Originally I installed Arch over the Crux installation on my Thinkpad because I needed some sort of outside reference as to why I kept seeing noise floor calibration errors with my ath_5k-driven wireless card.
So in that sense, the little experiment was a success — my network will freeze at inopportune times, usually with heavy torrent traffic or prolonged CPU stress. More than that I still don’t know, but it’s enough information to let me troubleshoot the wireless card. And that was the original goal.
On the other hand, this brief return to Arch on this machine has been a mixed blessing. I did, as I have mourned repeatedly, lose about half of the music I have downloaded from Jamendo to bizarre filesystem errors apparently brought on by sharing the home directory between installations. And a few DVD rips, although in retrospect, that was hardly a real loss.
What’s been more interesting is that I find my Crux systems to be preferable to an identical system built in Arch. True, it takes about a twentieth of the time to put it together as the Crux system, but in the end it’s … not the same.
These days that machine has run completely without X — sometimes without even so much as accessing the xorg repository for Crux. Freeing myself from that has proven to be a huge improvement in the general state of household affairs. I can’t do quite the same thing with Arch now though; there are interrelationships for some programs that require X libraries. As a result, I see that I occasionally pull in packages from X that I otherwise wouldn’t, in Crux.
As an example, vim (not vi, which can be included at installation time), has dependencies that seem to come from the xorg department. Similarly, the “official” version of the Terminus font from the community repository requires some X11 trappings, which I can rather easily avoid in Crux. fbida is another; I couldn’t get fim to install from AUR.
Not that it’s a big deal. And I can always use the roundabout way of customizing my Arch system, editing the PKGBUILD files to exclude the stuff I don’t want — like a version of MPlayer that only works with the framebuffer driver — and get the “same” results as I do in Crux.
But that’s the reason I drifted away from Arch in the first place: If I’m going to spend time rebuilding software to suit my preferences, I might as well be using a source-based distro, and not rebuilding a binary one.
I had a few other hiccups — installation added the ftp.archlinux.org repository by default. That would be okay except it ignores me after accessing it a few times, which makes upgrades and new software installation take longer than necessary. I also asked the boot menu for a no-SATA, hdX-labeled legacy system, but all my drives are assigned sdX-series names. And of course, there was that block error message on reboot. And I seem to have to manually start my wireless network, which might just be a change in the configuration.
But on the other hand, there are a lot of things I like better about it. It’s much easier to set up your rc.conf file in the installation process. And when I had problems accessing files on one mirror, it was an easy matter to switch mirrors and get the files I needed to finish installation.
And maybe best of all, most of the initial number-crunching with mkinitcpio seems to be delayed until after the system configuration is finished. I don’t remember if it was the Don’t Panic release or another, but one of those used to grind through mkinitcpio twice. A bit annoying, that was.
About the only remaining point I should mention, which isn’t Arch’s fault at all, is that the siliconmotion driver still spatters gunk all over my screen, which says to me that even though the server and the driver are holding hands again, they’re definitely not on speaking terms. So I am officially missing nothing by sticking to the framebuffer and thumbing my nose at X, etc.
All the same I’ll be heading back to Crux in a little bit. I have a system I like a certain way, without the extra baggage and re-building. You still can’t beat Arch for a fast, ground-level custom system, but I need a finer degree of control at this point in my Linux experience, and I think Crux is where I want to be right now.