Administration — Arch and i3

The test laptop is slow, old, and crumbly. I need to use lightweight window managers, and for years used xfce. At present I’m writing this in sway, which is the wayland version of i3, but that is not standard. So I’m doing an experiment, before the laptop dies.

The main machine is remaining on manjaro and xfce. I’m very conservative on changing that machine: it works, and it allows me to process photos etc.

This is what sway looks like

From a review:

I’ve been using Linux for a long time, but I was never entirely happy with the desktop environment options available. Until last year, Xfce was the closest to what I consider a good compromise between features and performance. Then I found i3, an amazing piece of software that changed my life.

I3 is a tiling window manager. The goal of a window manager is to control the appearance and placement of windows in a windowing system. Window managers are often used as part a full-featured desktop environment (such as GNOME or Xfce), but some can also be used as standalone applications.

A tiling window manager automatically arranges the windows to occupy the whole screen in a non-overlapping way. Other popular tiling window managers include wmii and xmonad.

I3 is fast. It is neither bloated nor fancy. It is designed to be simple and efficient. As a developer, I value these features, as I can use the extra capacity to power my favorite development tools or test stuff locally using containers or virtual machines.

In addition, i3 is a window manager and, unlike full-featured desktop environments, it does not dictate the applications you should use. Do you want to use Thunar from Xfce as your file manager? GNOME’s gedit to edit text? I3 does not care. Pick the tools that make the most sense for your workflow, and i3 will manage them all in the same way.

This is a series of notes about moving to i3 on Arch. First thing to do is to download an image. This is small — about 800k. I store this in Downloads. You need to then use lsblk to ensure that your USB is there, and then dd to burn the image to the USB.

This looks like this:

[chrisg@chris-aspirevn7571g Downloads]$ lsblk
NAME   MAJ:MIN RM   SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINTS
sda      8:0    0 465.8G  0 disk 
└─sda1   8:1    0 465.8G  0 part /
sdb      8:16   1   7.2G  0 disk 
├─sdb1   8:17   1   2.4G  0 part 
├─sdb2   8:18   1   5.1M  0 part 
└─sdb3   8:19   1  11.3M  0 part 
[chrisg@chris-aspirevn7571g Downloads]$ dd if=archlinux-2021.10.01-x86_64.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1M
dd: failed to open '/dev/sdb': Permission denied
[chrisg@chris-aspirevn7571g Downloads]$ sudo dd if=archlinux-2021.10.01-x86_64.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1M
[sudo] password for chrisg: 
846+1 records in
846+1 records out
887435264 bytes (887 MB, 846 MiB) copied, 167.417 s, 5.3 MB/s

Now to reboot the system.

The first thing you need to do is connect to the internet. To do that, you have to use iwctl. This is on the install media. If you are doing this on a desktop, ignore, and just connect a cable.

# iwctl
[iwd]# device list -- this will be something like wlan0
[iwd]# station device scan
[iwd]# station device get-networks
[iwd]# station device connect SSID

You will need to control-D
Then, once you have checked you cannected, I would suggest you reinstall archinstall. It is on the iso, but I found I had to reinstall it.

#pacman -S archinstall
#archinstall

Work through the menu. This will allow you to select desktop. i3 is one of the options. Choose it. If you have a working internet system, get it copied over. When you reboot you will have wifi.

Post install, you can choose what is your meta key — I’m using the windows one. Meta-d brings up a place you can type in the applications you want to use. There is a good tutorial on how to set up things up.

I ended up with this…