I installed Arch Linux the other day on my fastest machine while I looked for a small glitch in a Crux port I was testing. I kept it on the machine for a day or so, before moving back to Crux, and continuing my troubleshooting.
As always, the speed difference between Crux and Arch was noticeable, particularly in boot times. It’s something I’ve mentioned repeatedly in the past so I won’t belabor the point here; what’s important is that, although I intended to keep that Arch system around for a day or two, I lost any inclination to try and speed it up, even for the short term.
I have a lot of wacky tricks somewhere in the archives of this site, listing ways to speed up Arch’s general performance. Take out autoloading. Omit extraneous modules. Rebuild mkinitcpio with almost nothing in it. Most of them are here, if they sound intriguing you.
But, as I have mentioned in the past, tweaking and coddling Arch Linux to approach its asymptote for speed isn’t interesting any longer. I find there’s as much a baseline for performance in Arch, on my hardware, as there is in Ubuntu, and fighting to get beyond that point is counterintuitive. I applaud you if you have recompiled an entire Arch system with custom flags, but I must admit the idea seems odd.
Perhaps it’s because I’m slowly learning to accept distributions the way they are. It’s a tough lesson, but the more I realize that some systems are just naturally faster than others, the less time I spend pushing against that limit, and the better I enjoy using the machines.
So yes, when I install a full Ubuntu suite, like I did a few weeks ago, I set the machine to login automatically. But it wasn’t in an effort to improve the boot time, it was because logging in through GDM is an added step for me.
And when I install Arch I keep a folder of downloaded packages on hand so I can expedite the installation process, but I don’t bother jury-rigging the startup scripts anymore, to shave two or three seconds off a 30-second boot time. It doesn’t seem necessary.
For Crux, I do occasionally tamper with CFLAGS, and I know I can cut the boot time on the aforementioned Inspiron down to around 12.5 seconds (Grub-to-X) with a systemwide optimization. But Crux can be a bit unforgiving in those situations, which is to say, things start to break.
And so even my Crux systems are less tweaked and more stable. That’s a good thing really, because a broken Crux installation is an investment of part of your life … lost completely.
So perhaps I am reaching some state of balance, where I choose a distro on the basis of its inherent qualities, rather than trying to twist it into something it isn’t. Learning to accept things as they are, so to speak. ;)