In mintCast episode 41, I mentioned that I want to try installing
other Linux distros, especially Arch Linux.
This is not due to any dissatisfaction with Linux Mint. For anyone
getting started with Linux — or who wants to just install Linux and
get to work — Linux Mint is the best way to go.
It’s like when we moved into this house a few years ago. I don’t know
anything about building a house. I don’t want to know. We chose the
design we wanted, then someone else did all the work to build the
house. Once it was complete, we moved in.
That’s pretty much how I’ve been using Linux. With a distro like Mint,
someone else has done all the work. All you need to do is install it
and get to work. (Or play, if that’s what you want.)
But now I want to build the house. I want to learn where the boards
go, where the pipes are, how everything is connected and why it
There are several approaches one can take for this. Of course there
are web sites that have lessons to help you learn Linux. A couple of
these sites are:
These lessons are helpful, but like most people I learn best when I’m
actually doing it. I need to install it, maintain it, and use it, if
I’m going to really learn it.
There are several choices available to someone who wants to follow
Linux From Scratch (http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/) provides you
with step-by-step instructions for building your own custom Linux
system, entirely from source code. That sounds like the most
comprehensive approach, but I don’t feel like I’m quite ready for
A co-worker suggested Gentoo (http://www.gentoo.org/), and I actually
tried to do a Gentoo install. I definitely learned some new things
about Linux, but did not finish the install.
If you want a taste of Gentoo without doing all the work, you can try
Sabayon Linux (http://www.sabayonlinux.org/). Sabayon is a LiveDVD and
will also do a fairly automated install if you want, bringing up a
finished Gentoo system in minutes instead of hours.
And then there’s Arch Linux (http://www.archlinux.org/). Arch is
designed to be simple, and the install is fairly minimal. Many
Linux distros strive to give you a system that’s ready to use, with
many applications already installed — office suite, web browsers and
other Internet applications, graphics applications, audio/video
applications, games, and more might already be there when you finish
the distro install. This approach allows you to get started quickly.
Arch takes a different approach. Once you have Arch installed, you’re
just getting started. You then need to install the packages needed to
make the system you want. This means your PC will be exactly the
system that you have designed — you’re not working from someone
else’s guess at what you want.
When I first started using Linux, I would have found that very
frustrating — it was helpful to start off with a system that had all
my software already installed.
Now, however, I want to hammer the system together myself. Linux From
Scratch sounds too intimidating just yet, but I think Arch sounds like
a good way to jump in.
And if you don’t want to face the full install process, you can find a
shortcut to installing Arch in the Chakra Project
(http://chakra-project.org/). Chakra is not considered to be a distro
— rather, it’s a distrolet. It’s a LiveCD that can be used to install
Arch Linux with a modified version of KDE.
Linux is all about choice. There are many applications and tools to
choose from. There are several desktops to consider. You can even
choose how much effort you have to put into installing and maintaining
your system. If you can answer the question “What do you want?”, then
you can choose the distro, desktop and tools that are right for
And if tomorrow you have a different answer, there are other distros,
desktops and tools available.