Moving from Linux Mint Debian Edition to Arch Linux

Today I migrated my system from LMDE to Arch Linux largely to see what Arch Linux was about as at the Tuxradar site it turns out that Mike Saunders a recently departed member of the Linux Format team had never tried Arch Linux…

http://www.tuxradar.com/content/mike-and-jons-bet

So emboldened by his comments I decided to give it a go by first installing it into a virtualbox virtual computer. Which went relatively well. On the back of this plus the fact that I’d recently trashed my LMDE installation by installing a package from debian experimental and then updating everything! I gave it a go.

Firstly as I wanted to move to btrfs I backed up my complete home directory to an external hard disk so the home partition could be wiped and then the files restored later.

Them I downloaded the Arch Linux net install image and used a spare usb drive and unetbootin to install the image onto the usb drive. This as all done using a Linux Mint Live DVD image and using apt to install unetbootin. I had my tablet to one side of me and opened to the Arch Linux Beginners Guide

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Beginners’_Guide

I’m very impressed with the documentation for arch it is clear and explains how to do things easily.

I followed the procedures through the beginners guide and ended up with a working console that could connect to the internet using commands. I’m going to try these on a Mint Installation to see if they work. As there have been many times in the past where X has failed to start and I needed to use wifi to download an update to fix it. And been left with a console and no means of downloading, this for me invariably ends up with me re-installing the OS.

For reference to get a wifi connection working in Arch from the console for a WEP encryped network: You may need to use a different name for your wireless card mine shows up as wlan0.

ip link set up wlan0
iwconfig wlan0 essid "<wireless network name>" key "<WEP Key>"
dhcpcd wlan0

I use WEP on my wireless network due to a problem on my wife’s netbook that prevents wpa from working. wpa2 should be used.

I installed X and then gnome, Arch installed gnome 3.2 and gnome-shell which I like, I could have installed KDE, LXDE, XFCE or even E17. I’m sure other Desktop Environments were detailed too but I required gnome.

After all this the only problem I had was that NetworkManager would always start up with the wifi disabled.

I thought I had solved this problem using the solution in the guide that told be to add the following to /etc/rc.local

nmpid=/var/lib/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.state
[ -f $nmpid ] && rm $nmpid

This deletes the state file which for some reason is not being deleted when network manager shuts down. However subsequent reboots revealed that I had not solved it. Delving in deeper I found that nm-tool showed the following

- Device: wlan0 ----------------------------------------------------------------
 Type: 802.11 WiFi
 Driver: ath9k
 State: unavailable
 Default: no
 HW Address: 78:E4:00:05:C7:6A
Capabilities:
Wireless Properties
 WEP Encryption: yes
 WPA Encryption: yes
 WPA2 Encryption: yes
Wireless Access Points

After digging around on the net I found a lead on an opensuse forum. Something was causing a software block of card. I then typed rfkill list to show the status of the network interfaces into a terminal window. rfkill returned the following

 

0: acer-wireless: Wireless LAN
 Soft blocked: yes
 Hard blocked: no
1: acer-bluetooth: Bluetooth
 Soft blocked: yes
 Hard blocked: no
2: phy0: Wireless LAN
 Soft blocked: no
 Hard blocked: no

This gave me an idea, the rfkill program has an unblock arguement where you can specify either the index number of the type e.g wifi

So I added the following at the end of the /etc/rc.local file on my computer

rfkill unblock 0

A couple of reboots proved that this has solved the problem for now. I also think that this is the reason why bluetooth is not working so I might add

rfkill unblock 1

to my /etc/rc.local file and see if that addresses the problem.

It’s taken me the best part of the day to get the system up and running but that is mainly through me playing with different things.

One feature I like about Arch is that there is not init.d folder with startup and shutdown scripts. It takes a BSD approach and the daemons to be started up are placed in an array in the /etc/rc.conf which is the main configuration file for Arch.

I had great fun setting this up, and felt that I have been in complete control over what is installed on my system. For example I installed gnome without Evolution, whilst on other distributions removing this leaves you with a broken system!

Now all I’ve got to do is sort out the icons, as I copied the gnome themes and icons from my sons Linux Mint 12 computer, as I really like the linux mint look under gnome. But I copied many icons over for applications that I haven’t installed and that causes pacman the package manager not to install the application. I just experienced this when trying to install vlc.

Overall a great distribution, installing it was fun and I felt I learned things along the way, and with the excellent documentation a solution to a problem was pretty near at hand, although my Network Manager problem took some time to resolve, it didn’t stop me from running the system. Overall it was very reminiscent of when I first installed Linux in 1995. As it relied on you knowing what to do, but with the Beginners guide it was simple to do and I didn’t feel lost at any point during the process.

 

 

 

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