Friday, 31 December 2010

Two Non-buntu Alternatives for your Netbook - Part 2: ArchOne

Yesterday we looked at Fluxflux-sl for a Slax based solution on your netbook that is using both modules and Slackware packages.
Today however it is the turn of ArchOne, as the name says a customization of Arch Linux specifically aimed at use on netbooks, in live mode from USB or installed. It is intended for people who "want to try or install Arch Linux" on netbooks "without wasting time with post configuration" and comes with an optimized netbook kernel.

It has been optimized for Acer Aspire One netbooks as is stated on the home page but may also work on others due to similarities in hardware. The complete list of confirmed compatibility currently also includes several Asus EeePC's and the Samsung N110 as well as the Packard Bell dot s2. So between the two we should have a lot of models covered, in particular the EeePC and the Acer Aspire One.
There are three download links in the respective section on the web site, one for an Openbox version which seems to be thought to be the default image if there is such a thing (ArchOne-2010.08-Openbox.iso) , an older Gnome version that in the interface resembles closely the one found in EasyPeasy, with the categories of the installed software menu, Places and Favorites stacked up on the left side of the screen. There is also a KDE version available for download, but both the Gnome and KDE one are labelled 2010.04 and therefore a bit out of date.

I chose to test the newer Openbox version, last but not least because it is a minimal yet comfortable and capable environment that is good looking too, and I am used to it from many distributions that choose Openbox now by default. Also like many, ArchOne has chosen tint2 for the panel, which is easy to configure in a small text file and with almost indefinite possibilities, much like conky, another extremely versatile but small tool.

The kernel in the 2010.08.iso image is 2.6.34, but this being Arch is fairly meaningless once you decide to apply all your pending updates. Unfortunately I don't have any of the supported hardware, and booting to live mode on my laptop and in VirtualBox only dumped me at the text login prompt. Clearly Intel graphics are expected from the driver and no other incl. the vesa driver seem to be present, and wireless and cpu frequency scaling were not set up for obvious reasons. This is really customized only for the devices it is intended for. It is however nice to see that these services are starting right from the beginning. ArchOne does not autologin and the default credentials for a live session are user:archone and password:archone. Hard drive install is possible with running /arch/setup and persistent home functionality can be added by downloading a file for saves.
Next step for me was a full install. The routine was very similar to the Arch installer, and there was also a step to autoconfigure and partition the hard disk, which will give you a quite advanced setup with seperate boot, swap, home and root partitions. Autoconfiguration prompts for the size but makes sensible suggestions to start with, so this should not prove too difficult for a relative newbie. Very nice. The installer then copies the system over.
If you want to copy the ArchOne .iso image over to a USB flash drive, issue the command sudo dd bs=8M if= of=/dev/sd .

After successfully copying over it is time for configuration, at which point you are able to edit all the important configs in nano or vi in typical Arch manner, and are prompted at the bottom to set a root password. The installer then sets up Grub after again it prompts to review the configuration and exits.

ArchOne comes with Firefox, Chromium, Skype, Wicd for network management,, Mplayer, Vlc and the Gimp and is functional from the beginning. In this it is remarkably similar to the distribution we reviewed in part 1. It also looks stylish, similar to other Openbox or Arch based distributions, in particular ArchBang.

ArchOne has a well designed web site, modern, clean, spiffy, looking sharp. Definitely design talent there. It provides several subsections with information and a few FAQ that should be good enough for most, given that this distribution is not that wildly known these are probably all that came up. One can view a few screenshots, read the features that give a short list of common applications, and the Persistent Home section provides a file and instructions on how to set just this up. for persistent storage of settings. There seems to be no forum at this time, but contact details of the two developers and links to their blogs are on the site and they appear happy to help with any problems you might encounter. This page also provides Public Key and Finger Print for signed packages.

In finishing, which one do I prefer? As I wasn't able to graphically log into ArchOne I am not really sure about the whole desktop experience and if it does include any custom tools to manage these netbooks settings it was tailored for. Please feel free to send me your old Acer Aspire One if you don't need it anymore and I will update this article accordingly.
In the meantime, Fluxflux seems more flexible and well stocked with all sorts of programs and little helper scripts and utilities. It mainly aims for the EeePC but also seems to run well on ordinary laptops and desktops. It all depends on your hardware and your preferences, rolling release vs. modular, to decide which one is right for you.
Or you can just run about any of the other distributions out there that has kernel support for your netbook.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Another non-buntu distro / remix worth checking out for netbooks is:

    Despite the "untu" portion of the name, it is actually a fedora respin and not a buntu one.

  3. I think to try it on your hardware, all you need to do is install the appropriate video driver (e.g., pacman -S xf86-video-ati).

  4. @Anonymous
    I suppose you're right. I got tired and decided to leave it for people who are interested to try it out themselves. I know, no excuse ;) Thanks for the comment.

  5. >Wicd for network management
    Does that mean, Wicd finally manages 3g, which is often used on netbooks?

  6. @Anonymous
    I'm afraid not, but you can always install another network manager.

    Or Fluxflux in part:1 may be a better fit with the several small utilities for UMTS/Bluetooth/DSL connectivity it is providing.


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