Getting X installed was my first task. pacman -S xorg went without a hitch. Running xorgconfig helps to produce a working xorg.conf. (Make sure you know your monitor vertical and horizontal refresh settings!) There was another DevFS trap here which I fell into. I forgot that the mouse (well, touchpad in this instance) was no longer on the default /dev/mouse but mapped to /dev/input/mice. X would completely freeze whilst loading until I figured that one out! Installing KDE 3.3 with the British locale files was straightforward though (pacman -S kdebase kde-i18n-en_gb), only needing to edit ~/.xinitrc to set KDE as my WM.
As far as I can tell, the only modifications to KDE that ArchLinux packagers have made are the default wallpaper which is a custom ArchLinux background, and they have also added a menu set within KMenu containing hyperlinks to various ArchLinux web pages. The anti-aliased fonts option is not enabled by default, so I promptly changed that (I can't imagine anyone who would prefer jagged fonts to anti-aliased fonts.) I also downloaded the MS fonts package (pacman -S ttf-ms-fonts). The Bitstream Vera fonts were already there. I'm not sure what package they were part of as there doesn't appear to be a ttf-bitstream-vera package as expected.Internet
I'm happy using KMail and KNode that come with KDE, so no extra effort required there. For instant messaging, once again I opt for the KDE supplied package, Kopete, which allows me to log in to multiple IM protocols all within the same application. The main difference between Kopete and Gaim that I have noticed is that Kopete obviously integrates better with KDE. The KDE web browser, Konqueror is pretty good and is improving all the time. However, for pure web browsing, Mozilla Firefox is my favourite. pacman -S mozilla-firefox will sort that out. (Kitting out my browser with the various multimedia plugins is discussed in the next section.) IRC is supported by Kopete, but I find the interface to be rather awkward. Pacman had no problem downloading and installing Xchat. Additionally, I need an ssh client so that I can remotely log into my Linux account at university to read email, grab files, etc. (pacman -S openssh)
Unfortunately, you are not spoilt choice when it comes to BitTorrent clients. Not there is anything significantly wrong with the standard BitTorrent client, but there are some alternatives that are increasingly popular such as BitTornado or Azureus that offer additional functionality. The bittorrent package was fine for me though (CTorrent is the only alternative) – but don't expect the installation to automagically configure your browser so that clicking a torrent link will open the BitTorrent client!
Finally, for the P2P enthusiasts out there, once again you are hardly in for a dilemma over which of the available packages to install. I normally use Limewire but this doesn't exist as an official ArchLinux package. So, for the first time I put pacman to one side and installed Limewire myself using its perfectly adequate installer. aMule, giFT, NapShare and xMule are the officially hosted packages.Multimedia
My preference for media players is Amarok. This took a little bit of time to get going though. pacman -S amarok will grab the package plus its gstreamer package dependency. What it doesn't do is install any of the gStreamer plugins needed to decode various music formats. Amarok would load, and it would show you all your MP3s, but try adding to the playlist and nothing would happen. I had a feeling it had something to do with gStreamer and discovered a package called gst-plugins. This sounded important, so off I went and installed. No difference! I looked again at more gStreamer related packages and found gst-plugins-mad which is the MP3 decoder for gStreamer. I installed it and then MP3 playing worked.
I occasionally like to watch one of my DVDs on my laptop. To grab Xine, pacman -S xine-lib xine-ui was the route I took. The libdvdcss package needs installing if you want to watch encrypted DVDs – which I did. Unfortunately, every time I tried to play my disc an error popped up about not being able to read the source. This transpired to be a simple problem of Xine's default path for the DVD device being /dev/dvd. For my system, under the 'default' device scheme, it is in fact /dev/cdroms/cdrom0.
Finally, to complete my multimedia setup, I installed MPlayer. All the non-Linux native codecs (Windows Media, Real, QuickTime, etc) are found in the codecs package, and had already been installed as a dependency of xine-libs. Although Mplayer is effectively duplicating Xine, I like it because it is easy to combine with my browser so that I can view media files over the web. This is achieved by installing the mplayer-plugin package that integrates MPlayer as a plugin to any Mozilla-based browser.CD Burning
One aspect I always fear with the more “do it yourself” distros is CD burning. It's the one thing that I always hope that it simply works out of the box. With no disrespect to ArchLinux, I was anticipating problems in this area: the wiki had a CD burning section that was empty except for “This tutorial has been removed because it does no longer work”. A browse through the forums will also yield tales of CD burning woe. And I did experience problems, but they were all my fault! The short version of the story (excluding details of broken media!), I installed my preferred burning software, k3b (pacman -S k3b) and burned a disc as easily as you expect. This, by the way, was under my standard user name and not as root.Publishing
As I mentioned, Latex is my preferred system for producing documents, which is made available via the tetex package. I sometimes use Lyx which is a Latex GUI frontend. Pacman -S lyx grabbed that, but also installed tetex as well since it's obviously a dependency. To view output, I needed a Postscript viewer (pacman -S gv) and a PDF viewer (pacman -S acroread). Ok, I know that gv will view PDF files too, but I like Acroread, so I may as well install it. In hindsight, I was glad I did because it installed the PDF browser plugin which is useful as my research means I read many online publications.
I occasionally have the need for various office applications – of which OpenOffice fits the bill. Because I require British localisation and spell-checking, I require a couple of extra packages, and pacman openoffice-base openoffice-en openoffice-spell-en did the job. For those who like to live life on the edge, the OpenOffice2 development packages are in the ArchLinux unstable repository.Programming
By this stage, my current favourite language, Python (v2.4) was already installed – I reckon it probably got dragged in with the KDE install. Java is the other main language I use. pacman -S j2sdk will install the Java SDK (v1.5) for you. Vim has been my editor of choice for the past 5 years and I needed the X version adding (pacman -S gvim). I sometimes use Eclipse for larger Java projects (pacman -S eclipse).