An outlook of arch itself brings only a very slight move above Ubuntu, you could almost say above Debian but I'm sure if we included apt-build things would be roughly more even, with the exception of it not being community based. Otherwise the AUR would be no different than downloading the source yourself.
I would put it above debian in difficulty only because by default Arch doesn't automatically handle packages 100%. To say, if you want to install XFCE (or any DE) you have to first make sure you have Xorg and it's prerequisites installed. Outside of it's package manager it is exactly the same as every other distro, with a few philosophy differences (as they all are different).
I would also like to point out that Arch has issues with default paths. One of the biggest issues is the libgl.so file, as once you install Nvidia drivers you forever lose the ability to compile certain programs and can also lose function. I've found that re-installing the libgl package in pacman fixes this, but this is only a temp fix and partly breaks the nvidia drivers. This kept me from installing direct source and I had to use the AUR, which I think is wrong. There is also the problem with certain programs being installed in /opt by default.
Another problem with Arch is the fact that Gnome, KDE and especially Mozilla
are installed in /opt/. I had a fair share of applications that just couldn't find
the Mozilla SDK to compile against in /opt, even if the /etc/profile.d/ was
updated. Monodevelop, Blam! was some of them. I believe that not having to
dump everything on /usr is a good thing, however the Arch implementation
doesn't always work as expected. Instead of basically replicating /usr on
/opt/, some innovation would be welcome, just like Apple does with its
I've found this while searching for problems with the libgl issues. So if anybody is suggesting Arch I would heavily advise that it has some structural differences that should either be fixed or your going to have to learn to deal with them. For those who have never encountered these problems, I'm pretty sure you guys don't like dealing with the raw source and have used the AUR. I have no problem with this, but learning the AUR is not learning Linux, it's just learning another package management system.
As soon as I get new DVDs I'm going to try Gentoo and Slackware again, enorbet has made me want to take a look at them.
Libgl fix, but that shouldn't happen. You should be able to compile source from any distro without this fix, I consider this a major problem.Edited by mushroomboy - 1/2/11 at 1:23pm