So as I got ready to convert another PC in my house from Windows to Antergos, I paused for a moment. I thought, “Maybe I should give pure Arch a shot?” The last time I did that, I’m embarrassed to admit this but, I remember booting the live Arch ISO and being dumped out to a terminal. I was thinking, “where the heck is the GUI installer?” I quickly discovered that the Arch ISO does exactly this. Dumps you out to terminal and puts you in complete control. COMPLETE. The reason this was so jarring to me is, after trying practically every distro under the sun (and all of them having GUI installers that after the OS was installed and you rebooted, you were dumped into a pretty GUI (Cinnamon, KDE, Gnome, etc.)), I was dumbfounded why Arch (for as popular as it is) didn’t offer some sort of basic installer and the option to guide you through installing xorg and a desktop manager of your choice. I guess this is what makes Arch so… Arch.
So with that … I present to you, my decent into chaos …
For attempt # 1 at installing Arch, I opened up a 2nd terminal and used the ALT-Arrow key and brought up the ReadMe/Install notes text file included with the distro in another terminal and carried out the steps it guides you through. I’m not the quickest typist in the world so after about 30-45 minutes, I issued the reboot command and … I killed Arch. It wouldn’t boot. I forget the exact error but I think that either I missed it or the included setup txt file isn’t very clear about the need to install a bootloader. I figured Arch would do this logical (to me) step with one of the commands I type but nope. No biggie., my fault. I should have realized at no point in that text file (again, unless I missed it) there’s mention of the need to install something like Grub. How can a Linux distro boot without a bootloader? It can’t. Guess I should have caught that. (I’m a newb though, don’t forget that!)
Attempt # 2, I reset the SSD I was using (fdisk) and this time, I had my iPad with me and followed along the the official Arch setup wiki. I repeated all my steps (making sure to install Grub this time!) and rebooted and… dead. When I issued the ‘grub-install’ command, I used /dev/sda1 instead of /dev/sda. Again, human error on my part. I didn’t know how to recovered from that so reboot and fdisk to start again! :)
Attempt # 3, re-did all the commands, issue my reboot and… I WAS ABLE TO BOOT ARCH!!! At this point I was doing mental back-flips sitting in awe that I was able to read a guide and install Arch! lol But seriously, I was pleased that so far, everything worked right. Then it was time to tackle installing xorg, proprietary Nvidia drivers and Cinnamon… so I could get my fancy GUI! And this… is where … things went to crap.
Before doing anything I quickly realized that even though the Arch setup identified my network card and was able to retrieve packages from the repositories, after that part of the setup was done and I rebooted, Arch decided that if I wanted to use my network card I’d have to enable it first. (To me… this is just beyond stupid. Yeah, yeah, “the Arch install lets you configure every aspect of your system from the ground up.” But come on!! So after 15-20 minutes of Googling, I finally stumbled upon the command to enable the DHCP service for my interface and network connectivity was restored!
Next up, time to install Cinnamon…
Since I couldn’t find a step-by-step guide on the Arch wiki for installing Cinnamon. I was forced to cobble the steps together via YouTube and various web sites. I succeeded in installing xorg (and all companion programs), my Nvidia drivers and Cinnamon. But now what do I do? I rebooted and figured Cinnamon would just auto-magically load. It didn’t. On the Arch wiki, it mentions editing ~/.xinitrc and adding a line so you can start Cinnamon manually. I want Cinnamon to start at boot though? Over the next 30 minutes, I looked and looked and couldn’t find anything that helped me.
At this point, from the first, few failed attempts of the install failures to not being able to get Cinnamon to run at boot, I’m about 6 hours into this madness. I was thinking… even if I get this PC running with pure Arch, God help me if I ever need to blow the install away and reload from scratch because I messed something up and couldn’t recover from it. Will I be facing another multi-hour install process?
This is when I reached for the Antergos live USB image and trashed the remnants of the Arch install and installed Antergos.
I love the stability that you can get with a Debian based distro but it really bothers me that the packages quickly stagnate after a few months and it can be a couple of years before you get new versions of programs. And when a new version comes along, it’s always recommended to backup your drive and install a fresh copy. Case in point, Mint. I really like Linux Mint. On one of my PCs, been using Mint 18.3 for a very long time. Now that 19 is out, while you can technically do an upgrade, officially, it’s recommended to wipe your drive and install a fresh copy. I know they offer security updates for 2 more years with Mint 18.3 but then what? Wipe/install 19 and a couple years later, rinse-repeat? Having to wipe out my drive every couple of years kinda sorta sucks.
This is where a rolling distro, Antergos, fits in perfectly! (And also, the Manjaro numbers on Distrowatch seem WAY to high. I think they’re gaming the system with their first place position. :) )
In closing, I’m happy that the folks behind Antergos can provide us with a GUI installer for Arch. Your work is greatly appreciated! To the Arch folks that might read this, I think it’s time some of your minds come together and develop some super basic GUI (or text) based installer for Arch and automate the install process. I can’t think of a single, good reason why I needed to go in and type a command to enable the DHCP service for my network card… that was used to pull down packages. Working during setup and not working after I’ve booted into Arch is (to me) really, really dumb. But I guess this is the purpose of Antergos, to bring Arch to the masses.