Doesn't Not Compute

My log of experiences with GNU/Linux and computers in general.

Another “Ubuntu is Overweight, I Like Arch Linux” Rant

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS is out. This isn’t a review, I already did one of the first Netbook Remix beta back in late March and it appears to be the single most popular post I’ve ever written . . . apparently because of the screenshots. :lol:

I mention this because it’s supposed to be “lighter” on resources than recent previous versions, such as 9.04 and 9.10. K. Mandla’s experience of comparing the ancient 6.06 version with the new 10.04 release, although somewhat unfair due to the vastly different video hardware (reasons are technical), show that Ubuntu is still much, much “heavier” than it used to be. Much heavier than a workable GNU/Linux installation needs to be.

Rant continues after the “More” break.

So, in the spirit of “hey look at me, I’m so great at using barebones software!” egotism — hey, that’s what blogs are for, right? — here is a screenshot of my htop resources view, taken with scrot on my Arch Linux laptop:

Click for larger view, click your browser's "Back" button to return here

That’s 73MB RAM used, and 17MB of swap. This is with SRWare Iron running with one tab open, and the only other things running are Sakura (a tabbed terminal emulator), and of course Openbox and Xorg — and, as you may notice in the screenshot above, eight days of continuous operation, with programs such as Firefox, Iron, and GIMP having been running during that time. At no time did the total memory allotment (RAM + swap as reported by htop and free -m) exceed 250MB, the time when I was watching a live feed on Ustream.tv excepted thanks to the horrid Flash plugin. You don’t want to know what happend then. :evil:

(~330MB RAM + ~340MB swap used — and when I killed the Flash plugin, it dropped to 27MB and 24MB respectively)

So what’s my point here? My point is that much of what Ubuntu has in the default installation is pointless — at least to certain people, including me.

I don’t have Bluetooth hardware, so the installer should detect that and NOT activate the Bluetooth daemon. I access my “social websites” through their webpage, and generally find “social networking software” to hinder processing the info more than it helps, so I don’t need Gwibber. (Hmm, I should check Ubuntu Brainstorm about that Bluetooth thing :) )

Ideally I’d like option in the installer similar to what was in the Windows 98 Setup program — an Advanced Mode that allows me to pick-and-choose what programs I want to have available on the newly-installed system.

I fear it’s highly unlikely that Ubuntu will ever be slimmed down much. Canonical’s focus is on user-friendliness and incorporating the newest possible “stable” software at each release. The result of this is, of course, awesome user interface improvements done in a less-than-slim way.

But it’s okay. The wonderful thing about GNU/Linux, Xorg, and the thousands of programs that run on them is that they can be put together in almost any fashion one desires.

For me, that fashion is best assembled in Arch. :D Everything’s always new and stable, and even though I have to manually configure new things from time to time I can piece together exactly what I need, and have it be more lightweight than even building from a minimal command-line Ubuntu or Debian installation. Also, the Arch User Repository seems to dwarf the Ubuntu repos — probably even the sprawling Debian repos too. So much software, so much tuned for being lightweight. So little time. :twisted:

So that’s today’s rant for your consumption. Please use a knife and have a napkin handy. :mrgreen: :roll:

Feel free to leave non-spam comments! :)

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4 responses to “Another “Ubuntu is Overweight, I Like Arch Linux” Rant

  1. foulis July 29, 2010 at 4:58 am

    How was the minmal install of ubuntu compared with Arch, you say it was more bloated can you be specific.

    I’m looking to build a laptop as lightweight as possible. I have previously used Arch with DWM and really enjoyed it, however was thinking of trying minimal ubuntu with DWM. I’m looking for something very stable which is why I was considering a distro without a rolling release.

    I agree with Ubuntu having too much for my use, much rather put my own system together. However as a Desktop distro for the masses I think it balances quite well, and should be a serious OSX or Windows contender (it was the first distro that worked out the box back when I was trying to lose my Linux cherry, so i admit to being slightly biased here)

    Would like to know how you found these two systems compared?

  2. mulenmar August 3, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    I’ll work on it — it’s been a long time since I performed a minimal-install of Ubuntu. However, I recall that even a minimal-install Ubuntu used more disk space and memory than an Arch installation did. It was also slower.

    I would love there to be a stable-release distro that used Arch’s Pacman package manager, though.

  3. David August 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I have used both Arch and Ubuntu. Presently I use Ubuntu, but I’ve been thinking about switching back to Arch so I can have bleeding edge packages. I like Arch because I feel like it does what I tell it to do, and only what I tell it to do, and it has newer software than Ubuntu. The show-stopper for me, oddly enough, was that I needed pdftk and I couldn’t find it in the Arch repos. However, it’s in the Ubuntu repos and installs without hassle. This gave me the impression that the Ubuntu and Debian repos may be older but are probably much larger than the Arch repos. Is this impression correct? I’ve never actually looked up the numbers to compare (and I’m too lazy to do it now :-).

    • mulenmar August 16, 2010 at 2:17 pm

      Well, Debian claims 25,000 packages — but they (and all derivatives I know of, including Ubuntu) split their packages into binary packages and separate development packages (for compiling against), so that number should probably be cut in half for comparison purposes.

      Arch Linux has a proper list of packages that actually lists the total number: 8,908 as of August 16, 2010.

      The Arch User Repository (AUR) has a total of 23,920 packages — some of which I know from experience to be out-of-date or duplicates. Even with that in mind, Arch + the AUR dwarfs Debian’s number when the -dev packages are taken into account.

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