Author Topic: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)  (Read 208 times)

Offline fox

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Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« on: June 04, 2017, 10:25:59 am »
Inspired by my success in installing Arch on my Acer laptop with Intel wifi, I decided to try my luck with an installation on my Dell xps 13. This turned out to be much more challenging, not only because of the Broadcom wifi card (BCM 4352), but also because of the difficulty in stopping a malfunctioning boot-up. To make matters worse, my first installation was botched altogether and had to be redone. As with my Acer laptop, the Dell already has Ubuntu and Windows installed and is set to boot from the Ubuntu grub. I wanted to add Arch without adding an Arch grub.

First step was to create a new partition for Arch, which I did with gparted, run from a Ubuntu live usb. I got the space by shrinking my Ubuntu partition and then formatting it as fat32. When running cfdisk from the Arch installer, the partition was seen, and I formatted it to ext4 (see Jason's instructions, steps 3 and 4. I installed onto the new partition except using my partition number instead of /dev/sda1 as per Jason's step #5).  I followed all of Jason's steps except for step 15 (grub install). When finished, I booted into Ubuntu and updated its grub. I believe I made an error somewhere because when I then booted into the Arch installation, I didn't have an internet connection at all (not even ethernet). Whatever my mistake, when I wiped the partition and reinstalled, it worked this time.

Next challenge was installing a desktop environment, and I chose gnome. But I made a mistake there, too. I wanted to use lightdm as my display manager, so I installed it. Unfortunately,  the Arch wiki instructions were ambiguous as to whether I had to also install a "greeter" (a GUI that prompts the user for credentials), so I didn't. Big mistake!! Arch wouldn't complete its boot-up without a greeter, and unlike my installation on the Acer, I couldn't find a key-code that would stop the boot and drop me to a command line where I could fix the problem by installing the greeter. (The key-code is ctrl-alt-F2 on most computers.) More googling. Finally I found a way to get in, which is to edit the grub code on the fly and boot into a multiuser environment. To do this, you hit the "e" key on the grub entry you want to select at boot-up. This then displays the grub code for that entry. I then had to add the following code to the end of the line at the bottom starting with Linux:

Code: [Select]
systemd.unit = multi-user
Once I did that, I got to a command line environment and was able to install the greeter. I could then boot into a GUI.

The final major challenge was getting wifi up and running, and I was able to do that without too much trouble using the Arch wiki. My Broadcom wifi card is model BCM4352, and the package I needed to make it work is broadcom-wl, which I installed.

Now with a working Arch install, I had no problem installing most of the packages I typically use. There have been a few minor challenges for specialty academic packages I need, like Mendeley (a reference manager) and RStudio (a statistics package). The developers that make these packages make .deb binaries, but in Arch they have to be built from AUR (Arch User Repository), and they needed some additional tweaking to get them to work.

The bottom line is that Arch is definitely more difficult to install than a Debian-based distro or even Arch derivatives like Manjaro and Antergos, but there is nothing conceptually difficult in installing it if you are not a total beginner and if you can follow the cookbook-type instructions provided by the Arch wiki and Jason in the last PLUG meeting. It's worth trying, even just for fun, if you're up for a challenge. That's why I did it and now that I have, I'm going to continue playing with it as a way to learn more about Linux. I'm looking forward to seeing what new things I can learn from Brian on Monday.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2017, 10:44:45 am by fox »
Mac user running Ubuntu 16.04 (Unity, Gnome) and Arch on Dell XPS 13 (4gb RAM, 250gb SSD)
Ubuntu 16.04, Bunsenlabs Linux and Arch on upgraded 11.6" Acer 1810TZ Olympic Edition (4gb RAM, 240 SSD)
Ubuntu 17.04 on 2012 Mac mini and 2010 & 2012 iMacs

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2017, 03:15:11 pm »
When I initially tried to setup a desktop, I think it was MATE, I didn't know about the login manager (or greeter) being a separate thing either. I was able to get to one of the virtual terminals but it would keep flashing back on me to a blank screen. So I basically could get 3-5 letters in before it switched back. Then, I'd switch to it again (I hadn't lost any of what I entered), finish the commands to stop the desktop environment and then I could fix it from there. That was why I settled on using LXDE, because it had the login manager built in and was running out of time preparing for the meeting. The instructions on the wiki are very thorough but can be confusing to anybody in parts.
Jason

Offline fox

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2017, 03:57:37 pm »
I think you're right about lxde being automatic, as I seem to recall that when I first installed Arch on the Acer laptop, I had the same issue with lightdm (too bad I didn't remember it a week later :) ), but in that computer I could use the key combo to get to a command line. I don't particularly like lxde, but since it worked for you I then installed it and it worked.

I've been playing around with several DE's on the Dell. Gnome is still my favourite, but xfce is now a close second. It took me awhile to figure out how to customize it to my liking, but I added a whisker menu and a key command that opens it with the super key. I also went with Compass icons, which I think look very sharp on the xfce panels, and I am using the Numix theme. The only minor problem this gives me is that the network icon doesn't show because Compass doesn't seem to have an icon for it. But if you click where it's supposed to be you get the network manager menu.

The other DE that has a lot of potential is Budgie. Right now the customizations available for the panel are much more limited than xfce's, but the folks at Solus are supposedly working on this.
Mac user running Ubuntu 16.04 (Unity, Gnome) and Arch on Dell XPS 13 (4gb RAM, 250gb SSD)
Ubuntu 16.04, Bunsenlabs Linux and Arch on upgraded 11.6" Acer 1810TZ Olympic Edition (4gb RAM, 240 SSD)
Ubuntu 17.04 on 2012 Mac mini and 2010 & 2012 iMacs

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2017, 05:22:49 am »
The only minor problem this gives me is that the network icon doesn't show because Compass doesn't seem to have an icon for it.

Did you install the package that has the notify icon for it?
Jason

Offline fox

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2017, 09:05:21 pm »
Well it didn't take long for me to break the installation. I'm not sure if it was the updating packages or the installation of Foxit PDF-reader, but after that, a reboot lost me all network connections. They were still there from the Ubuntu partition, so it wasn't hardware-related. But even connecting on ethernet didn't give me any kind of internet connection. I looked for solutions and everything I tried just made it worse. I don't see any recovery at this point, and I hadn't yet made a backup. So it will be a nuke and reinstall unfortunately. If it happens again, that will be the end of my experimentation with Arch, which would be too bad because I have really enjoyed this up to now.
Mac user running Ubuntu 16.04 (Unity, Gnome) and Arch on Dell XPS 13 (4gb RAM, 250gb SSD)
Ubuntu 16.04, Bunsenlabs Linux and Arch on upgraded 11.6" Acer 1810TZ Olympic Edition (4gb RAM, 240 SSD)
Ubuntu 17.04 on 2012 Mac mini and 2010 & 2012 iMacs

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2017, 10:56:55 am »
Might be a good opportunity to find out how helpful the Arch forums are.
Jason

Offline fox

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2017, 01:25:42 pm »
I did search the Arch forums before trying some of the things I did, and at least one of the things I tried came from either the forums or the wiki. What I didn't try doing was posting my problem on the forums. That might have been interesting, but I don't feel I documented what happened well enough to have posted on their forums. I also have no idea what I did to cause my network access to go south, but whatever it was messed up the pacman files as well. The only thing I do know is that it happened after I installed and ran Foxit Reader from AUR, but hard to imagine what that had to do with it. It was after I tried it and then rebooted that I lost my network access.

In the end, it took me some 4 hours to restore my Arch system on the Dell xps. I learned a few things along the way, and have now documented all the applications I want on a working operating system. I also documented some of the things I had to do to get several applicatons to work in Arch. Such problems are compounded by installing a lot of files from AUR, which isn't formally sanctioned. Most of the packages posted there are not binaries, and have to be built.

Despite my trouble, I'm sticking with it. I just completed an installation on my office iMac, and have been working from it instead of Ubuntu. This time though, I cloned the Arch partitions on both computers just in case.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2017, 02:47:08 pm by fox »
Mac user running Ubuntu 16.04 (Unity, Gnome) and Arch on Dell XPS 13 (4gb RAM, 250gb SSD)
Ubuntu 16.04, Bunsenlabs Linux and Arch on upgraded 11.6" Acer 1810TZ Olympic Edition (4gb RAM, 240 SSD)
Ubuntu 17.04 on 2012 Mac mini and 2010 & 2012 iMacs

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2017, 08:01:33 pm »
I wish I had found this earlier for you:

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Arch_Linux_Archive#How_to_restore_all_packages_to_a_specific_date

Although it would have only helped if it was an update that broke your system.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 10:08:55 pm by elpresidente »
Jason

Offline fox

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2017, 09:08:18 pm »
Thanks anyway, Jason. Though I'm not sure it would have worked because I had no internet and couldn't restore anything that required a download. Nevertheless, I bookmarked that page just in case I need it in the future.
Mac user running Ubuntu 16.04 (Unity, Gnome) and Arch on Dell XPS 13 (4gb RAM, 250gb SSD)
Ubuntu 16.04, Bunsenlabs Linux and Arch on upgraded 11.6" Acer 1810TZ Olympic Edition (4gb RAM, 240 SSD)
Ubuntu 17.04 on 2012 Mac mini and 2010 & 2012 iMacs

Offline fox

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2017, 08:39:09 pm »
Two months later, my wireless broke after an update. Took me forever to diagnose, but it turns out that the broadcom-wl driver I need was not recent enough to support the new kernel (4.12). I finally found a thread that explained the problem and what to do. I had to install the dkms version of my broadcom driver. Once I did that and restarted, all was well. But this is a good example of why Arch isn't for the faint of heart and why folks with my level of expertise shouldn't use Arch as their main distro. (I have it installed alongside Ubuntu.)
Mac user running Ubuntu 16.04 (Unity, Gnome) and Arch on Dell XPS 13 (4gb RAM, 250gb SSD)
Ubuntu 16.04, Bunsenlabs Linux and Arch on upgraded 11.6" Acer 1810TZ Olympic Edition (4gb RAM, 240 SSD)
Ubuntu 17.04 on 2012 Mac mini and 2010 & 2012 iMacs

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2017, 01:48:07 am »
Bravo on fixing it. You should get the Geek glasses next time. :)
Jason

Offline fox

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2017, 07:32:04 am »
Thanks, Jason. I have to admit I was thinking of those glasses myself.  ;)

This was a real nasty, with lots of curve balls thrown my way before I found the solution. The first symptom was that no network-manager icon appeared at startup, and when I looked at network settings, there was nothing for wired or wireless (just loopback as I recall). There were other command line diagnostics, several of which showed up as unrecognized commands. Finally, on a whim, I plugged the laptop into my ethernet cable and restarted. At that point, I got the network-manager icon and "wired" showed up in my settings. I then realized that the problem was wireless, not networks altogether. A further search revealed that I was missing some network command line tools, which explained why some commands weren't recognized. (This would never happen in Ubuntu, where things like that are installed by default, whereas in Arch, almost nothing is installed by default.) I could then see that my wireless card was recognized and which wireless drivers were loaded. This led to a Google search, and that's where I found out about the broadcom-wl driver in the repos not working with the 4.12 kernel.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 10:20:42 am by fox »
Mac user running Ubuntu 16.04 (Unity, Gnome) and Arch on Dell XPS 13 (4gb RAM, 250gb SSD)
Ubuntu 16.04, Bunsenlabs Linux and Arch on upgraded 11.6" Acer 1810TZ Olympic Edition (4gb RAM, 240 SSD)
Ubuntu 17.04 on 2012 Mac mini and 2010 & 2012 iMacs

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2017, 12:04:25 pm »
How long were you without wireless? And was the Broadcom driver from the AUR? I ask because if it wasn't from the AUR, I suspect but the Arch team would have fixed the problem with an update (delivered via wire obviously) in short order. Would have been interesting to see how long that took.

Regarding Ubuntu, I don't think they update the kernel that often but I'm using Linux Lite right now which is based on an LTS version of Ubuntu so no idea what version they're using now. Does Arch not keep the previous version of the kernel around after you update that you can boot to from grub? I'm guessing not. When you're cutting edge, sometimes you're gonna get cut :)
Jason

Offline fox

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2017, 12:51:34 pm »
I don't know how long I was potentially without wireless because I was away for a few weeks and can't remember when the last time was that I used that laptop after an update. I haven't been using it much lately, so it could be that the wireless hasn't been working for two or more weeks and I didn't know it. As for what repository the broadcom-wl driver came from, I can't remember that, either. When I checked this time, the same version of that driver was in the Arch and AUR repos. I can tell you that as of yesterday the problem wasn't fixed because reinstalling the broadcom-wl driver (from the Arch repo) didn't fix it. It needed the dkms version to make it work.

You're right about Ubuntu not updating the kernel that often; I don't think they do at all except when they update the version of Ubuntu itself. The current version (17.04) uses the 4.10 kernel; I think that 16.04 uses the 4.4 kernel. The kernel version really doesn't matter to me, as I don't have any new hardware that depends on an updated kernel. But I faithfully install kernel updates. In Ubuntu, that means the sub-version of the installed kernel, so 4.10.0-x in Ubuntu 17.04. And yes, Ubuntu does keep the old kernel versions around when you update, but in this case, they're just earlier versions of 4.10.-0.
Mac user running Ubuntu 16.04 (Unity, Gnome) and Arch on Dell XPS 13 (4gb RAM, 250gb SSD)
Ubuntu 16.04, Bunsenlabs Linux and Arch on upgraded 11.6" Acer 1810TZ Olympic Edition (4gb RAM, 240 SSD)
Ubuntu 17.04 on 2012 Mac mini and 2010 & 2012 iMacs

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Install of Arch on a Dell xps 13 (Broadcom wifi)
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2017, 08:05:05 am »
I actually asked if Arch Linux keeps the previous kernel versions. I'm guessing they might do that but knowing Arch it's probably not automatically added to the grub menu like it is in Ubuntu. Then you could have just booted into the old kernel until you found a solution.

I haven't used Arch since early July because my desktop went down and I still don't trust Arch yet for productivity use so this notebook has Linux Lite on it (just for testing). I added Linux Lite to the beginner list of distros on the website as it seems to work well enough.
Jason

 

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