Journey with Arch Linux: Day 3 – Installing a Desktop Environment and some drivers

Alright, I’m sick of *sigh* having to borrow a friend’s laptop because my glorious Samsung isn’t set up yet or having to use my ~18″ HP laptop which pretty much weights like a fat kid.

What I’m missing so far?
A) Window Manager or a Desktop Environment
B) WiFi driver
C) Plug’n’play for USB sticks
D) Essential softwares (Can’t go apps, apps is for mobile devices. When it comes to desktop\laptop, its just disrespectful to call them “apps”).

What is the difference between Window Manager (WM) and Desktop Environment (DE)? I don’t know what is exactly the difference. But as I understood (And in conclusion), DE is richer in features and options than WM.

As in, WM is only to manage windows while DE is to have a background, icons, menus and other stuff… So unless you wanted a bareboned interface for a really outdated and pre-historic computer, you should go for DE. Which what I’m going for.

Now, there are so many DEs and the famous ones are GNOME, KDE, XFCE and others I can’t remember (Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu too much? :P). And just for the hell of it, I’ll choose something totally different: LXDE.


No really, Keefy… I want to try something different. I’ll most likely end up wiping everything again from existence and do my custom thing. But to start, I’ll start with LXDE to understand things.

So here we go:
1) Run “pacman -S lxde”. If you encountered “Enter a selection (default=all)”, hit “Enter”.
* After installing LXDE, pacman will tell you to copy some files to some destination. The next two steps does that *
2) Run “mkdir -p ~/.config/openbox”
3) Run “cp /etc/xdg/openbox/menu.xml /etc/xdg/openbox/rc.xml /etc/xdg/openbox/autostart ~/.config/openbox”
4) Run “pacman -S gamin” which is a file monitoring tool.
5) Lets install some initial softwares by running “pacman -leafpad obconf epdfview”.

Alright, done installing LXDE. Now lets molest the laptop to let it boot with a Display Manager. In my example, I’ll use SLiM
1) Run “pacman -S slim”
2) Add “slim” to your /etc/rc.conf array by doing the following:
2.1) Run “nano /etc/rc.conf”
2.2) Go down to “DAEMONS=(…)” and add “slim” somewhere inside the ().
* Apparently, I don’t have an .xinitrc file. So Steps 3 to 4 will handle it. Don’t do it if you already have .xinitrc in ~ *
3) Copy skeleton .xinitrc file by running “cp /etc/skel/.xinitrc ~”
4) Run “chmod +x ~/.xinitrc”
5) Autostart LXDE by doing this:
5.1) Run “nano /etc/rc.conf”
5.2) Go down at the bottom and write “exec startlxde”
6) Reboot

There you go, you got your bareboned SLiM and LXDE running!

There are things that I find inconvenient in this journey while writing. For example, I don’t have to go “Run pacman -S whatever” or “Edit by running nano”. I’ll just go install and edit this file straight up!

Now, the default themes looks really futuristic if we were in the 90’s. So lets install some themes:
1) Run XTerm
2) Install “slim-themes” and “archlinux-themes-slim”
3) Write down “cd /usr/share/slim/themes”
4) Write “ls” to list the folder’s content (Which are basically themes for SLiM)
5) Preview them by running “slim -P /usr/share/slim/themes/XXXXX” where “XXXXX” is the theme’s name.
* A window will appear showing how SLiM would look like. Close and retry with a different theme until you come up with something you like *
6) Edit /etc/slim.conf. Look for “current_theme” and replace “default” with the theme you like (For example, I liked the theme subway. So I wrote the line became “current_theme subway”).

We’re done choosing a theme for SLiM! Now lets do two cute little things: Adding base-devel to our pacman.conf and update pacman:
1) pacman -S base-devel
2) pacman -Syu

Now let’s install a network manager since I’d want to use my WiFi:
1) Install “wicd” and “wicd-gtk” (I’ll be using those, I don’t know what you’ll be using).
2) Stop network services by running “rc.d stop network”, “rc.d stop dhcpd” and “rc.d stop metworkmanager”. In my case, I only have “network”
3) Disable them and add wicd in the daemon by adding “!” next to their name in /etc/rc.conf and add “wicd” in the daemons array. Also make sure that wicd is placed AFTERdbus!
4) Add your account to “network” group by running “gpasswd -a XXXXXX network” where XXXXXX is your username… In our journey, we called it Onion 😛
5) Reboot (I like to reboot… Why? Windows habit and to make sure that things works on next boot!)

Things works fine! Now, lets start installing softwares!

There’s one more thing I forgot to install; Sound!
Yes, I like to listen to music… So let’s install ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture):
1) Add your user to the “audio” group by running “gpasswd -a XXXXXX audio” (Where XXXXXX is your username… In our journey, its Onion).
2) Reboot (Or relog-in… I still prefer reboots to make sure things will work once you start using your system again).
3) Install “alsa-utils”, “alsa-oss” and “alsa-plugins”
4) Check if your speakers run fine by running “speaker-test -c 2”. If it didn’t work, do step 4.1
4.1) Run “alsactl init” then test again. If that didn’t work too, you’re screwed (Try both your normal account and “sudo”).
5) Run “alsactl store” (with sudo) to store the config file
6) Add “alsa” to your daemons.
7) Reboot again to make sure things will work whenever you pop out your machine again

Now we’re done with DE and drivers.
Next post will bring up installing softwares (My favorites\choices) and tweaks and tinkers if happened.

2 thoughts on “Journey with Arch Linux: Day 3 – Installing a Desktop Environment and some drivers

  1. Interesting stuff, dude!

    I don’t know what is exactly the difference.

    The difference is simple:

    Window Manager: software that manages windows of running programs, whether by mouse, keyboard, or ba6ee5. Yes, just focusing on windows, moving them, minimizing, maximizing, rolling, … etc. They also provide the window decoration.
    Desktop Environment: a collection of applications that are put to work together environmentally to provide good experience for users. It usually have a panel application, a wallpaper application, a power manager, “icons”, screensaver application, etc. Grouped to work together seamlessly by scripts and startup applications.

    So yeah, you can use just a WM to run your stuff and write your own scripts for preferred startup applications or simply use what they wanted to provide, DM.

    1. I’ll probably refer to script my own DE when I get a good grasp on Linux.

      Until then, I’m using ready stuff

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