are not handled by Arch appropriately. [Many distributions actively patch packages before release; though upstream commitment of the patches is a different scenario.] It is basically Arch policy. I have two unsolved bugs about the Arch kernel: one for 2.6.34 and one for 2.6.35. Also, my SD-card reader was not working properly before 2.6.35.

Yesterday, I upgraded to 2.6.36 and there were two error messages at boot time. One was about tomoyo-init scripts and the other was about HDA-Intel being unknown hardware. The former is harmless and the later was easy to resolve using the wiki. There still remain two things about Arch that annoy me:
Yet again, they are mostly upstream issues. Thus, Arch linux is a nice distribution; but it may not be the best choice for new users.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Cache_clean to clean up older packages

I have a 10 gig / partition and I had only about a gig left on it. So, I decided to clean up. I was aware that pacman stores multiple versions of packages so I checked out the size of /var/cache/pacman/pkg and it tuned out to be 4.9 gigs, i.e. more than 50% of my used space. The way to regain disk space was clear. I started looking up ways to clean up and found a python script in AUR. A snippet of the script's preview run is below.

['mercurial-1.5.1-1-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz', 'mercurial-1.5.2-1-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz', 'mercurial-1.5.3-1-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz', 'mercurial-1.5.4-1-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz', 'mercurial-1.6-1-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz', 'mercurial-1.6.2-1-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz', 'mercurial-1.6.3-1-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz']
['xulrunner-', 'xulrunner-', 'xulrunner-', 'xulrunner-', 'xulrunner-', 'xulrunner-', 'xulrunner-', 'xulrunner-']

Using the script I cleaned 2.5 gb within a minute. Elegant.
[N.B. - An alternative script in Go is available at github.]