Difference between revisions of "Frequently asked questions"

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'''A)''' If you have read, and agree with [[The Arch Way]] philosophy, embrace the 'do-it-yourself' approach and require or desire a simple, elegant, highly customizable, bleeding edge, general purpose GNU/Linux distribution, chances are you may like Arch.
'''A)''' If you have read, and agree with [[The Arch Way]] philosophy, embrace the 'do-it-yourself' approach and require or desire a simple, elegant, highly customizable, bleeding edge, general purpose GNU/Linux distribution, chances are you may like Arch.
==Q Why wouldn't I want to use Arch?==
==Q) Why wouldn't I want to use Arch?==
'''A)''' If you have read, and disagree with [[The Arch Way]] philosophy, and do not have the ability/time/desire for a 'do-it-yourself' GNU/Linux distribution, chances are Arch may not be for you.
'''A)''' If you have read, and disagree with [[The Arch Way]] philosophy, and do not have the ability/time/desire for a 'do-it-yourself' GNU/Linux distribution, chances are Arch may not be for you.

Revision as of 01:10, 26 January 2010

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Besides the questions covered below, you may find The Arch Way and Arch Linux helpful. Both of the articles contain a good deal of information about Arch Linux.



Q) What is Arch Linux?

A) From the article entitled Arch Linux:

Arch Linux is an independently developed i686/x86-64 community distribution, based on a rolling-release model and targeted at competent GNU/Linux users which offers large binary repositories and excellent package management as well as a ports-like packaging system. Development focuses on a balance of minimalism, elegance, code correctness and modernity. Version 0.1 (Homer) was released March 11, 2002.

Q) Why would I want to use Arch?

A) If you have read, and agree with The Arch Way philosophy, embrace the 'do-it-yourself' approach and require or desire a simple, elegant, highly customizable, bleeding edge, general purpose GNU/Linux distribution, chances are you may like Arch.

Q) Why wouldn't I want to use Arch?

A) If you have read, and disagree with The Arch Way philosophy, and do not have the ability/time/desire for a 'do-it-yourself' GNU/Linux distribution, chances are Arch may not be for you.

You may also not want to use Arch if:

  • you require support for an architecture other than x86_64 or i686.
  • you take a strong stand on using a distribution which only provides free software as defined by GNU.
  • you believe an operating system should configure itself, run out of the box, and include a complete default set of software and desktop environment on the installation media.
  • you do not want a bleeding edge, rolling release GNU/Linux distribution.
  • you are happy with your current OS of choice.

Q) I am a complete GNU/Linux beginner. Should I use Arch?

A) This question has had much debate. Arch is targeted at more-advanced GNU/Linux users, but some people feel "Arch is a good place to start". If you are a beginner and want to use Arch, just be warned that you must be willing to learn as well as accept the fact that Arch is largely a do-it-yourself distribution. It is the user who assembles the system, and controls what it will be. Before asking any question, do your own independent research by googling, searching the Wiki, and searching the forum (and reading past FAQs). If you do that, you should be fine. Also know that many people do not want to answer the same basic questions over and over, so you are exposing yourself to that environment. There is a reason these resources were created/made available to you in the first place. Many thousands of volunteered hours have been spent compiling this excellent information.

Recommended reading: The Arch Linux Beginners' Guide.

Q) Is Arch designed to be used as a server? A desktop? A workststion?

A) Arch is not designed for any particular type of use. Rather, it is designed for a particular type of user. Arch targets competent users who enjoy its do-it-yourself nature, and who further exploit it to shape the system to fit their unique needs. Therefore, in the hands of its target user base, Arch can be used for virtually any purpose. Many use Arch on both their desktops and workstations. And of course, archlinux.org runs on Arch.

Q) I really like Arch, except the development team needs to implement feature X.

A) Before going further, did you read The Arch Way? Have you provided the feature/solution? Does it conform to the Arch philosophy of minimalism and code-correctness over convenience? Get involved, contribute your code/solution to the community. If it is well regarded by the community and development team, perhaps it will be merged. The Arch community thrives on contribution and sharing of code and tools.

Q) When will the new release be made?

A) Arch Linux releases are merely a snapshot of the /core repository, combined with various features or modifications to the installer script itself. The rolling release model keeps every Arch Linux system current and on the bleeding edge by issuing one command.

For this reason, releases are not terribly important in Arch, because the rolling-release system makes new releases out of date as soon as a package has been updated. If you are looking to obtain the latest Arch Linux release, you do not need to reinstall. You simply run the Template:Codeline command and your system will be identical to what you would get with a brand-new install.

For this same reason, new Arch Linux releases are not typically full of new and exciting features. New and exciting features are released as needed with the packages that are updated, and can be obtained immediately via Template:Codeline.

Q) Is Arch Linux a stable distro? Will I get frequent breakage?

A) The long and short answer is: It is largely as stable as you make it.

You assemble your own Arch system, atop the simple base environment, and you control system upgrades. Obviously, a larger, more bloated system incorporating multitudes of packages, multiple toolkits and desktop environments would be more likely to experience configuration issues due to upstream changes than a slimmer, more simple system would. General UNIX competence and good system maintenance and upgrade practices also play a large role in system stability. Also recall that Arch packages are predominantly unpatched, so most issues are inherently upstream.

Therefore, it is the user who is ultimately responsible for the stability of his own rolling release system. The user decides when to upgrade, and merges necessary changes when required. If the the user reaches out to the community for help, it is often provided in a timely manner. The difference between Arch and other distributions in this regard is that Arch is truly a 'do-it-yourself' distro; complaints of breakage are misguided and unproductive, since upstream changes are not the responsibility of Arch devs.

Q) What exactly is this 'BSD-style' init framework I keep hearing about?

Part of BSD's heritage is the simple init framework that it has incorporated. The main difference between a BSD init and a sysV init is that Arch's BSD-style init uses a single file, Template:Filename, to point to scripts within a single directory, Template:Filename, for all system services, regardless of runlevel.

A sysV init, on the other hand, would use a directory for each runlevel:Template:Filename with a convoluted array of symlinks within the directory; one for each service, and each symlink pointing to a corresponding script in the Template:Filename directory. Needless to say, the SysV method is much more complex; it could easily contain dozens of symlinks in each /etc/rc. directory. Keeping in line with its simple philosophy, Arch uses the BSD-style init.

Q) Arch needs more press (i.e. advertisement)

A) Arch gets plenty of press as it is. The goal of Arch Linux is not to be large. The goal is to provide an elegant, minimalist and bleeding edge distribution focused on simplicity and code-correctness. Growth occurs naturally amongst the target user base. Trying to force growth will just cause problems.

Similarly, the development model does not restrict natural growth. More users might mean more devs to work on Arch Linux. This may cause some organizational issues at the "top", but those will be dealt with when they arrive.

Q) Arch needs more devs

A) Possibly so. Feel free to volunteer your time! Visit the forums, IRC channels, and mailing lists, and see what needs to be done. Getting involved in the Community Contributions subforum is a good way to start.

Q) Why is Arch so slow? Programs open slowly or do not run at all!

A) Make sure that your hostname is correctly set in Template:Filename (i.e., that it matches the hostname in Template:Filename. Have a look at "Configure the System" in The Beginners' Guide). If the hostnames do not match, applications may start up very slowly.

Q) Why is my internet so slow compared to other operating systems?

A) Is your network configured correctly? Have you double checked your Template:Filename Template:Filename and Template:Filename? Have a look at "Configure the System" in The Beginners' Guide.

Q) Why is Arch using all my RAM? 2G used while I'm just staring at my desktop?

A) Essentially, unused RAM is wasted RAM.

For many new users, Linux handles memory differently than they are used to. Since accessing data in RAM is much faster than from disk, Linux caches recently accessed data in memory. The cached data is only cleared when the system begins to run out of unused memory and new data still needs to be loaded.

Perhaps the most common culprit of this confusion is the Template:Codeline command:


It is important to note the Template:Codeline line -- a representation of the amount of memory that is actually in "active use" and the amount of "available" memory, rather than "unused".

In the above example, a laptop with 1G of total RAM appears to be using 741M of it, with naught but a few idling terminals and web browser open! However, upon examining the emphasized line, see that only 278M of it is in "active use", and in fact 731M is "available" for new data. Apparently, 104M of that "used" memory contains buffered data and 359M contains cached data, both of which can be cleared away if needed. Only 267M of the total is truly "free" of the burden of data storage.

The result of all this? Performance!

See this wonderful article if your curiosity has been piqued!

Package Management

Q) I've found an error with Package X. What should I do?

A) First, you need to figure out if this error is something the Arch team can fix. Sometimes it's not (that Firefox crash may be the fault of the Mozilla team) - this is called an upstream error. If it is an Arch problem, there is a series of steps you can take:

  1. Search the forums for information. See if anyone else has noticed it.
  2. Notify the package maintainer. Try a Template:Codeline for this info.
  3. Post a bug report with detailed information at http://bugs.archlinux.org.
  4. If you'd like, write a forum post detailing the problem and the fact that you have reported it already. This will help prevent a lot of people from reporting the same error.

Q) Will Arch have a database for pacman?

A) Possibly. There is discussion over the issue.
Look at http://bugs.archlinux.org/task/5328, too.

Q) Arch packages need to use a unique naming convention. .pkg.tar.gz is too long and/or confusing

A) This has been discussed on the Arch mailing list. Some proposed a .pac file extension. As far as is currently known, there is no plan to change the package extension. As Tobias Kieslich, one of the Arch devs, put it, "A package is a gzipped tarball! And it can be opened, investigated and manipulated by any tar-capable application. Moreover, the mime-type is automatically detected correctly by most applications."

Q) Pacman needs a library so other applications can easily access package information

A) Since version 3.0.0, pacman has been the front-end to libalpm, the "Arch Linux Package Management" library. This library allows alternative front-ends to be written (for instance, a GUI front-end).

Q) Why doesn't Pacman have an official GUI front-end?

A) Please read The Arch Way and Arch Linux. The answer is basically that the Arch dev team will not be providing one. Feel free to use one of those developed by users. There is a nice list of them on the UserContributionsPage in the links section, and a selective list on Pacman GUI Frontends.

Q) Pacman needs Feature X!

A) Please read The Arch Way and Arch Linux. The Arch philosophy is "Keep It Simple". If you think the idea has merit, and does not violate this simple litany, then by all means, discuss it on the forum here. You might also like to check here; it's a place for feature requests if you find it is important.

However, the best way to get a feature added to Pacman or Arch Linux is to implement it yourself. There's no telling whether the patch will be officially accepted, but others will appreciate and test your effort.

Q) Arch needs a stable package branch

A) Never say never. Some of the many discussions on the topic:

Q) What's the difference between all these repositories?

A) See Official Repositories.

Q) I just installed Package X. How do I start it?

A) If you're using a desktop environment like KDE or GNOME, the program should automatically show up in your menu. If you're trying to run the program from a terminal and don't know the binary name, try executing Template:Codeline. A common problem for packages like Firefox or OpenOffice is that they are installed to Template:Filename, which is not in your $PATH - you can Template:Codeline or relogin to fix this.


Q) Arch needs a better installer. Maybe a GUI installer.

A) The discussion of a "better" installer is subjective. The best way to deal with these issues is to fit the installer to The Arch Way. If a suggestion for a better installer is backed with concrete arguments, it might be considered during future development of the installer. Since installation doesn't occur often (see the question above on rolling release), it is not a high priority for developers or users. However, two unofficial methods exist: Archie Live CD for XFCE (other desktops in development) and Arch Linux Office Install CD for KDE.

Warning: Development of Archie and it's derivatives and firefly have ceased and they are now out of date. Please consider using archiso or larch [1].

Q) I installed Arch, and now I am at a bash login! What now?

A) Have a look at the Arch Linux Beginners' Guide.

Q) What makes Arch unique amongst other "minimal" distributions?

A) A few distributions may provide minimal installation methods similar in design to the Arch installation process. However, a few points must be noted:

  1. Arch has been fundamentally designed as a lightweight, minimal environment upon which to build.
  2. Whether the Netinstall or Core images are used, the only way to install Arch is by building up from this minimal base.
  3. The installation, as well as the entire distribution is inherently a K.I.S.S. design approach, which makes it uniquely suitable for its target base of users.
  4. The simple Arch installer is designed for a high level of transparency and the base system is manually configured by the user to their needed specifications.
  5. Arch provides thoroughly complete documentation to guide one through this process of system assembly.


Q) I get an error every time I use pacman saying 'warning: current locale is invalid; using default "C" locale'. What do I do?

A) As the error message says, your locale isn't correctly configured. Have a look at the locale configuration wiki page.

Q) How do I automount/mount something?

A) If you use GNOME below 2.22, install gnome-volume-manager:

pacman -Sy gnome-volume-manager

For GNOME above or equal to 2.22 nothing have to be done, as Nautilus is used to track removable devices.

Now add yourself to the storage group:

gpasswd -a your_user storage

If you don't want to use gnome-volume-manager or Nautilus, check out Ivman or AutoFS.

Q) How do I connect to my wireless network?

A) See Wireless Setup.

Q) How do I connect to my wired network?

A) See Configuring Network.

Q) What is this AUR thing I keep hearing about?

A) See Arch User Repository#FAQ.

Q) Why do I get a green screen whenever I try to watch a video?

A) Your colour depth is set wrong. It may need to be 24 instead of 16, for example.

Q) Spellcheck is marking all of my text as incorrect!

A) Have you installed an aspell dictionary? Use Template:Codeline to see available dictionaries for downloading.

If installing aspell dictionary files did not resolve the problem. It is most likely to be a problem with Template:Codeline.

Firstly, check what dictionary files aspell knows about using the command Template:Codeline:

$ aspell dicts

Prints out:


If your respective language dictionary is listed, add the following line to Template:Filename:

en_GB:aspell # Example