This article will explain Linux Distributions, Ubuntu, and Arch Linux, and give you some information to help choose between them.
The Linux Kernel is the core of the Linux Operating System – it handles the basic operations and interfaces with the computer hardware allowing software (like desktop interfaces, web browsers, and word processors) to run on top of it.
On its own, the average user can’t do much with the Linux Kernel alone.
A Linux Distribution (or distro for short) is an Operating System that is based on the Linux Kernel. It is a pre-tailored Linux Operating System – you could build one from scratch and add all of the programs you want to run manually, but a distribution bundles up a bunch of Linux Software and usually a Package manager so you have a ready-to-go operating system.
Arch and Ubuntu are two of the most popular Linux Distributions, and both do things a bit differently from each other.
What is Ubuntu Linux
Ubuntu Linux can be found at:
Ubuntu Linux is a distribution focussed on being a complete, preconfigured operating system. You install it, and it works out of the box – but you have less up-front say about how the system is configured or what software is installed.
Ubuntu ships with the GNOME desktop environment (though there are variants with other environments), and everything is configured around this OS with limited user customization.
Ubuntu releases major updates every several months rather than using a rolling release, which means you may not be using the latest version of some packages.
Who’s it For?
Ubuntu is heavily used on both servers and the desktop, so it’s got a lot of documentation and tutorials built around it online. Taking the decision-making regarding what packages should be installed and how they should be configured makes it far easier to pick up for Linux newbies.
It’s also useful for people who want something that just works – even experts sometimes don’t want to have to install and configure every software package on the system – they’ve got work to do, and they just want to install something and be up and running with minimal fuss.
What is Arch Linux
Arch Linux can be found at:
Arch Linux is a distribution focussed on customisability and modernity. Rather than make a bunch of pre-defined decisions for the user, like what desktop environment to use and what packages to have installed by default, Arch provides a pretty bare-bones skeleton of an Operating System with a package manager which allows the user to make those choices for themselves.
It uses a rolling release model – meaning that rather than releasing major system updates, release periodically bundling up changes to multiple packages, updates are released for individual system components as they are ready.
Who’s it For?
Arch Linux is targeted at power users who want more control of their computer system while still having the convenience of tools like package managers. Because of this, it is not as beginner-friendly as Ubuntu.
Just because it isn’t beginner-friendly doesn’t mean beginners shouldn’t give it a go – the Arch Wiki extensively documents the installation and usage of Arch Linux, and setting up the OS is a great way to learn about how Linux works under the hood.
Which is Better?
Neither one is better than the other! Ubuntu and Arch are Linux distributions that serve different purposes – you need to decide which is best for you based on what you want to accomplish.
Want to know more about Linux distributions? Check out our Debian vs. Ubuntu Linux [Easy to Digest Comparison]