Another Day Another Distro – Part 6 – Slackware 12

After my positive experience of Debian it was time to move on and this time I chose Slackware 12 to try out. I didn’t know anything about Slackware going into it and I certainly didn’t know what I was getting myself into, “fools rush in” as they say. I certainly did. Slackware was an effort to say the least, I spent a couple of days with it. So, here’s what happened on my Slackware adventure…

A Little Background:
As I’ve said I really didn’t know anything about Slackware before this and it was something of a black spot in my Linux knowledge, not the only one as you will probably have guessed. I’d never even heard anything about it and I assumed it would be an easy distro to use because the term “slacker” usually means someone who likes to take life easy, boy was I wrong. When I started this project to try out different distros I decided to leave Gentoo out because while I know how fast and powerful it can be I wanted to focus on the more user friendly distros to start with. I stupidly thought Slackware would be in that category but now people are advising me that if I want an easier option I should go for Gentoo. I suppose the moral is “look before you leap”.

Intallation:
My first clue that this wasn’t going to be easy came right at the start of the install, you have to do everything in the terminal and while I’m not a Linux guru by any stretch of the imagination, I wasn’t phased so I pressed on. I set up some preliminary options like keyboard language and so on using the green screen menus. Something of a flashback to my youth “where’s the cassette drive?” I thought but enough said about that. I was greeted with a terminal and a login prompt advising me to login as root, so I typed “root” at the prompt and left the password blank, this logged me in and I then had to type the command “setup” to start the installer. Expecting a system to start an installer automatically for you when you boot the install CD would be far to simple of course, don’t be stupid πŸ˜‰ I could see this was going to take a while and I wasn’t wrong.

I spent at least half an hour navigating my way through the various green screen prompts and solving what seemed more like logic puzzles than an install wizard, until I was finally ready to install the system. It was like some kind of aptitude test before you can proceed and I suspect a lot of people like it this way. I set the installer in motion and watched as a succession of green screens flew by telling me about each and every package that was being installed. It took about 15-20mins which is not a massive amount of time and then prompted me to press CTRL+ALT+DEL to reboot, I also removed the CD.

THE FLICKR SLIDESHOW
Please note: The slideshow only includes some of the install screens and not all of them simply because the sheer volume was too much.

Configuring The System:
Upon reboot the system kept freezing after I chose Linux from the LILO boot manager menu, at first I was a little stumped by this but then I had an idea. I typed “Linux noapic” at the boot prompt and thankfully this worked. It seems the old APIC problem with my motherboard had raised it’s ugly head again. Most distributions have this problem when booting the initial installer on my machine but not after, it seemed with Slackware every time I booted I would have to do this. I could of course modify the entries in the LILO boot manager configuration files to prevent this but it all seemed a little over the top to me.

I got the system booted and was expecting to see the KDE splash screen, no such luck. I got the terminal login prompt again. At this point I gave up trying to do this on my own and got hold of a backup machine to search the net for help. I found this guide on HowToForge.com and it was a real life saver.

THE HOWTOFORGE.COM GUIDE

I followed the guide and it helped me to add a user account and set up ALSA in the terminal before using the “startx” command to start KDE, which I then also had to configure. I was told by a few people that Slackware used to ship without any window manager at all so I guess I should be thankful for small mercies. I configured KDE and got into the desktop, thinking that I must be on the home straight by now… wrong!!! I decided to update the system with security patches and so on. In most distributions that would involve no more than choosing a mirror to download the packages possibly and letting the update manager do it’s thing. In Slackware YOU are the update manager it seems. You have to subscribe to a mailing list to get notifications of new updates and then you manually install them on the system. Slackware 12 was released in July this year and I installed it at the end of October so there were about 20 updates to do manually, one by one. This took me ages and I do mean ages, if I hadn’t already had a beard at the start of this process I certainly would have done by the end. Nevertheless I’m not a quitter and I continued on installing all the patches until it was done.

The display resolution was 1024×768 and after seeing how everything else is done in Slackware I assumed fixing that would involve getting the binary Nvidia drivers from the company website and installing them manually before editing my Xorg.conf file. I’m sure Slackware advocates will be reading this and thinking “what’s wrong with that? It only takes 15mins. What’s he complaining about??!!!” you may be right and I have no doubt that a hardened Slackware commando could do this in a flash (probably while under fire) but sadly that’s not me. I just couldn’t face it and I decided to just put up with the resolution rather then spend a few hours trying to fix it. I had to squint a bit to read the text at times though πŸ™‚



I continued to work my way though the guide and it was heavy work but I got some things installed and managed to remove Koffice before installing OpenOffice.org from source. I also got Skype installed from the Slackbuilds.org website and a couple of other things. The package manager in Slackware doesn’t deal with dependencies it seems and you almost always end up having to build the packages yourself by getting the slackbuild scripts and using them to compile the source code. I don’t understand this system at all, I managed to do it a few times and I even got faster at it but to me it seemed like a massive waste of time and effort. What use is a package manager that can’t handle dependencies? Honestly it’s about as much use as a chocolate teapot. I’m sorry, I know people won’t like me saying that but it’s the way I feel.

I found for some reason I couldn’t open DVD discs or any external hard discs which were mounted. I kept getting this error screen:



It prevented me from getting my files off the external drives to test things but I did manage to download some mp3 files from the web to at least see if it would play them. I can report that it did but I never tested video playback. I’d been going at this for a few hours and I was fast losing the will to live by this point. So I just switched the machine off for the night. I did come back the next day and spend another whole afternoon and evening banging my head against the screen trying to get things working but in the end I’d just had enough. Like I said I’m no quitter and very few things beat me but I really couldn’t take any more, 2 days with Slackware was enough for me. I wanted to give it a really good go so nobody could say I hadn’t tried it properly but it seems I failed in the end. I’m sad to admit that but it’s true. I was left flailing my fist in the air and shouting “I’ll get you next time Slackware!!!” which can draw some attention to you in a crowded area I realized.

Conclusions:
As you can tell I had a rough time with Slackware and it seemed even things which I believe should be simple took too much time and effort to achieve. I get the impression that Slackware is supposed to be hard. I think maybe it’s meant to be an intelligence test or something, one which I failed I have to admit. I just couldn’t see me ever wanting to run this day to day as my main desktop, I’m sure it could be configured properly after a lot of work and I don’t know how well it would run after that, it might be great I can’t say. For me though it just didn’t work sadly.

I know a lot of people really love Slackware and that’s great I’m not knocking it, it’s just not for me. I don’t want you to think I’m just bashing it indiscriminately, it has plenty of things going for it as a distribution. If you like a challenge and you’re prepared to work then maybe it will suit you. The most appropriate analogy I can think of for this involves cars, I know nothing about cars and I readily admit that. I know a lot of people like stripping engines and getting oil on them and that’s great, it’s not my thing though. To me Slackware is the equivalent of having to build your own car piece by piece just to go to the shops and I’m sorry I don’t want to do that. At times it seemed to me like I’d accidentally slipped through a wormhole and somehow I was installing Linux in 1995. It shouldn’t have to be this hard but if you want it to be then good for you.

I think possibly the fact that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into has influenced my opinion, rightly or wrongly. I can’t blame the software for my lack of research of course and I tried not to. As I said lots of people love Slackware and I respect them for that, it’s their choice and I hope they have fun, I honestly do. If you run Slackware and you think I’m an idiot that’s great, more power to you. I think this distribution is like Marmite in a way, you either love it or hate it, it seems to divide people. The system obviously has it strengths in that it’s highly customizable and you can have full control over every aspect of it, I also suspect that compiling every little bit of software for your system rather than installing pre built packages could have some performance benefits. Kind of like getting a tailor made suit instead of buying off the rack. I didn’t notice any particular speed increases over other distributions to be honest but it was a little difficult to see clearly though my tears. If you like a challenge and you are curious to try Slackware then go for it by all means, you never know you might like it. Just be aware what you are taking on. After all some people like Marmite… apparently.

To boil all this down into one sentence, here are a few possible slogans I came up with for Slackware: “Slackware: It won’t kill you… but it’ll have a bloody good go!!” – “Slackware: For Those Who Think Gentoo Is Aimed At Newbs”

…and finally: “Slackware: It’s About As Easy As Pushing A Pea Up Everest With Your Nose” πŸ™‚

Moving On…
So that’s it for Slackware and I’m moving on to pastures new. I’m about to install the newly released Sabayon 1.1 Professional and I’m anxious to see what that’s like. I’ve used an earlier release of the distro but it was only on a virtual machine and I’d like to see how it performs in a full install. Stay tuned for more adventures soon πŸ™‚

Posted in Review
60 comments on “Another Day Another Distro – Part 6 – Slackware 12
  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Dan: Slackware is special. It was the first linux I was able to intall, back in 1998, and back then it was even more difficult, there was no bootable CD (you had to create two floppy disks with a msdos utility called “rawrite” to boot and install linux) then I had to make space in my Win95 OSR2 1’5GB hd disk with something alled FIPS.
    Of course there was nothing like a graphic environment back then, but that forced me to start learning some basic commands, like ls, cd, pwd, etc.
    Slackware 12 is a wonderful improvement compared with those times.
    If something I am sure slackware has given you a taste of how much Gnu/Linux distros have evolved in user-friendlyness from that time to now, for example if you comapre it with the latest (K)Ubuntu, for example.
    There are some strong points for Slackware: For example, being so spartan, it allows for a very small memory footprint, so you can install it on older machines.
    It is also well known for its legendary stability and good security.
    But I must say that maybe it is not the best choice for daily desktop usage, it is probably best suited as a server.
    Another peculiarity of the system is that it inherits some features in common with the BSD family, so, for some BSD die-hard users is their favourite Linux distro.
    I think the experience was worth it for you in order to give you a taste of how things have improved for the average use in Linux. Slackware is also a great way to force yourself to learn the command line.
    All in all is by no means a bad distro (In fact is my second favorite, after Debian), only that you have become accustomed to easier offerings it just seems too hard.
    Best regards:
    David Ballesteros. (Spain)

  2. Dan says:

    Thanks for your comments David. I definitely can see that there are benefits to Slackware if you put the effort in. Stability and security are definitely high and I did find it a very worthwhile experience. On a server it would probably be great I just couldn’t see it being my every day desktop choice and that was what I tried to get across.

    The fact that it had only had 15 or so patches in 2 or 3 months since release shows that it must be a stable and secure system. I just don’t think it’s right for the home user, that’s all. It’s obviously a popular OS with a long history and I respect that πŸ™‚

  3. BΓ©ranger says:

    Noatun? Why not gxine-0.5.11?

  4. Dan says:

    It wasn’t a conscious decision to use that player I just double-clicked the file in Konqueror and it played in Noatun. I could have used Amarok or something like that to setup my music collection I suppose.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dan: You are right it is not the best distro for the average home user, I agree with you completely.
    Also, the lack of a package manager is a challenge: I think there is something called slapt-get that mimicks the apt-get system of the Debian family, but I must confess I have not tried it.
    Thanks for your series of “another day another distro” , it is a refreshing perspective when it comes to distro reviews!, I’ll keep visiting your site!!!
    Best wishes
    David Ballesteros (Spain)

  6. Anonymous says:

    If you ask me Slackware is the greatest distro for several things. It the greatest to learn Linux, it’s the greatest to be in control, it’s probably the fastest distro with KDE.

    Slackware keeps you alive, prevents you from becoming stupid and, even better, can teach you new things every day if you are willing to learn.

    Only thing that Slackware is not good at is click and run stuff like Alien Arena.

    I started with RedHat and then Fedora but now I’m a Slackware man for several years. I used many distros and installed many servers but somehow Slackware got to be my favorite.

    There are many good distros out there and even though I’m with Slackware I can still like them.

    For portability I like and use NimbleX and for ocassional gaming I like PCLinuxOS.

  7. Javier says:

    Slackware is as another blogger said “special” :D, It is my favorite distro out of the all the others (no complex package management system (that installs random dependencies :D) no extra $#@^ running just what I want to run :D), I have several things to say to actual article πŸ˜€

    for Audio use Amarok(lol) πŸ˜€ (when in GUI) when in terminal use amp :D, whoever made noatun needs to get poisoned (J/k)

    for video use either (g)mplayer or smplayer (mplayer itself needs to be preconfigured before using as well lol)

    as for that “dvd” error you were getting that is because of security feature, add that user to “plugdev” group (via kuser since you dont seem to like terminal lol (try useradd command I have had troubles useing it :/ but hey im still learning) and then all should be better (also add libdvdcss to play drm enabled dvd’s :/)

    also you may have noticed gtk2 application looks horrible πŸ˜€ run “xfce-mcs-manager” daemon and all should be better :D.
    Slackware is probably the only Linux Distro that “may” even compare to bsd :D, similar in some aspects still fundamentally different. If Slackware made you “tear” try installing openBSD I had nightmares for weeks :D… and get a full featured Desktop running (this is a dare for you).
    as for the package management system hmmm…. well sure sudo apt-get may seem convenient but compiling applications is not that hard either(+ you see everything going on in the background and control everything to a fine print)

    ./configure (add options here :D)
    make
    sudo su (make sure to add user to sudoers file)
    make install
    and done πŸ˜€ (Slackware usually has dependencies already installed :D)

    also you need to configure x before you run KDE, like xorgsetup, xorgconfig run these before running X and you should get better performance (more features enabled).
    It is not the “best” distro for the average user(they should not being using a distro as powerful as this) of course but then again Ubuntu and PCLINUXOS are aimed to fix these “problems” (noobs :D)
    -nycjv321

    so these are my thoughts… for next review(idea for you) do an Excellent Cross-Platform Game (www.wesnoth.org) unless you have already done this :/

  8. Anonymous says:

    I love your blog. keep up the good work. I thought you conclusion for slackware was hilarious. I know because i was felt the same way when i tried slackware. πŸ˜‰

  9. Eric says:

    Well when I heard of your uneducated decision out of thin air to use slack, I just laughed in your face about 1/2 way across America:P Oh well, you should have asked for users feedback first. Even so as as a suggestion for a review you’d be able to handle and probably enjoy is either Arch Linux(My personal ND favourite distro) OR Frugalware(based from slackware with the best package manager in existence). Those distros are the closest in simplicity and flow to slackware pulled into the modern management age of Linux, so here is my suggestion for a more manly/core guru distro that isn’t stupid or too automated.

    It was just so very funny knowing you were going from things/distros like *buntu’s/SuSE’s/PCLinuxOS’s and the sort to SLACKWARE DUDE OMG, lmao what a 180!!!!! I only hope it brought down your irrational ego a couple notches to know your place within the community in a respectful manner.

    Peace πŸ™‚

  10. Anonymous says:

    I must admit that I was impressed at how fearlessly you were going into slackware having read your previous reviews. πŸ™‚

    I’d curious to see what you’d make of Arch Linux.

    At any rate, keep up the good work with the reviews. Sabayon made me appreciate the joy of a fast distro. Never tried anything with so much bloat. I’m amazed at how there can be so much a huge difference between two KDE distros that both brand themselves as absolute bleeding as there is between Sabayon and Sidux as I’m currently running. Brr….

  11. Anonymous says:

    Eric:

    If that’s how you guys of the FOSS community behave, I’m moving over to the dark side. I’d rather be called a Windows troll than be in your company.

  12. Eric says:

    I call my previous comment more in the category of constructive criticism πŸ˜› I think someone should be warned if their getting in over their head, but hey, I’m one for saving much grief and frustration if the opportunity presents itself πŸ™‚

    I’ll agree sure it’s nice to have your own personal opinion, and he now has one, as everyone else is entitled to their own at will as well πŸ˜€

    Sure I may have been slightly rash, but I’m one to make up for someones misunderstanding or hostile understanding of my opinion. But honestly annony, with the trend of the “easier” distros, there’s no way someone can handle such an immense task without proper dipping their toes in first to feel the water, which he sort of just plunged to his death instead of Slack gaining a new devoted convert….

    I’d definitely recommend trying Arch Linux/Frugalware, or my personal favourite; (currently in use 100% on my box) sidux as an up-and-coming review in “Adventures in Open Source” πŸ˜€

  13. Dan says:

    Eric: I will look at Sidux and the others then, thanks for the suggestion. I know of Arch and Frugalware but I’ve never run them so I’ll try them as well πŸ™‚

    As I said many times in the articles I think as long as you run some form of Linux that’s the main thing, I don’t understand all the fighting between distros. There’s only one winner out of that, Microsoft. We have to stick together. That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, of course not but I don’t think religious wars help any of us.

    Thanks for your comments and I have no problem with people disagreeing with me or expressing their own opinion. I’m not claiming to be an expert at all. It’s all good, keep it comimg πŸ™‚

  14. neo_earthling says:

    I like your series, even though your experience may not be my experience. I love freedom and i love everything that is free (of course GNU philosophy “free as in free speech, not as in free beer”). So i never had complaints even though my experiences weren’t positive.:)

    Dan:There’s only one winner out of that, Microsoft.

    Microsoft is a winner because of its business model and not because of its ‘features’. FOSS is not out there to make money.:)

    I feel Linux based os should not be compared to the other os. I have my religion and you have yours.;)

  15. Dan says:

    My comment was not in reference to making money, I know that’s not the goal of the free software movement. The goal is to spred freedom and choice. Fighting amongst ourselves is a waste of time and energy which could be used in promoting all FOSS projects.

    Of course freedom of choice means the freedom to choose Microsoft if you want and that’s fine. My problem is that most people don’t know there is even a choice and that’s the message we need to get out. We should stand together in the FOSS community and not flame each other because I have a different preference to you. “I like Linux and BSD is crap” that kind of thing. That’s all I meant. This kind of attitude and in-fighting is putting people off trying open source software and therefore helping MS that was my point. Nothing to do with turnover, revenue, shareholders or any of that.

    As you said, I have my religion you have yours. That’s cool. I just think people should know there’s a choice, there’s something out there other than Windows, I don’t want to force anything on them. It’s a tricky subject, that’s for sure πŸ™‚

  16. neo_earthling says:

    Yup, got you:)

    I got it initially wrong.

    As you said it, infighting takes us nowhere…

  17. Dan says:

    No problem, thanks for your comments and thank you for taking the time to read this article. I really appreciate it πŸ™‚

  18. Spike Burch says:

    Reviewing slackware is very easy: “exactly the same as slackware 3 but updated”

  19. jpblogger says:

    I am really enjoying this series. Thanks for your honesty, humility, and humour.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I read somewhere that if you know Debian, Fedora, SUSE, etc, you know Debian, Fedora, SUSE. But if you know Slackware you know Linux. It was definitely a big jump however many of its users swear by its stability. Personally it goes to show that you can’t tell a distro by its name…

    This proves the value of sites like http://www.polishlinux.com that provide an overview of distributions.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Hi Dan,
    thanks for the review.

    I like the simplicity of Slackware, but I just wouldn’t use it as a desktop distro. But that’s just me.
    I was surprised to hear from you that installing Slackware still is that difficult.

    If you want the benefits of Slackware without the hassle, just give Zenwalk a try. I use it.
    It doesn’t have a graphical installer (which I don’t care about) and has, at least on my computers, configured everything right, from my network card to xorg.

    The desktop is XFCE but I also installed KDE and it ran perfectly.
    With Zenwalk you can have it all: A Slackware Core for Desktop usage with and easy install.

    Zenwalk also has it’s own repository of Slackware Packages and a package manager that checks for dependencies.
    But of course you can install all the other slackware packages out there the traditional way, no problem.

    I also know about Absolute Linux, but I haven’t tried it yet. I think it’s closer to Slackware than Zenwalk and is designed to run on older hardware.
    Frugalware has already been mentioned.

    So, even within the Slackware based distros, you have the choice and that’s great.

    Thomas

  22. Dan says:

    I will have a look at Zenwalk thanks for the suggestion. As I said I can see there are many advantages to Slackware in stability and security which if I were reviewing it as a server OS would put it right up there. I just think a lot of people have different requirements for their main desktop.

    Another good thing about Slackware as you said is the amount it teaches you about Linux. If you want to get to the heart of Linux and really learn the nuts and bolts of it then it’s a good choice. I was looking at it purely from the point of a main desktop OS for the everyday user which of course is not what it’s aimed at. I can see that now πŸ™‚

  23. Martin says:

    Dear Dan!

    As a long time Slackware user (“long time” is btw. relative when speaking about the oldest surviving Linux distri out there) I really appreciate your efforts to try and test Slackware 12.

    I would like to comment a little bit on what makes Slackware different and why I think this is a good thing (TM).

    First of all, it is essential to know which user group Slackware caters to: advanced users with an optional serious control complex (including yours, truly), people that like / or need to build a lot of packages from sources, folks insisting on unmodified packages (e.g. packages as provided by the resp. developers without distrobution specific patches/modifications), old-timers that feel increasingly lost in OSes like one of the *buntus and folks that have aspirations to join either of the formerly mentioned groups.

    A large segement of this users seem to view – for example – the non-dependency tracking-ootb pkgtools manager as a feature (e.g. pkgtools being agnostic to dependency tracking systems) rather than as a bug. As others have mentioned already, add-ons like swaret and emerde (are they still around?) or slapt-get can be used to rectify this , *if one wants to do so*.

    I don’t blame you for your opinion about Slackware (which would be really uncalled for since you gave Slackware a fair treatment), but in the light of it’s (target) audience I can’t subscribe to your “It shouldn’t have to be this hard” statement.

    In my humble opinion, Slackware is not unnecessarily “hard”, it is different because it’s main focus is not to provide an as-easy-as-possible-point-and-click experience (which is by itself a noble goal and seemingly the main focus for approximately 90%+ of all other distros out there) but rather to place the user 110% in control of the system (which seems to be a far less common objective). And thanks to the team around Patrick Volkerding (“the man” behind Slackware) it does so in a very consistent fashion.

    Some random advices to people trying out Slackware 12 (in addition to the ones already given by other posters):

    – If you have existing configuration files (xorg.conf, menu.lst, …) that work with the given system/hardware then try to save & reuse it. You may have to still download binary drivers for your video card etc. but at least the configuration should work as usual.

    – consider installing grub instead of lilo (grub is located in the extra directory on the DVD iso / 2nd CD iso IIRC), which makes it easier to fiddle with kernel parameters.

    – just in case you have not noticed: you can use wildcards when installing / upgrading packages to speed things up (e.g. installpkg *.tgz in your downloads directory). As long as the depencies of the packages are met, there should be no problems.

    – you can change the default runlevel in /etc/inittab from 3 to 4 (e.g. changing to id:4:initdefault: ) so that kdm / xdm starts automatically (give you have a working xorg setup, of course)

    – download and use documentations like the slackbook (it is also included on the DVD iso IIRC) and howtos to walk you through the installation / configuration. Slackware is extremly straight forward to install, once you know the necessary steps :-). My pet theory is, that what sets the seasoned Slackware user apart from many users of other distributions is not so much the level of knowledge, but the ability and willingness to read through the documentation(s), man pages, etc.

    – Try to get your hands on a Slackware user with experience. The nice thing about Slackware is, that although the system is updated regularly, the basic operation patterns stay more or less the same. People with an experience of > 1-2 releases can very likely guide you through most common difficulties (like the plugdev issue, for example)

    If one is appealed by the principle behind Slackware but simultaneously repelled by the “you are on your own” attitude, it is probably a good idea to give Zenwalk, Vector Linux, Arch Linux and Frugalware a try.

    Best Regards & Thanks for your efforts

    Martin

  24. Dan says:

    Thank you for your comments Martin. I think you may have hit the nail on the head when you say that possibly what sets Slackware users apart is the willingness to read the documentation and man pages. I’m an impatient person by nature at times and I’ve never been very disciplined about reading instruction manuals. It’s always a last resort for me. The might be one of the major reasons why Slackware didn’t work for me.

  25. top.carnivore says:

    I just want to give you a thumbs up for installing and using Slackware and encourage anyone who wants to use Slackware to keep working at it.

    Slackware has been my target flavor since I began using Linux two and a half years ago. I say target because I wasn’t able to install it and get it working to my satisfaction until the latest version.

    Oh, I could install it, but the mouse wouldn’t work properly or X would be a bear to get working or some other problem would arise. So I always installed something easier to use – SUSE (before MS), Fedora, Zenwalk, even Debian. With Slackware 12, though, I have been up to the challenge. I have run into a couple of major problems, but nothing forum postings and persistence couldn’t solve.

    A paid subscription to Slackware has helped me as much as anything. It’s the most economical way to contribute to Pat Volkerding and remain within your budget.

  26. shihad says:

    Dan,

    As a long time “slacker” I have to say that you gave this your best shot, and from your point of view gave a very balanced review of the distro. You analogy about cars in some of your responses to comments were interesting; personally I prefer to go one stage further and see this as the “bikers vs car drivers” where bikers love their bikes and love getting to know every single part of them, whereas car drivers just want something that takes them from A to B. And slackware is that old army bike that if you put in the effort it will run forever. However, you _have_ to know how the bike works πŸ™‚

    Well done mate for giving it a go

  27. Dan says:

    Again thanks to everyone for your comments. I think the Motorbike Vs Car thing is a great analogy. I suppose it all depends what you want out and everyone is different.

  28. icebox says:

    Well,

    After using slackware since 98 I found myself tired of manually configuring, installing and compiling all kind of libraries just to make something work and a bit scared by the number of things that didn’t work on my new laptop I tried to change to a graphic distro and tried ubuntu, kubuntu, fedora, suse and mandrake. Each installed fine and detected all the hardware and than the problems started – I installed some software which triggered 1 gb of dependences, ubuntu was dead after updating kde, fedora was left without wireless after update and so on. The funy thing is I had no ideea why or what the “Β£$% was wrong. In slackware I always knew why something was not working.

    So I decided time is better spent on installing and configuration ONCE, than troubleshooting what happened after a few clicks all the time.

    So back to slack was for me, but I will try arch now.

  29. Marcin says:

    When you figure out Slack, you learn Linux. When you figure out Ubuntu, you learn Ubuntu. Slackware never broke in a way I couldn’t fix it. With Ubuntu (i’m picking on it only as an example of a popular, newer distro) there’s nothing generic and universal about it, it’s all hidden away in some special gui somewhere that requires ruby/python/php and a thousand helping libraries to run. You can fix everything in Slack fix with vi, no matter how many libraries disappeared (it happened!). Yes, there are tradeoffs in pleasantries, but to me it’s an issue of your goals. If you want an effortless desktop, then Slack is probably not the best choice. If you want a box that will not go down, and when it goes down you know how to fix everything < 5 mins, then yes, Slack is a godsend.

  30. Eduardo says:

    Dan, thanks for your Slack review. As a longtime user of Slackware, I have responses for most of your criticisms that were already said by others, so I won’t repeat them. However, let me add two points:

    1. You can get an apt-get like package management. You can use slackpkg, swaret or slapt-get, depending on your preference. Right now I use slackpkg and all that I need to update my system is type at a root prompt:

    slackpkg update && slackpkg upgrade-all

    As for dependency tracking, I also call this a feature, especially when one comes from the old Mandriva/Mandrake/Red Hat camp and was bitten by dependency hell.

    2. As for the term “slacker”, this is true of Slackware. You might need to do some upfront work configuring things to your taste, but once you have done it, Slackware is EXTREMELY low-maintenance. Perfect for lazy guys like me.

    Best regards,

    Eduardo

  31. Anonymous says:

    Nice try, anyway! I tried to explain why Slackies love Slackware here. But I don’t install it on my family’s boxes. Instead I choose a Mandriva or a Debian derivative for them, because that suits their needs. I chose Slackware for myself because I need raw, undiluted power.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I’m another die-hard user of Slackware. For a relative novice with Gnu/Linux systems, whose previous experience has been noob-friendly distros, your experience is pretty predictable. The beauty of Free Software is we all get to make our choices and Slackware is not for everyone.

    Speaking for myself, the one thing I would take issue with is your (presumably tongue-in-cheek) suggestion that the distro is deliberately hard or some kind of test. On the contrary, I believe the intent is to be simple (KISS) and leave decisions to the user rather than making assumptions for them. The difference in philosophy means that Slackware can be very easy to set up and configure as the user chooses : you seem to view the choices as a drawback.

    Others have commented in the past that new users are generally best suited to “friendlier” distros such as Mandrake, in times past, or Ubuntu. When you know what you want from your Gnu/Linux system (and what you don’t want), Slackware permits you to set up that system without the usual wrestling with wizards and dependencies and in considerably less time than build-from-source.

    I still have “moments” with Slackware, because I’m expected to know what I’m doing but I won’t always know. However, once I figure out how to do something on Slackware, setting it up next time (on another box, or for a later version) is generally straightforward.

    As others have mentioned, Slackware particularly appeals to those who are comfortable at the command line e.g. using text editors to set up X or Apache. Slackware encourages the admin to use the system as a tool, not be a tool of it. After a while, using the more controlling distros feels like typing in boxing gloves. Perhaps Slackware is something to swing by once again when you’ve had longer to experience the alternatives. Also, for those who want a more compact and ready-to-wear variant perhaps try Slax, which runs as a Live CD.

    ————————-
    Nigel Whitley

  33. RobDob says:

    Hi Dan, first off my comments are not meant to be on the offensive. I have to say however there is a certain level of negativity in your article. I’m sure at least that you had heard of Slackware as being a more advanced linux yet a lot of your comments are making the assumption that it is meant for beginners. And a lot of your comments seem to be exagerrated.
    “you have to do everything in the terminal” – I had a friend of mine installing Slack without assistance after showing him how to do it once. I’m not sure how much easier an install can get than the Slack install. Once you’ve partitioned your drive ( ok that’s not neccessarily for beginners ), the installer is pretty much a matter of accepting defaults or entering information in clearly described dialogue boxes.
    “system booted and was expecting to see the KDE splash screen” – if you are using one of the many online setup guides for Slack, it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to configure your X and setup KDE.
    “You have to subscribe to a mailing list to get notifications of new updates” – this is incorrect, just use one of the many available update tools ( swaret, slackpkg, etc. ) and it’s simply a matter of selecting which packages you want to update.
    “display resolution was 1024×768” – as long as you have a good base Xorg setup, you can now do all display changes using the KDE display applet in Kontrol Panel.
    “Slackware doesn’t deal with dependencies it seems and you almost always end up having to build the packages yourself by getting the slackbuild scripts” – not true, many prebuilt packages are available – take a look at linuxpackages.net amongst other sites. Dependencies are overrated – I’ve certainly never had an issue. Just because rpm-based systems have dependency issue, doesn’t mean non-rpm-based systems will too.

    In closing, your article is based on the assumption that if something is different, it is difficult. I, for example, see Slackware as being easier than many other distros that have fancy management interfaces and installation systems. That doesn’t mean I see those distros in a negative light. It just means that I need to make the effort ( without complaining ) to get to know them better.

  34. Sean says:

    If you want to learn Debian install Debian, if you want to learn Red Hat install Red Hat but if you want to learn Linux install Slackware.

  35. Anonymous says:

    No, if you want to learn linux, install Linux From Scratch ;). Nice try though with slackware.

  36. Jimmy says:

    It took me a week to install and configure my first Slackware back in 1999 (IIRC), but it was worth the effort. Stable, small, fast, KDE 1.x included – and so is 12.0, except for KDE being 3.x.

    I tried many distributions since then (ever used one for 2 years), but found them bloated and hard to fix if anything goes really wrong, due to their complexity. One particular thing I like about Slack is the “1995 wormhole” Dan mentioned – the installation process never changes, no need to grub at different install screens/tools each new version.

    Nova days, the http://www.slacky.eu repository (formerly .it) is very helpful.

  37. Anonymous says:

    The Default package manager is slackpkg look on the disk it also works bestest , simplicity is the smart way ; invest in your knowledge base with slackware

  38. Chandru says:

    Well Dan, I love this series. You are doing a great job. I understand your experience with Slackware. It is not the easiest out there.

    The right way to address Slackware is a student distribution. It is one distribution which lets you understand how Linux works without getting in your way. I myself have used it for a long time. If I know anything about Linux’s workings now, the only distribution I’ll thank is Slackware.

    Unfortunately, I have moved to Kubuntu mainly because Slackware kept providing older versions of important programs (apache, kernel, etc) due to its focus on rock-solid stability.

    Though I myself have changed to another distro for daily use, I keep recommending Slackware to my juniors at college who want to learn Linux.

  39. Dan says:

    Yes I agree if you want to learn about how Linux really works then Slackware is a great way to do it. It gets you right into the low level stuff of the system and I can see that πŸ™‚

  40. Chandru says:

    Actually myself and my friend setup our Slackware so differently that unaware people never accepted that both were same OS.

    I’m not talking just about the desktop look and feel. I’m telling about the deeper things like,

    1. he used slapt-get for package management while I stuck with the default tools.
    2. I configured bootsplash and setup a graphical boot screen along with grub, while he stuck with LILO and text-based boot.

    I don’t know if I can fiddle so much with *buntu/Fedora/openSuse, without breaking the OS itself. It was just amazing!

    Now I miss that flexibility on my current distro (Kubuntu) but got lot of ease-of-use! πŸ˜‰

  41. Patrick says:

    I have not used Slackware personally, so I can’t compare, but I did want to mention a new distro called Absolute Linux, which is a customized version of Slackware. It aims at making Slackware a bit more user-friendly. The homepage is http://www.pcbypaul.com/absolute/ . Perhaps you can review this one sometime in the future. Of course, I have been happily using Kubuntu for some time now. But I may be migrating soon to Sabayon. I’ve played with it and like it very much, although there are still some bugs that need to be worked out.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Slackware might be hard to setup. But after that it will run for ages. My first (and only) Slackware installation was years ago with 8.0 and after that all I have done is to update my packages from time to time. It is rock solid πŸ˜‰

  43. Anonymous says:

    I haven’t used straight Slackware, but for a couple of years i was rather fond of Vector GNU”Linux, with a Slackware kernal. Rock stable, and from what I could ascertain, secure. I used KDE and XFCE desktop systems and found they ran flawlessly and fast on an IBM 300 PL PIII, 733 mhz, 384 mg ram & 10 gb HD.
    I recently switched over to Debian Etch. Great stuff.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Dan,
    stumbled on your “Another Day Another….” and had to read each one. saw your mention to try out Slack 12. had to read that, and the comments from others.

    chuckled loudly re Eric’s comments re jumping into Slack12, like another buntu. Too funny, he wasn’t being mean.

    I had a period where I tried about every distro. I had to fix something in most of them. At first I thought that was a good measure of the distro, whether I had to tweak something or not, and whether i liked pre-loaded apps, or the choice of the window theme.

    I grew “tired” of testing. And I noticed I could partition with draketool or cfdisk, was not afraid to completely reload an OS on the same drive with my still-useful windoz partition, and I could find a fast mirror, use yum, apt-get, tweak fstab.

    I had also discovered Slack derivatives along my way. They all share those nice install features you named (those are great options, not issues :).

    Slack, for me, now feels like a friend, i can navigate most things Slack. I can promise you, with just a few new quick learned skills, slacking for you will be as nice as ubunting. that’s a promise.

    I’ve not met Patrick, but I’d sure like to thank him for his fine contribution to our community.

  45. Anonymous says:

    Dan
    adding to my last, long note.
    I loved your articles. Keep going. You’re on a roll. get a hdd drawer and a couple of extra trays for hdds, makes testing faster, and you can go back to an old install for quick comparisons. if you lived close i’d give you my trays.

    And try another slack derivative. vector 5.8/5.9, zenwalk 4.8. i’m still running slack11. They’re all good, they more or less share the same great install πŸ™‚ features you saw in slack12 πŸ™‚ past that, they mostly just work.

    And lots of ready to install pkgs for slackers. i can’t imagine you’d have to make any common apps. loads of .tgz

    I agreed with your sentiments about Deb. and what that means, actually, you are almost a slacker. just another go. πŸ™‚

    Bill

  46. Marko Stanković says:

    I liked your post. It is very true!
    I’m a Slackware user for 3+ years…
    I’ll read the rest of your “Tour d’ Linux”

  47. trip says:

    Hey Dan, I wish you luck with your illness.

    I liked your truthful review of this distro. Slackware was the first linux I ever tried. Back in the day it’d take me literally couple of weeks just to get my video accelerator to work (good old voodoo). The funny thing is there ware no games, or any other 3d application that I’d use.

    Slackware is not a typical distribution. The “pain” of installing software is unnecessary in these times. The “pain” to change resolution is not needed. Somehow user friendly distributions remind me too much of Windows (which I use happily everyday), I guess with slackware its like a walk in the forest or camping….

  48. Tarantella Serpentine says:

    I’ve been using Slack for nearly 7 or 8 years, and one of the things it taught me was to be humble. So I don’t understand the reaction (a rather rotten one) from “Eric”. It’s kinda against all I believe one really knowledgeable must be. But alas we aren’t alone in the world, and sometimes we have to cope with creeps like him.

    Dan, I really appreciate your reviews series and think they’re pretty instructive and entertaining. Keep them coming, please!

    Tarantella.

  49. Dan says:

    Thanks for all the kind comments everyone, I really appreciate it. The health situation is still up and down but hopefully up for more of the time now πŸ™‚

    I’ll do my best to keep the reviews entertaining and also fair, as I often say there is no right or wrong distro, it depends on the situation and all distros have their merits. Petty squabbling and religious wars between distributions helps nobody except Microsoft. So as long as you use Linux thats the main thing, we’re in this together.

  50. Benson says:

    What a great bunch of comments! Full of truths and hilarious at times. My $0.02:

    1. Slackware users have my respect. If you have a Linux question, ask it of one of these guys.

    2. Puzzled by how hard the install was for you; I tried ver. 11 on for size, and fell in love immediately. THIS was a real computer program, not one of those fakes from ToonTown!

    3. My problem: not a lot of apps all ready to go, and lotsa work getting the ones I wanted in, up and running. Not clear on exactly how to get all the goodies and where to find them. Ran back to Debian for that reason only, and have always regretted it in a way. Slackware, BTW, is far far better than the RPM-based distros at handling dependencies, because it’s designed right.

    4. The only other negative regarding Slackware for me was this Church of the Sub-Genius thingy. Bizarre. Set my teeth on edge. Just too too far out there, and made me wonder whether Patrick has…well, problems. For many, irrelevant; for me, a hint that my kind was not welcome in the house. I have to feel comfortable with more than just the living room — if there’s a mutant chained to the plumbing in the basement, I’m gone.

  51. Benson says:

    What a great bunch of comments! Full of truths and hilarious at times. My $0.02:

    1. Slackware users have my respect. If you have a Linux question, ask it of one of these guys.

    2. Puzzled by how hard the install was for you; I tried ver. 11 on for size, and fell in love immediately. THIS was a real computer program, not one of those fakes from ToonTown!

    3. My problem: not a lot of apps all ready to go, and lotsa work getting the ones I wanted in, up and running. Not clear on exactly how to get all the goodies and where to find them. Ran back to Debian for that reason only, and have always regretted it in a way. Slackware, BTW, is far far better than the RPM-based distros at handling dependencies, because it’s designed right.

    4. The only other negative regarding Slackware for me was this Church of the Sub-Genius thingy. Bizarre. Set my teeth on edge. Just too too far out there, and made me wonder whether Patrick has…well, problems. For many, irrelevant; for me, a hint that my kind was not welcome in the house. I have to feel comfortable with more than just the living room — if there’s a mutant chained to the plumbing in the basement, I’m gone.

  52. Brian Z. says:

    Hi Dan,

    I’m glad you found my tutorial to be “a real life saver”.

    In your article you wrote, “so there were about 20 updates to do manually, one by one.”. In my tutorial I wrote, “There are a few ways to download updates. We can use ftp, wget, Konqueror or Firefox.” I used Firefox in the tutorial because it was a simple way to explain the entire process in detail. Perhaps, I should have included the following instructions as well:

    To quickly update your system use the command, wget. Using wget will allow you to download all the updates at once. First, pick a local mirror from http://www.slackware.com/getslack/. Then, open a terminal and “su” to root. Then you’ll run wget. Finally you’ll run upgradepkg.

    1. Download all the updates (*.tgz) with the following command (substituting my path with the path for your local mirror):

    # wget ftp://yourLocalmirrors/pathToSlackwareDistributions/slackware/slackware-12.0/patches/packages/*.tgz

    2. Now that all the updates have been downloaded you can upgrade all your packages at once with the following command:
    # upgradepkg *.tgz

    Brian Z.

  53. Dan says:

    Thanks for the tips, Brian Z πŸ™‚

  54. Anonymous says:

    Hi there,

    On November 5th 2007 at 10:58, Martin made a _very_ nice comment on the general philosophy behind Slackware – as opposed to other distros. This comment adds the necessary (but lacking) balance to the article – for others to make a qualified choice.

    On November 6th 2007 at 12:37, icebox added what I’d call an important footnote to Martins comment.

    Having not read any of the other articles (yet), I must say that I find this one amazingly well done. To me, saving newbees from a poor Linux-experience (due to a chemistry mismatch) is equally important as gaining new territories/disciples to our Slackware community. -And I think that your article might do just that. Hopefully then, potential future Slackware-fans will find the right encouragement (not provided in the article) from those comments.

    To stick with the “cars and motorcycles” -analogy, I agree that there’s no need to bash eachothers distros – choose the vehicle/color/make that best suits your taste; and then respect those traffic lights ;o)

    Keep it up!

    The Guffer

  55. Dan says:

    Thanks for the comment. As I’ve said since writing this article a long time ago I can see the advantages of Slackware for a lot of people. I wrote some of this in anger which was probably wrong as most of the problems were caused by own lack of knowledge or research, I hold my hands up there.

    I think you’re right though as a first experience of Linux for a complete newbie Slackware is not the right choice, I stand by that 100%. People with a little more Linux knowledge might move to it later of course but not first time.

    I’m actually looking to try out Arch soon and I don’t want to repeat my mistakes here. So lots of research is in order. I think there is a place for all distros and we should respect each others differences as you say, not try to start some holy war over it. We are all Linux users and that’s the main thing for me, we’re already such a minority in the IT world why divide ourselves further? It doesn’t help anyone.

    Thanks again

    Dan

  56. Anonymous says:

    I used to use Slackware 11 as my default desktop. I’ve never had much of a problem with the initial setup, but it was kind of a pain to get all the packages and their dependencies that I wanted. But once that was done, I had a system I didn’t have to touch for over a year.

    Then Slack 12 arrived and that seemed a bit buggy in places. So I got lazy and headed over to Zenwalk, a Slack derivitive that works just great out of the box. Fast, stable, nice package manager (as long as you don’t try a full update of all packages, but what’s new as far any other Linux distro).

    Nice review, though. If you were a Slacker, you’d just be preaching to the choir. Gotta have outside voices to keep things real.

  57. Anonymous says:

    Dan,

    Great review.
    I know how you feel, I was there dual booting with OS2 and Slackware back in the dark ages.
    Now for some real fun have a go at LFS …..

    If you want an easy way to get started with Slackware you may want to try a Slackware derivative called “easys”.
    I’m still a distrohopper after all these years and I was really impressed with the ease of easys (wonder how they got that name )installation. Don’t want to be a spoiler and tell you the uniqueness.
    Hope you decide to have a look.

    Thanks !

  58. Anonymous says:

    “As you can tell I had a rough time with Slackware and it seemed even things which I believe should be simple took too much time and effort to achieve. I get the impression that Slackware is supposed to be hard.”

    Yes and no… Slackware IS hard if you don’t know your way around yet. On the other, once you’re over the steep learning curve, everything gets so much faster and easier than the other “make-up”-laden distros. Such an experience, I dare say, IS THE ENTIRE POINT OF SLACKWARE.

    Slackware exposes you to the soul of Linux. It actually surprised me when I learned that Linus didn’t use Slackware…

  59. Web mech says:

    Another important and *PRACTICAL* benefit of Slackware is the fact that since it is stripped down and minimalistic out of the box, it is very very secure by default compared to other distros.

    When used on a VPS or dedicated server, for example, other distros require locking down, e.g. a painstaking hunting down and removing of stuff you don’t actually need.

    With Slackware, it’s the opposite, you add what you need as your requirements grow. Granted, such an approach is not appropriate for everyone, but if you are deploying websites that are heavily customized, you might find starting with a vanilla distro like Slackware far more palatable.

    Remember also that for VPSes, much of the headache of hardware configuration that would plague newbies to Slackware are simply not present.

  60. Dan says:

    Thanks for the comments, I was a little surprised people are still reading this after 9 months but that’s great.

    This was written from the point of view of a new user wanting to use Slackware as a full desktop with Flash, codecs etc. I took that approach with all the distros in this series of 10 at the time. I realise this isn’t the target audience for Slackware now but at the time I’d only heard the name and jumped right into it. I did try to say that in the article, a lot of the fault was mine for not knowing what it was before starting. I agree that on a server it would be a different prospect entirely. Also if you are a more experienced Linux user then it would be fine. I was only looking from a newcomers perspective and I tried to make that clear.

    Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it πŸ™‚

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