Arch Linux vs Ubuntu: which to choose?
Arch Linux and Ubuntu are two major Linux distributions that both get a lot of attention, have dedicated fanbases, and are used base-distributions for other systems that are forked off of them… But, how they do things are quite different, and some users might find one more to their liking than the other.
It’s no secret to anyone who has followed previous articles I’ve written on Ghacks, that I love Arch Linux and its derivatives… But, that’s not to say that Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based systems are something I don’t use. Actually, I have multiple Ubuntu systems running as I write this, and zero Arch based systems. I use Ubuntu as a server distribution right now, on three different servers. I love the APT system for package management, and I find Ubuntu stable and secure, with a huge support community for any issues I may face.
Arch Linux was first released on March 11, 2002, and was created to be a minimalist distribution. Arch follows the principle of KISS, or ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid' which is a principle used to describe the practice of keeping things as simple and less complex, whenever possible. However, this does not always translate to having your hand held, or having tools do everything for you, when specifically referring to Linux systems and how things are done or managed.
Unlike most common distributions, Arch Linux by default does not have a graphical install process for example, rather being installed by command line only. Arch Linux does not, by default, come with an overload of bloatware either, as would go against its minimalist design, so users expected to build their system tailored to their own needs, and only have applications that they actually want installed. Arch is still primarily based on binary packages unlike other CLI heavy systems such as Gentoo which are more source based, however a system known as the Arch Build System does exist and is designed for source compilation for those who prefer to go that route. Arch does not come with any standard Desktop Environment as its default, having each user choose what to install for themselves.
Arch Linux is a rolling release model, which means there are no major releases or giant system-wide updates and version numbers that most people would pay attention to. All one needs to do is a regular package update and they will have the latest version of Arch Linux and all its packages. Arch Linux also aims to have very minimal distribution-specific package updates, so you won’t find as many instances of things not playing nicely together or with your system when you try to customize things, because you don’t have to worry about distribution maintainers changing things or customizing packages or applications to tailor to the system. Arch could be considered, conversationally speaking, a very plain and generic system, in the best of ways, opting for user customization to extreme levels rather than adding a multitude of premade tools and layers of abstraction.
Ubuntu is the first foray into the Linux world for many people across the world. It has been known as one of the most commonly used, most user-friendly distributions, by many, for over a decade. Ubuntu is based on Debian, which is known for its rock-solid stability and great Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) package manager that has a number of well-known graphical front-ends and forks.
Ubuntu, unlike Arch, has a regular release cycle with new releases every six months, and long-term support (LTS) releases every two years. Ubuntu comes with a very easy to use graphical installer, and many graphical point-and-click management tools built-in to make system management, updates, setting changes and the like all very easy to navigate for less-experienced users. Ubuntu is owned and developed by Canonical, a private computer company, with a community of other developers working alongside them, so there is some financial backing and support. There are many ‘flavours’ of Ubuntu that come each with their own default Desktop Environment such as Kubuntu (KDE) or Xubuntu (XFCE), with the regular Ubuntu release using GNOME. Each Ubuntu release regardless of which flavour is chosen comes with an abundance of pre-installed packages and applications, giving users a variety of media players and tools, office applications and more, without having to install them manually.
Arch Linux? Ubuntu? Which to use?
Truly, there are very few or rare scenarios where one system would be better than the other, however, some might say that Ubuntu makes a great server-install just as well as a desktop or home system, due to its regular release cycle and LTS releases, whereas Arch makes a better home system than server, due to the nature of rolling release models with their somewhat low but existent risk of package breakage. However, for the average user either system will server quite well, and more boils down to comfort. For users that are not yet comfortable with using a terminal, Ubuntu might be the better choice as the system can be managed without ever having to enter a CLI; whereas Arch expects the user to have some level of experience in with a command-line. Though, Arch is minimalistic whereas Ubuntu is loaded with many tools and applications that some users might consider bloat. So, ultimately, it depends on comfort level and experience.
What about you? Which do you prefer, and why? Let us know in the comments!Advertisement