Beginner’s Guide to Arch Linux on the Raspberry Pi – Part 2

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Continuing with the setting up and such like, using Arch Linux on the Raspberry Pi. This is the second blog post on the subject.

In the previous posting, we managed to set up our locales, languages, keyboards, and so on. We have internet connection vie a wired Ethernet connection using either a dynamic IP address or a Static one. Time to move on.

As before, if you see a command with a ‘#‘ prompt it means that you should be in the root user, or have prefixed the command with sudo. If the prompt is ‘$‘ then that runs as your normal ‘pi’ user – which we created last time.

WiFi Access to the Internet

Setting up a WiFi access is just as simple as setting up the Wired access, actually, it’s easier as there is a utility that helps out.

Make sure your WiFi dongle is plugged in and then:

# wifi-menu -o

The last parameter is a lower case letter o, not a zero.

After a short delay, you will see a message telling you that the system is “scanning for networks”. Eventually, a list of available networks will be displayed – if yours is not showing, make sure that your wireless router is broadcasting the SSID. Follow the router’s instructions if you need to make changes.

Use the arrow keys to move up and down the list of networks until you have highlighted the desired one. Press the return key to select it.

If the network is password protected, you will be prompted for the password. Type it in and press return to accept it. If the network is not protected – you are asking for trouble!

After a pause, you will get the shell prompt back again. You should now be connected to the internet which you can check, as before, by pinging to see if the connection is talking to the internet and then ping to ensure that you have name resolution too. Both are required.

The wifi-menu utility has created a new profile for your WiFi link. It is called wlan0-SSID where the SSID part of the name is the name of the network you connected to.

It has been configured for a dynamic IP address, and you might not want this.

To set up a static IP address, proceed as follows:

# cd /etc/netctl
# vi wlan-SSID      # Where SSID is your network name

You will see something like the following:

Description='Automatically generated profile by wifi-menu'

You need to change it to something like the following, where the changes have been highlighted in bold:

Description='Automatically generated profile by wifi-menu'
DNS=('' '' '')

You will note that the IP address I’m using here is exactly the same as the one I set up in the last article. This is fine as I only ever user the WiFi or the wired connection, never both.

Plus, I don’t have the network connection enabled to auto start at boot time.

Once the file is saved, you can start the WiFi network by:

# netctl start wlan0-your_network_name

If you always want the WiFi network to be started when the Pi boots, then enable it, as follows:

# netctl enable wlan0-your_network_name

Note: If you sometimes use a WiFi with a static IP address – say at home, but use a dynamic one when out and about – say at a coding class or Raspberry Jam etc, then you can set up two separate profiles.

Use the wifi-menu command to set up the dynamic profile, and rename it to wlan0-your_network_name.dynamic then copy it to wlan0-your_network_name.static and add in the bits you need, as above, for a static IP address.

The netctl list command will list both and you can start and stop either one at will.

Obviously, this only applies if the two profiles relate to the same network. If you have a home network called home and a work one called work they will already be different files!

Update the System

Now that we have a working system, it’s time to update the system. The package system on Arch Linux is called pacman and is quite simple to use:

# pacman -Syu --ignore filesystem --ignore ca-certificates

The above command first of all updates the current database with any changes since the release of the version you are running, then checks to see what needs updating. After a few seconds, you are presented with a list of packages that are installed, but need updating. Type Y to update the lot. Time for a coffee I suspect!

Note: When I upgraded my system, I saw two errors. One in package filesystem and the other in ca-certificates. Everything else installed correctly. The above command actually ignores those two packages completely.

Once everything else installed, I simply ran the following command and the two ignored packages were upgraded without error:

# pacman -Syu

If you see a message, during the upgrading of the system, which mentions that “/etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist has been saved as /etc/pacman.d/mirrolist.pacnew” then you might need to do a manual correction.

# cd /etc/pacman.d
# grep -v ^# mirrorlist

Server =$repo

# grep -v ^#

Server =$repo

As you can see, both files contain a single uncommented line, which is the pacman repository to use on a Raspberry Pi. As they are the same, we can delete the old file and rename the new one with no problems:

# rm mirrorlist
# mv mirrorlist.pacnew mirrorlist

If there were other uncommented lines in either of the files, you would need to make the mirrorlist.pacnew file match the existing mirrorlist file prior to deleting and renaming.

You now have an up to date mirrorlist file.

Graphical User Interface

Arch doesn’t come with much already installed, just the base system. This keeps bloat to a minimum, and allows you to decide what goes into your own setup. Arch also doesn’t come with a GUI system at all, so now, we can install one if we wish.

The Linux GUI system comes in three parts:

  • X-Org
  • Window Manager
  • Desktop Environment

The file /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst contains details of various settings that you can use for your keyboard model, variant and language (aka layout) and such like.

The default for my keyboard model and a possible variant of that model (see the above file for details), is correct, but my layout is wrong. It is set to US while I want GB. (Yes, in the shell it’s UK and in X it’s GB, go figure!)

To fix the problem of a “broken” layout, we need to create a file called /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-keyboard.conf and add the following to it:

Section "InputClass"
    Identifier             "Keyboard Defaults"
    MatchIsKeyboard	   "yes"
    Option	           "XkbLayout" "gb"

Obviously, if you want a French keyboard layout, you would set it accordingly. I need “gb” for mine.

If your keyboard model and/or variant isn’t correct, you may also add one or both of the following lines after the existing “option”:

    Option                 "XkbModel"   "xxxxxx"
    Option                 "XkbVariant" "yyyyyy"

Where ‘xxxxxx’ is one of the models, and ‘yyyyyy’ is one of the variants listed in /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst. If you now run the startx command and start typing shift-3 etc, you should see that your keyboard is correctly configured. If not, make sure you spelt the various options correctly – and not as I originally did – for example, there is no ‘kbd’ in ‘Xkblayout’ etc, it’s just ‘kb’!

Another way to set the keyboard layout and such like is to run the following command in the X session when you have started it, or add it to the file ~/.xinitrc in your particular user:

# setxkbmap -layout "gb" -model "xxxxxx" -variant "yyyyyy"

Where the layout, model and variant are as desired. You may omit one or other of these if the default settings are correct.

Next, we need a Window Manager, and for this experiment in Arch, I’m installing Openbox – it’s lightweight and “fun”.

# pacman -S openbox obconf obmenu lxappearance

When the above has completed, running startx will have apparently made no difference. We need to tell the X system to run Openbox on startup, so, edit the file .xinitrc in your home directory (/home/root as we are working as the root user at present) and make it thus:


Also, in order to have at least something on the openbox context (ie, right-click) menu, do the following as well:

# mkdir -p ~/.config/openbox/
# cp /etc/xdg/openbox/menu.xml ~/.config/openbox
# cp /etc/xdg/openbox/rc.xml ~/.config/openbox

When you create a new user on the system, you will need to do a similar exercise for those user accounts, like pi, that you wish to run a GUI on login.

Now, run the startx command and be amazed! You get, as I did, a totally black screen with an arrow pointer on it. Congratulations, you are now running an openbox window manager.

Right-click the black area to see the default context menu, select terminals and select xterm from the list. You should now see a new window appearing running a terminal session. You can click on the caption bar and move it around and such like.

When you exit from xterm, you are back at the blank desktop. The context menu allows you to configure open box, if you wish to do so, right-click, select System and Openbox Configuration Manager to play around.

Select Log Out and Exit, when prompted, to exit from openbox.