In the past I've given Linux a lot of flak for a wide variety of reasons. Recently, however, I've decided to challenge the perspective I've had for years by jumping head-first into Arch Linux. I installed it on 2 former Chromebooks and my main computer (to replace my long dormant Ubuntu installation). For reference, I have used Windows for my entire life (starting from Windows XP all the way up to Windows 10).
Installing the operating system
The first time I tried to install the operating system was in a VM many months ago, and I wanted to blow my brains out. Why? Because I was using the shitty awful no good wiki guide as reference for how to install the operating system. When doing this, you have to get real intimate with your hardware to figure out what the fuck you're supposed to do and enter into the various prompts. The moment it started asking me about sectors or some shit, I gave up. That left an extremely sour taste in my mouth that lasted until recently.
The second time I tried to install the operating system (this time on a Chromebook), I learned about a kickass script called archinstall, which basically makes installing the operating system bearable. After managing to install the operating system, I realized that it didn't install any network drivers or anything that could help me run that shit, which prevented me from installing things like a desktop environment. I didn't even get Nano either, which made editing files impossible while booted into the installation. While I could have booted into the installation media and then just chrooted into the installation, when I tried that I ended up getting some shit about it not being able to find the installation's shell. The fuck? Eventually I just gave up because it was like 6 in the morning and I had spend the entire night trying to get it to behave.
The third time I tried to install the operating system (same Chromebook as before), I made sure to install NetworkManager and Nano (because fuck Vim). This time, however, it actually worked out once I figured out how everything went together. I proceeded to install a desktop environment called XFCE, which I knew was reliable and lightweight. It worked surprisingly better than expected! In terms of performance it stomped even the official ChromeOS operating system.
Subsequent installations were a breeze now that I knew how to install the damn thing.
Performance under Arch was very impressive, especially in games like Minecraft. With SEUS shaders on Windows, I was getting a rather low 30 FPS on average. Under Arch, I saw my average FPS triple with the same shaders. Due to constraints related to storage, I have yet to test Arch's performance when it comes to games like Doom. Even outside the realm of games, the entire operating system ran blazing fast across all the computers I tried it on, including the two Chromebooks.
Ever since Windows 8 rolled around, Microsoft has been increasingly making customization of their operating system difficult, and with Windows 11 it's gotten even worse (thank god for StartAllBack). Arch, on the other hand, is extremely customizable. Its do-it-yourself nature makes it extremely easy to customize. I have spent hours customizing things to work the way I want them to, and actually had fun in the process. I have wanted customization capabilities like this for a very long time.
What I didn't like
- The middle click button for some reason is set to CTRL+V, which becomes increasingly infuriating when you're trying to close a tab or scroll up. I have yet to figure out a way to change this.
- Getting a decent-looking dark theme for GTK aside from what comes with XFCE4 is a genuine pain in the ass. I do not like dark themes that are actually tinted a certain color. They just look bad in my opinion. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find a dark theme that was grayscale.
- systemd fucked with my bootloader settings on my gaming computer, which led to me having to change my boot order again (which often caused my firmware settings menu to freeze instead) to make rEFInd the top boot priority so that I could access my Windows 10 partition again.
At the end of the day
Despite some hiccups here and there, Arch turned out to be pretty good. The performance gains and customizable nature of the operating system stuck out to me. I find it increasingly likely that when Windows 10 LTSC inevitably gets discontinued, I will use Arch or something similar instead of moving to Windows 11. I'd still prefer Windows though where possible because Windows has much better polish in my opinion.