It should be noted in the beginning that any installation of an Arch based OS will require Linux background or the willingness to read and follow instructions. ArchBang is no exception. The good news is the community behind these platforms does a great job at keeping the documentation updated, clear and well written. In fact I have used their documentation to solve many Linux issues with other more “popular” distros simply since it was so clear and the base of Linux remains pretty much the same no matter what is put on top. The main reason I feel this way about ArchBang is there are things to manually configure in this distribution than in other types such as Linux Mint. Mint install will configure everything for you and leave you at a desktop that will not require anything to be done. You will end up on a desktop in ArchBang too that is ready to use but getting there is a bit different.
The platform I am using for this test, (writing this post with it too.), is a Dell D420 running a Dual Core 1.2Ghz CPU and 1Gb of RAM. It is by most standards considered at the slower end of the hardware spectrum. I have it on loan from work since it was destined for the scrap pile when running Windows XP and performance was too slow to be viable to work with. We are talking a couple of minutes to boot and lots of lag when trying to open the main tools such as MS Office. Now that we have some background this review will have a bit more meaning.
ArchBang’s greatest difference from Arch is that it is a live distro that can be run from CD or USB. It is complete without the need to install anything else. I chose to install from USB using a technique I will outline at the end of this post. Arch on the other hand is a custom build type of distro. You install everything and all the choices are made by you. This doesn’t mean you can’t change anything in ArchBang or that there are not programs you might choose over others. But it is fully functional right from the start with few edits. This is my first successful install of ArchBang and I had tried before but I think my Linux knowledge and willingness to really read was not where it is today.
I followed an excellent How To guide from the ArchVortex blog and was running in minutes. Stan has posted excellent instructions complete with screen captures and I will not repeat them here. If you have plans on installing ArchBang follow his guide and you won’t miss.
Once installed I noticed right away how responsive this old computer became. Booting to the log in screen was less than 20 seconds and signed in to desktop was faster than I could type. My first thoughts were wow! I installed from a cabled connection and proceeded with the recommended post-install updates. My only real frustration was during the install when I set the mirrorlist. I would rather see this file arrive with the mirrors commented out and have me un-comment the ones I need. It is a chore to comment out so many mirrors. On the other hand I can see why this is done this way. If it was forgotten or missed, pacman (package manager), would not work and the initial updates would fail. It is from the popularity that the mirrorlist is so long and after running ArchBang a while I can see why.
I installed from a cabled connection since in the past I had issues trying to install from wireless. This Dell D420 comes with the notorious B43 cutter wireless chip. I have read too many issues getting this started so I chose wired, It is a Broadcom Ethernet chip set too but I had no issues at all with a connection. Once installed and updates were finished, I re-booted with a D-Link DWA 652 PCMCIA card. I had used this card in the past with some success and it uses the athk9 driver. This driver has been supported for quite some time so I was confident of a wireless connection. And I was right. Wireless started but to my surprise both adapters were showing as available. So it seems using Linux kernel 3.1.0-Arch #1 is now supporting the B43 cutter that has plagued so many users in the past. I stuck with the D-Link for the greater speed for now but it is nice to know it works,
I also tested the SD card slot and it recognized a card from my camera without a problem. This is something I have had issues with using LMDE on the Sony laptop.
I am really impressed so far with this version of ArchBang. I have to admit I do not know a lot yet about pacman and have not yet customized this install past adding the terminal, Aurora and file manager links to the main menu. But I’m sure I can learn.
I have to give this distro of ArchBang high marks for everything I can think of is working in this D420 Dell Latitude. I think this is a great distro for someone who isn’t afraid to step out of the comfort zone and learn more or for those in the know a great start to a fully customizable system.
Here is how I created the USB key. I have created a dd shell script that allows me to copy an iso directly to USB. I do have to edit the path before running. I will post the entire process as another post later. I tried Unetbootin on this one too but it failed requiring some edits but the error didn’t say what edits. So I felt dd was a quicker solution. It works great but you better type the path right. More later.