Install KiCad on Arch Linux

I’ve been using KiCad on and off for a few years now. I like KiCad reasonably well but it doesn’t always play well with Mac OS X so I usually run it in a Linux Virtual Machine. Here are the install steps for Arch Linux assuming that the X Windows System, graphical interface environment, is already installed.

Screen capture of KiCad running on Arch Linux inside Virtual Box on Mac OS X

KiCad running on Arch Linux inside Virtual Box on Mac OS X

Install Instructions

# Update Pacman and download dependencies
sudo pacman -Syy
sudo pacman -S cmake bzr wxgtk glew

# Configure bzr username... 
# Even though I would prefer not to...
bzr whoami paretech

# Change into Arch User Repository download directory 
# or wherever the download should go.
cd ~/aur

# Download Bzr Tools (includes the necessary Bzr Patch plugin)
curl --remote-name

tar -xzvf bzrtools.tar.gz

cd bzrtools

# Inspect PKGBUILD first!

sudo pacman -U bzrtools*.xz

# Download Kicad AUR and name file same as remote name
curl --remote-name

tar -xzvf kicad-bzr.tar.gz

cd kicad-bzr

# Inspect PKGBUILD first!

sudo pacman -U kicad-bzr*.xz

That’s all there is to it on Arch. Good luck on your next PCB and Happy Hacking!


Hacking Apple Headphones for Assistive Technology

A while back I took opportunity to hack together a piece of Assistive Technology (AT) for a good friend of mine using a damaged pair of Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic. The first version, pictured on the right, is constructed with a three button array found on ebay.

The second version, pictured at the bottom, is constructed with large arcade buttons from Sparkfun and a custom enclosure that I made with sheet metal, a breaker bar and pop (blind) rivets. This version should be easier to use than the first as it has larger softer buttons, less dangling wires and a case that can withstand being squished between an electric wheel chair and a door frame.


If you are interested in what is inside the Apple Earphone controller, there is a wonderful tear down post.Image



Install Arch Linux as VirtualBox Guest OS

When I was an intern at Sandia National Laboratories I was introduced to the concept of using virtual machines to sandbox my projects. I have found this to be very helpful for many software experiments and development environments. I even use virtual machines to run my day-to-day Linux install. Here I give my notes on how to use Virtual Box to run an Arch Linux guest install on Mac OS X. Once a base install is complete it’s easy to make snapshots and spin up and destroy clones from the base install as needed.

Create New Virtual Machine

  • Download Arch Linux ISO Live CD

  • Create VirtualBox Disk Image (VDI) with desired settings.

  • Load the Arch Linux ISO as a CD/DVD image and select the “Boot Arch” option when the live CD boots.

Partition the drive(s)

# gdisk /dev/sda

Name Cmd # Start Stop Code Type
Boot n 1 0 +250M 8300 (Linux Filesystem)
Swap n 2 0 +2G 8200 (Linux Swap)
Root n 3 0 -0M 8300 (Linux Filesystem)
  • Use the n command and values (above) to create partitions using gdisk.
  • Print the the gdisk partition table with the p command.
  • Write the gdisk partition table with the w command.

Install and Configure System

# Format Partitions
mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda1
mkswap /dev/sda2
mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda3

# Mount Partitions
mount /dev/sda3 /mnt

mkdir /mnt/boot
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot

swapon /dev/sda2

# Configure Mirrors

# Install Base System
pacstrap /mnt base base-devel linux

# Generate File System Table
genfstab -p /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab

# Set hostname
echo 'myarch' > /etc/hostname

# Change Root Directory
arch-chroot /mnt

# Configure language
echo LANG="en_US.UTF-8" >> /etc/locale.conf
echo LC_COLLATE="C" >> /etc/locale.conf
echo LC_TIME="en_US.UTF-8" >> /etc/locale.conf
echo "en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8" >>/etc/locale.gen


ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/America/New_York /etc/localtime
hwclock --systohc --utc

# Generate Ram Disk
mkinitcpio -p linux

# Install and Configure Bootloader
pacman -S syslinux gdisk
syslinux-install_update -iam

# Exit CHROOT, Unmount Drives and Reboot
umount -R /mnt

Post Install

The following isn’t really intended to be executed as a script.

# Setup Network
systemctl start dhcpcd
systemctl enable dhcpcd

# Virtual Box Guest Utilities
pacman -S virtualbox-guest-utils --noconfirm

modprobe -a vboxguest vboxsf vboxvideo

echo vboxguest >> /etc/modules-load.d/virtualbox.conf
echo vboxsf >> /etc/modules-load.d/virtualbox.conf
echo vboxvideo >> /etc/modules-load.d/virtualbox.conf

groupadd vboxsf

systemctl enable vboxservice
systemctl start vboxservice

# X Windows System
pacman -S xorg-server xorg-server-utils xorg-xinit xterm ttf-dejavu --noconfirm

pacman -S awesome

# User Configuration
pacman -S sudo --noconfirm

# use visudo to add  under "User privilege specification" before
# using sudo as 

# Replace user_name with desired user name.
useradd -m -g users -G optical,power,storage,vboxsf -s /bin/bash user_name

chown root.vboxsf /media

# Set  password using "# passwd "
# Set root password using "# passwd"

# Update Packages and System
pacman -Syy
pacman -Syu

Per User Config

Configuration for users other than root.

echo /usr/bin/VBoxClient-all >> ~/.xinitrc
echo "exec awesome" >> ~/.xinitrc

ln -s /media/sf_share_name/* ~/share_name