How to install Arch Linux the easy way with Evo/Lution

The one who ventures into an install of Arch Linux and has only experienced installing Linux with Ubuntu or Mint is in for a steep learning curve. The number of people giving up halfway is probably higher than the ones that pull it through. Arch Linux is somewhat cult in the way that you may call yourself a weathered Linux user if you succeed in setting it up and configuring it in a useful way.

Even though there is a helpful wiki to guide newcomers, the requirements are still too high for some who set out to conquer Arch. You need to be at least familiar with commands like fdisk or mkfs in a terminal and have heard of mc, nano or chroot to make it through this endeavour. It reminds me of a Debian install 10 years ago.

For those ambitious souls that still lack some knowledge, there is an installer in the form of an ISO image called Evo/Lution Live ISO to the rescue. Even though it is booted like a distribution of its own, it does nothing but assist with installing a barebone Arch Linux. Evo/Lution is a project that aims to diversify the user base of Arch by providing a simple way of installing Arch as well as a community that provides comprehensive help and documentation to that group of users. In this mix, Evo is the (non-installable) live CD and Lution is the installer itself. The project's founders see a widening gap between Arch developers and users of Arch and its derivative distributions, and want to build a community with equal roles between all participants. 

The software part of the project is the CLI installer Lution-AIS which explains every step of what happens during the installation of a pure vanilla Arch. The resulting installation will have all the latest software that Arch has to offer without adding anything from AUR or any other custom packages.

After booting up the ISO image, which weighs in at 422 MB, we are presented with a workspace consisting of a Conky display on the right with shortcuts to the options and a LX-Terminal on the left waiting to run the installer.

After setting off the actual installer by either right-clicking on the desktop or using ALT-i, you are presented with a list of 16 jobs to be run. It makes sense to run them all unless you know better. You can either run them one by one or make a selection like 1 3 6 or 1-4 or do them all at once by entering 1-16. Most steps need to be confirmed with a 'y' for yes, and the next task waits for you to hit Enter. This will allow time to read the installation guide which is hidden behind ALT-g or even walking away from it. 

The 16 steps are divided in "Base Install" and "Desktop Install". The first group takes care of localization, partitioning, and installing a bootloader.

The installer leads you through partitioning with gparted, gdisk, and cfdisk as options.

After you have created partitions (e.g., /dev/sda1 for root and /dev/sda2 for swap using gparted as shown in the screenshot), you can choose 1 out of 10 file systems. In the next step, you can choose your kernel (latest or LTS) and base system.

After installing the bootloader of your choice, the first part of the install is done, which takes approximately 12 minutes. This is the point where in plain Arch Linux you reboot into your system for the first time.

With Lution you just move on to the second part which installs Xorg, sound and graphics drivers, and then moves on to desktop environments.

The installer detects if an install is done in VirtualBox, and will automatically install and load the right generic drivers for the VM and sets up systemd accordingly.

In the next step,  you can choose between the desktop environments KDE, Gnome, Cinnamon, LXDE, Enlightenment, Mate or XFCE. Should you not be friends with the big ships, you can also go with a Window manager like Awesome, Fluxbox, i3, IceWM, Openbox or PekWM.

Part two of the installer will take under 10 minutes with Cinnamon as the desktop environment; however, KDE will take longer due to a much larger download.

Lution-AIS worked like a charm on two tries with Cinnamon and Awesome. After the installer was done and prompted me to reboot, it took me to the desired environments.

I have only two points to criticize: when the installer offered me to choose a mirror list and when it created the fstab file. In both cases it opened a second terminal, prompting me with an informational text. It took me a while to figure out I had to close the terminals before the installer would move on. When it prompts you after creating fstab, you need to close the terminal, and answer 'yes' when asked if you want to save the file. 

The second of my issues probably has to do with VirtualBox. When starting up, you may see a message that no network has been detected. Clicking on the top icon on the left will open wicd, the network manager that is used here. Clicking on "Disconnect" and then "Connect" and restarting the installer will get it automatically detected. 

Evo/Lution seems a worthwhile project, where Lution works fine. Not much can be said on the community part yet.  They started a brand new website, forum, and wiki that need to be filled with content first. So if you like the idea, join their forum and let them know. The ISO image can be downloaded from the website.

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Ferdinand Thommes

I live as linux developer, technical author and city guide in Berlin, Germany and Charleston S.C. Other than being nerdy I dig riding bicycles and love cooking and good literature.

34 thoughts on “How to install Arch Linux the easy way with Evo/Lution

  1. Hi Ferdinand,

    I am the lead developer for Evo/Lution Linux; thank you for your well written review! I hadn't considered that having to close the text editor windows during the installation process may be confusing for some users, so will look into this.

    Our 0.3 release should also be out in a few days. This uses a brand new installer with a brand new (hub-based) interface. Would have released it before now, but am waiting for the latest Virtualbox Guest Modules to hit the main Arch repos. I believe 0.3 should have also fixed the networking problem you encountered (amongst other changes and improvements).

    As for our community... we're slowly but surely getting there! We are taking the time to build a good reputation via word of mouth, rather than just jumping up and down for attention. At the moment our community is quite small, but they are both friendly and enthusastic Arch hobbyists.

    Best wishes,

    Carl

  2. Using a guided installer takes the advantage of the arch installation away. It throws you right back to not knowing every package installed on your machine and makes you less aware of how it works. If you are doing an arch install and you follow the wiki, you will learn a ton of you don't give up half way, that's the whole point.

    • You are wrong! Even if you install system following the ArchWiki you don't know every package installed because they are downloaded automatically. You can choose your prefered desktop login manager and check configuration files. Many developers aren't so kind. And these options and ncurses installer are back to arch great times (about 2 years ago). When Arch developers got rid of simple installer and switched to systemd system lost its stability few days ago and isn't so simple to configure quite good. Even Evo/Lution seems to be more stable. Very nice option is choosing between latest kernel and long-time-support version during the installation. This prevents from touching sensitive configuration files immediatelly. Evo/Lution just works not like(unfortunatelly pure Arch). Great job Evo/Lution Linux team.

  3. It appears that Evo/Lution does not support proxy. I was not able to install Arch with it behind a proxy. Configuring proxy for pacman alone doesn't seem to be sufficient.

  4. I managed to get Arch installed in a VirtualBox instance, and I did learn a lot about Linux in the process. But I found that nothing about it was intuitive - all the standard noob complaints apply, especially the file names harder to memorize or recognize on sight than the average Lastpass password. The Arch wiki is one of the best sources I've found for solid information but I found it frustrating to try to comprehend the principles of operation before I've even seen the thing operate.
    I'm still working in Mint because I simply don't have time to read long, educational pieces in the wiki every time I want to accomplish something. I'd love the faster, cleaner OS experience that Arch offers if it were only a little more convenient to use.
    So I'll give Evo/Lution and Arch a try, in a VM, just to see if I can get a working instance without earning a computer science degree in the process. I'll take the working OS with education to follow, like learning to drive (not engineer) a car.
    I may be the guy Evo/Lution is being designed for. Hope the purists don't boot me out of the clubhouse for that.

    • But it doesn't work on my two laptops. I tried it few times. LiveCD is OK but I am not able to run it from hard disk.

  5. Evo/Lution fails on:

    SSD Card 123 GB
    partitioning does not recognize changes in the SSD.
    the partitioner shows sda1, sda2 and SDB (??) only one dev (SDA)

    • A entirely valid question.

      I've personally not been able to install Arch via the Anterogos CLI installer as it hangs during the formatting/mounting stage. However, if it pretty much does the same thing as the GUI one, then one obvious difference is that Antergos pre-configures everything for you, whilst Evo provides vanilla installations with a greater emphasis on personal user choice.

      For example, Evo allows users to choose from any or all of about a dozen environments, either the latest or LTS kernel (with or without the base-devel package group), three bootloaders, four network managers, and up to four display managers. Once installed, the user is then left to personalise, configure and theme the system as they wish.

      There is also a greater emphasis on explaining what is going on and why during the installation process, along with showing all of the packages being installed.

  6. Carl, Evo is attentive to learning, this is a tremendous value. however, there are difficult items (ssd drives, UEFI, efi ...) that require more facilities of choice. Partitioning disks could be more intuitive, with the possibility of users choosing automatic installation or not.
    Consider a more Socratic method at each stage of installation. ex: You want to install automatically, or prefer a hands-on? At that moment, I may want a method or another. Depends of my immediate goals.

    sorry Carl for the bad english

    • Yes! You have essentially outlined our philosophy. We don't want to hide how to install Arch, we want to help teach people how to do it. Getting a working system and then configuring it is a good first step for that. Hence why users are asked to do their own partitioning as well (i.e. to learn it). However, we are also directed by our community, so if they want a feature like auto-partitioning, then this will be added.

      0.3 (likely to be released tomorrow) integrates UEFI completely so it is very easy (including to dual boot with Windows 8). 0.4 will have many more new features, including a "tuition mode" to explain things and provide help in much more detail.

  7. Users Install Dilemas and "I want to get there soon"

    -messages to prevent operation errors
    -Help by function: I'm on the right track? which disk, ssd, hd sectors, what is it? a gentle guide may be relevant in the learning curve / YES, the user is not stupid, but he did not spend the entire time there.

    :-) with respect . Carlos

  8. I had no problem with installer. It is easy to install after a short introduction I saw on YouTube.
    I love archlinux and have much less problem compared to Manjaro.
    I run XFCE and in next installation I want to try Gnome.
    Thank for the work and effort to put into evolution to make archlinux simple and effective.
    //Chris

  9. Do you use citrix receiver to connect to work environment and i have issue in gnome 3 where if i launch MS RDP gnome 3 crashes quite often.

  10. Also looks like citrix receiver is not optimised well for gnome as i cannot launch two apps in citrix at a time as the application never launches.

  11. This is nice, but part of the fun of installing Arch is doing the dirty work yourself! I will definitely check this out in a VM though, it looks pretty interesting.

  12. Carl,

    The installation fails on RC 0.3. The problem is partitioning on UEFI, Gummiboot doesn't install, no boot, no OS. ALL remaining task OK.

  13. This looks like the best thing since sliced bread. I use Manjaro on a netbook and have wanted an easier way to play with Arch without having to kill myself learning it. This could be it. Ran the live cd and it works fine. Now which machine to put it on. Thanks for a great article and thanks to EVvo team.

  14. If a distribution becomes too difficult for a person to install, then it is, in my view, a hobby system.
    You would never see that distribution installed in a business, or provided for schools, libraries or any business where long term support is required.

    It is always best to provide a basic (minimal) system from which a beginner can install, and then follow what he has to do to arrive at something like Fedora or Ubuntu. Is it not the desire to have Linux replace Windows?

    Keep up the work for an automated installation

  15. @Creator - Great Job on releasing this little helper, I hope it proves useful in two respects. Get more people using Linux and also educate existing Linux users a bit more. As an experience which just tries to aid in installation of Arch; I value the script part but having to right click or use a shortcut to start the whole thing misses the point. Have you thought about forcing the user in to a tiled WM where one half is the terminal that runs the script and the other part the guide/options?

    You could be much more verbose with this usage of space. As others have said in comments, don't hide/do too much for the user or it doesn't actually help the user in the long term. When using Arch daily, the user will need to reference the Wiki; it's a fact of life. Bring that up the installation pages automatically as the script is going along.

    @Leslie Satenstein - To a point I do agree with you. Linux usage is more as a transparent tool more and more; people who drive cars don't know everything that's going on and don't need to. On the other hand, Arch Linux ISN'T difficult for a person who understands Linux.

    That right there is the philosophy of Arch "lightweight and flexible Linux® distribution that tries to Keep It Simple": To some people in this world, keeping it simple doesn't mean having everything autopmated. I have Arch Linux running as a Web server that handles 16 web sites and supporting services without issue. Compared to many other distros, I think Arch is PERFECT for such environments, all the others have tried to get overly smart in general (with exception of container/VM handling).

  16. Hi!
    Thanks for the great tutorial (and thank to the developers)
    I successfully installed aside of suse13, but I have a semi-issue: I would like to customize grub but I am not able to do it.
    I did not install bootloader thru evo, I left the old one. Now I would get rid of the Suse logo.
    My PC is Asus vivopc vc60 and I believe it is uefi. But actually I don't understand what was Suse's approach to my install.

    If I rebooted the live just installing the bootloader, would I smash things?

    Vittorio

  17. Hello all there
    I gave a try to Evo@lution. Looks like it brings up the ais install scripts with a nice work on a gui.
    I did two or three installs that went right the way but, at some steps, syslinux won't boot when there are ef02 and ef00 partitionbs. By the way, it looks missing a btrfs partitionning scheme and this is frustrating a bit. It could be really attracting if you thing to add a way to partion the install drive with a btrfs. Keep looking for this great add and thanks for the good job. Someone must do it and you did.
    Good job and GOD save Arch.
    U...

  18. Ok first i still consider myself a linux noob. I have been wanting to try arch linux. I have heard it is one of the best distros out there.

    But like many have said the install of arch can be scary for new users. This looks like it will make the install a lot easier.

    one question does this supply the Arch iso or is it built into the program?

    • Hi, the live will help you install arch onto your machine. I have tried and will never go back. If you dont feel confident, experiment onto an empty pc

  19. I have been using evo for some time now after formerly being a ubuntu-distro-hopper.
    I have never looked back and I have limited technical knowledge.
    The latter is growing and I would add to all those sniffy " it's not the arch-way snobs that my knowledge has significantly improved and I can now edit config-files manually which I couldn''t do before among other things.
    The evo/lution project is not just an easy way to set-up a vanila arch-install. In many ways it does what the Arch-forum snobs don't do. It provides a forum that supplies the answers and how-to advice that many arch-forum users refuse to supply to the unititated neophyte who apparently is supposed to earn their stripes before the superior arch-experts will deign to talk to them.
    In short, evo does not only install arch, evo makes arch human!

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