I’ve recently bought myself a raspberry pi 400, a small form factor keyboard with a raspberry pi 4 4GB RAM built into it. In hindsight, there are probably very few scenarios in which such a computer makes actually makes sense to me, but it still looks quite nice. I first took it for a spin using the raspberry pi OS that was on the SD card that came along with the set, but while I can acknowledge that it works quite OK out of the box, it just looks so ugly. Henceforth, I did decide on installing arch for ARM on it. Since I did notice that I need to rethink every time again what are the best tools to install on a fresh install, this is a write-up of the most important tools I would always install.

The key 2 tools are:

  • pass password manager
  • yadm yet-another-dotfile-manager

The rationale behind it is the following: I use pass to be able to get easy access to all my passwords and logins, yadm manages all the other dotfiles for me.


For a “regular” arch install, see the arch installation guide. In this case, the installation was a bit atypical since it was for an ARM platform, see arch for ARM for this (I did use the ARMv7 installation guide).

Other noteworthy steps in the installation …

arch linux arm: noisy boot

Terminal would show all of the kernel audit messages; add audit=0 to command line options /boot/cmdline.txt

Remove noisy welcome message

rm /etc/motd


Some helpers to install with the subsequent steps:

pacman -Syu --noconfirm zsh sudo which vim git openssh libfido2
pacman -S --noconfirm --needed base-devel

Add a user

touch /etc/skel/.zshrc
groupadd sudo
useradd -m $USER -g $GROUP -G sudo -s /usr/bin/zsh
echo "%sudo ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL" > /etc/sudoers.d/$USER

Update password

passwd $USER

Install pikaur

git clone https://aur.archlinux.org/pikaur.git
cd pikaur
makepkg -fsri

Some more helpers

Some more helpers I’d always like to keep around

pikaur -S --noconfirm ctags oh-my-zsh-git ripgrep fzf bat tmux

git default config

Since we’ll be using git, you’ll need to define some initial config

git config --global user.email <email>
git config --global user.name "<name>"
git config --global init.defaultBranch master
git config --global pull.rebase true


Import stubs from yubikey

Install and enable smart card reader:

pikaur -S ccid
systemctl enable pcscd
systemctl start pcscd

Fetch keys from card

gpg --edit-card
> fetch
> quit

Get the key id

KEYID=$(gpg --with-colons --fingerprint | awk -F: '$1 == "fpr" {print $10;}' | head -n1)

Update the trust of the key

gpg --edit-key $KEYID
> trust
> 5
> quit

Enable ssh-agent using gpg-agent (temporarily; the final zshrc file will contain the proper setup)

export SSH_AUTH_SOCK="$(gpgconf --list-dirs agent-ssh-socket)"

Tell the gpg-agent to prompt on the current TTY:

gpg-connect-agent updatestartuptty /bye


Install pass

pikaur -S pass

Init pass

pass init $KEYID
pass git remote add origin git@gitlab.com:<repo>
pass git pull
pass git reset --hard origin/master


pikaur -S yadm
yadm clone git@gitlab.com:<repo>

At this point, I have all the minimum tools I would use for my daily work.


Even though I would spend most of my life on the command line, I also a graphical environment to work in.

I’m not going to delve to deeply into that, since I mostly prefer vanilla gnome3 for that, combined with gdm for a login manager.

Closing thoughts

My initial goal was to find a way of completely automating my initial installs, but in the end I figured this wasn’t what I really needed, because:

  1. distro-specific: I don’t always run on the same distro, so not everything is portable
  2. other requirements: for unattended installs (servers), I don’t want / need to copy all my secrets on there (albeit encrypted or not)
  3. outdated: for my daily driver install, I have no need to often keep on reprovisioning my install. By the time I would have a need to reprovision, a lot of the setup has probably changed, so it makes more sense to (vaguely) document some of the basic steps instead of a fully automated machine image.