You can shrink every Debian/Ubuntu installation to a minimum. An Ubuntu installation does even take less harddisk space than the same installation under Arch Linux.
Why? Because ArchLinux always installs all development headers and GCC for a package. Under Debian/Ubuntu you have the choice. You don't need GCC? Than deinstall it? Software-development? Bah! I don't need C-header-files, kick it out.
Some weeks ago, i customized an Ubuntu installation, so it does only need 128MB RAM and less than 500MB HD-space. All that was installed was the basic system (via Alternate-CD), IceWM and Midori as a browser. No CUPS, no HAL, no whatever.
So don't tell me only Arch allows you to install whatever you want.
Arch does you only make feel you have more control over the system, because you have to start from scratch. "Normal" distributions are full-fledged, after installation. So first you don't have a choice but you can customize the installation afterwards.
That is the only difference between Ubuntu and Arch.
Does Arch force you to use Pulse Audio?
Okay you're right. I forgot this point.That leaves out the tons of other differences, just to name the most important: arch is a rolling distro. That implies a lot of things, good or bad, you decide.
Even Ubuntu does not force Pulseaudio. You can always deinstall it completely and use pure ALSA or OSS.Does Arch force you to use Pulse Audio?
Ever heard of Ubuntu Studio? It uses "jackd" as audio daemon.
The only PA-related packages you can't deinstall are "libpulse" and "libpulse-mainloop-glib0". When not using GNOME, you can even deinstall them.
Because Pulseaudio is installed in a basic installation, it does not mean you can't get rid of it.
Though, if you read my whole response from before. You will notice that I stated both distro's, being linux, can be customized and stripped down anyway.... I'm sure people already know that. The article was focusing on base installs, not custom tweaked ones. After using Arch for so long now, ubuntu feels a bit alien to me. Thus my bias towards Arch. I never spent the time to tweak or play with Ubuntu. Having a slower i686 based athlon processor at the time didn't help. Yet now I'm accustomed to Arch anyway.
Whether you like rolling releases or traditional distros comes down to how much time you want to spend just maintaining your OS. I jump around distros too much, you learn a lot more with rolling releases because things break more often. I love Sidux, but have stopped using it because of the constant stream of updates and workarounds that simply take too much time - every day. I ran Gentoo for a year then one day just said enough is enough.
With Ubuntu you can just turn off Compiz and leave it off, after all it doesn't actually do anything, it is just decoration. Also you can manually add a 2.6.34 kernel from the PPAs and have a foot in both camps.
It all comes down to what you use your computer for, and how much time/effort/bandwidth you are willing to spend just maintaining it. This month I am using Ubuntu, but it is getting boring because nothing goes wrong. Ha
1. Arch shows its advantages over other distros in 32-bit environment, because Arch packages are optimized for i686 whereas the most of others are optimized for i586 or ealier architecture. In other words, Arch is a good choice for old machines (with non-64-bit capability).
2. Memory consumption benchmarks should be included.
Arch packages are optimized by default to i686 in the 32 bit repos, ubuntu by comparison is compiled for i386, i believe (So a benchmark on a 32 bit cpu would be interesting, I suppose). On 64 bit, however, the difference of compilation between distros (even gentoo) is negligible.
Both Arch and Ubuntu use the *same* software, Arch is just often a case of a bit newer software. Benchmarking is basically just between different versions of the same software.
What Arch offers (outside of 32 bit performance) is a philosophy where you start from a small base, and work your way up in an organized fashion, and easily maintain a clean system for years to come. These two distros are packaged quite differently, and depending on the person, one or the other can make life a lot easier.
Arch makes it easy for me to achieve a balance between performance, and time investment, since all I had to do was learn from the wiki the basics of the system. With this understanding now in hand, system upkeep and anything new is easy, and doesn't consume my time (like running gentoo would).