3 Best Arch-based User Friendly Distributions of 2015

   
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If you’re an avid Linux user you probably know by now that it is no operating system for the weak at heart (well sometimes). The chances of you getting crushed when trying to install a Linux-based operating system or learning the usual curves in your first week are pretty high

However, starting your trip into the world of Linux would mostly require you using one of the mainstream distros out there are Ubuntu, Linux Mint etc. Most of the time, these distros are usually the best choices shoved in your face when you Google the usual keywords. Two months or so into your journey and you probably would have discovered more distros using the Linux base (if you’re that explorative).

Most at times — judging from my experience after you might have “distro hopped” for quite a while with distributions mostly based off Ubuntu, you will be dying to try something that is radically different from the mainstream offerings.

And here, we have Arch-Linux to the rescue. It is the next viable option you will come across mainly because it’s the next big thing in the Linux world (my opinion).

There are other options, though; there’s CentOS based off Red Hat and OpenSUSE – just to name a few. These operating systems feature an entirely different package management and are great in their own ways, however, we will be talking about the top derivatives of Arch Linux – targeted at newbies. This will be a thorough review and the list is in no specific order so you may take the time and read through the whole article.

Note: this list isn’t biased and it’s especially meant for newbies looking out to try Arch Linux but do not wish to go through the complicated process of building Arch from scratch? – this article is pretty much for you anyway; yes you! Irrespective of how much knowledge you’ve acquired during your time using Linux.

1. Apricity OS

This is a brand new simplistic distribution built upon Arch and targeted at newbies and professionals alike. Apricity takes a different approach to what the look and feel of an Operating system should be like and it poses as “a modern, intuitive operating system for the cloud generating of computing”, read on to find out more

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The folks behind the development of this OS originally birth the idea behind it earlier in 2013 and according to Wikipedia, it was initially planned to be based off arch OpenSUSE after which they choose Arch especially because of it rolling release nature with AUR (arch user repository) support out of the box.

The Apricity OS revolves around the idea of an OS for everyone and the first public beta saw a release in July followed by subsequently updated beta images with the most recent released on the seventh of this month.

The operating system is being actively developed by Chicago-based developers and a few other contributors around the world.

Apricity’s OS features a stripped down Gnome 3 shell or DE (if you may) to give you a beautifully crafted UI that doesn’t sacrifice on aesthetics with bundled apps that will see to an efficient day to day use.

From a personal usage experience, the fluidity the system offers reminds me of XFCE. There’s a very minimal use of your system resources with system monitor reporting just 700MB of actually system memory use (which includes background processes etc) however, the latest update of the beta image requires that you have at least 2GB of RAM before you can proceed with the installation.

There are quite a few nifty offerings that come bundled with Apricity.

First off we have a completely different installer (compared to the Ubuntu look-a-like that was featured in the early betas) that is quite easy and straight forward with options that include the welcome screen, location, keyboard partitions, users, summary, install, finish — listed as subcategories on the left bar.

There’s an advanced battery management utility (TLP) that that comes bundled with the distrolette which is preconfigured and will optimize your device’s battery for longer working periods while still customizable to suit your personal preference.

Mostly the move from windows to Linux can be a pain (especially if you’re unfamiliar with the distro you decide to go with); because of this, the folks behind Apricity decided to preinstall wine (run windows softwares in Linux) so as to ease your transitioning from windows to Apricity.

You have Wine and PlayOnLinux preinstalled. These programs are capable of running most windows programs and will enable you to pretty much install your favorite programs or games that you were fond of in windows on Linux without much hassle.

Syncthing is one of the biggest features in Apricity and also one of its main selling points. Syncthing essentially works as a medium through which you can share a huge amount of data securely without the use of any form of cloud storage. It is presented as a faster alternative compared to the cloud means. Whatever files shared via the Syncthing service are completed encrypted along the way

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Sbackup is an included backup program that can store your system backup compressed or uncompressed in whatever directory you wish to save them

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All around, Apricity is great and undoubtedly one of the most attractive looking operating systems of all time. However, it is currently only available for 64-bit systems and you’re out of luck if your system has a 32-bit architecture.

2. Manjaro

Manjaro today stands out as one of the of the main Arch-based distributions essentially because it has an active development team with a large user base and community with the added advantage of been one of the very first distros to go with an Arch – which of course means it has been around longer than the rest

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Manjaro is yet another user-friendly Arch-Linux based distro that completely revamps the whole idea of Arch – but most importantly lends an easier and more intuitive approach to Arch Linux for newcomers.

The operating system originates from Germany with associate/contributing developers from other countries and it’s currently has a daily hit of 998 as at the beginning of this month and its ranked the seventh most popular Linux based OS on Distrowatch – from the start of the year. The distro is traditionally targeted at newbies, moderately experienced and uber geeks alike.

Manjaro has its own repositories which is one of the distro’s main selling point while still compatible with AUR (arch user repository).

The repositories own by Manjaro comprises of three which are namely:

Unstable – contains the most bleeding edge packages which are rigorously tested before passed to the Testing repos – where the packages are held for testing purposes which can sometimes be up to a week and afterwards the packages are moved to the Stable repositories – packages that make it here are deemed “okay” by the development team for the Manjaro users that would rather prefer to enjoy a sleekly smooth experience with the OS.

Package management is handled by pacman package manager via CLI (command line interface) in the backend while you have Pamac (GTK+) and Octopi (Qt) which is the GUI frontend alternative.

The latest release of Manjaro now features a total of 3 installers all through the variants which are CLI, Antergos installer fork, Calamares installer which was introduced with the latest and most current beta release – codenamed Bellatrix 15.09.

3. Antergos

The used to be Cinnarch distro (from its inception) goes with the tagline of making Arch “for everyone”– currently rocking this distro as my daily driver.

Antergos (pronounced an-ta-gus) takes a much similar approach to the aforementioned distros in the sense that it also aims in providing Arch Linux to the young at heart (in a less intimidating way) that are willing to give Arch a spin.

Antergos takes a less conventional approach to Linux with its bleeding edge tech that ensures that you’re most current on all packages at all times – provided you like to stay on the edge. If not, you could possibly delay updates; I.e not update immediately you get a notification to.

The main focus of this Arch based distro is to provide a less intimidating means of installing Linux while the giving you the easiest approach on getting Arch onto your system.

You get a live environment and graphical installer – both of which are available in the two variants of the Antergos ISOs (Live environment – with the full blown Gnome DE and minimal installer).

Antergos today is offered in five different flavors (essentially with different Desktop Environments) with Gnome been the default

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A big selling point for this distro is aesthetics; the developers behind the operating system have done an incredible job with the theming of Antergos across its varying flavors – which is made possible by the Numix project team.

However, there’s what you might call a big downside; the current version of Antergos installer — cnchi is nothing but extremely unstable; took me a reasonable amount of time to get the OS on my PC which of course would be rather discouraging for a newbie.

Antergos remain a pure Arch Experience with the advantage of an already customized experience with the benefit of a pre-configured desktop.

Unlike Manjaro with its own repos, Antergos is directly linked to Arch’s repositories (although it still has its own repo – essentially to introduce new features to the operating system); this is to the advantage of the latter as you get all the updates, security patches, etc when ready.

Manjaro, on the other hand, does rigorous testing on all packages from the Arch repos before adding them to its official repositories for the variety of its users around the world.

The cnchi installer gives you the options of the DE to choose from during installation – all of which are officially supported by the Arch development team.

You have the options of Cinnamon, Gnome (default), KDE, MATE, Openbox, and Xfce – none of which are available as a precompiled ISO image.

The install process is pretty basic and straight forward except for the caveat that you might be unsuccessful at first tries as the installer is still in beta and very unstable

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Also, you will need a pretty fast network to download the necessary packages for your selected DE; plus you get the option to enable AUR (Arch User Repository) to extend your package source.

You get Pamac as the default front-end for managing your packages. Alternatively there’s Octopi (if it appeals to you more) which is a powerful QT5 based frontend for pacman.

The developers behind the Antergos project also have plans in releasing a more “App-Centric Package Management Experience”( so they call it but essentially an App store) in the nearer future.

Once installed, you’re on for an enjoyable experience which is on-par with Ubuntu and popular derivatives when it comes to stability. Plus you enjoy many more advantages that an Arch-based system has; most importantly, a rolling release nature and your updates, particularly security patches, are not delayed.

Antergos “just works” and you can’t go wrong with it; there’s also a wealth of info on their forum to help you overcome the common types of problem you might run into (if you happen to run into any – really..).

I’ve been running Antergos for close to two months now and I’ve only had to restart my system thrice. I receive updates daily and I haven’t had any major issue running the OS.

Conclusion

The aforementioned distros all have one thing in common; giving you the best possible Linux experience at no cost while still extremely user-friendly* and more importantly with an Arch base.

However, there are those to watch out for namely VeltOS (A user-designed operating system) by Velt technologies and Papyros; both are currently been tailored to be user-friendly OSes with a GUI that complies to Google’s Material design language.

Also, if you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirtier, there are other Arch-based distributions out there that require don’t specifically require that you have intermediary knowledge on how Linux works – so you can get yourself out of problems when they occur.

If you’d rather wait till later, this article is for you but if you’d rather build your own Arch system, Arch’s wiki on how to install your Arch system is a great resource (link below).

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