In my last post I mentioned that I had previously attempted to set up ArchLinux, and not had a good time with it. While the source of my trouble that time was more to do with poorly supported, old hardware, it well and truly put me off playing around with it. Now that I have a machine to install it on where age and compatibility will not be issues, I figured it was time for another go.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the install process, I’ll answer the question in the title of this post. Installing Arch is not a simple process and takes rather more effort than a typical Linux install. There’s no GUI, which in turn makes knowing how to do things in the command line essential. It’s for this reason that I wanted to give it a try, mostly so I could learn more about how to work in the command line and learn a bit more about what makes Linux tick.
This kind of thing isn’t for everybody, but if it’s knowledge about Linux you’re after, this is a hell of a good way to get it. There’s an old joke which says, “Linux is user friendly, it’s just very choosy about who its friends are.” After working through the install process, that joke is very relatable. Enough joking, though, on to the install.
I downloaded the latest Arch iso file, set up a bootable USB thumb drive, and booted up my old laptop. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to boot from the USB drive with no trouble. Thinking that this was a good sign, I jumped into following the install instructions. The pre-install steps ended up being much easier this time round, even getting a working Internet connection.
The actual install process ended up being incredibly simple, with the caveat that the base installation doesn’t actually have much in the way of installed software. The instructions mention that it will be necessary to install extra and suggest some software which could be installed as part of the initial install. I wasn’t sure what would be required, so opted to just install base components initially, and install any other software as and when I needed it. With the base system installed it was time to go through some initial configuration.
It was while I was performing this initial configuration that I learned just how limited the base install package was. I tried using the which command to see if a particular utility was installed, only to discover it wasn’t. Fortunately using Arch’s package manager, pacman, is pretty simple, and I soon had which installed, along with the other software I thought I needed.
Having stepped through the configuration, I rebooted the computer, happy to see that it successfully booted from the HD. However, it seemed like there was something missing from the networking side of things, as I was unable to access the Internet, despite connecting to WiFi as I had done in the install process. A bit of googling later, and I discovered that the problem I was having seemed to be that there was no dhcp client software.
Now I was back in a situation I’d been in before, needing to download something from the Internet so that I could have a working Internet connection. Nothing like opening a box with the crowbar inside it. Fortunately, my brain did a bit of thinking, and I realised I could just boot off the install USB again, where I did have a working Internet connection. One quick reboot later, and I was being informed that the dhcp client software I needed was, in fact, already installed. I rebooted from the HD again, and confirmed the same issue, I was connected to Wi-Fi automatically, but had no IP address assigned. Out of curiosity I ran the dhcp client software, and was rewarded by no response, but a quick check of the IP settings showed I now had an IP address and could connect to the Internet again.
My main problem now was how to make the computer remember the dhcp settings after a reboot. A bit of googling and reading later, and I discovered that the WiFi connection software actually has the capability to manage dhcp setting, so I added the one line required to a configuration file, and I was off and running. So, for my first attempt at installing Arch, I’m pretty happy. Things didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked, but to look at the positive side, if they had gone smoothly, I wouldn’t have learned as much. Tomorrow’s challenge is going to be working out what additional software I require to get some sort of GUI happening.
I like messing with stuff and seeing what I can make it do. Computers, electronics, photography are my main hobbies, but I also enjoy bike riding, gel blasting and music.