A mightily relieved Jonni Bidwell discovers that Arch Linux and a convenient, out-of-the-box setup experience aren’t mutually exclusive.
A slick setup experience wows a not-easilyimpressed Jonni Bidwell, who finds lots to like in this clever take on Arch Linux.
Not one but two Arch-based distros this month. Arch purists may cry foul at their pure distro being corrupted with such fripperies as an installer (the awesome Cnchi) and a selection of desktop environments, it’s not the Arch way, after all. But vanilla Arch is still there for those people, and Antergos, and a growing number of other distros, are there for those who would like to harness the power of Arch but would rather not spend three days setting it up.
Antergos is part of the second wave of Arch-based distros, first appearing as Cinnarch in 2012. Back then, Cinnamon was rather tricky to use anywhere other than its native Linux Mint, and it was especially difficult to make it play nice with the shiny new GTK libraries found in the Arch repos. So Cinnarch switched to Gnome rebranded itself Antergos (a Galician word meaning ‘ancestors’), and the rest, as they say, is history.
Nowadays, Cinnamon is more portable and nicely packaged in the Arch repos and it, or Gnome (the default), KDE, Mate, Openbox or Xfce, can be chosen straight from the installer. A spartan ‘Base’ session, with no desktop, is also available, for those wanting something a little closer to the Arch experience.
Once you’ve chosen your desktop poison, Cnchi offers to set up Arch User Repository (AUR) support, Bluetooth, printers, Flash ( noooo–Ed), LTS kernels and a few others. AUR support is a nice touch, because the process for bootstrapping an out-of-repo package manager, such as Yaourt, is convoluted and confusing to the uninitiated.
Steam and PlayOnLinux are bundled together in Cnchi, which is slightly confusing because they don’t necessarily complement each other; games played via the latter may require the Windows version of the former. So users who are interested in a straightforward method of installing Steam are lumbered with a Wine installation they may never use. This aside, Antergos is a great choice for a gaming distro ( gamingonlinux.com’s Liam Dawe says so), and as with NetRunner Rolling any gaming problems you encounter have probably been encountered and solved somewhere in the Arch ecosystem.
The partitioning utility enables LVM or ZFS to be set up in one click, in addition to offering an advanced option for those users who know what they want. There’s also a handy checkbox to put /home on another partition. Whichever desktop environment you choose, you’ll find it set up and looking delightful. There’s a great selection of desktop wallpapers, and windows and icons use the bold and modern Numix Frost theme. Combined with all the shiny new packages you’ll be the envy of your Ubuntu-using cohorts.
Despite everything being nicely presented and ready to go, Antergos is still very much Arch Linux under the hood, and uses Arch’s repos under the hood. As soon as new packages hit the Arch repos, they’re available in Antergos. There’s a separate Antergos repository for its customised packages and high level additions. This includes some stuff prebuilt from the AUR too, such as Dropbox and the Widevine DRM plugin, so you can watch Netflix in Chromium without having to install Chrome.
Antergos’ uses the Pamac frontend for managing packages, which is to Arch’s pacman what Synaptic is to Apt. This makes all package-related business much less daunting, allowing one-click system upgrades so everything can be kept fresh.
Cinnamon looks every bit as good on Antergos as it does on Mint, but we doubt that the world is ready for more wobbly windows.