How To – Ditching Ubuntu in favor of Arch Linux for a Deep Learning Workstation

Original article was published by /u/Guestros on Deep Learning

Hey guys, I wrote about my experiences with Arch as a Deep Learning workstation on my blog, and I really love it compared to the "classic" Ubuntu setup. Curious about your thoughts, and the OS you are using!


Why should I ditch Ubuntu?

Most of you might be using Ubuntu for their workstations, and that is fine for the more inexperienced users. One of the issues I had with Ubuntu and the Tensorflow/CUDA though, has been that handling the different drivers and versions of CUDA, cudnn, TensorFlow, and so on has been quite a struggle. I’m not sure about you, but once I had a working Tensorflow 1.15 or 2.0 environment, I usually did not touch it anymore being scared to mess up this holy configuration.

Working with different programs it would be nice to have a way of switching between the two most used TensorFlow versions of 1.15 and 2.0 like you can do with Google Colab in a single command, but installing a different TensorFlow version usually messed up my system again.

Additionally, Arch has always been on my To-Do list, as it is the most “barebone” Linux distro you can get, meaning you are working way closer on the hardware compared to “higher abstractions” like Ubuntu. In their own words, Ubuntu is built to “work out of the box and make the installation process as easy as possible for new users”, whilst the motto of Arch Linux is “customize everything”. Being way closer to the hardware Arch is insanely faster compared to Ubuntu (and miles ahead of Windows), for the cost of more Terminal usage.

When I have been using Arch in the past weeks, RAM usage usually halved compared to Ubuntu, and installing Machine Learning packages is a breeze. I can have both TensorFlow 1.15 and 2.0 working together, switching the versions with Anaconda environments. Also, the system works quite stable, as I am using the LTS (long term support) kernels of Linux, and usually updates to the famous AUR (user-made packages in Arch) are coming out a month ahead of the Debian (Ubuntu) packages.

All in all, I can only recommend setting up an Arch Linux Deep Learning station as it is:

  1. Faster, like packages will install super fast, deep learning is supercharged, …
  2. More stable
  3. Easier to switch between TensorFlow versions compared to Ubuntu.

I will split the how-to in two parts, the first one being “How to I install Arch Linux” and the second one being “How to install the Deep Learning workstation packages”.

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