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As a reference for myself in the future and for others who may find this information useful, this blog post describes my experience with installing ArchLinux on a machine that requires Broadcom wireless drivers for Wi-Fi and Ethernet isn't available.

I recently decided to install ArchLinux on my Dell Inspiron 1525, which in the past I had to connect the computer to the Internet via an Ethernet cable since ArchLinux didn't come with the necessary Broadcom wireless drivers for my computer. Furthermore, the ArchLinux installer requires an Internet connection to download the packages for installation.

After some research, I discovered archiso, which allows one to create a custom-built live CD image for ArchLinux.

So my goal was to create a live CD that had the necessary wireless drivers so that I can proceed with the installation without needing an Ethernet cable.

Prerequisites

For a successful ArchLinux install with a machine that has Broadcom wireless, you will need:

  • Of course, your current environment needs to be ArchLinux
  • Your current environment needs to be x86_64. Otherwise, archiso won't run
  • Your current environment needs Internet access

ArchISO Journal

Run in a root terminal and create a directory to work in

sudo su -
cd ~
mkdir archiso

Install archiso

pacman -S archiso

Copy the base releng directory tree into your work directory
cp -r /usr/share/archiso/configs/releng/ archiso

Do whatever you need to do to get Broadcom wireless. For me, I need broadcom-wl since I have the LP hardware and I don't want to go download firmware and broadcom-wl works so well for me.

So, the next step for me is to build the broadcom-wl package from AUR.

When that's done, then I need to create a custom repository containing the built broadcom-wl package.

mkdir /root/custompkg/i686
mkdir /root/custompkg/x86_64

After copying the built packages to the above directories, I create the repo database.

repo-add /root/custompkgs/i686/custompkgs.db.tar.gz /root/custompkgs/i686/broadcom-wl*
repo-add /root/custompkgs/x86_64/custompkgs.db.tar.gz /root/custompkgs/x86_64/broadcom-wl*

Now add the custom repo to the pacman configuration in the work directory (/root/archiso/pacman.conf):

[custompkgs]
SigLevel = Optional TrustAll
Server = file:///root/custompkgs/$arch

Modify /root/archiso/releng/airootfs/root/customize_airootfs.sh to make configuration changes for the system as needed. In my case, I needed to blacklist b43 and ssb:

echo "blacklist b43" >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
echo "blacklist ssb" >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf

After all that, run /root/archiso/releng/build.sh.

The script will create /root/archiso/releng/out/archlinux-*.dual.iso, which can be used to create your live CD and perform the install with the Broadcom wireless drivers enabled!

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Comment by David Chung on February 17, 2015 at 11:53am

There is a nice page describing the other distros in comparison with ArchLinux: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Arch_compared_to_other_distrib...

For me, personally, I like the bleeding-edge nature of ArchLinux and having complete control of my system. AUR provides pretty much anything I need that's not in the official repos. It's also a rolling release distro so once you have it installed and you maintain it, your system will always have the latest software without needing to perform a system-wide upgrade that points to a new repo.

Having said that, I use ArchLinux only for personal machines and would discourage using it for mission-critical platforms that require a more stable distro. For that, my go-to distro has been CentOS because of its proximity with enterprise solutions like RHEL.

Comment by Joseph Lui on February 17, 2015 at 11:27am

Nice, what's the draw of ArchLinux over the other popular flavors?

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