I decided to try out Arch Linux on the Samsung Chromebook. Before I was running Ubuntu, to check out the install process for Chrubuntu check out my previous posts:

The Ubuntu install was working out well but I just kept hearing good things about Arch Linux, so I decided to give it a try.

Installing Arch Linux

The install process is described here. I already had developer mode and usb boot enabled, so I went to the next steps. Once in ChromeOS open up the crosh shell:

  1. Press Ctrl + Alt + T keys. This will open up the crosh shell
  2. Type shell to get into a bash shell.
  3. Type sudo su to become root.

Now let’s proceed with the install:

  1. Since ChromeOS will automatically mount any partitions it finds, unmount everything now:

    umount /dev/mmcblk1*
  2. Create a new disk label for GPT. Type y when prompted after running:

    parted /dev/mmcblk1 mklabel gpt
  3. Partition the USB drive or SD card:

    cgpt create -z /dev/mmcblk1
    cgpt create /dev/mmcblk1
    cgpt add -i 1 -t kernel -b 8192 -s 32768 -l U-Boot -S 1 -T 5 -P 10 /dev/mmcblk1
    cgpt add -i 2 -t data -b 40960 -s 32768 -l Kernel /dev/mmcblk1
    cgpt add -i 12 -t data -b 73728 -s 32768 -l Script /dev/mmcblk1
  4. To create the rootfs partition, we first need to calculate how big to make the partition using information from cgpt show. Look for the number under the start column for Sec GPT table which is 15633375 in this example:

    localhost / # cgpt show /dev/mmcblk1
           start        size    part  contents
               0           1          PMBR
               1           1          Pri GPT header
           73728       16384      12  Label: "Script"
                                  Type: Linux data
                                  UUID: E3DA8325-83E1-2C43-BA9D-8B29EFFA5BC4
        15633375          32          Sec GPT table
        15633407           1          Sec GPT header
  5. Replace the xxxxx string in the following command with that number to create the root partition:

    cgpt add -i 3 -t data -b 106496 -s `expr xxxxx - 106496` -l Root /dev/mmcblk1
  6. Tell the system to refresh what it knows about the disk partitions:

    partprobe /dev/mmcblk1
  7. Format the partitions:

    mkfs.ext2 /dev/mmcblk1p2
    mkfs.ext4 /dev/mmcblk1p3
    mkfs.vfat -F 16 /dev/mmcblk1p12
  8. Download and extract rootfs tarball:

    cd /tmp
    wget http://archlinuxarm.org/os/ArchLinuxARM-chromebook-latest.tar.gz
    mkdir root
    mount /dev/mmcblk1p3 root
    tar -xf ArchLinuxARM-chromebook-latest.tar.gz -C root
  9. Copy the kernel to the kernel partition:

    mkdir mnt
    mount /dev/mmcblk1p2 mnt
    cp root/boot/vmlinux.uimg mnt
    umount mnt
  10. Copy the U-Boot script to the script partition:

    mount /dev/mmcblk1p12 mnt
    mkdir mnt/u-boot
    cp root/boot/boot.scr.uimg mnt/u-boot
    umount mnt
  11. Install nv-U-Boot:

    wget -O - http://commondatastorage.googleapis.com/chromeos-localmirror/distfiles/nv_uboot-snow.kpart.bz2 | bunzip2 > nv_uboot-snow.kpart
    dd if=nv_uboot-snow.kpart of=/dev/mmcblk1p1
  12. Unmount the root partition:

    umount root
  13. Reboot the computer.

  14. At the splash screen, instead of pressing Ctrl-D to go to CromeOS, press Ctrl-U to boot to the external drive.

  15. You will see U-Boot start after a moment and start counting down from 3. Press any key at this time to interrupt the boot process and get a prompt that looks like:

    SMDK5250 #
  16. At this prompt type this to reset the environment and save it to flash:

    env default -f
  17. Type reset and press enter (it’ll reboot), pressing Ctrl-U at the splash screen again, and let U-Boot count down and load Arch Linux ARM.

Upgrade Arch Linux

After you boot into Arch Linux you can login with username root, and a blank password. To get on the wireless network launch:

wifi-menu mlan0

That will give you an ncurses Terminal UI, at which point you can select your desired access point and enter the password if applicable. Before we upgrade the system we need to make sure the boot partition is mounted. This is accomplished by editing the /etc/fstab file and un-commenting this line:

/dev/mmcblk1p2  /boot   ext2    defaults        0       0

Then mount /boot by running:

mount -a

To upgrade the system run the following:

pacman -Syu

After the update is done, reboot your system. Prior to the reboot, you can add your own user if you want and give him sudo privileges:

useradd elatov
passwd elatov
pacman -S sudo
visudo # uncomment the wheel group
usermod -a -G wheel elatov

Install Window Manager and Display Manager

I use icewm and lighdm for my display environment. Let’s install the necessary packages.

Install Xorg

First let’s install Xorg and the necessary video/synaptics drivers.

sudo pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit xorg-server-utils mesa xf86-video-fbdev xf86-input-synaptics unzip

Now let’s apply the appropriate video driver and trackpad settings for the chromebook:

mkdir ~/backup
mv /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/* ~/backup/
cd /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/
wget http://craigerrington.com/chrome/x_alarm_chrubuntu.zip
unzip x_alarm_chrubuntu.zip
rm x_alarm_chrubuntu.zip
sed -i 's/gb/us/g' 10-keyboard.conf

Install Window Manager

At this point we can manually start X, but we don’t have a window manager yet. So let’s install that:

sudo pacman -S icewm

If you are really eager, you can add the following into your ~/.xinitrc:

exec /usr/bin/icewm-session

then executing:


will start icewm.

Install Display Manager

I wanted to use lightdm as my display manager, so let’s go ahead and install that:

sudo pacman -S lightdm lightdm-gtk3-greeter

Now let’s enable the service on startup:

sudo systemctl enable lightdm

If you reboot you will notice that all the icons are missing for lightdm. To install the icons run the following:

sudo pacman -S gnome-icon-theme

At this point, I was able to start an icewm session from lightdm with out issues. I also removed my ~/.xinitrc file so it wouldn’t launch icewm a second time after lightdm did.

SSH-Agent with IceWM

I noticed that ssh-agent was not starting on login. From this Arch Linux wiki page, it’s recommended to start that from your bashrc file, but that would launch multiple ssh-agents. So I decided to launch that when X starts. I complished that by creating /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/40-ssh-agent and adding the following contents to it:

elatov@crbook:~$cat /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/40-ssh-agent

eval $(ssh-agent)

I was then able to run ssh-add without any issues.

Desktop Notifications

By default no notification mechanism is enabled, so you might miss out on some OS notification when using IceWM. There are a couple of options available described here. I usually use xfce4-notifyd, but I decided to try out something else: notification-daemon. First let’s install the package:

sudo pacman -S notification-daemon

The package doesn’t actually create the appropriate dbus configuration files, this is done by creating the /usr/share/dbus-1/services/org.gnome.Notifications.service file with the following contents:

[D-BUS Service]

Now any time there is a notification that comes through dbus, you will see it. As a quick test run the following to make sure you see the OSD:

notify-send 'Testing' --icon=dialog-information


Systemd comes with tmpfiles.d which can set permissions and contents of any file on the system on boot. With that functionality, let’s set a custom brightness level on boot. This is acomplished by creating the /etc/tmpfiles.d/brightness.conf file with the following contents:

f /sys/class/backlight/pwm-backlight.0/brightness 0666 - - - 800

Now upon boot that file will have the permission of 666 (rw for all users) and contain the value of 800 (possible values are ** - **2800).

Keyboard Shortcuts for Brightness keys

I did a similar setup on Ubuntu. Since I am using icewm I added the following into my .icewm/keys file:

key "F6"        /usr/local/bin/chbr down
key "F7"        /usr/local/bin/chbr up

and the content of my /usr/local/bin/chbr is the following:

elatov@crbook:~$cat /usr/local/bin/chbr
cur_bri=$(/usr/bin/cat /sys/class/backlight/pwm-backlight.0/brightness)

if [ $1 == "up" ] ; then
    `echo $bri > /sys/class/backlight/pwm-backlight.0/brightness`

if [ $1 == "down" ] ; then
    `echo $bri > /sys/class/backlight/pwm-backlight.0/brightness`

if [ $1 == "-s" ]; then
    `echo $2 > /sys/class/backlight/pwm-backlight.0/brightness`

Sound Configurations

First let’s install alsa and make sure we can hear sound from the speakers:

sudo pacman -S alsa-utils

Then start alsamixer and un-mute the following mixers:

‘Left Speaker Mixer Left DAC1 Switch’ ‘Left Speaker Mixer Right DAC1 Switch’ ‘Right Speaker Mixer Left DAC1 Switch’ ‘Right Speaker Mixer Right DAC1 Switch’ ‘Right Headphone Mixer Left DAC1 Switch’ ‘Right Headphone Mixer Right DAC1 Switch’ ‘Left Headphone Mixer Left DAC1 Switch’ ‘Left Headphone Mixer Right DAC1 Switch’

To un-mute the mixer just type m when you are on the mixer. As a quick test run the following and make sure you hear sound:

aplay /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Front_Left.wav

Install PulseAudio

I remember I had some trouble in Ubuntu with this, so I wanted to give it another try. First install the necessary packages:

sudo pacman -S pulseaudio pulseaudio-alsa

Now let’s ensure the appropriate alsa sink is loaded. This is done by editing the /etc/pulse/default.pa file and un-commenting/modify the following line:

load-module module-alsa-sink device=sysdefault

Now we can restart X or start pulseaudio manually

pulseaudio --start

Your sound should still works as expected.

Configure Libao to Use PulseAudio

I tried running pianobar, but it would fail. The issue is described here. It’s fixed by changing the /etc/libao.conf file to look like this:

elatov@crbook:~$cat /etc/libao.conf

Keyboard Modifications

I ended up emulating the configuration from the Ubuntu install.

Change the Search Key to be Caps-Lock

This is done by creating/modifying the ~/.Xmodmap file with the following contents:

elatov@crbook:~$cat .Xmodmap
keycode 133 = Caps_Lock

Change Fn Keys for Volume

Similar to the way I handled the brightness, I did the same thing for sound. Here is what I added into my ~/.icewm/keys file:

key "F8"        amixer -c 0 set Speaker toggle
key "F9"        amixer -c 0 set Speaker 1dB-
key "F10"       amixer -c 0 set Speaker 1%+
key "Ctrl+F8"   amixer -c 0 set Headphone toggle
key "Ctrl+F9"   amixer -c 0 set Headphone 1%-
key "Ctrl+F10"  amixer -c 0 set Headphone 1%+

Enable End and Home Keys with Key Combinations

I ended up using xbindkeys with xvkbd again:

sudo pacman -S xbindkeys xvkbd

First find out what they keys are called:

elatov@crbook:~$xmodmap -pke | grep -E ' Prior | Next | Home | End | Delete '
keycode 110 = Home NoSymbol Home
keycode 112 = Prior NoSymbol Prior
keycode 115 = End NoSymbol End
keycode 117 = Next NoSymbol Next
keycode 119 = Delete NoSymbol Delete

Those are our keys. Now capture the key combination, this is done by running the following:

xbindkeys -mk

and then clicking “Alt + down” and it will show you what those keys correspond to. After we have all the combinations, we can create the xbindkeys configuration. First create the initial configuration:

xbindkeys -d > ~/.xbindkeysrc

Then edit the file and add the following to it (add the combination that you captured above):

"xvkbd -xsendevent -text "\[Prior]""
    m:0x8 + c:111
    Alt + Up

"xvkbd -xsendevent -text "\[Next]""
    m:0x8 + c:116
    Alt + Down

"xvkbd -xsendevent -text "\[Delete]""
    m:0x8 + c:22
    Alt + BackSpace

"xvkbd -xsendevent -text "\[End]""
    m:0x8 + c:114
    Alt + Right

"xvkbd -xsendevent -text "\[Home]""
    m:0x8 + c:113
    Alt + Left

Now add /usr/bin/xbindkeys to the ~/.icewm/startup file and the shortcuts should be done.

Power Button

For some reason when I pushed the power button nothing happened. Running xev and watching the output, showed me that I was pressing the right key, but nothing would happen. To fix my power button, I installed acpid:

sudo pacman -S acpid

And then added an extra command to the /etc/acpi/handler.sh script:

        case "$2" in
                logger 'PowerButton pressed'
            /usr/bin/systemctl poweroff

After that, pushing the power button would shut down the laptop.

Configure the Rest of the System

Now for the finishing touches

Enable rsyslog

Rsyslog was not enabled by default. Here is what I ran to install and enable that:

sudo pacman -S rsyslog
sudo systemctl enable rsyslog.service
sudo systemctl start rsyslog.service

Configure Networking

After you run the wifi-menu script a profile is generated automatically. You can check the profiles by running the following:

elatov@crbook:~$netctl list
* mlan0-wifi

To enable that profile on boot, just run the following:

sudo netctl enable mlan0-wifi

By default it uses dhcp to grab the IP. To set a static IP, edit the /etc/netctl/mlan0-wifi file and add/modify the following:


You will also notice that the password will be clear text in that profile file. We can use wpa_passphrase to hide the password. First generate the WPA password:

elatov@crbook:~$wpa_passphrase wifi testing123

Not grab the string after psk= and add it to the /etc/netctl/mlan0-wifi file:


Now if you restart the machine, it should automatically connect to the wireless network and grab a static IP as well.

Set the Hostname

This one is pretty easy:

sudo hostnamectl set-hostname archer.laptop.com

Set the TimeZone

First list the available timezones:

elatov@crbook:~$timedatectl list-timezones | grep Denver

Then set the timezone:

sudo timedatectl set-timezone America/Denver

Install from AUR (Arch User Repository)

There are a lot of packages that are available from the user repository. The pacman utility doesn’t query that repository. To use that repository install yaourt:

sudo pacman -S base-devel yaourt

and then use it the same way you would pacman ie:

# search package
yaourt -Ss pkg
# remove package
sudo yaourt -Rns pkg
# upgrade the system
sudo  yaourt -Syu

If the package is not available for your architecture, it will compile it on the fly. You might have to edit the PKGBUILD file for best results.

Mount NFS share

On Ubuntu the the NFS kernel module was not available, but Arch Linux does have it. To mount an NFS share first install the utilities:

sudo pacman -S nfs-utils

then start the statd service:

sudo systemctl enable rpc-statd.service

Then you can mount with the following command:

sudo mount nfs:/share /mnt/nfs

Install Chromium and PepperFlash

Another cool thing I ran across is the fact that chromium pepper flash was in the extra repository. To install the browser and the plugin run the following:

sudo pacman -S chromium chromium-pepper-flash

Here are the installed versions:

elatov@crbook:~$pacman -Q | grep chromium
chromium 32.0.1700.77-1
chromium-pepper-flash 11.7.700.225-3

Audio (with pulseaudio) and Video worked fine without any issues.

Published by Karim Elatov

20 February 2014