Hidden Wonders


The Argument Against Arch Linux



In my time using Arch Linux I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve learned a lot about Linux systems from using it, and I’ve come to appreciate the distro’s design philosophies. However, there are some reasons to consider not using Arch Linux. In particular, the alternative I mention here is using Linux Mint with Flatpaks. There are a few gripes I’ve have with Arch and its derivatives that are amended by Linux Mint with Flatpaks. The problem is not entirely solved, however, which is why I still use Arch Linux to this day.

I ran Manjaro, and then Endeavor OS, on an HTPC computer at my family home, which my Onee-chan used to watch anime because Smart TVs are horrible. However, when I’m away from home for large periods of time, the system cannot be constantly updated as Arch-based distributions expect. After several months away from home, I return, run sudo pacman -Syu, and the system breaks!

Arch Linux understands that this may happen. In the regular course of maintaining the system, the distro expects that the system may break and need to be manually repaired. To quote:

pacman is a powerful package management tool, but it does not attempt to handle all corner cases. Users must be vigilant and take responsibility for maintaining their own system.

So, I’m not faulting Arch Linux here (though I do fault Manjaro). Rather, I’m acknowledging that the Arch philosophy doesn’t fit very well into this particular use case.

Linux Mint is better suited for the task. The system has backup software out of the box, and rarely breaks if ever. The distro provides a GUI upgrade program to upgrade the operating system to a newer version (since Mint is not rolling-release like Arch). If I leave Mint alone for a year and decide to update it, I’m confident it will still work after being upgraded. I cannot say the same about Arch. Mint even has an option to auto-update the system, an option I would never feel comfortable enabling on Arch Linux.

Using Flatpaks on Linux Mint also avoids the lack of software problem that I’ve experienced on distros other than Arch without the potential instability of the AUR or the slowness of Snaps. As an example, on my HTPC I installed the program jellyfin-media-player from the AUR. However, my Onee-chan was reporting issues not with my Jellyfin server, but with the client running Jellyfin on the HTPC itself. Since installing Mint on the PC and using the Flatpak version of the software, she has not reported any issues.

Now, this is not the fault of Arch Linux or the AUR; rather, it’s the fault of the developers of the Jellyfin Media Client. These developers are not the only developers out there who only release official builds of their application through a distro-agnostic package system——many use AppImages or Snaps, the latter being significantly worse than Flatpaks (at least in terms of performance and usability). Flatpaks have greater reliability than AUR packages because of the frequent laziness of developers to release a proper AUR package, making Flatpaks a better choice in many cases.

(This all said, Flathub is home to many unofficial builds of applications as well, which can lead to some of the same issues. In my experience, however, these issues are less severe than those present in some AUR packages).

Yes, you can install Flatpaks on Arch Linux, but what would be the point of that? It just feels wrong to be to adopt Flatpaks when the AUR exists to provide all the software——in other words, the AUR is one of the main reasons I and many others use Arch in the first place. If the AUR is not worth using, then what is the point of using the distro to begin with? (This is another reason Manjaro is stupid btw).

There are reasons other than packages to use Arch Linux, but this throws a bit of a dent into a fairly common reason some people prefer Arch Linux. Ultimately, I will likely continue to use Arch Linux on my personal machine while avoiding it’s derivatives entirely and also preferring distributions like Debian or Linux Mint for use on devices I will be personally using less regularly (i.e. secondary computers, family computers, servers, etc.).

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