Arch Linux for beginners

Data Juggler

© Lead Image © Sergey Nivens, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © Sergey Nivens, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 184/2016
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Apricity OS targets those who use cloud services and spend their digital life on the Internet.

Apricity OS [1] enters the fray as a Linux distribution that is far different from its competitors. It is based on Arch Linux, a distribution commonly seen as an operating system for professionals and less suitable for beginners, and it borrows from the Arch offshoot Antergos, the Cnchi graphical installer, which visually and functionally resembles the Ubuntu installation tool.

The Apricity Gnome desktop somewhat resembles a Chrome OS installation [2]. The developers augmented the GUI with a toolbar at the bottom center of the screen and gave it a modern-looking theme. The Ice cloud and web application management tool, adopted from Peppermint OS [3], lets users access web pages with a single mouse click from a menu, just like locally installed applications. This capability is especially useful for online applications like web mailers or commonly used social networking services like Facebook and Twitter.

Start Up

Apricity OS comes as 64-bit-only operating system and thus cannot be used on some older computers. Booted from a DVD or a USB flash drive, the 1.8GB ISO image comes up with a visually restrained GRUB screen that fires up a Live system. In the automatically launched Gnome interface, you can then call Cnchi for an easy approach to installing the operating system on a hard disk or SSD (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The graphically supported installation of Apricity OS is easy.

After a reboot, users see an unusually arranged Gnome environment: On the desktop itself are just two oversized icons, and the bottom of the screen features a toolbar with a number of application launchers. These are not just launchers for locally installed programs, but also for programs that branch into subfolders in the file manager. Left-clicking on the Activities button at the top left does not open the usual Gnome application overview with all the installed programs; rather, it pops up a search mask with an overview of the four default desktops.

In addition to the Activities menu item, Places takes you to the familiar folder structure for data storage. Apricity OS does not have the vertical Dash on the left edge of the screen, containing active and frequently used application icons, that appears in the usual Gnome application overview; however, you can switch this on if you like. A single click on the Show Applications icon on the far right in the toolbar launches the application overview (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Invoke the application overview from the tool bar in Apricity OS.

Under the Hood

In addition to these obvious modifications, Apricity OS also has some innovations hiding in the depths of the operating system. Real road warriors, who often work for many hours on their laptops while traveling, and thus greatly appreciate energy-saving mechanisms that extend the battery life, will love the fact that TLP tools [4] are integrated. They reduce power consumption for all popular mobile computer systems; additionally, battery charge thresholds can be defined for IBM or Lenovo notebooks.

The developers also point to the graphical capabilities of the operating system: For example, Apricity OS is already suitable for ultrahigh-definition displays with extremely high pixel density. The system benefits from Gnome, which currently has the edge in this technical development. The Uncomplicated Firewall borrowed from Ubuntu, with its graphical front end, completes the potpourri of pre-installed software. Package management is based directly on the Arch sources, thus maintaining the rolling release model of the base distribution.

The developers have considerably slimmed down the operating system by offloading ballast from the Gnome desktop. Even on systems with relatively slow hard disk access, these optimizations result in a fairly rapid startup and a surprisingly agile desktop. For example, directly after booting, without any application software launched, Apricity OS has moderate memory requirements of only about 500MB. The operating system after initial installation takes approximately 5.8GB of storage, which can be considered an efficient use of resources, given the fairly complete software configuration.

Ice

The Ice site-specific browser (SSB) manager inherited from Peppermint OS is a central element in the Apricity OS developers' goal of targeting newcomers. The tool lets users store a frequently visited website as a separate browser instance with a dedicated icon on the Gnome desktop. Thus, such pages can be opened with a single click, without first launching Chrome (or another browser) and typing the web address manually. Ice can be accessed via the button bar at the bottom of the screen. Clicking the second button from the left and entering the name of the site and its URL in the dialog (Figure 3) assigns the new starter an icon (or accepts the favicon for the website) and places the entry in the desired Gnome submenu. You can delete unneeded starters in the Remove tab.

Figure 3: Ice lets users jump to frequently accessed websites with just one click.

Clicking the Settings icon (third starter from the right in the toolbar) opens the dialog for customizing user and system settings. The options are limited to programs from the Gnome treasure trove (Figure 4). Apricity OS also includes Gnome Tweak, another graphical optimization tool that primarily focuses on the visual appearance of the desktop. You can launch it via the toolbar at the bottom by clicking on the fourth starter from the right.

Figure 4: The All Settings window summarizes configuration options.

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