Arch Linux Configuration Notes

Arch Linux is my operating system of choice. It runs smoothly once installed, but installation is rather complicated. This is a summary (mostly for my own reference) of how I arrive at my preferred working environment.

Installation

Boot from the installation medium and follow the installation guide, augmented with the steps below.

Partitioning

Create a new GPT partition table.

Base package installation

A few additions to the base package list ensure that the minimal new installation can connect to a wireless network, comfortably edit text files, and not crash due to buggy microcode:

pacstrap /mnt base base-devel linux linux-firmware intel-ucode vim networkmanager

Bootloader installation

The Arch Linux kernel supports EFISTUB, but many motherboard EFI implementations don’t work well with it. The next simplest option is the systemd bootloader.

From within the chroot, run the command bootctl install. Then create /boot/loader/entries/arch.conf with the following contents:

title   Arch Linux
linux   /vmlinuz-linux
initrd  /intel-ucode.img
initrd  /initramfs-linux.img
options root=UUID=????????-????-????-????-???????????? rw

The UUID for the root filesystem should be the same as what is specified in the auto-generated /etc/fstab.

System setup

Reboot into the newly-installed Arch system to finish the rest of the configuration.

User account

Log in as root and run the following:

useradd -G wheel -m dlaw
passwd dlaw
visudo  # grant full permissions to group wheel

Now log out and log in as the new user.

Network

For a transient or wireless connection, use nmcli to connect with NetworkManager.

For a permanent wired connection, create /etc/systemd/network/00-wired.network according to the wiki and then enable and start the systemd-networkd and systemd-resolved services.

GUI

Install window manager, terminal emulator, web browser, and fonts:

pacman -S xorg xorg-xinit i3 termite chromium
pacman -S ttf-dejavu ttf-liberation ttf-inconsolata terminus-font-otb

If on a high resolution display, I prefer to enable 1.5x scaling. The default pixel density is 96 dpi, so create .Xdefaults containing:

Xft.dpi: 144

Create .xinitrc to configure displays (if needed) and launch i3:

xrandr --output DP-2 --left-of DP-1 --set "Broadcast RGB" "Full"
exec i3

Now run startx and do the rest of the configuration from within the GUI.

Set terminal appearance – create .config/termite/config:

[colors]
foreground = #ffffff
background = #000000
[options]
font = Inconsolata 16

Custom i3 configuration to maximize usable space – modifications to .config/i3/config:

font pango:Terminus 10
bindsym $mod+z move workspace to output left
bindsym $mod+x move workspace to output right
bindsym $mod+Shift+Return exec chromium
default_border pixel 1
default_floating_border pixel 1
bar {
    mode hide
}

Autologin

Create /etc/systemd/system/getty@tty1.service.d/autologin.conf containing

[Service]
ExecStart=
ExecStart=-/usr/bin/agetty --autologin dlaw --noclear %I $TERM

Then, in ~/.bash_profile:

if systemctl -q is-active graphical.target && [[ ! $DISPLAY && $XDG_VTNR -eq 1 ]] ; then
  exec startx
fi

This is ugly, but I haven’t found a better way.

Tweaks

Remap caps lock to control and modify touchpad right-click behavior by creating /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/00-input.conf:

Section "InputClass"
        Identifier "keyboard"
        MatchIsKeyboard "on"
        Option "XkbOptions" "caps:ctrl_modifier"
EndSection

Section "InputClass"
	Identifier "touchpad"
	MatchIsTouchpad "on"
	Option "ClickMethod" "clickfinger"
EndSection

Other packages

pacman -S openssh pass rsync syncthing python python-numpy python-scipy python-matplotlib arm-none-eabi-gdb arm-none-eabi-gcc arm-none-eabi-newlib make git python-pyserial zip unzip p7zip