Running Arch Linux from a live ISO

Recently I decided to try another Linux distro – Arch Linux.  I wanted a distro that I could use to experiment with different boot loaders, different partition table setups, different filesystems, etc.  Because I didn’t want to use up all my hard drive space installing Slackware several times, I decided to use a more minimalist distro.  The first thing that came to mind was Arch.

Arch is in many ways similar to Slackware, but in other ways it is a polar opposite.  It is similar to Slackware in that it doesn’t default to a GUI environment and it expects users to be technically competent and know how to use the command line.  It is the opposite of Slackware because it does this for an entirely different reason.  Whereas Slackware aims at giving the user more options while being complete out-of-the-box, Arch Linux follows the KISS philosophy (that stands for Keep It Simple Stupid), and thus ships only with the minimum tools and interface needed to function and to be useful.  Thus, it has no graphics, because graphics take a lot of memory and processing power.  Arch Linux is the vi to Slackware’s Emacs.

I downloaded the ISO file for Arch Linux from the linaxe.net mirror, which can be found here, before running an MD5 checksum against it to make sure it downloaded properly. As usual, I created a virtual machine in Virtual Box and booted from the ISO. It turned out that you don’t actually have to install Arch Linux to use its full capabilities. It comes fairly complete as a live distro, which can be booted directly from the install disk.

Arch Linux Startup

I am liking Arch Linux so far. In a way it actually follows Slackware’s design philosophy better than Slackware has (for me anyway), because it comes complete with all the drivers I need for networking (and the ability to network makes an operating system ten times more useful than one that doesn’t have this ability).

As is usually the case, Arch uses its own special package manager. This one is called pacman. I haven’t figured out how to use it yet, and I can’t really use it while I’m booting it live because there’s nowhere to install the packages to (since the hard drive isn’t partitioned and the live ISO is read-only). This is one of the disadvantages of booting Arch Linux in live format, and I do plan to install it to the hard drive at some point, once I have read the manual for how to do so.

The top program in Arch Linux is more full-featured than in other operating systems. It lets you view things like the sizes of the code segments, stack/heap segments, and shared memory segments of the processes, and it allows you to change the colors. It also shows bar graphs of some of the system stats. In many ways, it’s a lot more like htop.

Arch_Linux_top

Arch-Linux-top

At the same time there are several things missing from Arch Linux, at least the live version.  There’s no mailx program, and there’s no cron daemon. I can kind of see why these programs would be missing in a live distro, since they involve storing information on the hard drive.

So I guess the question now is, will I install this OS to the hard drive? If so, when will I do it? Only time will tell.

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