If you're in love with Arch Linux but are tired of the painstaking installation process, ArchBang is the perfect distribution for you. It has everything you love about Arch, but installs in just a few minutes with everything you need.
We've written about Arch Linux before, and it's still one of our favourite Linux distributions around here because of its ability to essentially create your own custom Linux distribution. The problem is, once you've installed Arch once or twice, the installation just becomes tedious, so if you ever want to install it on a new system -- or reinstall it on your current system -- it becomes something you dread doing. After seeing the Linux Action Show's recent episode on the Arch-based Chakra, and after being recommended ArchBang by a few of you, I took a look at a few different Arch-based distributions, and ArchBang is my favourite. Here's why you should be using it.
It Contains Everything That Makes Arch Great, Without the Painful Installation
I came to Arch to learn about Linux, but I stayed with it because of all the awesome features it had, like the always up-to-date rolling release schedule, the awesome Pacman package manager, the expansive AUR repository, and the ability to build up my custom system from something super minimal. Arch lets you install nearly anything you want, and lets you leave out anything you don't want, meaning your system has everything you need and only everything you need. It's also the fastest system I've ever computed on as a result, even with heavier desktop environments like GNOME and KDE.
ArchBang has all of that, without the arduous installation process. ArchBang, like most other Linux distributions, comes on a Live CD. Just boot it up, and you'll head straight into a desktop, from which you can try out the system or install it directly to your computer. The installation is actually very similar to Arch's, only without the config file editing, the driver installations, or the pain of running
startx and seeing nothing happen. You just pick your drives, hit the install button, and in five minutes, you're done. Of course, you can edit the config files if you so desire -- you just don't have to.
It Gives You a Completely Usable, Yet Minimal System
ArchBang uses the Openbox window manager, so the desktop you first boot into is very minimal (but very usable). You right-click on the desktop to access your application menus, you can switch between desktops from the taskbar and so on. It even has quick access to a few oft-used settings, like tweaking graphical effects, changing the wallpaper, and changing your window decorations. It's a bit less traditional than your typical desktop environment, but you get used to it pretty quickly, and you don't have to be stuck with it if you don't want (see below).
It also comes with all the essential programs you need to get started, like a Terminal, the Leafpad text editor, the PCManFM file browser (which Lubuntu users will be quite familiar with), and the Aurora channel of Firefox, not to mention a few other useful apps like Transmission, MPlayer and even (gasp) Flash. It also comes with Conky pre-installed and set up, so you can monitor your CPU, RAM and see useful Openbox shortcuts on the left side of your screen. It's super fast, easy to use, and gets you up and running in no time.
It's Still Super Configurable and Expandable
Of course, none of this means it isn't configurable. At its core, it's just Arch with a few extra things thrown in for easy setup. If Openbox isn't enough for you, you can throw any desktop environment on top of it you want, like KDE, GNOME 3, LXDE or anything else (in fact, you do it the same way you'd do it if you installed Arch from scratch). This just gives you a simple desktop to work from so you don't need to go through all the hassle of setting up X -- you're really not tied down to anything ArchBang gives you upon first boot, it's still the same "ground up" philosophy of Arch -- the ground's just a little bit higher.
While ArchBang is fantastic, I don't necessarily recommend it if you haven't used Arch before. It's still a great distribution, but like I've said, one of the best things about Arch's long installation is that you learn so much about Linux -- to the point where when something goes wrong, you actually know why it went wrong and might even have an idea of how to fix it. If you've never used Arch before, try a regular Arch install first, then head over to ArchBang if you think it's right for you.