ArchBang Linux 2012.12 Review – Lightweight Arch
The lightweight Arch-based distro uses Openbox to help make it blazing fast without losing too much functionality
ArchBang is a very specific spin of Arch Linux meant to be simple and light. Due to the rolling release nature of Arch Linux, there isn’t a whole lot new package wise in ArchBang that you’ll have been able to update to from the previous releases – what sets it apart though is the update to the Linux Kernel, moving to Kernel 3.6.8, and other upgrades to Openbox. Even the developers say if you’re fine with your current ArchBang install, you don’t need to worry about upgrading. However, it can pay to be up to date.
The steps needed to install ArchBang vary greatly in skill level – a great LiveDisc with the same basic packages as the full system can be easily obtained, burned to disc, and accessed via the straightforward boot menu. All very standard stuff. Once you’re in to ArchBang though, the difficulty level jumps up a bit. Right clicking to find the install option on the Openbox menu, a terminal is opened that allows you to set up and customise your system before properly installing.
To be fair, as terminal based installers go, it’s quite nice. It’s well labelled, guiding you to the main operations of partitioning your hard drive, customising your packages, setting up users and the root password, and a bit more. It leaves you very much to your own devices, giving you complete control to rewrite some of the core system files, as well as giving you very little info on what you’re doing with the partitioning.
The installation as mentioned is very lightweight – to begin with, it only needs 2.5 GB with its default settings. Being an Arch derivative, you have full access to the binaries and source via pacman and AUR, so you can immediately begin to customise your experience once you’ve done some maintenance on the repos. The standard packages include an ever present conky to let you know how few resources you’re using, Firefox, archiving tools, and all the other basics so you can actually begin to use ArchBang. There’s no graphical frontend for pacman as standard, but of course you can install one if you wish.
It’s a very hands-on Linux experience, catering to the much more advanced Linux user that likes to totally customise their experience, but at the very least have a starting point they can use rather than build Arch from scratch. In that sense, ArchBang is ridiculously lightweight and fast, and its proud to show this off with an included benchmark tool. Still, Openbox does not conform to the normal desktop metaphor that a lot of other windows managers and desktop environments like to use, which doesn’t make it so ideal for everybody. You can of course change this as you wish, and the repos do have access to the very latest versions of all the major packages, such as desktop environments.
So it’s overall still a very interesting distro, on the one hand giving people a base to start with Arch without having to deal with building from source, and on the other hand it provides purists with the all important lightweight build. It’s still a bit tricky to use though, however this level of supposed difficulty hides much more deep and involved customisation of your personal Linux experience.
A lightweight start to Arch that can be used as is for a lightning fast operating system, or an Arch base to learn more about it. While it’s definitely more suited to the veteran and advanced users, this is because it offers complete customisation over your build.