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Setup A Desktop PC Running Linux and Throw out Windows

Setup a Desktop Computer Running On Linux

Written by Jon Berg <jon.berg|a|turtlemeat.com>

Created: March 2011


This document will tell you the steps needed to install Arch Linux as a desktop computer. And in the process get rid of your Windows addiction.

A little rant about Windows and Microsoft

First a little rant about Microsoft and Windows... Back in the days of Windows 95, it was a big step up from Windows 3 and DOS. It was not perfect then, the blue screen and all of that. But it was easy to use and it mostly worked. Now 16 years later Windows is basically the same on the surface, but I suppose stuff behind the scenes have been improved. But Windows as a product seems to have hit a wall. I know a lot of companies still using Windows XP even though that there have been two releases of Windows after that, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Some alarms should be going off at Microsoft, but I suppose there are no alarms. The reason for not upgrading is that there are more hassles of switching to a new version and too few need to have features in the new versions. I suppose companies don't care about the changed Windows 7 user interface.

For me I have paid for my shares of Windows CDs and licenses. But when you need to reinstall Windows, you can't find the CD, or the product key. That is my fault to not take care of the CDs. There is nowhere to download it legally or get the product key. And now days you only get a partition on the hard drive with the install files. Obviously a lot of bumps in the road even for paying and legal users.

Here is the Microsoft Stock Price. The 5 years after Windows 95 were hot then so so.

Why Linux as a desktop

  • It is great to be able to re-install the OS on your computer whenever you want.
  • No product keys
  • No online registration or name and papers please.
  • It is great to be able to disconnect from the big corporation government surveillance matrix.
  • It does not cost any money to get it or use it.
  • Have all the installation files readily available.
  • Be able to install it on many computers.
  • Be able to have a computer with updated software daily and not have to wait for the next Windows version to come out.
  • It is not much virus and malware on Linux.
  • Have a computer that is not full of junk and background processes making your PC slow and useless.
  • Have a operating system that feels faster and more light weight.

The only drawback is that it is still in some ways not as automatic as Windows. You might have to edit some configuration files. You may have to research things on the web. You have to get your hands dirty some times.

Previously some of the hassle with Linux as a desktop has been that the selection of desktop programs have been limited. But more and more is done online. And Firefox is just the same on Linux as on Windows. It seems more snappier and responsive on Linux than on Windows on the same hardware. And if you just surf the web, download, watch movies, maybe programming or make web pages and listen to music you can do it just fine on Linux. If you need more than that you need to research what programs you need and what is available.

Some screenshots of Desktop Linux with Fluxbox

Getting Started Installing Linux as a Desktop

The Linux distribution of choice is Arch Linux. It is light weight, it works, it is great, has good documentation and helpful people on the forum.

Go to https://archlinux.org then go to the download page. Chose Netinstall Image, this will create a install CD that will download most of the files it needs during the installation from the Internet. Chose i686 CPU if you have an old 32 bit PC. Chose x86-64 CPU if you have a 64 bit PC. Burn the downloaded ISO-file as a bootable CD.

The Installation Process

Put the CD in the machine, and it will boot the installation program.

I like to have the operating system on a separate disk. And then have my user files on a different disk. That way it is easy to just format the disk with the operating system at will. This Linux setup does not take a lot of space. A 5 gigabyte disk is actually enough for the operating system.

Install a basic Arch Linux. Be careful not to format any disk you don't intend to format.

Then when you have a basic installation login as root.

Add a regular user called user9 and change the password:

useradd -m -g users -G audio,lp,optical,storage,video,wheel,games,power,scanner -s /bin/bash user9

passwd user9

Set no word wrap in nano:
in .nanorc
set nowrap

edit /etc/rc.conf to change the keyboard mapping in this case to norwegian, and change the machine host name to deception:

disable pc-speaker, add !pcspkr in rc.config such as:
MODULES=( !pcspkr )


Pacman is the package manager program. It basically downloads, upgrades and installs new software. Writing pacman -S package-name downloads installs the package-name. So that is the install command that is used in the text below.

Setting up the desktop (window manager)

The window manager is the software that provides the desktop. There are many types of window managers to choose from, but I like Fluxbox (fluxbox.org) because it is very simple and clean. If you are used to Windows 7 you probably get a shock when you only get a blank screen with a thin bar at the bottom and a menu when clicking the right mouse button. But it is cool when you get used to it.

for desktop:
pacman -S fluxbox
pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit xorg-utils xorg-server-utils

Install the drivers for the graphics card. This is the most cumbersome step.

pacman -S xf86-video-nouveau (this is the nvidia driver, use something that corresponds to your graphics card)
pacman -S nouveau-dri

create /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-nouveau.conf and add:
Section "Device"
Identifier "n"
Driver "nouveau"

create .xinitrc in home directory and add:
exec fluxbox

Non us keyboard in X:
open /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-evdev.conf
add in inside "keyboard section" (evdev keyboard catchall), in this case a Norwegian keyboard:
Option "XkbLayout" "no"

set keyboard-layout, in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/11.keyboard.conf add
Section "InputClass"
Identifier "Keyboard Defaults"
MatchIsKeyboard "yes"
Option "XkbLayout" "no"

Some additional packages that are useful:
pacman -S xterm
pacman -S openssh
pacman -S encfs
pacman -S make
pacman -S gcc
pacman -S apache-ant
pacman -S eclipse
pacman -S alsa-utils

Running it

At this point you should be able to start fluxbox, by typing startx. It basically starts what is put in .xinitrc.

Some more useful programs

Be able to watch video:
pacman -S mplayer
pacman -S smplayer
to start type: smplayer.

Remote desktop:
pacman -S rdesktop
It could be useful to be able to connect to a Windows machine. Similar to Remote Desktop Connection on Windows. To connect to machine type:
rdesktop -u Administrator -g 1200x900

Samba client, be able to mount Windows shares and access files: pacman -S smbclient

pacman -S firefox
pacman -S openjdk6
pacman -Sy icedtea-web
movie plugin (works on non flash stuff):
pacman -S gecko-mediaplayer

Flash plug-in for firefox (this is a hassle and may not be stable, but hey in a year this is probably solved with HTML5 and no flash):
pacman -S curl gtk2 libxt mozilla-common nss
download tar file for flashplugin-prerelease AUR
unpack, makepkg, pacman -U flash-plugin.....tar.xz

Music player:
pacman -S xmms

Ftp client with user interface:
pacman -S filezilla

Torrent download program: pacman -S ktorrent

Lock screen: xlock: (xlock -mode blank) pacman -S xlockmore

customize fluxbox, see the .fluxbox directory:

Store current volume as default.
-set volume with alsamixer
store it with: alsactl -f /var/lib/alsa/asount.state store
add in /etc/rc.conf alsa to the list of daemons.

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