My first expieriences with Arch Linux

As I already wrote, I want to switch to Arch Linux. Well, I am new to this distribution. Since back to the days when I used SuSE, I only used debian-derivatives on my PCs. Its not that I dont like debian anymore, its a great distribution, but I am interested in learning more about the underbrushes of Linux.

Seems like Arch Linux has a great community, but so far, I cannot contribute anything, since I am completely new to this distribution. But at least, well, I can write a few things here. About some problems I ran into, about tutorials that I read, etc., in the hope that this will be usefull to other people.

The first time I ran Arch inside a VirtualBox. And about the first thing that happened was, that it crashed when trying to start X11. I forgot to install and run hal. Thats nice. Setting DAEMONS in /etc/rc.conf properly solved that problem quickly.

Well, installing on my MacBook Pro was not that easy, though. I chose the most complicated setup on a MacBook Pro – a Triple Boot System with OS X, Windows and Arch Linux. Well, the Tutorial for this was not very helpfull at that point (later it was). Well, since I already installed Ubuntu in the past, I knew a bit of what to do.

Firstly, I performed a clean installation of Mac OS X. Then I ran BootCamp, but only let it repartition the hard disk, not reboot and install Windows. I chose to give Windows 32 Gig. Then, with the Disk Utility, I added a third partition, between the bootcamp-partition and the partition of OS X. I chose to give OS X 32 gig, since I want to mainly run Arch Linux in the future.

Then I installed Windows. I wanted to have Windows 7 64, but unfortunately, this cannot be installed since it lacks of some CD-Driver. So I first installed Windows Vista 64 and then upgraded to Win 7 (thankfully, I can obtain Windows from the MSDNAA). After doing the whole setup and stuff, I rebooted and booted OS X. Then I installed rEFIt.

At this point, I rebooted into the Arch Linux CD-Rom. I followed the usual /arch/setup procedure. I didnt repartition, I set up /dev/sda3 as ext3 to be mounted on /. I ignored the warning that there is no swap and no separate /boot-Partition. The problem is: I cannot have so much partitions – 4 is the Limit. A helpfull source is the Documentation for Ubuntu.

Well, everything worked so far, except that the installation of the bootloader claims that it could not read stage1. Trying to fix it manually didnt work. I downloaded the newest Grub-Sources and compiled them in the chroot on /mnt (where /dev/sda3 is mounted through the installation process) myself, after performing a pacman -Sy and installing some dependencies (I dont know all of them anymore, but the configure-script will tell them). Calling this grub-install gave me some errors, that installing Grub on /dev/sda3 only works with blocklists, which are not reliable. Well, even though it was not recommended, I tried to install it on /dev/sda – but it also didnt work. Somehow it cannot install to the MBR.

I cant tell why, but now at least I have some sort of Grub to boot. Grub just drops a shell now, but I can boot the System manually using

root (hd0,3)
linux /boot/vmlinuz26 root=/dev/sda3
initrd /boot/kernel26.img

in the Grub-shell. Unfortunately, I can only boot Windows 7 from this GRUB now – using the manual chainloader. I dont know why it doesnt recognize my menu.lst, but well, I dont want to mess around with my bootloader-configuration right now, since I dont want to break it – at least it works so far.

A comparably easy task was then installing the X-Server. I installed hal and dbus, and put them into the DAEMONS-Variable. Then I installed xorg and the nvidia-drivers (pacman -S xorg nvidia nvidia-utils), according to the Wiki-Documentation of Arch Linux. I also installed xdm and icewm, since this is the environment I want to use. Afterwards, I ran nvidia-xconfig. I also edited .xinitrc to start icewm-session on X startup.

Then I rebooted and started xdm. It worked. Then I adapted the Settings of the nvidia-driver according to the Wiki-Documentation, and again restarted.

For the Synaptics Touchpad, there is an excellent documentation. The customized part of my hal-settings-file so far are:

<merge key="input.x11_options.VertEdgeScroll" type="string">false</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.HorizEdgeScroll" type="string">false</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.TapButton1" type="string">0</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.TapButton2" type="string">0</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.TapButton3" type="string">0</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.MaxTapTime" type="string">0</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.TapClickFinger1" type="string">1</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.TapClickFinger2" type="string">2</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.TapClickFinger3" type="string">3</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.VertTwoFingerScroll" type="string">true</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.HorizTwoFingerScroll" type="string">true</merge>
<merge key="input.x11_options.CircularScrolling" type="string">true</merge>

For Sound, I use the Jack Sound Server – basically, because the performance I got with pure alsa was bad, and because I like jackd. I installed qjackctl, and adjusted the settings. The content of the created .jackdrc with the Settings that work for me are:

/usr/bin/jackd -R -P30 -p512 -m -dalsa -dhw:0 -r44100 -p256 -n3 -S

However, when using jackd, there are some additional problems. Namely, under Debian, I can remember never getting the Flash Plugin to work. Well, this appears not to be a problem using the software flashsupport-jack, which is an AUR-Package, but works perfectly for me. I installed it as stated in the Wiki.

Of course, there are still a few problems remaining. Didnt get jackd-support for all of the packages. The GRUB doesnt work right at the moment. But well, it is a System I can already work with.

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