Archive for the ‘Arch Linux’ Category.

Updating my operating system trifecta

This weekend, I updated the four operating systems I have installed on my computer. Well, Arch Linux doesn’t really count, because, you know, it just keeps rolling along.


I started with the nightly Haiku gcc2hybrid4 build, because it’s the easiest. I enjoy updating to the latest nightly. I installed it and looked for any signs of the usual regressions: video driver problems, sound card problems, network problems… When there is a regression, I find the commit that caused it and report it on the Haiku bug tracker, where the kind Haiku developers promptly fix it. It’s fun! But, alas, everything worked great.

I have a separate partition with the Be File System on it to store all my personal files. It makes installing the nightlies super simple.

Linux Mint

I installed the latest version of Linux Mint, Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon x86_64. I almost never use it, but when I do it’s for two primary reasons. One, my Arch Linux installation is messed up and I’m in a hurry to get something done (usually related to my stupid webcam). And two, I like to experience Linux distributions that are setup to be visually attractive (unlike Arch Linux), to get ideas of what I can do to beautify my Arch Linux setup.


I reinstalled FreeBSD 9.1 x86_64. It’s funny, no matter how many times I try, I just don’t seem to get FreeBSD. Well, I decided to give it yet another shot. Video, audio, and networking are all working great. I’ll try compiling and installing some more packages tonight.

I have one partition split into to UFS slices, one for the operating system and one for my home directory.

And thus ends my experience updating the all of my operating systems!

1500 post update

I recently made post number 1500 on the Arch Linux forums. I thought it’d be nice to take a moment and reflect on Arch Linux and its community.

So, let me tell you about MMORPGs. They scare me. I’ve never played them, but I’ve watched, and lost, friends that do. MMORPGs look boring to me. They look like mindless grinding for the simple purpose of making a number increase that resides on a computer somewhere that could get erased at any moment. How ridiculous.

And then one day I suddenly realized: I do play an MMORPG. It’s called the Arch Linux forums. I log in every day for at least an hour. I play with other people from around the world. I monitor my stats as they increase. I don’t think I’ve fought any battles, unless you count Vim vs EMACS. Anyway, it was a harsh realization.

I’m more active on the Arch Linux forums than anywhere else on the Internet by far. It’s my hobby. It’s enjoyable. It doesn’t feel like a chore. Sometimes I ponder what it would be like to become a moderator, but I quickly remember how much I enjoy not having any responsibilities there. Plus, I’d probably abuse my powers. “You have violated forum etiquette by recommending EMACS. Closed. Binned. For deletion.”

The Arch Linux forums and wiki are kind of a big deal on the Internet. As some of the best technical resources for Linux, users from all types of distributions find their way to them for help. And it’s so easy to contribute to. Anyone can create an account and start answering quesions and posting information.

I think it’s neat the way Arch Linux doen’t do any “advertising”. The developers have no desire to promote Arch Linux. Instead, they make the best operating system they can, and people interested in its features end up finding it (like I did). Arch Linux is one of the most popular Linux distributions, all based on its technical merit and community.

It’s been over three and a half years since I started using Arch Linux. I have no reason or desire to switch to anything else. Except maybe to get rid of systemd.

I’m thankful for Arch Linux

I had four days off from work this week thanks to Thanksgiving, and I decided to spend a lot of that time trying out some operating systems. Here are my extremely simple, quick, superficial experiences.


I used to be a Slackware user, as can be seen in my Linux history. I appreciate that the outstanding installation program hasn’t changed since the last time I used it in 2003. I was excited to use a very stable and nicely setup system with KDE.

Well, I was reminded why I don’t like KDE. First of all, I find the default appearance to be incredible ugly. Second, there are so many little applications working together that make up KDE, and one of them always seems to be either crashing or causing a graphical glitch. So, I erased Slackware.


I was interested in trying GNOME 3. After looking around a bit, I realized Fedora was the only major distribution that comes with the standard GNOME 3 Shell by default.

I realized I don’t like GNOME 3. Everything just took so much mouse movement and so much clicking. Maybe I was using it incorrectly. Anyway, I erased Fedora.


I wanted to try Frugalware because it’s one of the only distributions that comes with the Etoile Desktop Environment, based on GNUStep. Frugalware didn’t like it when I told it not to install the boot loader into the MBR. I couldn’t get it to boot after that, so I gave up trying to get it to load.


I love MenuetOS. I love the story of MenuetOS. A programmer is fed up with people always saying “Sure, assembly language is incredibly fast, but it’s impossible to write any big or serious application with it”, and so he decides to write an entire operating system in assembly language. That includes both the kernel and the GUI (with transparency effects!). It has a text editor, web browser, image editor, music / video / DVD player, Doom, and Quake.

I was able to run it from a live CD. Unfortunately my USB mouse was not detected, but I was able to move the mouse cursor around with some keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl – Meta – arrows / space). If it had worked, I would have installed it onto a partition, just for the geek cred.


My wife liked openSUSE from her experience from a few years ago, so I decided to give it a try. What a beautiful and polished experience openSUSE is! The installer is amazing and the default setup is gorgeous (even with KDE!). So I decided to keep it as another platform to compile and test the video game I’m making on.

…until I discovered two simple packages I need (Allegro and GNUStep) are not in the openSUSE repositories. I’m going kind of crazy. These are pretty basic packages. Does openSUSE really not provide them? I searched and searched on the Internet, but I don’t think I care enough to look into it much further. So, I’ll probably erase openSUSE.

And this is the point when I started to realize something about package managers: they don’t provide any useful information. The first thing I do when installing a new OS is apply updates. These new GUI package managers don’t tell me what is being downloaded or how much is left. It’s like a window that says “Click here to update”, then “Updating…”, then “Done.”. I’m sure it’s possible to see the details somehow, but it sure wasn’t obvious to me.


I plan on keeping FreeBSD for two reasons: to tinker with and learn on, and to test the video game I’m making on another operating system. It’ll become one of my primary three operating systems.

So, in the end, I end up triple booting Arch Linux, Haiku, and FreeeBSD. I’d still like to have some sort of popular fancy Linux distribution installed, so I might try out Linux Mint with Cinnamon if I have some more time.

I had fun trying out some new operating systems. It’s been three years since I started using Arch Linux and lost any desire to do any more distro hopping. But trying them out again has made me realize how thankful I am for Arch Linux.

My Linux history

My friend in college (2000) introduced me to Linux. Windows 98 was having a lot of trouble on my laptop, so, in my days of dial-up Internet, I drove an hour to a computer store to buy a boxes copy of Mandrake for (I think) $30.

When that laptop died I decided to buy a Fujitsu Lifebook (I cannot tell you how much I loved that laptop). Unfortunately, there was a bug in the Linux kernel at the time which prevented it from booting correctly on a Transmeta Crusoe processor. I found an tutorial describing how to patch and compile my own Linux kernel for the Crusoe using Slackware, and I began using that.

At that point point in time, Slackware had no package manager. Instead, when new software came out (and I love trying new software!) I would download and compile it myself, including all of it’s newly required libraries (GTK2, Pango, Atk…). I had heard about the popularity of Debian and gave it a try. The feeling of using a package manager again to automatically install and update everything felt so incredibly wonderful.

I became tired of the cycle of Debian stable being fresh and new and being tired and old, so I tried Ubuntu. I didn’t want to like it because it was “too easy”, but my gosh, it was just so easy. My favorite version is still 8.04 Hardy Heron, which I still consider the pinnacle of Ubuntu development.

At this point I began to really learn about the Free Software Foundation, and decided that I agree with many of their beliefs. So, I installed a new FSF approved version of Hardy Heron called gNewSense and used only free and open source software on my computer for almost a year. You might be surprised how much Linux software is “open source” but not FSF “free”. ;) Anyway, it was a great experience.

gNewSense became old, and I didn’t like the direction the distribution was going. I wanted the latest versions of software, but I was tired of always formatting and installing new operating systems. I then discovered Arch Linux and the concept of a rolling release distribution. In addition to that, I was really getting into contributing to the Linux community, and the Arch Linux community provides outstanding outlets for that: a strong forum, a highly regarded wiki, and the AUR (allowing anyone to contribute new software packages to the distribution), all of which can be contributed to almost instantly by anyone.

In summary:

I was introduced to Linux using Mandrake.

I learned Linux using Slackware.

I discovered package management using Debian.

I took a break and used the user friendly Ubuntu.

I became passionate about software freedom using gNewSense.

I keep current and in control using Arch Linux.

I used each of those distributions for at least about a year. I’ve been using the same 64-bit Arch Linux installation for three years now and am very happy with it. I dual boot the Haiku operating system. And I still consider myself a freetard. :D

More information:

The monster update

I recently did some major software updates on my computer.

Arch Linux has changed a lot in recent months. These are not small updates. These are updates that, if I mess up, may result in my computer not booting, losing personal data files, or me not being able to watch Doctor Who. Spoiler: Everything went perfectly smoothly, my computer runs much better now, and I’m in the middle of watching episodes of the fifth Doctor.

Configuration Files

The first thing I did was update the Arch Linux configuration files. In the past, configuration was done almost entirely in /etc/rc.conf. Now it’s done in separate files. For example, the hostname is now set in the /etc/hostname file (SUCH AN EASY OPERATING SYSTEM).

I really enjoyed updating the configuration files. Everything is documented very simply in the man page for “archlinux”. And the best part is, now my computer runs so much more smoothly, especially the Firefox startup time.


A couple days later, I replaced my init system, sysvinit, with systemd. After learning more about each, I find systemd to be quite simple and easy to use. The upgrade process is very clearly documented on the Arch Linux wiki. I haven’t done any formal tests, but it seems like my computer now boots much more quickly.


Next, I decided it was time to change the file system on my two Linux partitions from Ext3 to Ext4. Why? Because Ext4 is newer! I don’t really understand the technical reasons why Ext4 is better, but whatever. It takes a lot less time now to run fsck, so that’s nice.

My other two partitions still have the Be File System on them. ;)


Finally, I updated my bootloader from GRUB legacy to GRUB2. Doing this one made my palms sweat. Once again I used the information in the Arch Linux wiki. Unfortunately, it was a little confusing, and required me to make some choices about how to install it. I decided to go with a very simple traditional BIOS installation to the MBR. So now I use GRUB2, which works fine, instead of GRUB legacy, which worked fine. But now my Arch Linux installation is little more future proof.

…And that’s it! My computer is running quite well. My next goal is to cleanup any files scattered around the operating system. I’ll do this by running the script that tells me about any files that aren’t owned by the package manager. The ones that are unused I’ll delete, and the ones that are used I’ll add documentation for. You know, things like what the file does and which application uses it.

I also need to do some things to cleanup my webserver. My iptables configuration works, but I don’t really understand why, and that scares me. I also need to clean up my webserver software.

It’s been three years since I installed Arch Linux, and it’s been a great experience. Going through the occasional big Arch Linux updates sure beats my old method of updating Linux, by reinstalling the entire operating system every few months. :P