Arch Linux Handbook Paperback – Oct 6 2009
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Arch Linux is, in my opinion, not the distribution for someone brand new to Linux to start with. There's just too many opportunities for things to go wrong, to be misunderstood, or to be forgotten and this could lead to a frustration which in itself could be counterproductive. However with some practice, multiple dry runs in a virtual environment, and this little reference manual, you can be rewarded with an incredibly stable, up to date, high performance work environment. And in the process you will gain an understanding of the underpinnings that make a GNU/Linux operating system work.
There are indeed some things that make an Arch install procedure unique from other Linux install procedures and again there are some things about maintaining an Arch Linux install unique, so this reference will offer some valuable information that you won't readily find in the all-in-one type Linux references.
However, in using Arch I found that the Handbook seemed to defer important information to online sources. For example, it does not fully document the essential pacman command. It gives example command lines that tell you what you must type to do an initial install but defers documentation of the all-important "pacman" with the suggestion that you try "man pacman" or "look up the pacman wiki entries at your leisure." There is a pacman tutorial in an appendix that gives example command lines that you would use for various purposes, but no detailed explanation of all of the pacman commands and options like you would find in an O'Reilly nutshell book or handbook.
There are other examples of information that is online being deferred to when a table in this book would make this a really useful "hand" book, one that you could carry into the woods with you and learn all about Arch Linux while sitting around the campfire.
There are numerous Arch specific man pages and wiki articles that should be included in this book. I was very glad that this book was available and I've enjoyed having it while bringing up my first Arch Linux system but a couple of hours after the installation I find no reason to carry this book to bed or even to keep it beside the computer.
It will be really great if the next edition of this book contains for us to carry to the bedside or the campfire all of the man pages for each command that is unique to Arch Linux and a more thorough compilation of "what you need to know to become a competent Archer."
Arch Linux does have a great support community and documentation. I've spent at least a year with each of Debian, Gentoo, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and Ubuntu and it seems to me that Arch Linux may exceed them all in its quality of implementation and may meet the best of them in online documentation. This book improves the level of documentation for Arch and is well worth the small price to get started with this distribution.