OTHERWISE ENTILED: Rob tries to install Arch Linux some of the time, but really spends most of the time drinking beer.
Before I start: NO, UNLIKE EVERY OTHER ARTICLE ON THE WEB, PUBLISHED TODAY, THIS IS NOT A JOKE, K?!?
I’ve been looking for a new distro recently. I do this from time to time, principally because I get bored of what I’m currently running. Last time it was Crunchbang which I settled on. This time I wanted to go more advanced, so I started researching Arch Linux.
For those that don’t know, Arch Linux describes itself as:
…a lightweight and flexible Linux® distribution that tries to Keep It Simple.
I’d heard about Arch in the past from several sources and had heard that you basically have to install and configure everything yourself, but that the package manager (awesomely named Pacman!) manages software without having to compile from source (unless you want to!).
The following series of posts will be a record of my experiences installing and configuring Arch on my home desktop machine. This isn’t intended to be an exhaustive installation guide, more just a record of where I tripped up in order to aid those who come next. If you are searching for an installation guide, try the excellent article on the Arch Wiki.
I’ve separated the post out into days. Note: it didn’t actually take me a full day for each part, I work during the day and only really had a couple of hours each evening to spend on this.
Day 1: Backing Up
Before installing I wanted to make sure I didn’t trash my existing Ubuntu system and all my personal data, as I still need to do all the stuff I usually do with my machine. So I made a backup.
I’m not really going to go into how. Suffice to say I used LVM snapshots and rsync, I might write about this in a future post.
This took a while, as I have quite a lot of data. I thought it best to have a beer in the mean time, so I did.
Day 2: Making Space, Starting the Installation and Various Adventures with LVM
The next thing to do was to resize my existing LVM partition containing Ubuntu so that I had space for Arch. I couldn’t work out how to do this at first as none of the partition tools I tried (GParted and Cfdisk) could resize the partition. I eventually worked out how to do it.
First, on my running Ubuntu system I resized the physical volume with:
$ pvresize --setphysicalvolumesize 500G /dev/sda1
This shrank the space used by LVM down to 500GB (from about 1000GB on my machine).
I then rebooted into the Arch live CD (64-bit edition in my case), and ran:
$ fdisk /dev/sda
Now what you have to do next is slightly alarming. You actually have to delete the partition and recreate it in the new size. This works, without destroying your data, because fdisk only manipulates the partition table on the disk, it doesn’t do any formatting of partitions, etc.
I did this through fdisk so that the partition was 501GB (making it a little bigger than the PV just to make sure). I then rebooted back into Ubuntu and ran:
$ pvresize /dev/sda1
To allow it to use all the space. This probably isn’t necessary but I wanted to be safe.
Next, I proceeded to the installation. For some reason the Arch boot CD was really slow to boot and gave me loads of read errors, I think this might have something to do with my drive as I’ve been experiencing the same with other disks. Eventually it booted and dropped my at the default prompt.
From then I basically followed the installation guide for setting up the package source (CD) and the date and time.
I then set about partitioning the disks. The Arch installer uses Cfdisk, which is fine. I just added two partitions to my disk, a small (255Meg) one for my /boot partition and a large LVM one for the rest of the system (I like LVM and wanted to use it again on Arch).
This was fine, but I had some problems setting up the LVM through the installer, even though the user guide seems to think it can do it. Every time I tried, it would just fail on creating the Volume Group, weird.
I gave up for the evening and (you guessed it) went for a beer!
Day 3: Successful Installation
The next day I thought I’d try googling for LVM on Arch, luckily when I got in to work @duffkitty on identi.ca had seen one of my posts complaining about having problems and had given me a link to the LVM article on the Arch Wiki.
This advocated setting up the whole LVM setup manually (and guides you through it) and then just setting the partitions to use in the installer. It also gives you some important things to look out for when configuring the system. Following these instructions worked like a charm and I was able to format everything correctly and install the base system.
I then moved on to configuring the system, following the install guide and taking into account the instructions in the LVM article. Everything went pretty much fine here and I eventually got to installing the bootloader. Here I replaced the Ubuntu Grub version with the one installed by Arch. This left me having to add an entry for Ubuntu, which wasn’t difficult, I just copied the Arch one and changed the partition and file names.
Then it was time to ‘type reboot and pray’ as the Arch installation guide puts it.
So I did.
When I rebooted the bootloader came up with the Arch and Ubuntu entries. I selected Ubuntu just to check everything was OK.
It didn’t work.
Panicking and Swearing Ensued.
I rebooted and selected Arch.
That worked (thankfully).
When it had booted I logged in and opened up the Grub config file again. it turned out I mis-typed the name of the Ubuntu initrd file, that was easily fixed. Rebooting got me safely back to Ubuntu.
So now I have a functioning dual boot between my original Ubuntu install and a very basic Arch install, I think I might need some software there!
But first… beer.
So What’s Next???
Well, firstly I need to get my network connection up and running as I didn’t do that during the install. It’s a Wifi connection over WPA so that’s going to be fun. Then I can start installing software. I’ll probably follow the Beginners Guide on the Wiki (from Part 3). I was also recommended Yaourt by @duffkitty, so I’ll give that a try.
I’ll be continuing to play with Arch over the next few days and reporting my progress in follow up posts here. I’ll also be denting as I go along and you can follow all of these on my #archrob hash tag.
There’ll probably be beer too.
We’ll see how it goes, but eventually I hope to have a system I can use full time.
Bye for now! Happy Easter!