Making Raspberry Pi usable


After 8 months of using RPi, I decided to make second version of this tutorial for same people as I’m - who looks for easy, understandable way to make RPi as awesome as possible. Several things have changed since last realease of this tutorial, so I decided to rewrite some parts and also to delete some parts which are not necessary today.

In this tutorial I will walk you through whole process of making from Raspberry Pi secure, reliable, efficient, fast and easy to maintain server for variable purposes as is FTP, web hosting, sharing... All that thanks to Arch Linux ARM operating system. The device will be “headless” - it means, there will be no fancy windows etc., just command line. Don’t be scared, I will walk you through and you’ll thank me then :) . You don’t need some special knowledge about computers and linux systems.

What you get

From “bare” RPi you’ll get:

  • Safely to connect to your RPi from anywhere
  • Possibility of hosting web pages, files, etc.
  • Readable and reliable system (it will do what you want and nothing more)

What you will need

  • Raspberry Pi (doesn’t matter which model) with power supply
  • SD Card as a main hardisk for RPi
  • SD Card reader on computer with internet access
  • Ethernet LAN cable or USB Wi-Fi bundle
  • Other computer (preferably with linux, but nevermind if you use Windows or Mac)
  • Possibility to physically get to your router and know credentials to login to it (or have contact to your network administrator :) )
  • Few hours of work

What you don’t need

  • Monitor or ability to connect RPi to some monitor
  • Keyboard or mouse connected to your RPi


So you have just bare RPi, SD card, power supply, ethernet cable (RJ-45). So let’s start! There are houndreds of guides, but I haven’t found them satisfaing.

Installing Arch Linux ARM to SD card

Go here, choose installation and make first 3 steps. That’s it! You have done it. You have you Arch Linux ARM SD card :)

Little networking

I guess you probably have some of “home router” (“box with internet”) and when you want to connect e.g by Wi-Fi with your laptop or mobile phone, it just connects (after inserting password). You need to test first what happens, when you try to connect by ethernet cable, for example with your laptop. Turn off Wi-Fi and check it. Did your computer connects to the network (or even internet) as usuall?

If yes, it is great! You can procced. It is what we need - we need RPi, when it boots up, to automatically connect to the network. Then we will able to connect to it. You will need one more thing to find out - which IP address does router assign to you when you connect by cable - it is very probable that RPi will get very similiar. Don’t be afraid - it is easy to get IP address. On modern systems, one command :) .

Ok, now you have to insert SD card to RPi and connect it to your router with ethernet cable and then turn RPi on by inserting power supply. The diods start flashing. Now back to your computer and we will try to connect it using SSH. SSH is just “magic power” which enables to connect to another computer.

RPi is already ready and waits for SSH connection. How to use SSH is supereasy - you will find a tons of tutorials on the internet (keywords: how to use ssh). IP address is the probably the one you assigned before. It will be something like this: 192.168.0.x, or similar. Next thing you need is username. It’s just “root” (and password also).

If your RPi haven’t got this address (ssh is not working), than there are two options.

  1. You will login to your router settings and find out list of all connected devices with IP addresses and try them.
  2. Use nmap to find active devices in your network.

Example You have this address assigned: Then you have to type (in linux): ssh root@

You should now end up in RPi console.

Enough of networking for now. We’ll set a proper network configuration later in this guide, but first some musthaves.

First setup

This is covered over the internet, so I will just redirect you. elinux - from this guide finish these parts (in RPi console):

  • Change root password
  • Modify system files
  • Mount extra partitions (if you don’t know what it is, nevermind)
  • Update system
  • Install sudo
  • Create regular user account

My usuall procedure (which is strongly related to my needs!):

passwd  # change root password to something important
rm -rf /etc/localtime  # dont care about this
ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Prague /etc/localtime  # set appropriate timezone
echo "my_raspberry" >  /etc/hostname  # set name of your RPi

useradd -m -aG wheel -s /usr/bin/bash common_user #
groupadd webdata  # for sharing
useradd -M -aG webdata -s /usr/bin/false nginx
usermod -aG webdata common_user

visudo  # uncomment this line:  %wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL

pacman -Syu

That’s enough for now. Logout from ssh (type exit) and connect again, but as user who was created. Similiar to previous: ssh common_user@ip.address. From now, you’ll need to type “sudo” in front of every command, which is possibly danger. I will warn you in next chapter.

We must be sure that after reboot RPi will reconnect.

Now try if you are connected to the internet. Type ping If you don’t see ping: unknown host it’s good! If you do, your internet connection is not working. Try to find out why - unfortunately it is not possible to solve it here.

Warning Try also ping It may not work even pinging worked. The reason is bad DNS servers (doesn’t matter what it is). To solve this you have to find “DNS servers of your IPS”. Try to google it. If you find them, add them to resolv.conf.

Reboot you rpi using systemctl reboot. You must be able to connect to it again after one minute. If not, somthing is wrong... In that case, you need to find out why connection stoped working - if you have keyboard and monitor, you can repair it. If not, you can try to edit mistake on other computer by inserting SD card. Otherwise, reinstall...

Installing some sugar candy

For our purpouses we will install usefull things, which will help as maintaing the system. So, run this: pacman -S vim zsh wget ranger htop lynx

Do you see:

error: you cannot perform this operation unless you are root.

Then you need to type sudo pacman -S .... I will not write it in future and it is not in other guides. So sometimes you might be confused whel you’ll read some tutorials and autor implicitly use sudo without mentioning it.

We will also need these in next chapters: pacman -S nginx sshguard vsftpd

You can notice that is really few packages! And thats true! Isn’t it great? No needs of tons of crap in your device.

What are these? Just short summary - you can find more about it in manual pages (man <name_of_pacakge>) or find something usefull on the internet. * vim - powerfull text editor (that’s what you will do 99% of time). First few days are horrible, but keep using it :) . * zsh - doesn’t matter. Just install it and install this * wget - just for downloading things without browser * ranger - file manager (you can browse files, folders...) * htop - task manager - you can see what tasks are running, how much CPU/MEM is used, kill processes and so on * lynx - browser - no kidding :)

Some configurations

I assume you installed zsh with oh-my-zsh (changed your shell) and also vim. You are connected as created user (from now, I will name him bob). You are in Bob’s home directory - check it with typing pwd. It will print /home/bob.

Make vim usable

Edit .vimrc file: vim .vimrc and insert this:

syntax on
set number
set ruler
set nocompatible
set ignorecase
set backspace=eol,start,indent
set whichwrap+=<,>,h,l
set smartcase
set hlsearch
set incsearch
set magic
set showmatch
set mat=2
set expandtab
set smarttab
set shiftwidth=4
set tabstop=4
set lbr
set tw=500
set ai
set si
set wrap
set paste
set background=dark
vnoremap <silent> * :call VisualSelection('f')<CR>
vnoremap <silent> # :call VisualSelection('b')<CR>

it will customize vim a bit, so it will be easier to edit files in it.


Journaling is one of the most important things you need to have. It just record everything systemd does. It is part of systemd quite customizable. We will save journals in memory, because of limited wear of SD cards. We will also compress them and then limit size for them on 40 MB.

Open file /etc/system/journal.conf and uncomment these lines:


Network configuration

For reasons I will mention in future, we need to set RPi to connect with static ip. This will assure that the IP address of RPi will be still the same and you can connect it. Right now is probably getting automatically assigned IP address from router (it’s called dhcp).

We will use systemd-networkd.

Type ip addr. It should shows something like this:

1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default
    link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00
    inet scope host lo
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
2: ifb0: <BROADCAST,NOARP> mtu 1500 qdisc noop state DOWN group default qlen 32
    link/ether 22:2b:20:5b:8e:b0 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
3: ifb1: <BROADCAST,NOARP> mtu 1500 qdisc noop state DOWN group default qlen 32
    link/ether 6a:68:fb:64:2f:c3 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
4: eth0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc pfifo_fast state UP group default qlen 1000
    link/ether b8:27:eb:2d:25:18 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global eth0
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

you are interested just in name eth0. If it is there, it is ok. In future versions of system it can change to something other, for example enp0s1. Don’t be afraid of it and just use that instead in next chapters.

In this part you’ll need to get address of your router. How to obtain it?

And how to choose static address? As you know your router is assigning IP address automatically (it is called DHCP). But not randomly in full range. It has some range of IP addresses which it can assign. Standard is this: router has standard IP adress and assign addresses from to Second standard is for router and it assignes addresses from to But it can be anything else.

Interesting - and what the hell should you do that? I suggest to set one the address on the end from this range. You can notice, that my “eth0” has IP address

Open this file /etc/systemd/network/ (how? just use vim as in the previous - but don’t forgot to use sudo in front of vim, or you’ll not be able to save it!) and paste this:



my example:



Now you need to remove old non-static default profile /etc/systemd/network/ Move it to your home folder just to be safe if something didn’t work.

Try to restart RPi and try to SSH again. If you just can’t connect, try to find out if RPi hadn’t connected at all or it just doesn’t use IP specified IP address (try to ssh to old IP, look into your router DHCP table, nmap...). If you want to get it back, just turn off RPi (plug off the power cable), take out SD card, plug in to your PC, move from home directory to /etc/systemd/network/, turn RPi back and try it again.

If you successfuly connected, check how is systemd-networkd doing. To find out, type: systemctl status systemd-networkd. Does it shows “active (running)” and something like gained carrier?

â systemd-networkd.service - Network Service
   Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/system/systemd-networkd.service; enabled)
   Active: active (running) since Wed 2014-06-11 18:42:13 CEST; 2 weeks 1 days ago
     Docs: man:systemd-networkd.service(8)
 Main PID: 213 (systemd-network)
   Status: "Processing requests..."
   CGroup: /system.slice/systemd-networkd.service
           ââ213 /usr/lib/systemd/systemd-networkd

Jun 17 17:52:01 smecpi systemd-networkd[213]:             eth0: lost carrier
Jun 17 17:52:02 smecpi systemd-networkd[213]:             eth0: gained carrier


You’ve maybe noticed that time is quite weird on your RPi. It is beacuse it does not have real hardware clock. Every time RPi is waken up, it thinks that is June 1970. You don’t have to care about it, but after boot it would be fine that time is correctly set. You can do it by using really great part of systemd. Go ahead and check service that takes care about that: systemctl status systemd-timesyncd.

Configuring SSH

We will open RPi to world and in that case we need to secure it a bit. Service, which takes care about SSH is called sshd. “Where” it is? It is runned by systemd, so systemctl status sshd will show you some info :). We will configure it a bit. This is not necessary, but highly recommended! Brutal force attacks are really common (hundreds every day on my little unimportant server).

Open file /etc/ssh/sshd_config and edit or add these lines as follows:

Port 1234
PermitRootLogin no
PubkeyAuthentication yes

that’t enough. Restart sshd systemctl restart sshd.

Since now, you cannot login as a root by ssh and thats good. Also - we changed the port of ssh. Think about “port” as a tunnel, which is used for ssh. There are about 60 thousands of them and you can choose whatever you want. As default there is port 22 used for ssh. We now changed that to (example) 1234. It is because on port 22 there is to big chance that someone will try to brutal force your credentials.

Since now, only ssh bob@ipadress is not enough. You will have to add port which should be used (in default is assumed port 22). ssh -p 1234 bob@ip.address will do it for you :) .

If you want to be really safe, the next thing you want to do is set up sshguard. More about it here. You don’t need more :) . Just remember to use your port (in my case 1234) for settings. Personally I stopped to use it, since just changing port what SSH use was enough to reduce uninvited connections.

It is anoying still typing same username and password when we want to connect to RPi. And now, we have to add “-p 1234” also. We will make it automatic. Here is quite good guide how to do it. On PC from which you are connecting (no RPi), edit ~/.ssh/config to this:

Host my_superpc
  HostName ipaddressofRPi
  IdentityFile /home/yourusername/.ssh/name_of_identityfile
  User bob
  port 1234

since now, when you wan’t to connect to RPi you can just type ssh my_superpc and it will take care about rest.


You can live without that, but you shouldn’t! It makes you more productive and you don’t need to be afraid of some mishmash caused by accidently closing terminal during update or lossing connection. Learn more about what the screen is (here, here and here), install it (pacman -S screen), use it and love it.

It can be handy to automatically ssh into screen sesion. For that I use this command (from PC I want to connect to RPi):

ssh my_superpc -t screen -dRS "mainScreen". You can make some alias to something shorter (for example adding this to alias ssh_connect_RPI="ssh my_superpc  -t screen -dRUS mainScreen" in .zshrc). Now all you need to do is type ssh_connect_RPI - it here is now screen created, it will create new one. If it is, it will attach it.

Speeding RPi up

Arch Linux ARM for RPi is prepared to be tweaked. And now it is possible to speed RPi up by overclocking it’s processor without avoiding your waranty. How to do it? Just edit file /boot/config.txt and find this part:


now comment it out. That means to add “#” in front of every line. From now, it will be treated as text and not command. It will look like this:


and now uncoment this:


After next boot your RPi will be able to get even to the 1000 MHz. That means it is faster.

Other tweaks of /boot/config.txt

Since you don’t need any of gpu memory - which cares about shiny things like windows etc., you can disable it in favor of the rest of memory which we use. Don’t do this if you want to use monitor.


Making RPi visible from outside

Now we need to configure access from outside. You will need to configure you router. You have to make a “port forwarding”. Remember port from ssh? I told you to think about them as a tunnels. These tunnels are also handy when you need to find out what is on there end.

What we will do here is this: We want to be able from anywhere on the internet connect to our RPi server.

Example? ssh -p 1234 You know? There is definetely not your local address (the one with 192.168...). There must be your “public” IP address (more about this in Domains - take a look there). But this public address points to your router (if you are lucky). Where does it go next?

With every request there is also a port. With command ssh smt, you are sending username, port (standard 22, if not otherwise stated) and IP address. Ip address redirect it to router. Now router takes port and looks to it’s internal database. In this database are pairs: port - internal_ipaddress. For some port there is IP address, which it redirects to. In another worlds: if router gets some request from specific port (say, 1234) and it has in it’s database IP address

to which it has to redirect, it redirects this request there. In our case, we need to redirect these ports we want (for example 1234 for ssh) to RPi. So find a port forwarding settings for your router (this might be helpful) and set there port forward from port you setted for ssh to RPi. You can check if your port is open (it means it accepts requests here.

Since now, you can ssh from anywhere.


Setting up nginx

Similiar to ssh handling sshish requests, Nginx is handling almost everything else and even... WebServers! Install nginx with pacman -S nginx. For security reasons create special user for it, for example using: useradd -m -G wheel -s /usr/bin/zsh nginx and also group groupadd webdata. Now create some folder for it. It can be mkdir /var/www/ and now make them owners chown nginx:webdata /var/www. Of course, enable and start nginx.

systemctl enable nginx. It will start after boot.

Now port forward port number 80 to RPi on your router.

Open /etc/nginx/nginx.conf, it can looks like this:

user nginx;
worker_processes  1;

error_log  /var/log/nginx/error.log warn;

events {
    worker_connections  1024;

http {
    include       mime.types;
    default_type  application/octet-stream;
    server_names_hash_bucket_size 64;

    sendfile        on;

    keepalive_timeout  15;

        listen  80;
        server_name ~^*)$;

        location / {
            root   /var/www/$1;
            index  index.html index.htm;


next, create /var/www/test/index.html:

    <title>Sample "Hello, World" Application</title>
  <body bgcolor=white>

    <table border="0" cellpadding="10">
          <h1>Sample "Hello, World" Application</h1>

    <p>This is the home page for the HelloWorld Web application. </p>
    <p>To prove that they work, you can execute either of the following links:
      <li>To a <a href="/">JSP page</a>.
      <li>To a <a href="/">servlet</a>.


where should be your public address. This will do this: when you type in your browser “youripaddress/test:80”, you should see index Hello world example. Try that without :80 - it will do the same! Default port for webpages is 80 (similiar to 22 for SSH). So it can be omited.


This will cover the most easy solution for FTP. Don’t use this configuration in real, just for test purpouses. If you didn’t download vsftp, do it now by pacman -S vsftp. Now we will create some directory where all files and users will end up after connecting. Let it be in /var/www/test. Now edit /etc/vsftpd.conf and add on the top this line:


and make sure that this line is uncommented:


and just start it: systemctl start vsftpd.

Now we’ll tell nginx about that. Add this to servers confs in /etc/nginx/nginx.conf.

    listen  80;
    server_name ~^*)$;
    location / {
        ssi on;
        root   /var/www/$1;
        index  index.html index.htm;

where you need to replace IP address in server_name directive to your public IP.

What this little configuration does? It’s simple. Every time you type to your brower your IP address and somthing behind it, it will transfer you to this “something” in /var/www/.

Example I created index.html here /var/www/example/index.html. I now type to my browser and voila!

This nginx configuration isn’t neccessary in our ftp example (it could be simpler), but I just like it...

You can now connect to ftp by typing this in your browser: ftp://your_ip_address or use your favorite FTP client (e.g. filezilla).

CAUTION - again, don’t use this settings as default. There are great guides on the internet how to grant access only some users, password protected etc.

System analyzing and cleaning

Use your friend systemd-analyze. It will show you which units load really long time. Also systemctl status is great for finding failed units.

Disable things that you dont need

I guess you don’t use ipv6 (if you don’t know what it is, you don’t need it :D). systemctl disable ip6tables. In case you use sshguard, you need also edit file /cat /usr/lib/systemd/system/sshguard.service and from Wants delete ip6tables.service.

Usefull utilites

Simple to use, just install them and run:

  • nmon - for internet usage
  • htop - for disk usage


Your RPi is maybe running 24/7, so why not to use it for torrents? But how, when there is no GUI? It’s pretty simple. We will use transmission - popular torrent client. Install it by pacman -S transmission-cli Installation should create a new user and group, called transmission. To check that, you can take a look to /etc/passwd and /etc/group. transmission will be runned by systemd. Let’s see it it’s service file is configured properly. Check /usr/lib/systemd/system/transmission.service:

Description=Transmission BitTorrent Daemon

ExecStart=/usr/bin/transmission-daemon -f --log-error
ExecReload=/bin/kill -s HUP $MAINPID


User=transmission is important here (for security reasons). Next thing we need to do is check, if transmission has place where it will live. By default it is in /var/lib/transmission(-daemon). In this dir should be also config file settings.json. There lays configuration for it.Edit it ass you wish. It is covered here and here. Maybe you’ll need to forward ports as we did in previous chapters, you should make that again without problems :) . No we can run transmission daemon by systemctl start transmission. Now you can give it commands using transmission-remote . The most usefull (and that’s all I need to know and use :) ) are these:

  • transmission-remote <port> -a "magnetlink/url" - adds torrent and starts download it
  • transmission-remote <port> -l - list all torrents that are currently running

files should be stored in /var/lib/transmission/Downloads. It can be configured in config file :) .


For backups I choosed rdiff-backup. It’s so stupid but works (almost) as expected. More about it’s usage you can find in it’s manual pages. For my example I’ll redirect you to dir with configs in this repo. These are inserted to cron (you have it by default installed) to do SSH backup every day in 4AM. If I’m on local network I also do backup to my disc on other PC.


That’s all for now! I will see if this is used by someone and than I will see if I will continue.


  • RPi don’t boot - unplug everything from USB ports (there may be not enough of power to boot up and supply USB)