Does Archlinux need a new slogan?

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.”

Archlinux logo

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.

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22 Responses to Does Archlinux need a new slogan?

  1. herodotos484 says:

    “Much more time-consuming…”

    At least not for the targeted user. I’ve tested it, just had to get a new media server up because of a new SSD, and used the opportunity to run the new installer. One page of basic instructions and it goes at least just as fast (if you’re not typing very slow).

    “… impossible for people new to Linux”

    Depends on the specific user. If we’re talking about a less technical and/or worse impatient user, then yes Arch still isn’t a good choice and never was intended for him/her.

    “If they cannot find anyone willing to be the maintainer, I guess they are in pretty big trouble.”

    If your assumption that the core Archers want AIF then it could be a correct assumption. If no developers really want AIF and the core user base don’t view AIF as particularly important, who’s then in trouble? The steps to install a base system are few, and the main work to get a good system is the same.

    “… I am not sure what the project team is trying to say to its users.”

    Unfortunately it looks like you haven’t been interested enough to investigate the given reasons. A new installation media was necessary since recent changes practically have breaking the old installation media (filesystem and moving of lib). The reason wasn’t to present an installer without AIF, but it become an inevitable decision due to AIF being broken. Do you prefer a catch-22 scenario: no AIF no new installation media vs. AIF combined with a broken installation media?

    “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.”

    First of all: I’m tired and bored to see that embarrassing “user-friendly” expression, which doesn’t mean squat! Obviously Arch is the most “user-friendly” for those who prefer it over other distributions. Secondly, if you don’t want to configure stuff yourself, and Arch being about not making decisions for the user but letting the user make and control those decisions, why would you get concerned about AIF anyway?

    “I believe that it is time to remove the word “simple” from it.”

    That’s because you don’t take into account how the core principles behind Arch are explained. Simple doesn’t mean what you imply, but the as stated: “Arch Linux defines simplicity as without unnecessary additions, modifications, or complications, and provides a lightweight UNIX-like base structure that allows an individual user to shape the system according to their own needs. In short: an elegant, minimalist approach… Arch Linux retains the inherent complexities of a GNU/Linux system, while keeping them well organized and transparent. Arch Linux developers and users believe that trying to hide the complexities of a system actually results in an even more complex system, and is therefore to be avoided.”

    I’ve seen surprisingly few complaints about the exclusion of AIF. Historical changes have raised more uproar and still Arch is getting stronger and stronger. Even if AIF would return in some shape or another, several users won’t use it anyway since it’s not necessary for installation. Much (or maybe not so much) ado for nothing.

    • “Obviously Arch is the most “user-friendly” for those who prefer it over other distributions.”

      Come on! Archlinux has never been user friendly! Archlinux gives you the option to create a distro exactly the way you like it! If gives you amazing flexibility at the cost of having to edit the config files yourself. I agree that the rc.conf construction makes the general setup of Archlinux “simple”. But anyone who has ever tried the control center in Mandriva or PCLinuxOS knows how you can configure your system in a User-friendly way.

      I agree that Archlinux never wanted to be a distro for Newbies but I do believe that with stopping with AIF they’ve gone a bit too far. I merely write this blog to express my feelings. These words are my beliefs, not yours.

      On the other hand, I see initiatives that make it easier to do an Arch installation. A few days ago I found Nosonja. Take a look at their website. Although the distro may be too small to make it out there, it shows Arch can be available for those not wanting to do the installation “the hard way”. I suppose for many of the current Arch users, the provided system is far too bloated, but for some it might be a solution.

      I consider writing a little review on Nosonja in the near future.

      • herodotos484 says:

        Of course it’s your beliefs, but if you open up for a discussion, e g comments, you’re prepared for different opinions on the matter.

        If you really believe that “user-friendly” is a good description it could as well imply that users of Arch are masochists. You find “user-friendly” in “The Arch Way” as well, in an attempt to differentiate Arch as being “user-centric”. We could argue about semantics, a quite futile discussion, but instead I agree on disagreeing. If you, from your standpoint, see “user-friendly” as a good definition, OK, I accept that. I won’t however agree with you about omitting “simple”, since you took it out of context.

        I’ve already pointed out the real reasons for why it was necessary to release a new installation media despite that AIF had to be excluded. It’s not about a new direction, like a policy decision. Is providing only a broken installer “user-friendly”? No, of course not. Will anyone have an interest in fixing AIF? Maybe not, but then it’s still not a policy decision, just a natural result of users’ priorities.

        Installation is like 0.001% of the total experience. Since Arch is a niched distribution, how do you decide what’s too far as long as the majority approves? At times “too far” maybe even is inevitable to improve and/or preserve its strengths?

      • thallian says:

        But in my opinion this is exactly what user-friendly means to me: I can make it behave exactly the way I want to without a gui standing in my way.
        And this is exactly the problem with the term ‘user-friendly’, everyone understands it differently.
        To forestall the usual arguments: yes, I do work in the IT field 😉 But why should you be excluded from the ‘friendliness’ just because you like some other aspects of it?
        But maybe it is just me being picky on terms^^

        Btw: Nosonja does look interesting and I also quite like Archbang

      • Hi thallian, it all is subjective. I understand you like Arch and found in it what you were looking for. I cannot think of a good reason why I should do manually what can be done automatically. Yes, I too work in the IT business 😉 I define user-friendly as “making difficult tasks easy to do without a big chance of making mistakes” or something like that. It’s all in the definition!

  2. Jeffrey Davidson says:

    I agree with removing the simple. I have used Arch and loved it, doing many install over the years but this one now shuts out many potential users. Big blunder on their part. I just quit cause it is now not worth the effort.

    • Serge Lussier says:

      Sorry but What is “efforts” ? having to leave the mouse-clicks /or up-down arrow keys + enter on the keyboard ?

      Let me tell you:
      When AIF was there I was in serious difficulties to install ony the basic because I always ended with error messages about repos or network.

      Since the removal of AIF, and being used with the command-line, then Archlinux is a Pure Joy Of Simple Way to install it! Just a few steps and reboot:. 5 minutes! Or 15 following tutorials.

      I would even call new Archlinux very, really :
      —– > “****Sorry, The new slogan is in copy-rights/Pattent process **** :-)” LOL

      But I would agree that Archlinux is not for newbies – at least for the very first-timers, or the least- least, users who really, really, do not know what they are doing.

  3. Brad says:

    Do what I do.. install Archbang and than pacman -Syu kde and go from there..
    saves you alot of the trouble.. I mean how much do you “really” need to hand configure/tweak these days.. as much as I personally feel I’ve learned using arch for 3-4 years now…. I can tweak any linux distro… to go faster than it does from base install.. I mean configuring every single file etc… is something like “braggin rights” for forums/irc/chatrooms etc.. gentoo/slackware/arch.. makes it less prick-like to say RTFM/Check the forums.. lol

  4. tommy says:

    I’ve always thought that when Arch draws a KISS line in the sand, it is an arbitrary line that goes just below their level of understanding. It allows purported “experts” to explain that if you don’t understand or can’t perform *whatever* in Arch, you’re not smart enough and you should just go use either windows or Ubuntu.

    Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. To all these “experts”, let’s give them a new pc to install arch on, without their AIF. But while we’re taking out AIF, let’s also remove the ENTIRE BOOT PROCESS OF THE COMPUTER. You’ll now have to perform all the steps required to manually boot your computer. See all those messages that flash by when you boot ( you DO NOT have a splash screen do you n00b? )? Yes, you’ll need to configure and perform each and every one of those steps. Oh don’t worry, there are a couple hundred pages of documentation online that explain the entire process.

    See, and arbitrary line. I just lowered the line a bit, and if you can’t follow the documentation, perhaps you should just use Ubuntu.

    And did I mention that there are no binary installs either n00b? Nope, you have to compile everything. And before I forget, there’s the matter of writing your own compiler too. Of course there is documentation. n00b.

  5. Pingback: A quick look at Manjaro: bringing Archlinux to the people? | Marcel Gommans

  6. rop75 says:

    I installed Arch a couple of months ago, just for fun, just to say: “I was able to install Arch and get it to work”. After using it for a couple of weeks, I decided to switch back to Debian testing. I think that using the word “simple” is a mistake. lots of people might think that simple = easy, and I guess you all agree that Arch is not easy to install (not as easy as Ubuntu, Debian, mageia, Fedora -I have not tried the new installer though-; even there are Arch ‘s children easier to install like Manjaro…). I guess that there few people able to install it without reading the wiki (you don’t have this problem with the mentioned distros). With such installer, they seem to say , Stay away from us, and not keep it simple

  7. AdeHaze says:

    Yes,, I think Arch Linux must change it

  8. Jeff says:

    It’s not so bad, the Arch install script method. I too hesitated and had mixed feelings with the new install method. It rained all day here so I had a Saturday afternoon to dedicate to try it out.

    • These aren’t the early 90s, Jeff. An installer is a normal thing to have. Ofcourse you can get it to work without one. But calling that simple goes a bit too far for me.

  9. Jeff says:

    Yea, it’s definitely not “simple” by any stretch for a mere Linux mortal like me! Have you checked out Bridge Linux ….. I consider it kind of an Arch installer.

  10. Jeff Story says:

    Thought you may find this interesting.
    I’m in the beginning, planning stages of developing a GUI installer along with an alternative community for Arch Linux.

  11. Jeff Story says:

    Not sure you’re still interested in Arch. Here’s the Arch Linux GUI installer. If you test it, stop by and give me some feedback.

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