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Tag Archives: Arch Linux

I am a most impressed Arch Linux user. It is best suited for my low end system. My system is PIII-800MHz/192MB/Intel-82815. After recovery of /home files from lost partition, I cleaned up all my system partitions for fresh and compact installation of Arch Linux. In last 5 months experience in Arch Linux, I tested with a lot of applications installed. Now I know what I need. So I went for fresh Arch installation, otherwise you need not to install Arch to become current version. pacman -Syu will do, to make your system current. OK, let me come to the point.

I installed base Arch installation with 0.7.2 CD in a matter of a few minutes. After reboot, configured pppoe-setup so that I could run pacman -Syu to become updated system. After update, edited /boot/grub/menu.lst and changed initrd value as kernel26.img (based on previous experience, to avoid kernel panic after reboot). This is most important step people have to remember when updating latest 2.6 kernel. So I was cool expecting clean boot, but…. resulted in kernel panic. What to do? No, problem; I have Arch base CD 0.7.2, which is also a good recovery CD.

Booted with Arch CD and entered arch root=/dev/hdX noinitrd ro at boot prompt. My Arch root partition became live. I checked /var/log/ directory for pacman log, which did not give any hint. I was not able to start my broadband cable daemon also due to some module error, as it pointed out. So I was not able to get information through internet. Then I uninstalled and re-installed both mkinitcpio and kernel26. While re-installing it showed some tips about earlymodules=piix to be appended in kernel command line for some Intel chip set based board. I did the same by editing /boot/grub/menu.lst. Now rebooted and found clean Arch Linux command prompt. That’s good. This is also one important step people have to remember when updating latest 2.6 kernel. For other chip set boards, different earlymodules= values are also available. Please search Arch forum for more info on that.

I request Arch developers to take care of this issue which often raises. It is mostly related to update of kernel command line in grub/lilo.

Additional Notes:

After base installation, how to bring GNOME desktop setup? Here is a quick go:

1. To install X windows system: pacman -S xorg

2. To install i810 video driver (for my PC): pacman -S xf86-video-i810

3. To install GNOME: pacman -S gnome-desktop gnome-extra

4. To install GNOME Display Manager (GDM): pacman -S gdm

5. Add fam, hal, portmap & dbus gdm in DAEMONS line of /etc/rc.conf file.

6. To configure the X-Windows if you don’t have high end video cards:
# hwd -u
# hwd -x
# cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf.hwd /etc/X11/xorg.conf

7. Reboot and enjoy the GDM welcome screen.

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Why Arch Linux?
When the life goes smooth, we get bored. When everything goes smooth we need some challenge to face and conquer. This is applicable for Linux distribution world also. After started admiring with Ubuntu, I did not want to be locked with it. I test a distribution only if it is having some unique feature in it. Zenwalk is one such promising. Here is my review on it. I came to know about Arch, which is optimized for i686 processors, so it is meant for recent generation of processors. So I downloaded base Arch Linux CD. My workstation is bit old with PIII/192MB/Intel-82815-Graphics which is suitable for this i686 optimized system.

Installation:
It is NOT Live CD. Once you boot with base installation CD, you will get a quick and clean shell prompt with basic instruction for installation displayed on console. It is evident that installation is only for power user, not for click and go kind of people. You have to run “/arch/setup”, which is a installation tool. Here is the step by step installation:
1. Selecting installation source between CDROM and network
2. Partitioning of hard disk using cfdisk.
3. Installing base packages from CD (Since mine is just base installation CD)
4. Configuring the system – Here the power user comes. You will be shown /etc/rc.conf, /etc/hosts, /etc/fstab, /etc/mkinitrd.conf, /etc/modprobe.conf, /etc/modules.conf and /etc/resolv.conf files are presented to you through editor. You can apply your real knowledge in linux in this step. No wizard configuration. If you don’t have enough linux experience, it is difficult to understand this step. I did configure /etc/rc.conf, /etc/hosts and /etc/fstab files only which is enough for my system.
6. Kernel selection – I selected 2.6.X kernel
7. GRUB/LILO bootloader selection and you have to manually edit the /boot/grub/menu.lst or /etc/lilo.conf and install.
8. Reboot.

Package management:
Here the package manager is called pacman, which is definitely a apt-get competing tool. Very simple command line options makes it usable by any one. The first thing I did was reading man pacman as directed by installation guide. I updated my system with repository using command pacman -Syu. It updated my kernel, so rebooted. Then installed GNOME desktop. To find out the exact package name, I used pacman -Ss <keyword> which is dead easy. pacman -S <pkg-name> installes package and pacman -R <pkg-name> removes the package. All dependencies are taken care while installing. A few times I faced problem of missing dependenices which I have not faced so far in apt-get in debian/ubuntu. It is rare case, but pacman is really wonderful to use. Though GUI front end for pacman are available, I find pacman command line tool itself more comfortable than any GUI version of pacman.

Performance:
Since I have installed base CD, no bloated applications and services at startup. After reboot I found Arch Linux rocks. No other distribution in my workstation responds to applications as fast as Arch. I can feel the difference very much. I have tried Ubuntu with i686 kernel, but it is not as fast as Arch. In Arch, all applications are also built for i686. There the performance plays. I get this advantage without having the hassles of building from source.
After update I got all latest and greatest applications with the bonus of stability. Though I have latest GNOME 2.16, Firefox 2.0.1, Thunderbird 1.5.0.8, Brasero 0.4.4 (Disk burning), F-Spot 0.2.2, GNumeric 1.6.3, OpenOffice.org 2.0.4, etc. I have not faced any crash in last 2 months of testing period (Yes, I did a lot of work on Arch Linux for 2 months before writing this review). It is rock stable. Click the below thumbnail to see my GNOME 2.16 desktop.

Screenshot of my GNOME 2.16 desktop

Features:
/etc/rc.conf is the master file for system configuration. Here you can configure locale, time zone, key map, module loading and black listing, hostname, network configuration, daemons startup, etc. in this one single file. This BSD kind of startup is really nice.
makepkg tool is also found which takes care of installation from source. It does dependencies check (both runtime and compile time), downloading source package, building and creating <package>-<version>.pkg.tar.gz file. Once it is created you can install it with pacman -A <package>-<version>.pkg.tar.gz command.
A great community is awaiting for you to help for Arch Linux. It has wonderful Wiki page, forum, community repository, etc. Wiki page needs more organized way of compiling the wonderful articles.

Conclusion:
After 2 months of testing and feeling its terrific performance I have moved my production home directory to Arch Linux. Hope that is the right way to appreciate a distro. Great distro has come from great people. Keep it up, Arch guys. You people are doing a wonderful job. Arch Linux is for every one except installation which is only for power user.