Arch Linux Install + Setup

Why the switch?

I previously used to run Debian on Éowyn, and Ubuntu prior to that. I was getting frustrated with Debian for a fair bit of time. For one, support for Debian packages seemed like an afterthought. The mupdf plugin for zathura is officially supported for Arch, and there's a ppa for Ubuntu folks. For Debian, though? Zilch. Other packages seemed to require the latest versions of programs like vim/neovim, and the latest version of the package Debian would let me get was still way behind the latest released version. I really just wanted the most updated software, and Arch seemed to offer that. Arch also seemed to have really, really nice documentation about everything. Some combination of the wikis and the forums seemed to cover just about everything I needed. I wasn't really seeing that much of an involved user base in Debian.

My Debian installation was also getting to be a bit bloated and gross. I had no idea what half the things that lived in my .config directory were, so I wanted to build from ground-up. Being able to pick and choose what I wanted my setup to look and feel like, and not having loads of unnecessary packages installed and programs launched was important to me.

Just FYI, I'm probably going to define some terms here that I learnt along the way, but feel free to skip those if you already know what they mean!


With that said, let's talk about the installation process. As of April 2021, Arch has an official guided installation script (archinstall) , which radically simplifies things. With the installer, most of the installation should be rather seamless, so don't worry too much.

As always, burn the image to a flash drive, and launch from there. As for the burning, I like using dd after praying to the Linux gods; I've had a really low success rate with programs like Etcher. Once you're in, use iwctl (this tool is so nice!) to get an internet connection going. Then you can proceed with archinstall!

Go ahead and pick the options you like! For the formatting, I chose the Linux file system, and formatted the whole disk. I chose to keep the same network settings, and installed xorg for the DE-related question, and had it install Intel drivers for the graphics card. That was pretty much it! There'll be a bit at the end that tells you that you can reboot; remember to take your flash drive out before you do that.

Ideally, you'll be golden if you did all that. I think I accidentally skipped the step about installing a boot loader like GRUB2, so I couldn't boot into my computer for a bit. I was initially planning to use rEFInd as my boot manager based on a friend's recommendation. I made a live disk with reFINd, expecting to have to install it from there, but even once I took the flash drive out, I was able to boot into my computer. I'm pretty sure the way it works is that rEFInd has an auto-recognizing mechanism; I think that's why just inserting the flash drive worked. I'm using systemd-boot, by sheer accident. It seems pretty minimalist-ey, and I haven't had to do much to configure it or anything, so I'm good with it for now.


Yay! You're in! Now, you'll want to probably start X if you're going to do anything vaguely graphic-ey. I added the line

exec startx
to my .bash_profile. Now, your .xinitrc will contain everything that's being launched, like any window manager you like. I went with i3! Install whatever you like and its dependencies (might take a bit of trial-and-error). This should work; if not, you might need to install some xorg-ey things.

The errors should give you a pretty good idea of what you need to install. Also, one thing about the exec command is that it replaces the program running it. This means that anything after exec is tantamount to a comment, since there won't be any program left to execute the rest of the instructions.

Great! Assuming that works, you can resume setting everything else up mentioned in my preferences. That file and its links should contain the rest!


I'm just putting down some things I had to do during this process.

When I plugged in my monitor (through HDMI), it just duplicated the display. I wanted it to be more of an extention, so I had to add the following lines to my i3 config:

exec_always --no-startup id xrandr --output DP3 --right-of eDP1
exec_always --no-startup-id xrandr --output eDP1 --left-of DP3
Do I know why the monitor is labeled "DP3" instead of HDMI-1 or something? Nope. Do I know what DP1 and DP2 are? Also, nope. Please let me know if you find out, though!

Initially, pulseaudio gave me some weird error about "fail[ing] to open cookie file '~/.config/pulse/cookie'". I found some solution about symlinking it to another cookie file, but that failed. I don't know what that's about, but running it again helped. FYI, you'll need to run pulseaudio before you run pavucontrol. I added this to my i3 config as

exec_always --no-startup-id pulseaudio

I have no idea how to install fonts. I'll update this when I figure out how/find the the need to. So far, the default seems to be holding up okay. Promised update: you can install fonts with pacman. You can first query the packages with pacman -Ss. The AUR's pretty sweet too!

That's all, folks!

I'm still setting things up, but I'll update this in the upcoming weeks as I learn more about Arch and figure out what I want/need. I feel like I've settled down with a distro. I'm the sort of person to change OSs any time I'm stressed, but since I installed Arch, I've pretty much lost interest in doing that. I've wanted to try QubesOS, BSDs, Gentoo, etc. but I feel like I'd wind up back here in Arch. The impeccable documentation, cutting edge software, and beautifully seamless package management (pacman and the AUR) make it nearly impossible to change distros. Even if I were to change, I think I'd miss my Arch set up too much. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

Arch on Faramir

Setting up Arch on Faramir followed a similar process. Navigating the BIOS was a pain. Pressing F10 takes you to a BIOS settings menu. You'll have to disable secure boot and save and exit. It should ideally take you to this bit that asks you to enter in a code just to make sure. If it doesn't ask you to do this, it hasn't written the changes properly. From there, you can spam F9 till you get to the USB, and then you can boot from the USB.

This took me a few tries to get it working. When I tried disabling secure boot, go to the boot list and select the USB, I'd get some error about secure boots. When I went back to the corresponding section in the BIOS, it would say that the secure boot was enabled. I previously thought that something about choosing a boot option was overriding the settings, but it seems like the changes just weren't being written properly. Additionally, I did the same settings as before, this time selecting AMD drivers instead of Intel, using GRUB for the bootloader, and using zram.