Last week Archlinux released the install media 2012.07.15. In a post on the website they told us that the most noticeable change was the fact they no longer ship their installer, the Arch Installation Framework (AIF), with it. This means, that after downloading the ISO, you will have to perform all the installation steps manually. Or, to put it in their own words, “This means a menu driven installer is no longer available and we rely more on documentation to guide new users.”
Now Archlinux never was a distro for Linux Newbies. I consider myself to be an intermediate Linux user and I have used Arch on my main desktop for many years. You will not find a control center in this distribution and the AIF did not give you a fully installed system. But is did give you a solid base to install your packages and desktop environment on, if you wanted to. But without the AIF, installing Arch is a different story, Much more time-consuming and merely impossible for people new to Linux.
Now AIF had to be dropped due to lack of maintenance and contributions, so it says on the website. The sentence doesn’t tell me if they simply cannot find anyone among their devs whom is willing to work on the AIF, or that they have decided to focus on other things to work on. In case of the latter, I wonder if the project team has made the right decision. If they cannot find anyone willing to be the maintainer, I guess they are in pretty big trouble.
With the AIF Archlinux made it pretty easy to set a base. Now that they remove AIF, I am not sure what the project team is trying to say to its users. Are they, when it comes to defining their public, focussing on the Linux experts, that have no problems with performing these tasks? Are they leaving the intermediate and novice Linux users behind? They are obviously building barriers!
So I wonder where Archlinux is going. If I were to have a say in this, I would keep the AIF available. I stopped using Arch on my desktop because I didn’t want to have to configure everything manually and I wanted to use a more user-friendly distro. I do still run Archlinux on my home server. However, if I have to reinstall my server somewhere in the future, I am not sure if I will choose Archlinux again. On the other hand: Archlinux is immensely popular and I am sure many people will continue to use it.
Archlinux’ slogan is “a simple, lightweight distribution”. I believe that it is time to remove the word “simple” from it.