posted by Jordan Spencer Cunningham on Mon 11th Jan 2010 15:57 UTC
IconA few weeks ago, we asked for the OSNews community to help with some questions we were going to ask Aaron Griffin from the Arch Linux team, and the response was glorious and somewhat phenomenal. We added those questions to our own and sent them on over, and then we were surprised by receiving not only Aaron Griffin's responses but answers from various individuals from the team.

With distributions like Ubuntu attracting more and more users, have you ever considered a pre-built ISO for those that need a desktop in 30mins?

Thomas Bächler: When you compare the short time you spend installing Arch with the years you are going to use it, it seems like a waste of time to put effort into a plug-and-pray installer. Furthermore, if you are going to use Arch, you better know what's installed on your system.

All that said, I can easily set up a working Arch desktop machine in 30 minutes.

Dieter Plaetinck: I can relate to the wishes of getting a working system faster and easier-- that's why we support automated installations. There is, however, no need for "pre-built" (whatever that means) ISOs. I think we should just ship a few more example profiles for the automatic installer to cover some common scenarios.

Allan McRae: No, although several community-based projects have started to do so. Among the most popular are Chakra and Godane's Archiso-live.

Aaron Griffin: If you mean a "Live CD", then yes and no. We have tools to create our installation ISO which can be used to create a desktop-based Live CD, but we're not focused on that. There are, as Allan mentioned, community projects which do just this. We try to think of ourselves as the "core" of the distro and let other people build on top of what we provide. This is such a case.

Giovanni Scafora: Arch Linux users don't need a desktop in 30mins!

Ionut Biru: Not really needed. If you read the documentation before installing Arch, you can have a working desktop in less than 30 min.

Jürgen Hötzel: This, is in my opinion, is the most important question because it indicates what really matters for Arch users.

Novice users can setup a desktop system using Ubuntu without knowing anything about Linux-based operating systems. But advanced users will be scared of a system trying to hide system internals by custom configuration and build tools they have to learn that may also inhibit them from customization of the system.

Instead, advanced users will appreciate a simple build system based on GNU Bash: A language they are most likely familiar with contrary to other systems using custom languages like RPM spec or python-based portage.

Arch attracts people who want to understand and customize their system and build their own packages "without a hassle" instead of (re)-installing the system in 30 minutes.

Tobias Kieslich: If it's not your first time and you have a decent connection, a running desktop is doable in 30 minutes. However, that requires reading and understanding of the documentation. To put it in other words, there are a lot of people out there driving cars. The majority of them are intimidated by looking under the hood. Arch Linux is targetting people who are not.

Creating a distro like Ubuntu would take away from the advantages we get from flexibility. Creating an ISO that runs in 30 min out of the box would not prevent people from asking the questions they will ask. It just delays them.

As others have pointed out, it is always worth it to check out community projects for things not found in upstream development.

Ronald van Haren: Arch Linux is about freedom of choice. I therefore see no point in what a user would need on the desktop. Looking through the forums, there are a lot of different desktop setups, but there is no such thing as an average desktop which fits all. If you have a desktop you really like, some work needs to be done, so you better start building it from the ground up. I see not much sense in rebuilding after breaking a default setup down first.

One more thing. It really doesn't take more than 30 minutes to set up a full desktop environment fully up to date if you have a reasonable connection and a bit of experience.

Pierre Schmitz: It is no problem to setup an Arch system within half an hour if you know what you are doing. Ubuntu and Arch have a very different target audience. One of our principles is to let the user decide what is best and give him full control over his system. So, by design we won't have an installer that can be passed by just pressing "Enter" long enough.

And last but not least our goal is not to build an operating system for as many people as possible. We are just building the system that fits our needs best.

James Rayner: 30 minutes is a long time for an install + desktop; I usually get my computers up in 15 if I have a good connection. :)

Have you ever considered supporting other CPU architectures outside of i686 / AMD64?

Thomas Bächler: We never even considered supporting x86_64. It started as a community project and was integrated into Arch when it matured and gained enough popularity. That might happen again - or not. Obviously, none of the current developers have any other machines they want to run Arch on, so none of us will start a new port.

Allan McRae: There are community projects for i586, PPC and ARM.

Aaron Griffin: Yes, but it is all based on demand. Right now, the market is largely ruled by x86 and x86_64 architectures, meaning that if we were to put a lot of work into an additional port, we'd end up with very little users. All work, little gain.

That said, there ARE community projects for this sort of thing. i.e. http://archlinux-i586.org/ and http://www.archmobile.org/

Giovanni Scafora: I considered other CPU architectures. There are external community projects for other CPU architectures.

Maybe in the future...

Ionut Biru: Like history shows (x86_64 port was a community project and now we are supporting official), first things happen in community. Maybe in the future, when we have the harwdware, we can support some new architectures like those supported by commmunity: PPC, ARM.

Tobias Kieslich: kth5, a former Arch Linux developer, used to create a PowerPC version of the most used packages. For now we have only i686/x86_64. Nothing else is planned to my knowledge. But you never know what the community comes up with - especially with the rising popularity and capability of mobile devices. Being active or not, there are community projects around for some less popular architectures.

Ronald van Haren: No, not really. If some architecture becomes really popular someday, I'm sure we'll have a community project in no time, like we see now, for example, with Arch Mobile, optimized for ARM-based model devices. In the end, these projects may or may not become part of the official distribution if we see a need for it at some point.

Pierre Schmitz: No, but once there is a need for another port, I am sure the community will provide an Arch port.

Hugo Doria: There are some community projects for this and nothing prevents others from appearing. Everything depends on whether the community will need support for another architecture or not.

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