My pseudo-review of Arch made me realize that it wasn’t the right distribution for me anymore. Not really a critique as should be evident from the pros and cons article. Currently for me the cons just outweigh the pros and when an upgrade broke Gnome badly, well it was time to leave. I bought a new usb wifi dongle, pulled out the old one – the main hardware component tying me to Arch – and broke up camp. So where did I end up? The answer surprised me as much as anyone. Well, anyone that hasn’t read the post title.
Linux distribution reviews are a regular feature of linux journalism. Twice a year a new Ubuntu release sees the light of day and sometimes they are deemed worthy of writeups depending on how ‘big’ the release is, and also-probably how slow the newsday is. I suspect most people don’t read them as ‘consumer guide’ reviews like for films but more as a chance to reinforce existing opinions or just chew the cud.
Arch Linux is a rolling release and a DIY one at that so it poses a challenge for journalists. Whatever you’re writing about, it is not something that can be experienced by others. It’s your build at a specific moment in time. And since there really isn’t anything particularly Archy about the Arch gnome packages once they’re in place, that options is out as well. So most journalists tend to stay away.
I think the way not to review Arch is to review the process of installing it and then building your system. What you’ll in effect be reviewing is your own patience because Arch takes longer to install to the point where you have a useable system than a desktop-centric mainstream. The way to review is not even to report on daily usage because sometimes the thing works and sometimes it doesn’t. What is needed is to take the very long view and ask: Over a period of years of useage is Arch worth it compared to the mainstream distros? Because the time spent fiddling is only – if at all – recouped/compensated over that time period.