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#1 2014-01-14 04:56:11

esko997
Member
From: Connecticut, USA
Registered: 2014-01-13
Posts: 22

Arch Exercises

Hey all,

Just wondering if anyone had any recommendations for exercises one could do to further their understanding of not only Linux in general but more specfically Arch. I feel like this is a really openended question and could have many, many answers but basically just stuff you all might have done in your earlier days using Arch that have perhaps built your knowledge. Let me try and quailfy what I'm trying to ask for here.

What I've done so far with my own Arch install is:
-Install the the base Arch
-Downloaded and built package-query, yaourt
-Installed X and Openbox/desktop stuff and configured them to my liking (conky, menu.xml, rc.xml, .xinitrc, etc...)
And thats about it, give or take a few things I'm sure -- just the simple install setup stuff.

I had a look at this article (https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Ge … mendations) in terms of what to do to get my Arch install closer to what I'd like and it gave me a bit of insirpaton. I was thinking about maybe making a package managing GUI with bash, not nessecairly to distribute to anyone or anything, just as an exercise I could do to become better at bash and using pacman. That's just one idea I had -- obviously there are much better package management GUIs available in the AUR already but again, more of an exercise of learning than actually creating software people are going to want to use. Another idea I had was doing something like making an a custom Arch ISO with the archiso tool and then figuring out how to create an Arch multiboot USB drive, with a bunch of different Arch ISOs configured for personal things (like an Arch ISO for my desktop installs, an Arch ISO for laptop installs, etc).

I dunno, just relatively simply stuff one could do in Arch to get some practice in. Just wanted to hear what recommendations you all might have.

TL;DR: What are some good exercises an Arch newb can do to start learning and might help them eventually start contributing to the community?

Cheers,

Esko

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#2 2014-01-14 06:04:26

Stebalien
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Registered: 2010-04-27
Posts: 1,224
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Re: Arch Exercises

Break it. Fix it. Rinse. Repeat.

For example, you could try compiling/patching your kernel or replacing your bootloader (or, if you have uefi, you could try running without a bootloader). You don't actually have to break it, just muck around with the internals.

Note: This is how I learn things. It might not work for you.

Last edited by Stebalien (2014-01-14 06:05:00)


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#3 2014-01-14 06:13:29

WonderWoofy
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From: Los Gatos, CA
Registered: 2012-05-19
Posts: 8,412

Re: Arch Exercises

Stebalien wrote:

(or, if you have uefi, you could try running without a bootloader)

I just went ahead and set up every bootloader I would for UEFI.  In actuality, there are not all that many choices... though unlike legacy bios, UEFI allows you to have all these set up at the same time.


Edit: @OP, just keep playing and reading (and as Stebalien mentions, fixing when you break it).

Last edited by WonderWoofy (2014-01-14 06:14:24)

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#4 2014-01-14 09:07:54

progandy
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Registered: 2012-05-17
Posts: 2,151

Re: Arch Exercises

There is a simple thing you can do to improve your linux knowledge: Use your archlinux installation, when you have repetitive tasks automate them, and solve problems you encounter. Improving your daily workflow gives you a great basic knowledge with the tools you use. Maybe you find they are unsuitable for you, then you learn and configure another package or even create your own script/application.

Edit: You can also follow the forum and try to find answers to the questions of other users.

Last edited by progandy (2014-01-14 09:09:19)

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#5 2014-01-14 09:13:05

jasonwryan
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From: .nz
Registered: 2009-05-09
Posts: 19,012
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Re: Arch Exercises

Uninstall yaourt.


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#6 2014-01-14 11:54:41

Trilby
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From: Massachusetts, USA
Registered: 2011-11-29
Posts: 13,966
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Re: Arch Exercises

jasonwryan wrote:

Uninstall yaourt.

This was also the first thing that came to mind when I read your post.

I also agree with the progandy that figuring out how to automate common tasks is a great way to learn.  The key point though is that you figure out how to automate them rather than using a tool made by someone else that automates so much that it prevents you from learning about what is really happening (like yaourt).

Step 2 would be - for similar reasoning - uninstall (temporarily perhaps) any network management services (wicd, network-manager, etc) and learn to use the manual connection methods (ip, wpa_supplicant, dhcpcd/dhclient).  This will help you learn a bit about how this actually works, and can be a real life saver when those automated tools fail.

Another "excercise" I use is the reason for my obscene minimalism.  I regularly go through lists of installed packages and get rid of as much as I can.  When in doubt `pacman -Rsn` it.  The best way to learn about what an essential package does is to remove it.  This will lead to breakage, but don't worry, fixage is just as easy (you do have a live media around, right).  Of course removing the package isn't the first step, but when I see a package installed on my system that I don't know about I read the `pacman -Qi` output, then the `pacman -Ql` output, then I read the -h/--help output and/or man pages for any of the bits in the -Ql output.  This almost pathological desire to nuke anything I don't understand in my system leads to two results: I end up getting rid of a lot of unneeded stuff, and I end up having at least some understanding of every component of my system.

Last edited by Trilby (2014-01-14 15:55:52)


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#7 2014-01-14 14:38:27

clfarron4
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From: London, UK
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Re: Arch Exercises

Stebalien wrote:

Break it. Fix it. Rinse. Repeat.

This seems to be my approach.


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#8 2014-01-14 14:56:15

alphaniner
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From: Ancapistan
Registered: 2010-07-12
Posts: 2,716

Re: Arch Exercises

Trilby wrote:
jasonwryan wrote:

Uninstall yaourt.

This was also the first thing that came to mind when I read your post.

I also agree with the progandy that figuring out how to automate common tasks is a great way to learn.  The key point though is that you figure out how to automate them rather than using a tool made by someone else...

So much ditto.

Also, learn how to modify PKGBUILDs to customize packages. Like Trilby said about removing packages, it can help you understand what packages do and why they're required.


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#9 2014-01-14 14:59:00

WonderWoofy
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From: Los Gatos, CA
Registered: 2012-05-19
Posts: 8,412

Re: Arch Exercises

I think the points Trilby makes are really good ones.  Use yaourt or any other AUR helper if you like, but make sure you at least learn how to build and install packages manually with Arch.  With the provided tools, this is an incredibly easy process, and the actual removal of your AUR helper will force you into it.  Hopefully this can help you to understand what actually happens in a PKGBUILD (and possibly the accompanying .install script as well) because there are quite a few really crappy AUR submissions, and being able to determine which those are is essential to keeping a tidy system.

In regard to the uninstalling packages part he brings up, I do this too.  But instead of keeping a live CD or USB around, I simply keep grub2-efi on my machine and have it set up to boot the iso in a loopback from the second disk I use for backup.  This is much easier and much faster than using a USB.  I think a separate partition would also work, but the iso just can't reside on the same block device as the one you wish to work on.

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#10 2014-01-14 16:23:59

esko997
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From: Connecticut, USA
Registered: 2014-01-13
Posts: 22

Re: Arch Exercises

Thanks for the reply's everyone -- I appreciate the push in the right direction.

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#11 2014-01-14 17:24:19

nomorewindows
Member
Registered: 2010-04-03
Posts: 3,010

Re: Arch Exercises

clfarron4 wrote:
Stebalien wrote:

Break it. Fix it. Rinse. Repeat.

This seems to be my approach.

If it's not b-r-o-k-e, don't fix it.
Goes right there with the K-I-S-S.


I may have to CONSOLE you about your usage of ridiculously easy graphical interfaces...
Look ma, no mouse.

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#12 2014-01-14 17:47:42

WonderWoofy
Member
From: Los Gatos, CA
Registered: 2012-05-19
Posts: 8,412

Re: Arch Exercises

nomorewindows wrote:

If it's not b-r-o-k-e, don't fix it.
Goes right there with the K-I-S-S.

I'm more of the "mess with it until it breaks" kind of person.  So it may not be "b-r-o-k-e" now, but I can change that pretty quickly.

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#13 2014-01-14 21:04:52

/dev/zero
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From: Melbourne, Australia
Registered: 2011-10-20
Posts: 1,176
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Re: Arch Exercises

esko997 wrote:

What are some good exercises an Arch newb can do to start learning and might help them eventually start contributing to the community?

I suggest use the command line as much as possible. Try to get out of the habit of using the mouse for anything. I'm not saying that the mouse is never useful for anything, but most people use it a lot more often than necessary. Becoming comfortable with the command line will help a lot when either your graphics crashes or you're building a system from scratch or you're playing around with a headless server over ssh.

Things to try:

  • Use coreutils instead of a file manager;

  • Use tools such as sed and awk instead of a spreadsheet program to view and manipulate data;

  • Use vim or emacs in preference to things like gedit;

  • Use mutt as your mail client.


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#14 2014-01-14 22:54:20

frank604
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From: BC, Canada
Registered: 2011-04-20
Posts: 992
Website

Re: Arch Exercises

/dev/zero wrote:
esko997 wrote:

What are some good exercises an Arch newb can do to start learning and might help them eventually start contributing to the community?

I suggest use the command line as much as possible. Try to get out of the habit of using the mouse for anything. I'm not saying that the mouse is never useful for anything, but most people use it a lot more often than necessary. Becoming comfortable with the command line will help a lot when either your graphics crashes or you're building a system from scratch or you're playing around with a headless server over ssh.

Things to try:

  • Use coreutils instead of a file manager;

  • Use tools such as sed and awk instead of a spreadsheet program to view and manipulate data;

  • Use vim or emacs in preference to things like gedit;

  • Use mutt as your mail client.

In spirit of this suggestion I would like to share my personal learning experience in hopes that it might encourage you to adopt a new paradigm in interacting with your computer and ultimately with arch.  My first attempts at setting up my userland was installing a DE, whether it be gnome, kde, xfce, etc.  As of last year, after reading Jason W Ryan's blog, I got interested in DWM.  Jason even has a youtube video about DWM which I found helpful.  On top of all that, he has wonderful scripts and configs at his bitbucket that I use and study.  Yes, I sound like a Jason fanboy but from a learning perspective, he has written and configured a simple but complete tiling WM userland to be a platform for learning.  Most of my time I am reading his configs and learning a completely new paradigm in linux.  Of course you are not limited to only this resource.  There are tons of configs/scripts/etc on this forum with screenshots to boot.

Since I am not a developer or programmer and only a linux hobbyist, this was a great way to get my feet wet, so to speak, in being more proficient in CLI applications/usage.  Not only do I not miss a DE but find that a WM is suffice for my daily needs and looks "prettier".

There are many blogs by archers who write about their projects and allow you to learn some neat tricks.  Look around and read these blogs.  Start your own to document your own journey, which may help someone new down the line.  Create an archwiki account and help contribute/modify.  Look at the Arch Bugtracker and see if you can test/debug/report.  Create a Kernel Bugzilla account and do the same.  Get involved!


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#15 2014-01-15 01:18:25

esko997
Member
From: Connecticut, USA
Registered: 2014-01-13
Posts: 22

Re: Arch Exercises

/dev/zero wrote:
esko997 wrote:

What are some good exercises an Arch newb can do to start learning and might help them eventually start contributing to the community?

I suggest use the command line as much as possible. Try to get out of the habit of using the mouse for anything. I'm not saying that the mouse is never useful for anything, but most people use it a lot more often than necessary. Becoming comfortable with the command line will help a lot when either your graphics crashes or you're building a system from scratch or you're playing around with a headless server over ssh.

Things to try:

  • Use coreutils instead of a file manager;

  • Use tools such as sed and awk instead of a spreadsheet program to view and manipulate data;

  • Use vim or emacs in preference to things like gedit;

  • Use mutt as your mail client.

Totally man -- I found this article in the refernces on some artile on the Arch wiki that has shown me so much cool stuff: http://kmandla.wordpress.com/software/

frank604 wrote:
In spirit of this suggestion I would like to share my personal learning experience in hopes that it might encourage you to adopt a new paradigm in interacting with your computer and ultimately with arch.  My first attempts at setting up my userland was installing a DE, whether it be gnome, kde, xfce, etc.  As of last year, after reading Jason W Ryan's blog, I got interested in DWM.  Jason even has a youtube video about DWM which I found helpful.  On top of all that, he has wonderful scripts and configs at his bitbucket that I use and study.  Yes, I sound like a Jason fanboy but from a learning perspective, he has written and configured a simple but complete tiling WM userland to be a platform for learning.  Most of my time I am reading his configs and learning a completely new paradigm in linux.  Of course you are not limited to only this resource.  There are tons of configs/scripts/etc on this forum with screenshots to boot.
Since I am not a developer or programmer and only a linux hobbyist, this was a great way to get my feet wet, so to speak, in being more proficient in CLI applications/usage.  Not only do I not miss a DE but find that a WM is suffice for my daily needs and looks "prettier".
There are many blogs by archers who write about their projects and allow you to learn some neat tricks.  Look around and read these blogs.  Start your own to document your own journey, which may help someone new down the line.  Create an archwiki account and help contribute/modify.  Look at the Arch Bugtracker and see if you can test/debug/report.  Create a Kernel Bugzilla account and do the same.  Get involved!

I would love to get involved and I feel like if I combine just tinkering with my own system and lurking the forums after awhile I'll probably have a lot to contribute just based on the user experience.

Thanks again for the replies all!

Cheers,

Esko

Last edited by esko997 (2014-01-15 01:18:57)

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#16 2014-01-15 01:37:12

/dev/zero
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From: Melbourne, Australia
Registered: 2011-10-20
Posts: 1,176
Website

Re: Arch Exercises

esko997 wrote:

Totally man -- I found this article in the refernces on some artile on the Arch wiki that has shown me so much cool stuff: http://kmandla.wordpress.com/software/

Hey, I see some cool things there I wasn't aware of before :-). Off to check out wyrd and alsaequal ...


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#17 2014-01-15 01:58:09

ANOKNUSA
Member
Registered: 2010-10-22
Posts: 2,141

Re: Arch Exercises

esko997 wrote:

Totally man -- I found this article in the refernces on some artile on the Arch wiki that has shown me so much cool stuff: http://kmandla.wordpress.com/software/

To get a feel for the Arch Way, how *NIX operating systems work, and how to work with them at a low level, K. Mandla's blogs are pretty nice (the more recent one can be found here). (S)he only works with a framebuffer on really old hardware, so every post is about finding the simplest and lightest software solution to a given task. One Thing Well follows a similar theme, written by an Arch/OS X user.

I've been gradually slimming down and simplifying my system over the last 1.5 years or so, such that now I work almost entirely in a terminal; as others have said here, working from a command line and using coreutils to manipulate files gives you a better feel for what *NIX OS's really do, and at least in my case helps with visualizing abstract things like filesystems and partitions better than an actual picture on the screen. General advice from those blogs---and of course, a few things I've stolen completely from our own jasonwryan's blog---are totally indispensable to me now.

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#18 2014-01-16 13:50:29

thiagowfx
Member
Registered: 2013-07-09
Posts: 532

Re: Arch Exercises

Since nobody seems to have mentioned it, I'd recommend you the Arch Linux Handbook, by Dusty Phillips. It is a light read, but should get you warmed.

Also, I would recommend exploring the Wiki. I guess you are already doing that. But what I mean is: there are so many pages that I discovered just recently, that I would never guess they would be there. Some examples include the DeveloperWiki, building custom kernels, unnoficial (Arch) User Repositories. What is interesting to me may not be to you, but I think you got the main idea. The ArchWiki Viewer Android app is nice too.

I think the most valuable exercises are related to culture. Treat your Arch knowledge like a growing plant. If you care well about it, it will flourish.

Last edited by thiagowfx (2014-01-16 13:51:29)

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#19 2014-02-21 11:36:19

0x29a
Member
Registered: 2012-09-28
Posts: 83

Re: Arch Exercises

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#20 2014-02-23 21:57:23

thiagowfx
Member
Registered: 2013-07-09
Posts: 532

Re: Arch Exercises

Here is a complement to 0x29a's suggestion: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Power_saving

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#21 2014-02-23 22:53:27

opt1mus
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2011-12-31
Posts: 197
Website

Re: Arch Exercises

The Arch Linux Handbook, bue to being a hardcopy; is prone to becoming out of date and for that reason I suggest favouring the Arch Wiki.

For a safer environment for playing around with an OS, I suggest getting to grips with virtualisation and running an Arch Linux VM.

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#22 2014-05-11 06:15:29

grandtheftjiujitsu
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From: Georgia, USA
Registered: 2013-07-27
Posts: 85
Website

Re: Arch Exercises

I apologize if ~3 months constitutes as "Necro Bumping", but I've been on a tech kick since school has let out for the summer and have a few suggestions, or at least stages I went through, to offer.

  • Generally speaking the famed Get Curious -> Read -> Try -> Break -> Read -> Fix -> Repeat... cycle has served me fairly well.  Similarly , I tend to cache my curiosities until I have time and then indulge to my heart's content... like a forum post at 2:00 AM.

  • I can think of a couple more specific "milestones" in my Arch tenure though.  First of all, on a couple snow days in February I took the plunge of ridding my system of as many GUIs as I could bare to deal without [the minimalism referred to above].  Another similar idea might be to see how long you can, or set a trial period to, go without using your mouse, though I haven't tied this myself [yet].

  • I have checked out a couple Linux / Unix scripting books from the library and am reading / working through them and testing the material on my system in various "interactive" ways as I go.

  • More recently I've opened my system to the [testing] repo in hope/fear that something will break and I'll have to learn how to fix it.

  • When I have a moment to spare I'm always looking for a way to tinker with and / or improve my system be it through new (and/or) lighter / more powerful software, or something I found in Try This.

Last edited by grandtheftjiujitsu (2014-05-11 16:56:56)

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#23 2014-05-13 01:01:24

MickeyRat
Member
Registered: 2011-11-15
Posts: 82

Re: Arch Exercises

I'll tell you what I've found to be a pretty good learning experience,  The old timers on here will scoff at my lack of ambition though.  I got a little netbook and set it up for travel.  Nobody wants them.  They all want tablets.  So, they are cheap on ebay.  Since it was more likely than any computer I own to be lost or stolen, I wanted it fully encrypted.  Since it was light on both processor speed and memory (single core 1.6GH atom/1GB RAM), I wanted to make it light but, I didn't want it to be too big a drag to use.  I was even willing to install a little eye candy if it was light enough.

So, I built a desktop environment myself with the lightest pieces I was willing to live with.  It has a display manager, wallpaper, desktop icons, a menu, a panel with launchers, a compositor, a volume control, a clock, only the boot partition is unencrypted and it runs in less than 100MB.  I could trim that a bit but, I'd miss something.  As you would expect with this hardware, it's a little slow but, it's still enjoyable to use.  I think it looks great as well.

Along the way, I learned what all goes into a desktop environment that is functionally complete for me and how to set it up, how to set up LUKS and LVM volumes, how to mount LUKS and LVM volumes from a live linux (never set up a system you can't do that with), how to tell what apps are using more memory than other apps, etc.

The downside is I turn back to my 4 core 8GB box running XFCE and lots of bells and whistles in 300MB and all I can see is wasteful ric-rack.  I'm ruined forever!!!  I'll be reinstalling soon.  I'm sure.


Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
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#24 2014-05-13 01:20:06

Trilby
Forum Moderator
From: Massachusetts, USA
Registered: 2011-11-29
Posts: 13,966
Website

Re: Arch Exercises

MickeyRat wrote:

I'll be reinstalling soon.  I'm sure.

That all sounded great, right up to that last line.  Why on earth would you "reinstall"?  Just remove the packages you no longer want/need.


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#25 2014-05-13 03:24:54

MickeyRat
Member
Registered: 2011-11-15
Posts: 82

Re: Arch Exercises

Trilby wrote:

That all sounded great, right up to that last line.  Why on earth would you "reinstall"?  Just remove the packages you no longer want/need.

In a way, that would be the bigger challenge.  I might.  I'm actually on the fence on that one.  There's a lot to peel off.


Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
- Oscar Wilde

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