Installing Arch Linux

If you've never installed Arch Linux before you can take a look at the installation documents here. Installing Arch Linux is fairly straight forward, however there's a few tweaks that I made due to my setup.

Booting via USB Stick

You can use unetbootin to copy the iso to a usb stick. The official documentation says to label your USB stick ARCH_201108 or whatever the current release date is. However, I had to label mine STORE in order for it to be properly mounted on boot.

Using a WPA access point in the installer

Setting up WPA on the command line is fairly easy. You just need to run these two commands:

wpa_passphrase [your SSID] [your passphrase]>/tmp/wpa

wpa_supplicant -Dwext -iwlan0 -c/tmp/wpa & # (-i tells what interface to use. This is normally wlan0, but yours might be different.)

After you get a good connection you will get the following message:

CTRL-EVENT-CONNECTED - Connection to 01:23:45:67:89:ab completed (auth) [id=0 id_str=]

After you see this, run "dhclient wlan0" in order to get a dhcp address. Try pinging a machine in order to verify that your network is working.

Using an SSD in Linux

There's a lot of outdated information floating around about how to properly partition an SSD in Linux. The best way that I've found is to use GPT partitions. In order to do this you have to install gdisk. gdisk will start the parition on 2048KiB, which aligns with virtually every SSD. If you're using a netinstall ISO instead of the base install ISO then you do the following steps:

Run archsetup: /arch/setup Select Source (you only need core to do an install, but I also select extras, testing, and multilib)

After you select a source it will setup pacman for the /arch/setup. Then you can either quit out of the setup or press CTRL-ALT-F2 and log into that terminal using the root account. Doing this is required because if you update pacman's database for the first time outside of /arch/setup then /arch/setup will error out every time you select Select Source.

After you have selected the source, you can run a "pacman -Sy" then "pacman -S gdisk" to install gdisk. You might have to run this twice, since the first time it can ask you to update pacman before updating anything else.

You can then use gdisk to convert the disk to GPT and partition the disk. I created a 128MB boot partition, 2GB SWAP partition, and then allocated the rest of the disk to a root partition. Since I have 16GB of ram I can probably get away without swap, but I'm unsure if some programs still require swap to function properly. I also plan on keeping good backups so I don't feel its necessary to make extra partitions for my home and var directories. /tmp is setup by default to be a tmpfs.

Important note: when you use GPT, Legacy GRUB will not work. You will either need to install and setup GRUB2 or use syslinux. I used syslinux since it's part of the installer.

Pacman Keys

If you are using the netinstaller and have updated pacman in order to install gdisk then you will get gpg key errors when you try to do the install. This is because pacman-key support is setup now, but is not initialized by the arch installer. You will have to set this up before Installing arch.

This is how I set it up. I'm unsure if this is best practice, but it's the only way I found.

pacman-key --init

This should require some entropy. I normally open up nano in another terminal and bang on the keyboard for a minute or two and then check back and see pacman-key has acquired enough entropy.

After this you need to trust the master signing keys:

pacman-key -r [KEY 1] [KEY 2] [KEY 3] [KEY 4] [KEY 5]

You can find the master keys here

After you add the keys you need to sign and trust each key. You can do this by running:

pacman-key --edit-key [KEY 1] [KEY 2] [KEY 3] [KEY 4] [KEY 5]

for each key you need to run:

lsign
y
trust
3
save

You will have to do this 5 times, once for each key. After that the packages should install correctly.

One issue I did have was retrieving the keys. I believe the default gpg server is a little overloaded. You can edit /etc/pacman.d/gnupg/gpg.conf and change the line "keyserver hkp://keys.gnupg.net" to "keyserver hkp://pgp.mit.edu". I found the MIT one always worked, while the gnupg one was hit-or-miss.

Continue Installer

Once this is done you can go back to the terminal with the arch setup (CTRL-ALT-F1) and complete the installer as normal. If you want to use encryption, which I recommend, then you can make the root partition a dm_crypt partition. The installer will ask you to set a pass phrase. After that it will add a new crypt device to the list that you can then set as "/". The installer will also setup the necessary hooks for having the system prompt you for decryption on start-up.

Again, please remember to use syslinux and not grub if you used gdisk.

Installing yaourt via AUR

Arch Linux has a user repository called AUR. These are kind of like ebuilds for gentoo, in that instead of installing pre-built binaries you're running a script that compiles the source code and creates a package for you. This is more done for security reasons than any kind of optimization. One of the common tools used to automated the handling of installing these packages is yaourt. yaourt acts a lot like pacman in that you can search for packages in the AUR and normal repositories by using yaourt -Ss [keyword]. You can also install packages using yaourt -S [keyword].

In order to install yaourt you can download it from the AUR using wget and then making the packages:

wget http://aur.archlinux.org/packages/package-query/package-query.tar.gz
tar zxvf package-query.tar.gz cd package-query
makepkg -si

wget http://aur.archlinux.org/packages/yaourt/yaourt.tar.gz
tar zxvf yaourt.tar.gz cd yaourt
makepkg -si

Doing all these steps will get you the bare bones setup. I suggest reading up on the Arch Linux wiki in order to find out about how to install and setup other programs. I will be going over a handful of them in the future, but it won't be anywhere near complete or useful for day to day operations.

Asus U24E

 

While I was reading up on 11.6" Laptops I stumbled upon this laptop that Asus just released.  It has a i7-2620M (2.7Ghz 35W) and is capable of using 16GB of ram.  This laptop fulfills almost all of my requirements for a small laptop:

 i7: Required for vt-d.  Also has AES New Instructions and vt-x.  

Supports 16GB of ram: Needed for the virtual machine setup I plan to use

11.6": Makes this a rather portable laptop while not being too small to be difficult to type on.

Decent battery life:  I can get around 4 hours of light use (web browsing, coding, etc.)  If I do something processor intensive it drops to about 1:30-2 hours.  

 

I received this laptop and have been setting it up for the past two weeks.  I'm most of the way done and will be blogging about some of the things I've set up.  So far I really like this laptop.  The keyboard feels good and doesn't have any noticeable flex, it doesn't get that hot (although it does exhaust a lot of hot air), suitable battery life, and great performance.  The only issue I have with it is the trackpad's button.  It's recessed enough that I tend to try to click on the case instead of the button.  I've found that I've started to tap to click instead of trying to press the button, which is odd since I've always turned off tap-to-click in the past.  I much prefer thinkpad's touchpoint to trackpads.  However, I like the form factor of this laptop better than the X220.  The U24E is also only $750.  At this point I'm going to see how well I can move off of OS X and back to Linux.  

Asus U24E

 

While I was reading up on 11.6" Laptops I stumbled upon this laptop that Asus just released.  It has a i7-2620M (2.7Ghz 35W) and is capable of using 16GB of ram.  This laptop fulfills almost all of my requirements for a small laptop:

 i7: Required for vt-d.  Also has AES New Instructions and vt-x.  

Supports 16GB of ram: Needed for the virtual machine setup I plan to use

11.6": Makes this a rather portable laptop while not being too small to be difficult to type on.

Decent battery life:  I can get around 4 hours of light use (web browsing, coding, etc.)  If I do something processor intensive it drops to about 1:30-2 hours.  

 

I received this laptop and have been setting it up for the past two weeks.  I'm most of the way done and will be blogging about some of the things I've set up.  So far I really like this laptop.  The keyboard feels good and doesn't have any noticeable flex, it doesn't get that hot (although it does exhaust a lot of hot air), suitable battery life, and great performance.  The only issue I have with it is the trackpad's button.  It's recessed enough that I tend to try to click on the case instead of the button.  I've found that I've started to tap to click instead of trying to press the button, which is odd since I've always turned off tap-to-click in the past.  I much prefer thinkpad's touchpoint to trackpads.  However, I like the form factor of this laptop better than the X220.  The U24E is also only $750.  At this point I'm going to see how well I can move off of OS X and back to Linux.  

Asus U24E

 

While I was reading up on 11.6" Laptops I stumbled upon this laptop that Asus just released.  It has a i7-2620M (2.7Ghz 35W) and is capable of using 16GB of ram.  This laptop fulfills almost all of my requirements for a small laptop:

 i7: Required for vt-d.  Also has AES New Instructions and vt-x.  

Supports 16GB of ram: Needed for the virtual machine setup I plan to use

11.6": Makes this a rather portable laptop while not being too small to be difficult to type on.

Decent battery life:  I can get around 4 hours of light use (web browsing, coding, etc.)  If I do something processor intensive it drops to about 1:30-2 hours.  

 

I received this laptop and have been setting it up for the past two weeks.  I'm most of the way done and will be blogging about some of the things I've set up.  So far I really like this laptop.  The keyboard feels good and doesn't have any noticeable flex, it doesn't get that hot (although it does exhaust a lot of hot air), suitable battery life, and great performance.  The only issue I have with it is the trackpad's button.  It's recessed enough that I tend to try to click on the case instead of the button.  I've found that I've started to tap to click instead of trying to press the button, which is odd since I've always turned off tap-to-click in the past.  I much prefer thinkpad's touchpoint to trackpads.  However, I like the form factor of this laptop better than the X220.  The U24E is also only $750.  At this point I'm going to see how well I can move off of OS X and back to Linux.