Meet Topanga, my Arch Linux Boot!

Happy New Year everyone!

A lot happened in 2015 for me, especially in the computer side of things.

My Hewlett Packard (HP Pavilion m6 w/ AMD Quad Core A8 4500M APU @ 2.0GHz and AMD Radeon Dedicated Graphics (1GB) w/ 8GB RAM) finally gave up on me. To summarize, I dropped my laptop in high school and damaged the left hinge. By construction, the fan is placed underneath. As much as this truly sounds like a problem, during that time I didn’t think too much about it.

Fast forward to a year later. The fan fails during class and I’m sitting there crying (internally). I thought it was only the fan, but it also took my hard drive down with it.

Since then, I’ve backed up my school files in the cloud and on two different external hard drives. One of them I use daily, and the other one is only touched once a week when I do my backup.

We got the fan fixed and the hard drive replaced for a whopping $x (yeah, that’s a lot). Fast forward another year later and the same damn thing happened.

So I got a new computer. Well, “new” in my eyes. It’s a T420 (Lenovo ThinkPad T420 w/ Intel Core i5-2520M Dual Core @ 2.5GHz, 3MB cache) and it’s refurbished. I couldn’t afford a new model, so this one will do.

Well, what does that mean really? It’s a clean slate for me. I get to use a (somewhat) new computer. There were no more excuses for me and it has been dawning on me since I got it (probably because tPenguinLTG urged me to do it as soon as possible): I had to install Arch Linux.

If you remember from my previous install, as much as I “properly” installed a boot, it didn’t quite work the way I wanted it to. This time around, however, it’s totally different.

Partitioning

I used GParted through KNOPPIX to create my partitions beforehand. Here’s what my partition table looks like:

Partitions on Topanga

I only have a limited 320 GB hard drive (in my opinion, 320 GB is barely enough to cut it). I have six partitions for Arch Linux: shared, home, root, swap, var, and boot. These were essential (at the least) for a dual boot.

Partitioning was straightforward. Partition, format (home and root as ext4, swap as swap, and so on), save the changes, and reboot. As recommended by tPenguinLTG, I rebooted three times into my Windows 7 Professional boot. For the first reboot, it was so that my Windows machine could recognize the changes. The second boot into Windows 7 was to check and see if there were any problems with the process that happened before (recognition of changes). The last reboot was for good measure.

Installation

The Beginners’ Guide. The wretched Beginners’ Guide.

I was very intimidated of it during my first attempt. All those words and commands that I didn’t know how to read and understand; it was tough to do and very scary to execute considering it could potentially screw up my system. So I took some advice from myself and other Arch Linux users before installing.

READ THE DAMN GUIDE.

I forced myself to actually read the Beginners’ Guide this time around so that I don’t actually work on the installation blind. At this point, it was less horrific. I followed the guide strictly, and with the help of tPenguinLTG and a wired connection, I saw nothing but success.

We ran into an issue. I can’t seem to remember what the issue was, but I had to reinstall the base-devel package group so that I can move forward. After doing so, I was able to continue and finish installation. Following the guide was a lot easier considering I actually read it (READ THE DAMN GUIDE). I skipped the partitioning step considering I did the partitions separately. What I did next was configuration and other things, which to some may be the fun part, but to me was the most frustrating part of the entire process.

READ THE DAMN GUIDE!

Configuring specifics and encountering problems

With every Linux install comes weeks and weeks of tweaking before you get the actual result that you really want. To be honest, I’m still in the process of playing around with Arch Linux even to this point and I don’t think that will stop. Working with Linux is like being a lifelong learner. You don’t stop learning. You just keep going.

Configuring specifics such as time and date, sound drivers, and other shenanigans were supposed to be trivial.

But this is Linux. If you don’t encounter problems, you’re doing it wrong.

Sound card driver issues

The sound card driver that was included is ALSA. The volume levels had a problem. I noticed a rather significant decrease compared to the levels I had when I was on Windows 7. Let’s be real, though. Speakers on the ThinkPad line aren’t great, but they do deliver good sound that I can actually hear. In this case, the speakers were fairly quiet in comparison. Where did I go? The Wiki page for ALSA’s troubleshooting, of course (as recommended by tPenguinLTG. Always). I did what was given, and after a reboot, the volume levels were up to par.

Wi-Fi

My first install, I had trouble with installation and connecting specifically with my University’s wireless connection. With this in mind, tPenguinLTG already had in mind ways on how to get around the problem I had with my HP and the problems he had with his own ThinkPad. He gave me steps on how to connect using the GUI that can be installed alongside wpa_supplicant, but that didn’t work at all. We spent a solid half a day on this. Seriously, we started at around 2pm and ended at around 7pm. After following his instructions carefully and meticulously to which it resulted to nothing (or something), I thought “why not, let’s actually give the Wiki’s instructions a try, maybe those will work.”

And it did.

I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time, I learned that sometimes you just have to do it yourself to see if it works and follow the “if it ain’t broke, break it” philosophy.

Other than the two above, I managed to run into a few problems that were easily resolved with a quick read.

Also, Skype’s a problem. All because of PulseAudio. And Skype. Primarily Skype. That’s about it really.

ThinkPad T420 Wiki Page

Amazingly enough, Arch Linux has a dedicated wiki page for the ThinkPad T420. So if you have a T420 and you’ve installed Arch Linux on your machine, then I suggest giving the page a read. It’s a good starting point for polishing up the installation.

I used the page to install a few useful things that are specifically good for my ThinkPad. My favourite one being the thinkfan package. The page shows a nice set of numbers for thinkfan that works really well for my fan.

It has instructions for Synaptics settings, dedicated media keys, the fingerprint reader, and (for some lucky souls out there) setting up NVIDIA Optimus for Arch.

Why “Topanga”?

If you don’t get the reference, it’s from a ’90s TV show called Boy Meets World. I used to watch it when it had reruns on the Disney Channel.

To keep it simple, I had a massive crush on Topanga, the female protagonist of the show.

Topanga

I mean, who wouldn’t? She’s freakin’ beautiful! I meant that then…

danielle fishel maxim2

And I still mean it now.

Final thoughts

To be honest, I’m very glad that I got to install Arch Linux on this machine. Sure, I encountered numerous headaches (and I’m sure that I will encounter more in the future), but those headaches are really worth it. I look forward to writing good (and bad) things about Arch Linux, and I hope you’ll be there to read them!

Hallelujah! I’ve FINALLY replaced Windows for Arch Linux!

READ THE DAMN GUIDE!

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One thought on “Meet Topanga, my Arch Linux Boot!

  1. I’m glad you’re enjoying Arch now! I can’t agree that the Beginners’ Guide is “wretched” because I think it’s pretty straight-forward and easy to follow with lots fo explanations.

    Setting up Wi-Fi is a pain. With experimentation, I ended up with a stable configuration and dared never to touch it after that. I had problems with wpa_gui and the latest wpa_supplicant (I still do), so I froze wpa_supplicant and stopped updating it. Freezing a package shouldn’t be something you do often, though.

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