Linked by Steve Husted on Mon 12th Apr 2004 09:30 UTC
Slackware, Slax This is an article about my experiences with Slackware 9.1, a distribution of Linux that I find enjoyable, along with programs that I find useful and enjoyable.
Order by: Score:
Standards!
by AK on Mon 12th Apr 2004 10:10 UTC

Yes I agree with you about standarizing things instead of putting everything in one place. Currently the lack of standards is what drives people (including me) away from Linux. it confuses people. I haven't try Slackware, but thingking about trying it in a close time. I feel thankfull for this Article because I belive that it would indeed help me in setting up a great Slackware box.

AhhhH!
by Matt Lacey on Mon 12th Apr 2004 10:24 UTC

Good article but tbh I think you might have missed the point of Slackware - the reason Dropline isn't included etc. is because Slackware includes things as the developer's intended them to be - they don't change the menu in KDE/Gnome or set a 'Slackware' theme a la Blue Curve.

At the end of the day Slackware can make an awesome desktop OS but you're right - it takes work to get there. I for one would hate to see this change though, Slackware isn't meant to be (and hopefully never will be) bogged down with GUI config apps and "holding your hand" mentality. It's simple in the true meaning of the word - no gumff. It's a geek's OS and hopefully it always will be.

As you mentioned though - it would be sweet to have ALSA unmuted and to have OSS removed completely ;) Took me ages to work out why my sound wasn't working after upgrading from 9.0 to 9.1

long article...
by marille on Mon 12th Apr 2004 10:30 UTC

so, basically, this is a good article. 5 pages of text, this guy really took some time to write down his experiences. good work, thumbs up!

what i don't get:

why is he using slackware at all? slackware is known to be very basic, without fancy gui-configuration tools and stuff. patrick volkerding does not need to work (for example) on the"kernel-update does not update my lilo"-thing, because slackware users should know what they do. when i update my kernel in fedora via yum, my grub gets updated automatically, that's why i use fedora. it makes things easier. slackware on the other hand, is for experts. the author basically IS expert enough, because otherwise he would not have been able to solve the lilo problem or set up his printer etc.

so, basically my point is: slackware is good as it is. a distro for experts who are able to deal with editing conf-files. slackware does not want to get simpler. that's the market for fedora, suse and mandrake. slackware just keeps doing ITS stuff, and (though i don't use it), it is reported to be pretty good at it.

regards,
marillchen

wow, a troll become 5 pages...
by anonymous on Mon 12th Apr 2004 10:33 UTC

... who really care what he wants? He wants eg OpenOffice and I think I can d/l and install it myself, so no space is wasted for OpenOffice.

Please include instead postfix, amavisd-new, spamassassin, ldap, kerberos, x, y ... z!!!

You know what I mean.

Slackware is a very good base for everyone, who want to makes a really _P_ersonal _C_omputer with Linux on top.

Everyone can follow his interests, don't need to begin from A like LFS and Gentoo and don't need a "hummer" (as he says about Ximina Evolution) like Fedora, Suse and Mandrake...

Still Thinking
by logdog on Mon 12th Apr 2004 10:39 UTC

Thanks - I've been thinking of going Slack for a while now (from the all-embracingness of SuSE and YaST - been on that line for 5 yr mow but have a few quibbles). You've answered a few points - and brought up a few more, so I'm still thinking. Particularly about the dreaded OSS - have had battles with that in the past and embraced ALSA with open arms as soon as it was working.

slack 3.4
by BjÝrn on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:00 UTC

Slackware 3.4 was my first linux... it did try 3.6, but havenít tried it after. That some years ago.

What linux need to get into the desktop/common people, is
-standards, not just one web browser but
1. Install program.

2. Have the same files and directories one problem that you find is like this http://macromedia.rediris.es/rep_ri.html how many hours do macromedia spend on supporting distros??

3. Common configures tools. When I read one manual for setting up a program, it must work on linux (linux is all distros) and you have this lpi (http://www.lpi.org/en/lpic.html) and http://www.redhat.com/training/rhce/courses/ redhat and linux+ and sagre (?) well the thing is that if you an rhce and learned to setup samba by there gui, you cant find the same gui on mandrake and debian donít have a gui too for it.


If you have a look at distrowatch "Currently, there are a total of 280 Linux distributions in the database." [1]

Whatís wrong with linux then??



[1] http://www.distrowatch.com/stats.php


btw: "You can edit your httpd.conf directly in Webmin and also restart the service right from your browser (http://localhost:10000)" use https:

Bug in article
by Witek Wasilewski on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:06 UTC

There is missing closing of a <a href> tag in the "In the beginning" paragraph (link to Distrowatch) making large part of article unavailable until you copy link to notepad.

Party like its 1999
by Anonymous on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:10 UTC

No thanks. I really don't want to spend hours trying to get a wheel mouse working.

Regarding standards
by flywheel on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:10 UTC

Regarding the standardisation .. KMail and Konq both uses KParts (integration into the KDE desktop) and have a few years on their back - which Thunderbird and Firebird does not, they're still in beta ...

Regarding the productivity packages, the KOffice folks are changing direction a bit - their old standard XML document format is to be replaced by the OO.O sxw ....

But it is foolish using ressources on developing the same applications in two parallel desktop environments. When you look at the progress they've made - it makes you wonder, what miracales they could have achieved working on the same railroad. But lets see what kind of bridge SUSE/Novell is able to build (IMO the course of SUSE the last few years has been standadization ... that is the golden way).

About some suggestions
by Anonymous on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:16 UTC

Fvwm2 and Fvwm95 together take about 2MB, WindowsMaker (my default desktop btw) 2.5MB, so ropping them does not save a lot of space. What Slack has done makes a lot more sense: move the two fat desktops Gnome and KDE to the second CD. I think they should drop Netscape 7.1 since Mozilla 1.6 is already included. And dropping Fvwm95 is actually not a bad idea: the project seems almost dead, and Fvwm2 can do everything it can. Better replace it with a maintained alternative, like IceWM.

mmmmmm...slackware
by Atari Assassin on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:18 UTC

I have tried many distro's (debian, lycoris,gentoo,RH,SuSE,...the big ones...even bsd's) but in the end I go back to Slackware. The reason is because I find I learn more about managing a system and how to interface with a program since there is no GUI front end. I agree with the earlier comment that there does need to be a standard in installing app yet I disagree with the GUI apps on all distros. I see 2 reasons for this.

1.) THose apps are what you guy into in commerical Linux..along with support.

2.) I use slackware cause its not bloated with stuff I don't want unless I want it. This lack there off makes distros distros and so on and so forth.

There are somethings that I wish can be worked into the system. Like mouseconfig having a wheel option or something to that effect. Just the small things that have been the norm in the computer industry which isn't there. THOUGH!, one thing I have to mention to is people voicing thoughts of lacking features but then do not try to contribute any type of time to fix those things. Myself realise this and I have been working on trying to get a couple of small programs into slackware to help the "END DESKTOP USER".

But to anyone wanting to try slack. TRY IT! worse comes to worse you go back to your old distro and that is what Linux is all about..choice :-D.

To the author
by Lumbergh on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:38 UTC

The web browser standards is not as bad as it might seem. In reality you only have two browsers, Mozilla and Konqueror. Galeon, Epiphany, Firebird are all based off of the gecko rendering engine so your not getting to much duplication of effort. These derivates are basically just putting on their own front-ends. The KDE guys are doing their own thing along with Apple. There are more important standards that need to be addressed than web browsers. Such as better interop between KDE and Gnome, which freedesktop.org and OSDL-desktop are addressing.

As far as your package management comments, Gentoo does do exactly what you were talking about - not with bittorrent though. It's source based and you can customize your builds through what is called a USE variable. USE variable basically just let you do what configure lets you do by specifying what you do and don't want to build into the program.

Slackware's flaws
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:39 UTC

Slackware was on of the first distros I used before I got frustrated into LFS and finally Gentoo. The reasons, I have no regrets abandoning slackware are plentiful. I shall proceed to list them.

Documentation
Slackware's documentation is appauling to say the least. Documentation should exist for nearly every potential user function. Take a look at Gentoo's documentation page, and you'll be impressed.

How to setup your desktop
How to setup your printer
How to setup samba
How to setup your firewall
How to setup Java
How to setup to setup ALSA (sound configuration)
How to setup a secure gentoo box
How to setup a mail server
How to setup an OpenMosix cluster
How to setup your nvidia drivers
...to mention a few!

Compared to Gentoo, Slackwares documentation is scanty. As a result setting up and managing a slackware box for extended periods of time is painful.

Package Management
It's either non-existent in slackware, or the available ones hold no water. I tried installing GNOME on slackware and it only brought me close to tears. It was diabolically frustrating for no sound reason. Why should I bother haunting dependencies down all over the internet, when an intelligent package manage will not only do that for me, but will install the package in a consistent manner over my file system.

Today, I have over 11 Desktop Environments that I can switch to on the fly and a multitude of packages that were correctly installed effortlessly, thanks to intelligent package managing. On Slackware, I could hardly get GNOME going, and every time I had to install a package, it was as if I was preparing for war. No, swaret isn't robust!

Security
Not many people take security seriously, but it is one of the only reasons I use a source based distro. Where is the hardened-Slackware? Does one exist? Where are the Slackware Security guides? Do they exist? How do I go about PaX enabling Slackware? How about SELinux and Grsecurity patches for Slackware? Do they exist? The last time I checked, the answer was no. Hence slackware is automatically eliminated as a secure operating system for servers or workstations in any serious environment. If you are running a server without SELinux/Grsecurity/PaX/Propolice to mention a few, you are calling for it! Don't make me imagine what I would have to do to get a secure slackware box up and running.

Unfortunately, most of the problems the author encountered are slackware specific and rightly so. Updating and maintaining slackware is a pain, because it lacks a robust package manager. And setting up Slackware is a herculian task because its documentation is lackluster.

That about sums up the reason, Slackware remains a no go area for me. I've used and I cherish its simplicity, but I can't help express my frustrations at how Slackware makes easy things seem hard.

I'll probably get modded down for this, but this is a sincere observation and experience I've had with Slackware. I mean, installing packages is a "one liner" is almost every mordern distro I know but Slackware, is on the verge of perfecting. Yet, Slackware is supposedly one of the oldest Linux distros. Unfortunately, it seems Slackware is resistant to change, and positive ones at that.



v @flywheel
by Lumbergh on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:46 UTC
v RE: @flywheel
by Lumbergh on Mon 12th Apr 2004 11:50 UTC
RE: Slackware's flaws
by Lumbergh on Mon 12th Apr 2004 12:02 UTC

For the record I love slackware and still have it on my work desktop and other assorted servers at work. It just works. That said, I also moved my home desktop to gentoo over the weekend.

Documentation
Slackware's documentation is appauling to say the least. Documentation should exist for nearly every potential user function. Take a look at Gentoo's documentation page, and you'll be impressed.


I have to agree there. Gentoo's documentation is great. Probably part of the reason of Slackware's lack of docs is that slack has been around for so long that the old-schoolers just already "know" how to mess around with /etc to configure stuff. I like the env-update feature of gentoo. When you talk about gentoo documentation don't forget the 800+ people that are on #gentoo at irc.freenode.net at any one time and also the incredible forums. For a fairly recent distro, gentoo seems to be gathering a lot of followers and your questions will be answered promptly on the forums.

Package Management
It's either non-existent in slackware, or the available ones hold no water. I tried installing GNOME on slackware and it only brought me close to tears. It was diabolically frustrating for no sound reason. Why should I bother haunting dependencies down all over the internet, when an intelligent package manage will not only do that for me, but will install the package in a consistent manner over my file system.


That's why you use swaret to handle your dependencies and better yet use dropline to install gnome. I hear there is a slapt-get, but I haven't used it.





QT and GTK
by Vindevogel on Mon 12th Apr 2004 12:12 UTC

One of the reasons people are doing double work in developing the same (kind of) application twice, are the toolkits. With QT and GTK around, people will always have to choose between two apps. Gnome and KDE people should settle upon one toolkit. (And personnally, I think they should go for QT, since this is widely portable to other platforms)

Oh, and for a secretary, Linux is also about choice: doing the things she is supposed to do or being fired ... In business you only need one environment, one office product, ... Linux should really look at OSX for that, or even towards Windows

RE: gentoo troll
by cybrjackle on Mon 12th Apr 2004 12:23 UTC

All that software is available on the net right? When you untar/gzip them they probably have a "README' & "INSTALL" file right? Problem with most people is they need there hand held and can't read a readme.

Before you try and tell me I don't understand Gentoo, I have it running on sevreal box's includeing Sun Ultra 10, 60, sb100 and many others. So don't go there. I just fine Slackware to be my favorite on my main system. ;-)

SElinux/Pax blah, blah & blah werent invented on Gentoo and yes, you can find doc's out there that show you how to install it. Of course you could always look at the web sites & readme's, those always help.

Emerde for package management
by Anonymous on Mon 12th Apr 2004 12:30 UTC

I use swaret but the gentoo posters might be interested in this project since it is a port of emerge/portage for Slackware:

http://emerde.freaknet.org/

RE: Slackware's flaws
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 12:33 UTC

Lumberg,

I'm really not trying to turn this into a Slackware vs Gentoo royal rumble. I don't believe Slackware should aim to be Gentoo and vice versa. I'm just highlighting what I perceive to be Slackwares' weak points.

You mentioned Swaret, I've used it, and my conclusion is that it is still at it's infancy and not nearly as robust other well known package managers. Believe me, I'm being kind with these statements.

If anything, Slackware should at least focus on its security department. It is embarrassing that one of the oldest Linux distribution doesn't have a hardened channel. As an experienced Linux geek, I can deal with the poor documentation and absent package manager, however the absent security features is unforgivable.

Hardcore Unix administrators will pass on Slackware just because of that unexplainable glitch, despite the popular misconceptions.

Emerde....
by Rodrigo on Mon 12th Apr 2004 12:33 UTC

...now that's an unfortunate name!! ;)

RE: Standards!
by donito on Mon 12th Apr 2004 12:50 UTC

The only standard I would agree with is the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FHS). No they don't need to agree on one browser, Gnome vs. KDE, etc. What makes a GNU/Linux system special are the choices that are available. Regarding distributions, if you don't like the package manager, GUI, etc. then you have alternative choices to pick from. Don't like Slackware, then use another distro. Everyone talks about how my distro has this, my distro does that, yours doesn't. So what! The beauty of a GNU/Linux system is that it gives you a choice. Windows does not. GNU/Linux is not for everyone, neither is Windows. Who cares if it is accepted or not as a desktop OS my the masses. It's all about having fun! Who cares if Slackware lacks documentation that the Gentoo folks have. If you use Slackware and can configure it then you don't need the extra documentation. If you prefer to have your hand held when running a distribution, then Slackware is not for you.

-Slackware user since v3.3

First, I don't think openoffice should come bundeld in a standard distro. Openoffice adds about 150MB. If I don't want openoffice, then I shouldn't have to download it, or install it.

I agree with the article, duplication of applications such as browsers, does not serve a purpose other than creating a clutterd, confused, and bloated distro.

My experience with slackware:

- installing dropline-gnome was a cinche, download, then enter two lines, something like:

installpkg dropline-gnome . ..
install dropline-line

I just worked.

- Seems impossible to install gnucash.

- The wheel on my mouse still doesn't work.

- CUPS didn't work at all, I just get an error message.

- I don't understand the reasoning of having sound muted.

- Lilo wouldn't install, I had to boot from floppy and do a liloconf.

- I have Win2K installed on the same system. The windows gui is much more snappy than gnome. Gnome blurs and leaves trails.

- Plays DVDs very well, better than windows, IMO.

- During the install, I specifically chose no games, but with gnome, I get about 15 games, like it or not.







RE: Slackware's flaws
by Anonymous on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:06 UTC

Hardcore Unix administrators will pass on Slackware just because of that unexplainable glitch, despite the popular misconceptions.

Slackware ships with vanilla upstream packages as much as possible. No security patches will be included until they are in in the stock kernel on www.kernel.org. Hardcore Unix administrators have to judge for themselves what kind of security patches they deem worthwile and apply them. Remember, not every security related change is actually an improvement. There's an interesting thread on Slashdot about Slackware not using PAM.

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=99379&threshold=1&commentsort=1...

A quote from OpenSSH developer Damien Miller:

I'm surprised that the major distributions haven't moved on to something more sane. It's good that that Slackware, at least, has demonstrated some critical thinking and has not just mindlessly followed the flock.

About your Gnome dependency problems, I never encounter them, maybe because I always have the l/ directory installed. When I wanted to test Gnome or KDE, I just did a installpkg gnome/*z and installpkg kde/*z and they worked fine. I didn't really like either, so I did a removepkg gnome/*z and kde/*z and they were gone. I

Slackware!
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:17 UTC

If you want everything to be turned on by default, out of the box, I don't see why you are using slackware. The day that slackware becomes the red hat clone that you want it to be and installs mod_php, openoffice, and all that bloat by default is the day I switch to BSD.

First you go ahead and disclaim your own article with the go ahead and try something else, choice is what makes Linux great bit. Then in the last two pages of your article you rant about Linux distros shipping with more than one web browser, etc???? I don't get it.

You do know that you don't have to, and it isnt even reccomended to, install every package on the disks? The menu options are very easy to use.

Also, your post-install installer tool, have you heard about pkgtool that comes with slackware?

MySQL worked fine for me out of the box, sure you have to create the metadb and set up your user, but don't you have to do that with any MySQL setup?

Can I reccomend MEPIS to you? It's a really good distro, and it sounds like just what you are looking for.

You should try Gentoo
by MaxDamage on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:24 UTC

In the article the Gentoo package management system, portage, is mentioned, and... yes, it's what you would like Slackware to do: it downloads the source code, compiles and installs the program, manages dependences and does a great job, overall.

I have tried Mandrake and Debian, and switched to Gentoo last xmas. I have finally found my home in Linux, too.

Anyway, if you want a GUI-only, simple, not customizable Linux distribution, better forget Slack or Gentoo and try another one.

P.D. - Never had a problem with the mouse wheel ;)

RE: Slackware's flaws
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:27 UTC

Slackware ships with vanilla upstream packages as much as possible. No security patches will be included until they are in in the stock kernel on www.kernel.org. Hardcore Unix administrators have to judge for themselves what kind of security patches they deem worthwile and apply them. Remember, not every security related change is actually an improvement. There's an interesting thread on Slashdot about Slackware not using PAM.

What kind of security features do you think I'm talking about? I'm talking about patches that almost eliminate all sorts of memory corruptions like buffer overflows, stack overflow, stack smashing, race conditions, ipc vulnerabilities etc.

This isn't a judgment call, this is a necessity if you don't want your network to be hacked! I'm talking about reasonable default access control lists for Slackware that enable chroot restrictions and address space modifications. These are mandatory if you run a server. You don't have any of those, you are not secure, and you can be hacked, period!

As for PAM it is only a superficial security barrier, even PAM needs to be patched with PaX to be somewhat safe and of course correctly configured.

RE: slackwares flaws
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:35 UTC

First off, I'd say that less than 1% of servers, even in environments that are serious about security, have MAC patches. While I do think they should be used more often, they are definately not mandatory for security.

Second, EVERY good security person that I know, would rather install something themselves from source with a watchful eye than let emerge or RPM, or swaret, or even installpkg handle it.

It is no major accomplishment to get selinux, grsecurity, and their friends installed on slackware.

RE:Slackware flaws
by Orestes on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:43 UTC

Second, EVERY good security person that I know, would rather install something themselves from source with a watchful eye than let emerge or RPM, or swaret, or even installpkg handle it.

It is no major accomplishment to get selinux, grsecurity, and their friends installed on slackware.


Agreed. Any admin worth his paycheck will handle security patches personally rather than trusting pre-built packages.

Standards
by Uno Engborg on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:46 UTC

I agree standards are very much needed in Linux and other free desktops. Why is it that each web browser have to have a bookmark file format of its own? Almost all GUI toolkits makes it possible to set fonts and colors to its widgets why can't they use the same configuration file. After all a button is a button and a font is a font. Why can't I replace Nautilus with Konqueror in Gnome and still have the state, contents and function of my Trashcan preserved?

[start rant]
All modern desktops consists of windows filemanagers, trash, panels and menus. There is a window manager why are there not managers with standardized interfaces for the rest of the stuff. Developers doesn't seam to think that the window manager limits their creativity, why should it be any different in other areas.

If such things was in place it would be possible to create a consistent looking desktop based on application written in various toolkits. E.g. we could let the user chose if he wants the menus of his applications to appear on the top of each window as in windows or at the top of the screen like on a Mac, or perhaps in some other yet unseen way.

And it is not that new type of managers have apperad in the history of the X Window System. At the beginning nobdy used session managers, but today almost all modern applications are aware of them. So why not introduce some more manager standards that could make our desktops more consistent.
[end rant]

I also agree that installing more than one application of each application type by default makes a Linux distribution less usable.

RE: Emerde for package management
by DarkSpy on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:47 UTC

There's NetBSD ports system for slackare (http://pkgsrc.org). From my point of view, it's better than emerde.

-[DkS]-

Misinformation about Debian apt-get
by pixelmonkey on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:48 UTC

The author says he would like to see a feature in apt where the source code is downloaded and compiled. It already exists.

apt-get source <package> --compile

This will download the source file, and use dpkg-buildpackage to build a binary deb file. Using dpkg, you can install this deb and have dependencies resolved.

In addition, Debian has another tool in early development called auto-apt. Using auto-apt, one can try to compile a source tree and if any libraries and missing auto-apt will automatically retrieve them from your repositories. This means you can do a plain old tgz ,/configure && make && make install deal, but if you're missing any -dev packages, auto-apt will automatically grab them. Convenient, no?

Please do research. Otherwise, nice article. Although I don't know if a "lack of package management" is necessarily a "plus" of Slackware. Windows has a "lack of package management" too, but no one raves about it (at least no one I know).

- Seems impossible to install gnucash.

Install the gnucash slackware package from http://www.linuxpackages.net

- The wheel on my mouse still doesn't work.

Add "ZAxisMapping" "4 5" to the mouse input section of your XF86Config. That information is readily available on the Net

- CUPS didn't work at all, I just get an error message.

chmod +x /etc/rc.d/rc.cups
/etc/rc.d/rc.cups start

Again, readily available on the Net

- I don't understand the reasoning of having sound muted.

I'll give you that one. Thats a default behaviour of alsa after installation. I remember seeing the reasoning behind it in the past, but I don't think it was a good reason.

- Lilo wouldn't install, I had to boot from floppy and do a liloconf.

Never heard of lilo not installing during a Slackware install, unless there was a problem with the HD. Possible that you attempted an install on the bootable partition without it being marked as bootable. I always install to the mbr, but that's just me

- I have Win2K installed on the same system. The windows gui is much more snappy than gnome. Gnome blurs and leaves trails.

Don't blame gnome for that. That's a problem with your X setup, or the driver itself.

- Plays DVDs very well, better than windows, IMO.

Amen =)

- During the install, I specifically chose no games, but with gnome, I get about 15 games, like it or not.

There's a difference between BSD games and Gnome Games. I believe the description of the games packages specifically states BSD games like nethack, fortune, etc, and you still have the option to install / not install gnome games on CD 2

My $0.02 CDN

Package Manager lack is a boon
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:53 UTC

Quote: Although I don't know if a "lack of package management" is necessarily a "plus" of Slackware.


It's personal preference. In my opinion, while we have tons of distro's with amazing package managers, having one solid distro with none (or a very minimal one) is a plus.

Personally I can't stand to have anything administer my boxes but myself. I understand that other people don't feel this way, and like apt and portage, but I think the whole Linux community could benefit having one distro that doesn't rely on a package manager.

Games
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:54 UTC

Quote: There's a difference between BSD games and Gnome Games. I believe the description of the games packages specifically states BSD games like nethack, fortune, etc, and you still have the option to install / not install gnome games on CD 2



He did a dropline gnome install. That's where gnome-games came from.

Another heart icon!
by Jef Pober on Mon 12th Apr 2004 13:56 UTC

Seems like Eugenia is enjoying spring season ;)

RE: slackwares flaws
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 14:12 UTC

First off, I'd say that less than 1% of servers, even in environments that are serious about security, have MAC patches. While I do think they should be used more often, they are definately not mandatory for security.

???

I don't know who has been selling you those comforts. Did you read about Debian, Gentoo, etc server compromises? Chroot kits. Yes, simple chroot kits were used to perpetuate those breaches. Now if chroot restrictions and MACs were properly implemented, that would have been almost impossible because on well controlled systems, there is no root or superuser, or even if there is, the it is not all powerful and all knowing, it has restricted authorities. Again, I'm dumbfounded by your statement.

Second, EVERY good security person that I know, would rather install something themselves from source with a watchful eye than let emerge or RPM, or swaret, or even installpkg handle it.

You don't get the message I'm trying to convey, do you? Slackware doesn't provide the facility to patch each and every package from source like Gentoo/emerge does. There are no documentations, no packages, and no patches. Nadda, zilch, nothing! You want security, forget about slack. That's how bad it is.

It is no major accomplishment to get selinux, grsecurity, and their friends installed on slackware.

Who's talking about accomplishments? I'm talking about securing my workstation and network and my inability to do so with slackware. These aren't accomplishments, every administrator is mandated to secure his resources. Accomplishment??? It is a freaking missing security feature!

RE:Slackware flaws
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 14:15 UTC

Agreed. Any admin worth his paycheck will handle security patches personally rather than trusting pre-built packages.

I don't use pre-built packages. I use only source based distros, again for security reasons. Read my earlier rant.

what
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 14:21 UTC

Um, are you sure you know what you are talking about? Chroot kits? Is this a real term? If so, please explain to me what it means. Do you mean rootkits? Do you know what chroot is? Chroot is a boon to security, not a vulnerability.

Slackware can be patched with selinux and grsecurity just as fine as Gentoo can. It just isn't done automatically and blindly. You can patch packages from source just fine with slackware.

RE: what
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 14:35 UTC

Um, are you sure you know what you are talking about? Chroot kits? Is this a real term? If so, please explain to me what it means. Do you mean rootkits? Do you know what chroot is? Chroot is a boon to security, not a vulnerability.

Errr...meant to say rootkits.


Slackware can be patched with selinux and grsecurity just as fine as Gentoo can. It just isn't done automatically and blindly. You can patch packages from source just fine with slackware.

Hahaha...you got to be kidding me! Yeah, sure I can. All, I need to do is just patch my system, right? I don't think you understand the gravity or the amount of work that goes into testing, debuging and patching packages to comply with SELinux and grsecurity, etc. It's so tedious, that Gentoo, Red Hat, SUSE, Debian devote an entire team of security experts/developers to maintain their hardened branch, and of course make the deployment of those patches sane for their users.

Tell me, how do I go about Securing my slackware box, with those patches? I mean, where do I start?

>>Install the gnucash slackware package from http://www.linuxpackages.net<<

That's where I got it, it doesn't work. I've been fighting with this for some time. I'm not the only one.

>>Add "ZAxisMapping" "4 5" to the mouse input section of your XF86Config. That information is readily available on the Net<<

Okay. It seems there is always some configuration to do after the initial install with anything. No bash, I'm just relating my experience.

>>
chmod +x /etc/rc.d/rc.cups
/etc/rc.d/rc.cups start
<<

Thanks, will try it.


>>Never heard of lilo not installing during a Slackware install<<

No offense, but you must not have read too many slackware install forums. This is a very common problem, and has been for some time. BTW: I have installed several linux distros on my system, only slackware gives me this problem. Although, it's easy enough to fix.

>>Don't blame gnome for that. That's a problem with your X setup, or the driver itself.<<

Maybe, I think there are ways to speed up dropline-gnome, but I don't know how.

RE: what
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 14:37 UTC

www.nsa.gov/selinux

http://www.grsecurity.net/

Documentation
by Daniel de Kok on Mon 12th Apr 2004 14:42 UTC

Slackware's documentation is appauling to say the least.

We are working on it: http://www.slackfiles.net/index.php

Distro
by Someslack on Mon 12th Apr 2004 14:54 UTC

Speaking of standards - Why don't they make point releases standardized . Will they really jump from 9.1 to 10. Where do they get the math for That. Maybe it will be 9.6? Was there ever a 9.9 ?

RE: what
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 14:55 UTC

Slackware should not have to have those docs because grsecurity and selinux are not related to slackware. This is much like slackware not including documentation for how to use OpenOffice. All the documentation that you need is available on the selinux and grsecurity sites. If you can't figure out how to implement it, maybe you should get a better sysadmin.

We all know that gentoo has gone above and beyond on documentation, and I commend them on that.

RE: what
by Daniel de Kok on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:01 UTC

I fully agree with ponds; a good administrator should be able to secure a system perfectly by himself. If you don't, buy some good (O'Reilly) books about security. Learn how to secure a system (instead of relying on "secure" packages, or automatically applied kernel patches), and apply patches like grsecurity *when* you need them in a situation. Things like SELinux and grsecurity are perfectly documented...

If somebody is not able to secure a system by himself, he/she is not a good system administrator and should think twice about administrating cruscial production machines.

XFce and desktop icons
by chemicalscum on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:06 UTC

"I found myself really taking to XFCE, and I would probably use it exclusively for a while if I could have icons on my desktop"

You can use the Rox filer to manage the desktop and put icons on the XFce desktop.

If you have Rox installed - then in your $HOME$/.xfce/.xinitrc file comment out the xfdesktop line and insert:

rox --pinboard=PIN

Then on startup you can drag and drop program and directory icons from the Rox filer onto the destop.

Slackware 9.1
by zx81 on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:07 UTC

I am long-time Slack user having started with 3.5 and installed everything inbetween.. My greatest satisfaction has been 8.1 which i have installed on 3 of my pcs.. I have tried Fedora, RH, Suse, Knoppix, Mandrake.. and only Knoppix is as easy to get going on my hardwares as Slackware.. But I cannot get GPSK31 to install on 9.0 or 9.1.. It has always compiled effortlessly on earlier versions.. AND the gtk fonts are way too small on mozilla and gaim. And cups doesnt work for me.. Perhaps I have a learning problem, but 8.1 just works better. My favorite Linux is 1. Slackware 8.1 and 2. Harddrive installed Knoppix.

ignorance
by iges on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:07 UTC

Whats the point of complaining about to much choice if you did the full install?! Didnt you see that you can choose the packages you're likely to need up in front...

than again imo theres never to much choice only lack of confidence in making a choice

RE: what
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:08 UTC

Slackware should not have to have those docs because grsecurity and selinux are not related to slackware.

I don't know who gave you the idea that grsecurity and selinux were related to any distro. As far as I know, both projects and distro agnostic.

This is much like slackware not including documentation for how to use OpenOffice.

How can you compared an entire infrastructure to a desktop application? Going by your logic, Slackware wouldn't have any documentation, as users would be reading README files, NEWS files and INSTALL.TXTs.

All the documentation that you need is available on the selinux and grsecurity sites.

Yeah, I guess Gentoo is just duplicating efforts.

If you can't figure out how to implement it, maybe you should get a better sysadmin.

Sure, and the better sysadmin will magically deploy a hardened-slackware box without docs!!!!! I guess I'm just dumb.

We all know that gentoo has gone above and beyond on documentation, and I commend them on that.

I doubt many people know that.

RE: what
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:12 UTC

Thats what I just said, that its distro agnostic. SElinux and grsecurity should work on ANY distro without the distributor having to create a subdistro for it, and they do just fine on slackware.

Quote: Sure, and the better sysadmin will magically deploy a hardened-slackware box without docs!!!!! I guess I'm just dumb.


There are plenty of docs, at the grsecurity and selinux sites, so i dont see how this is relevant.

RE: what
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:19 UTC

I fully agree with ponds; a good administrator should be able to secure a system perfectly by himself. If you don't, buy some good (O'Reilly) books about security. Learn how to secure a system (instead of relying on "secure" packages, or automatically applied kernel patches), and apply patches like grsecurity *when* you need them in a situation. Things like SELinux and grsecurity are perfectly documented...

Tell me, who do you secure a system against buffer overflows, stack overflow, stack smashing, ipc compromises, memory corruptions, root exploits, race conditions, to mention a few?

Since I really don't know how, you might as well begin to school me of how to secure a system "(instead of realying on "secure" packages, or automatically applied kernel patches)."


If somebody is not able to secure a system by himself, he/she is not a good system administrator and should think twice about administrating cruscial production machines.

Yeap, real admins don't need docs, right?

re: two things the author mentioned
by Anonymous on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:21 UTC

...a script that finds your dependencies, does all the downloading from the Torrent, does extraction (tar -jxvf packagename.tar.bz2) and then installation (./configure && make && make install). The source, once extracted, would have a file listing dependencies (or, better yet, there should be a way for a script to probe the source files to determine dependencies).

This is almost an exact description of the OneBase OLM installation process. Installing KDE, *from source*, compiled exactly for *my* machine is done by this command:

olm -s kde

And that's it! Of course, it is taking a really long time, because the computer is fetching each needed package from source, compiling it, and then moving to the next one. I could have used the binary command, and been up and running immediately, but I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about running a source-based distro was about.


I found myself really taking to XFCE, and I would probably use it exclusively for a while if I could have icons on my desktop.
Actually, adding desktop icons to XFCE isn't difficult at all. VECTOR Linux does this by using two programs: the DFM package, which adds the desktop icons themselves, and a customized XFCE package called xfbackground instead of xfdesktop so that the DFM packages work correctly. Not difficult at all to set up. Check the VL forums at http://www.vectorlinux.com/forum for more information.

RE: what
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:34 UTC

Thats what I just said, that its distro agnostic. SElinux and grsecurity should work on ANY distro without the distributor having to create a subdistro for it, and they do just fine on slackware.

Theoretically, yes. Practically, no. Haven't you being listening to all I've been saying. Distros have teams dedicated to making these complex packages work for user deployment. You just don't go the selinux site or gresecurity site or pax site to download patches, read documentations, apply patches and expect things to work. More often than not more things will break than work on vanilla slack.

You need to recompile every package in your system among other things to take advantage of many of the security features I mentioned above. Apart from the fact that I don't know how humanly possible it is to recompile every slackware package from source, who do I go asking for help when something borks on my system? Or do I go googling for that too?

RE: what
by Daniel de Kok on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:42 UTC

Tell me, who do you secure a system against buffer overflows, stack overflow, stack smashing, ipc compromises, memory corruptions, root exploits, race conditions, to mention a few?

Since I really don't know how, you might as well begin to school me of how to secure a system "(instead of realying on "secure" packages, or automatically applied kernel patches)."


Apply appropriate when they are needed? I don't see why they should be applied automatically. A good sysadmin can apply them himself when they are needed for the specific situation.

RE: ignorance
by Steve Husted on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:43 UTC

Whats the point of complaining about to much choice if you did the full install?! Didnt you see that you can choose the packages you're likely to need up in front...

than again imo theres never to much choice only lack of confidence in making a choice


I did the full install but I have also done the other install methods. I didn't mention that in the article so you have a valid point.

However, I stand by my "Express Install" option because, as I mentioned, I DO NOT WANT to do a full install, I want a good system set up WITHOUT HAVING TO BABYSIT the installation. I have better things to do than stare at the installer, waiting for the next prompt. I am always anxious to start USING my Slack box, not to be a slave to the installer ;)

I won't dignify your "lack of confidence" statement with a response.

Thanks for the comments; I appreciate the thoughtful ones.

RE: what
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:47 UTC

Quote: Theoretically, yes. Practically, no. Haven't you being listening to all I've been saying. Distros have teams dedicated to making these complex packages work for user deployment. You just don't go the selinux site or gresecurity site or pax site to download patches, read documentations, apply patches and expect things to work. More often than not more things will break than work on vanilla slack.


It works for me.


Quote: You need to recompile every package in your system among other things to take advantage of many of the security features I mentioned above. Apart from the fact that I don't know how humanly possible it is to recompile every slackware package from source, who do I go asking for help when something borks on my system? Or do I go googling for that too?

I have been compiling my entire slackware system from source for years. Here's a tip as to how its humanly possible: "./configure && make && make install"

Quote:

Works
by Chris on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:53 UTC

Slack works fine for me. All I've done is install dropline Gnome, which I don't use now cause I like XFCE better (it eats less proc).

RE: what
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:56 UTC

Apply appropriate when they are needed? I don't see why they should be applied automatically.

What? There is nothing automatic about the process. It takes days to lock down a box, and weeks of continually testing each package in search of the optimal ACL or MAC permissions/roles. Do you have any idea how gruelsome the process can be? There is nothing automatic about it. I don't think you understand what hardened OS is all about.

There is not half-hearted attempts to security. You either go all the way, or you don't do it at all. This isn't a case by case scenario of what to secure and what not to. I suggest you read up on the links I provided to give you an idea of what security is all about. I think we are on different pages at the moment.

Needless to say, and based on my experience with Slackware, I confidently conclude that it isn't a choice for a secure/hardened box, period! No docs, No support, No patches, No packages, No package manager.

RE: root
by Anonymous on Mon 12th Apr 2004 15:59 UTC

Geez root stop trolling. Why not go back to the gentoo forums and brag how openoffice opens 2 x 10^-9s faster than someone elses.

People use Slackware because they want a vanilla distro that is releavily easy to install, stable, and fast. So quit yer bitch'in.

RE: what
by root on Mon 12th Apr 2004 16:03 UTC

It works for me.

What works? You have SElinux/Grsecurity/PaX? You have hardened gcc? What exactly works?

I have been compiling my entire slackware system from source for years. Here's a tip as to how its humanly possible: "./configure && make && make install"

Now, go back and recompile the whole system to make each package hardened and stack protected. I have better things to do with my time than manually recompile hundreds of packages, when my package manager can take care of the rigors for me.

RE: what
by ponds on Mon 12th Apr 2004 16:09 UTC

Yeah, I just dont let the package manager install code from a tree that changes every day for me, because I care about security and don't feel like letting a program automatically run code from a repository thats already been hacked into at least once.

(^^---this is a blatant troll, I use gentoo just as much as I use slackware)

Seriously I think you are overestimating how difficult it is to build a hardened system from slackware. Sure it takes a while, but it gives you more security than letting portage do it for you.

Remember first you said it was impossible, then you said it was possible but there were no docs, now you say its just rigorous.

Vanilla yum
by Sardaukar on Mon 12th Apr 2004 16:18 UTC

I've been using slackware on my personal box for several years now and it does its job perfectly. Slackware's goal is to provide you with a basic vanilla install and it achieves that goal perfectly. WOuld I use slackware on my production systems? It really depends on the usage of the server. All the servers I run use OpenBSD, a REAL secure OS.

If you cant read the docs distributed with most apps and can't type google.com in your browser slackware isn't for you, but for the experienced user it provides a vanilla, stable starting point from which to "build" upon. So please quit whining and making this a slackware vs gentoo article, they are both great distros with different goals.

Slackware from source
by Anonymous on Mon 12th Apr 2004 16:26 UTC

Building Slackware from source is hardly magic. If you have a good mirror, there's a slackware_source/ subdir with the sources, the patches that P.V. applied, and the build script he used to make the .tgz. If you don't like the defaults, just put your own patches in there.

>>Install the gnucash slackware package from http://www.linuxpackages.net<<

That's where I got it, it doesn't work. I've been fighting with this for some time. I'm not the only one.

Hrmmm. I installed but have yet to actually start it up. Might be the fact that you also need the gwrap package. I'm in the middle of installing gnome 2.6, so testing is kinda outa the question =)

>>Add "ZAxisMapping" "4 5" to the mouse input section of your XF86Config. That information is readily available on the Net<<

Okay. It seems there is always some configuration to do after the initial install with anything. No bash, I'm just relating my experience.

Ya, I find that I have to do this one after every slackware install. Maybe I'm missing something in the X config (done it dozens of times)

>>
chmod +x /etc/rc.d/rc.cups
/etc/rc.d/rc.cups start
<<

Thanks, will try it.

Hope it works. If not, lemme know.

>>Never heard of lilo not installing during a Slackware install<<

No offense, but you must not have read too many slackware install forums. This is a very common problem, and has been for some time. BTW: I have installed several linux distros on my system, only slackware gives me this problem. Although, it's easy enough to fix.

No offence taken. Actually, I have never read any slackware install forums. I have never had any issues installing slackware, and I have probably 30 or so 9.x installs under my belt (not to mention the hundreds of previous versions I have installed for servers, firewalls, etc.). I have not really been one to get into the Slackware Community until lately.

I would love to see slackware move to grub for a bootloader.

>>Don't blame gnome for that. That's a problem with your X setup, or the driver itself.<<

Maybe, I think there are ways to speed up dropline-gnome, but I don't know how.

Not sure how either. Possible that it's the glx or dri modules not being loaded from within your XF86Config. With my gnome install, it was the fact that I just installed a new GeForce 4 and was using the generic nv driver for X, rather than the one from nvidia. World of difference afterwards.

Another $0.02 CDN

Evolution speeds
by ipx on Mon 12th Apr 2004 17:21 UTC

>Evolution even cloned how slowly Outlook opens.

lol
very funny true ;)

RE: SuperKaramba problem
by Nick F on Mon 12th Apr 2004 18:07 UTC

Oddly enough, I was just flipping through this month's LJ issue before reading your review, and this exact problem was mentioned in *da dum* an article about SuperKaramba! :=)
(pp 28-31)

Anyway, you need to find the following line in the karamba.cpp (in the src directory after you extract the source):
KWin::setType(winId(), NET::Dock);

And comment it out, like so:
// KWin::setType(winId(), NET::Dock);

Assuming this fixes your problem, forward any thanks to Marcel Gagne.
--Nick F.

RE: what
by Daniel de Kok on Mon 12th Apr 2004 18:13 UTC

What? There is nothing automatic about the process. It takes days to lock down a box, and weeks of continually testing each package in search of the optimal ACL or MAC permissions/roles. Do you have any idea how gruelsome the process can be? There is nothing automatic about it. I don't think you understand what hardened OS is all about.

Been there, done that. On Slack ;) . It is not really that bad, often there are already profiles for e.g. ACLs for daemons. It just takes some trail and error to finetune them. Once you have done it it isn't really difficult after that. I did it with both kernel ACL patches and systrace (BSD).

RE: scrollwheel
by -Anders on Mon 12th Apr 2004 18:14 UTC

I take it that you changed the protocol from PS/2 to ImPS/2 as that's needed aswell I think.

GNUCash
by Daniel de Kok on Mon 12th Apr 2004 18:16 UTC

Compiling GNUCash yourself is doable, you just have to get some Slack 8.1 files. Instructions can be found over here: http://rjmarq.org/gnucash.html

RE: root
by Daniel de Kok on Mon 12th Apr 2004 18:17 UTC

GCC isn't hardened, it (propolice) just compiles programs to use a random canary to check nobody has tampered with the program.

There are at least two more ways to add icons to the desktop of a minimal window manager...

Idesk:
http://idesk.timmfin.net/

And Xtdesk (derived from Idesk):
http://garuda.newmail.ru/xtdesk_e.dhtml

Hope this helps.

ctrl-shift-enter
by psilo on Mon 12th Apr 2004 18:36 UTC

CTRL-SHIFT-ENTER functions in Mexcel are matrix/array functions. In OOo they just work without using CTRL-SHIFT-ENTER. Why it is obligatory in excel is beyond me!

slack install
by iges on Mon 12th Apr 2004 19:28 UTC

ok choosing the packges up front has +1 prompt during install but whendtoing a full install one could always use pkgtool aftewards to just strip everything else that will no be needed and it's pretty easy ;)

Re: Evolution speeds
by Ruckschau on Mon 12th Apr 2004 19:52 UTC

"Evolution even cloned how slowly Outlook opens."

Yeah, except the Gnome team is rather small. Outlook has the bulk of Microsoft's legions behind it and still makes a slow, insecure mail client. What's MS' excuse?

ok article but...
by hobgoblin on Mon 12th Apr 2004 20:05 UTC

that sillyness about one program to rule them all have to go. as long as both konqueror, mozilla or whatever other program you want to use renders pages the same way then whats the problem? same deal with office programs, as long as the spreadsheet or text document looks the same then i dont care what program you use. in a corporate enviroment then they can enforce a one software policy anyways and on a desktop people will most likely stay with what gets the job done for them. force feeding one browser or one office collection is not the free software way. free software is about choice, being able to select what tool you want to use independet of what everyone else use. standards should be about filetypes (xml based solutions is nice) not about what software you use!

RE: okay article but...
by Steve Husted on Mon 12th Apr 2004 21:01 UTC

force feeding one browser or one office collection is not the free software way. free software is about choice, being able to select what tool you want to use independet of what everyone else use

Agreed. Which is why my idea is not to force feed one of each app - I said to also make it easy to get other types of that application.

Example: in Lindows, you pretty much get one of each app, with links to the other apps. Really, the links go to Click 'n Run so you can install what YOU want if you don't like the default. Certainly, Lindows is NOT what I want in Linux, but this idea struck me as very simple and very easy, and very much in the spirit of being able to select the software you desire to perform a certain task (e.g. browsing) - keeping the CHOICE that I love so much about Linux.

My point was really this: why have so many installed? Why not just ONE and then make it easy to install the others? My preference is for the apps I listed, so since it was my article I offered them as standards!

To the person who replied earlier about not liking OOo and not wanting 150MB installed (actually, it's 74.7MB to download, so you're a little off) - if there was an Express Install option, don't choose to use it! Use the "classic" Slack install instead! Again, it's about choice and choosing what's best for you - but let the user make the choice - installing stuff I don't want isn't really "choice."

err
by hobgoblin on Mon 12th Apr 2004 21:36 UTC

your fully able to pick and select exactly what software you want in most installers (granted i have never used slack myself and it have been years without helping others install it so). allso, haveing them all installed will let the user try them all and keep the one he wants while uninstalling the rest. mandrake is nice this way, mark a selection at the bottom of the software group "window" and you get taken to a tree structure where you can select exactly the stuff you want to install with dependency management so that if you deselct one pacage you get told what packages depend on it and either choose to have them all deselected or just cancel your choice. all of them have nice descriptive info about them and are sorted (to me atleast) logicaly.

this guy is clueless
by Brian P on Tue 13th Apr 2004 05:26 UTC

i couldn't stand to read it after the third page, yuck.

talking about your own ignorance and putting linux down is quite this fellow's lot.

1. Gets hissy when he gets a new computer with a badly supported graphics card and complains when linux/XFree86 doesn't run?????

2. He tries to make himself look like a real smart guy, however most people that i know would simply do a diff on the XF86config file from another distro to discover the ZAxisMapping. it took me all of 5 minutes to do myself!!!!

3. His rant about apt-get being a source pkg utility is absurd. it is what it is, and no more. if you want an apt-get source pkg manger than try gentoo or *bsd, i mean come on, we could spend all day in fairy land talking about how to change things that other people like just fine, gag

4. and the icing on the cake was when he was talking about ease of use for newbies, it's slackware for christ's sake

5. he recompiled the kernel when all he had to do was add a line in /etc/moduls.conf or do a simple modprobe and yet he puts down the distro, sounds like to me he shouldn't be using slackware

all i can say is this guy is a chode, he may use linux however his own incompetence as a linux user makes me sad:-(

Slackware Love
by fundabonka on Tue 13th Apr 2004 05:46 UTC

Have been using slackware for a few months now. I'm stuck on it and probably wont be hopping distros for a while. I know for a fact that i'm not going to rpm based distros, i just don't like them. Current window manager of choice, enlightenment 0.16.6. It's an old favourite.

On a side note, superkaramba seems like it hasn't been updated or maintained for sometime. I suggest gdesklets. Sure it needs gnome libs, but so far haven't had any problems with those display on the desktop.

Nice article, though a tad too long ;)

Slackware & BSD
by itanic on Tue 13th Apr 2004 05:59 UTC

Slackware attempts to be BSD-like. As such, if you prefer the Slackware way of doing things over other Linux distributions, you might prefer just to use BSD altogether. FreeBSD offers many of the features you mentioned you like, as well as those you feel Slackware should have but doesn't (e.g. documentation, ports/packages).

I know when I first tried out open source operating systems back in 2000, I ended up trying out in order (just by installing and then getting NAT to work), Redhat 6.0, SuSe ?, Slackware 7?, and FreeBSD 4.1. I stuck with Redhat at first, simply due to its popularity. However, after a while I decided that I wanted to learn unix and not Redhat's user tools. Since this also ruled out SuSe, it became a tossup between Slackware and FreeBSD. Simply due to documentation (the FreeBSD Handbook was and is excellent), I went with FreeBSD.

Often, I hear people make arguments against the BSD's since they are supposedly "more difficult" to use. I guess that depends on what you deem difficult. Although I was doing things by hand in FreeBSD, it was straightforward enough as to what was going on, as opposed to netconf or linuxconf where I was never quite sure what was going on. In particular, I found getting NAT and compiling the kernel much easier. One thing I've always hated about compiling linux kernels is you end up either with menuconfig, where you have to scroll through a gazillion irrelevant options to get everything you want, or edit by hand with zero documentation. Copying the GENERIC kernel config file and copying a few well documented lines over from LINT on the other hand was pretty painless, especially with copying and pasting with moused in console.

Over the years, I've run other linux distributions as well as given the above ones additional tries. I currently run Debian Potato as one HomePNA2 (phoneline) to ethernet bridge, and Slackware 8.1 as the other bridge, as the closed source HPNA2 nic's don't have BSD drivers. I also run Solaris, Irix, OpenBSD, and NetBSD.

To this day, I find FreeBSD the easiest to use; due to consistencies in the design rather than point and click gui tools. I still find FreeBSD's package management system to be the best due to having both source and binaries interoperable with each other. When I tried Gentoo, the kernel crashed as I was installing ALSA drivers so I deemed it too unreliable. This was 2 years ago though to be fair. I hear it has improved considerably but can still be testy at times. However, stability aside, I just don't find it quite as cleanly setup as the BSD ports system it was based on. I just can't imagine anything easier than browsing a directory on my filesystem for all the apps I need, and using the "make" command in the right subdirectory to install what I want, just as if I was doing it directly from source only having all the dependencies and package management worked out for me automatically. pkg_install <pkg> is also easy for binaries (just like on Slackware).

Another argument I often hear made against BSD is hardware compatibility (or lack of it). Aside from those HPNA2 network cards, everything I have works fine in FreeBSD. Nvidia has offered graphics drivers for quite a while now, which you can simply install through ports. All the popular network card chipsets are well supported, even onboard nforce2, gigabit and wireless. In the early days of wireless, the wi driver in BSD worked much better than the linux-wlan, allowing configuration with just ifconfig, and even had the feature to run in ap mode much earlier than linux did. My soundblaster live card has always worked well, needing only a single line in my kernel config to work (for all pci based soundcards). Even my ATI TV Wonder TV card works perfectly.

Anyway, for anyone who likes Slackware and hasn't tried FreeBSD yet, I highly recommend it. For any technically minded person it is easy enough (sometimes easier) to learn, and also offers a lot of other nice features.

Slack is all that, and a bag of chips, too.
by motub on Tue 13th Apr 2004 10:11 UTC

This was fun to read, as it's always nice to see a relatively inexperienced user discover that Slackware is far from the difficult bogeyman distro that the media often make it out to be. Just goes to show how great Slack is, since one would think the inexperience would have made using Slack even more arduous and unpleasant, but weirdly that doesn't happen. It didn't happen to me when I switched to Slack the first time, either. I guess there's just something loveable about it, even when you don't have the first clue what you're doing (as I didn't, at the time).

I loved using Slackware, but I recently switched to Gentoo because of Slack's almost total lack of cohesive package management. It's quite true that if an install happened to fail due to a missing dependency, I found it very easy under Slack to discover what package was needed, and install it. But what got on my nerves was having to trawl half the world to find packages in the first place. Slackware-current. Linux-Packages. Linux DOT Net. SlackCare. Jay The Obscure's Slackware Packages. Plus, of course, Dropline, which is great, but is not integrated into the package management system very well, so one actually has to check pkgtool to see whether Dropline has installed something before you install it from somewhere else. Swaret was OK, worked better for me than slapt-get, in any case, but didn't solve the essential problem. It got to be a pain, not having a single, consistent, and huge repository... made me miss Mandrake (!)

But I freely admit that I could probably not be using Gentoo now if I hadn't used Slack, that if I couldn't use Gentoo, I'd go back to Slack, and that Slack is quite stupendous.Everything works. Compiles don't fail. You can find out how to do most anything in a fairly short search, because the Slack community is huge, and somebody, somewhere, wrote down how to do what you don't know how to. And you don't have to be afraid of getting your hands dirty, because Slack is 1) simple; and 2) bog standard. So if something goes wrong, you know the answer: read the instructions again, because you mistyped something. Not "the distro has removed this feature,", or "the distro keeps its config files in a non-standard location" or that kind of crap. Everything is where it's supposed to be, and everything works.

It's like a breath of fresh air after the "heavy-GUI" distros (I used Mandrake through 3 versions, also tried SuSE and RH 9), and as long as you know enough to know about tools like Webmin (for the times you need such tools) and enough about the basics of what's going on with your system so that you know where to look for instruction on how to do whatever you're trying to do, you are just golden using Slack (because under Slack, if you follow the instructions, you will succeed).

As long as you don't mind getting down and dirty with it, and aren't "package crazy", that is.

v A funny article :-)
by slack boogie on Tue 13th Apr 2004 10:37 UTC
Slack is great, like this article
by Evert on Tue 13th Apr 2004 11:14 UTC

The article was well-written. I'm using slackware since 4.0, and did a few installs of 7.0, 8.1, 9.0 and 9.1. I always considered Slackware as a "console OS", not meant for GUI, and very stable and easy to administer in a console environment.

The "Express install" is a great idea. Mostly I choose the expert install, but waiting for a series to finish installation before I can continue to select the next series packages is VERY annoying. So sometimes I do a full install, just to get rid of the waiting. The Express install would be even better.

I don't like a package mgnt system, but more packages and a well-written tool to discover dependencies would be nice. Personally, I prefer to install additional packeges from source, so the "configure" step warns me about dependencies AND I get the latest and the greatest. That way I installed dovecot and postfix on my mailserver.

P.V., can you please replace sendmail by postfix? That would be really nice!!! Replacing lilo by grub: even beter. Mouse wheel: agreed, this is annoying.

Slack is great, but maybe P.V. should encourage more community development to fix things like outdated documentation.

RE: Slack is great, like this article
by Anonymous on Tue 13th Apr 2004 12:48 UTC

Mostly I choose the expert install, but waiting for a series to finish installation before I can continue to select the next series packages is VERY annoying. So sometimes I do a full install, just to get rid of the waiting.

err... as of slack 9.1, in expert mode, packages aren't installed until you're done making your selections for all the series (except gnome and kde.. which are on the second disc).

Thanks for your replies.

I have not used BSD, and I have honestly not ever considered using it. Judging from your reply, I think I might try it out. I've gotten many replies and it seems that my "standards" and "package management" rants are leading me along the lines of Gentoo or BSD (Gentoo's Portage system is based on BSD's system, for those that don't know), and another smaller distro that was suggested to me is Arch Linux, which is very standard and akin to Slackware in many respects, but addresses some of my gripes.

I have to agree: Slack just works!. Aside from my gripes, packages install properly, and when they don't, they tell you and it is really easy to fix. Everything is always up to date (cron job where swaret automatically updates me to -current every night) and the system reacts as expected. I've never before been able to install so many applications so easily on any Linux system I've used, whether .tgz or from source.

When I try to compile something, it compiles (not my experience with Red Hat) properly.

When I use a command, it works - and it works tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day...etc.

When I don't know something, I Google it and I find the answer 99% of the time.

TGZ doesn't have a database and doesn't need to be rebuilt (I had to rpmbuild --rebuild many times on RH9.0 because RPM got corrupted quite a bit).

The community isn't full of kiddies posting inane (and rude) replies to honest questions (as you can see in some of the childish replies to this article, they troll OSNews and don't contribute anything worthwhile). The Slack boards are mostly free of that stuff (in my admittedly limited exposure to them). Maybe that's because it takes a more serious user to tackle Slack, maybe that's the crowd Slack attracts, I don't know.

To everyone: thanks for the replies. I have a few more OSs to install now and a lot of tweaking/fixing to do on my Slackware system - thank you to the helpful people that posted solutions to many of my issues! Thanks to Daniel de Kok for posting answers to questions, too (we look forward to additional Slack documentation on your site).

steve

RE: root
by C. Whitman on Tue 13th Apr 2004 17:05 UTC

I'm not sure what you mean when you say that Slackware has no patches. Are you talking about patches specifically for the security packages you mention? I only ask since vanilla security patches for standard packages are provided with Slackware:

ftp://ftp.slackware.com/pub/slackware/slackware-9.1/patches/

for example, and info about security patches at

http://www.slackware.com/security/

Of course these are only the type of security patches that you would get from running

apt-get update && apt-get upgrade

in Debian, for example. To include things specific to SELinux and such would be beyond the scope of what Slackware is trying to do, provide a vanilla Linux with all its files in standard places. Slackware doesn't add patches of its own, but it does provide a conduit for security patches from package developers.

As far as getting enhanced security packages to work with Slackware goes: In my experience if a Linux program that you compile from source is going to work with only one Linux distribution without being mucked around with, it will be Slackware (perhaps Source Mage, and maybe even its "relatives," Lunar and Sorceror, as well, but I haven't used these extensively enough to really say). If tarballs straight from the developer won't install and work correctly with Slackware, then they usually won't install and work correctly with any distro without customization, unless they are designed specifically for another distribution and its non-standard behavior.

Quit Whining !
by nixerx on Tue 13th Apr 2004 19:39 UTC

All of you who whine about Distro fragmentation need to back off. Linux follows the POISIX Standard and it uses a package standard...the one that ALL RPMS's DEB's and .tgz come from. The tarball! Learn to build from source and you'll never have to worry about "Dependency Hell" or "Package Envy" again.
Another thing you can do is pick a distro and STICK with it. No ditro Jumping..that just complicates matters..different GUI tools or locations of libraries makes Linux a tough thing to learn. Who cares if everyone else is using Mandrake or Suse...you pick the one that gets you excited about the OS and get intimate with it. Before you know it you'll have the latest CVS KDE build with a bleeding edge kernel on you production Server.
In my opinion this laziness is corroding the Linux Community.
-nX



Response to your article
by NeoSadist on Wed 14th Apr 2004 02:51 UTC

I liked your article. However, you seem to compare Slackware to a lot of other things. Then again, we're all permanently scarred from the Microsoft experience (i.e. having to translate "where's Windows Media Player?" to "what audio players are there?") ;)
I love Slackware very much, because it is not controlling. Mandrake, Redhat, all newbie-friendly distributions tend to make me have to use their configuration tools. On Slackware, I can just read the program's documentation and edit the config files myself. I love that. It feels like "the right way" to do it.
As to dependency checking, I'm against it, because of my bad experience in RPM-dependency-hell (when both "rpm -Uvh" and "rpm -e" are lying, but you can't tell which one lied first). Slackware is for doing things "the right way", or at least the "slackware way" -- you check dependencies by going through the documentation of the program you want, reading the requirements (dependencies), then checking on your system if they're installed (in which just changing to /var/log/packages directory and running ls to look for it is MUCH easier than rpm IMO). I also like being able to compile programs on the fly, i.e. without downloading and/or installing tons of *devel*.rpm packages.
But I'm against anyone telling Patrick Volkerding what to do. Let him have his Slackware, and if we like it, we'll use it. I like it, so I use it. I like how it's elegant in its simplicity.
Including open office might be nice, but you can install it yourself. Dropline might be nice, but you can install it yourself. I feel like Slackware's power comes in how it doesn't tell you how to do everything, so you go learn to do it yourself, and you basically empower yourself along the way. While using Slackware I learned IPTables, I learned shell scripting, I learned to configure Samba, and the list goes on. I owe you, Pat ;)

RE: Response to your article
by mRgOBLIN on Wed 14th Apr 2004 05:00 UTC

Thankyou NeoSadist, couldn't have said it better if I tried ;)

mRgOBLIN

Keep OSS until ALSA works with Audigy
by Steve on Wed 14th Apr 2004 10:15 UTC

All I get when using ALSA with my Audigy Platnum is just 2.1 channels sound. With OSS I have 5.1 channel. I checked the driver status for the Audigy cards on the ALSA project website and the latest info for Audigy states the it only works in 2.1 and that the back speakers do not work for some reason the the developers do not know. I use OSS as it is the only solution that just simply works.

RE: Response to your article
by nixerx on Wed 14th Apr 2004 14:30 UTC

NeoSadist,
You SO right!
-nX

mouse wheel
by gnumber9 on Wed 14th Apr 2004 15:58 UTC

uuhh

I didn't see in the posts if you'd used IMPS as the mouse driver. I can't get the mouse wheel to work unless I use this driver.

Also I have issues with the mouse wheel button 4 or the up on the wheel in kernel 2.6.4 and 2.6.5.

sorry to waste time if this has been done

RE: Response to your article
by Steve on Wed 14th Apr 2004 17:48 UTC

I love Slackware very much, because it is not controlling. Mandrake, Redhat, all newbie-friendly distributions tend to make me have to use their configuration tools.

Agreed. The reason I am recommending Webmin is because it makes it easy to access everything in one place but you're still just editing config files - nothing is "automagic" about it. You still have to understand the underlying conf files.

But I'm against anyone telling Patrick Volkerding what to do. Let him have his Slackware, and if we like it, we'll use it.

I hope nobody felt that I don't like Slackware from reading my article. I REALLY do like Slackware, but what's wrong with making recommendations? It's not like PV has to report back to me or anything. Still, no man is an island and open source is about community collaboration.

Including open office might be nice, but you can install it yourself. Dropline might be nice, but you can install it yourself.

Not sure I understand this point. KDE is nice, but you can install that yourself, too. For that matter, gcc is nice but you can install that yourself. And XFree86, etc. Heck, by this logic, why isn't Slackware reduced to a single floppy? Of course I'm just exaggerating to make a point ;) The point of a distribution is to provide a set of open source packages so you DON'T have to do it yourself, or we'd all be pulling out our hair with LFS.

I feel like Slackware's power comes in how it doesn't tell you how to do everything, so you go learn to do it yourself, and you basically empower yourself along the way.

Again, agreed. I don't believe I ever suggested that Slack tell you how to do everything, did I? I certainly have learned quite a bit about Linux by struggling through Slackware. I'm not a novice but I'm also not a guru and still I managed to fix every single issue (the last few with help from the kind people that replied to this article). Heck, my desktop even says "Slackware Rocks!" (http://linuxshop.ru/linuxbegin/linuxhumor/page6-en.shtml)

I owe you, Pat ;)
Don't we all?

The rest of the world
by c.kruk on Thu 15th Apr 2004 00:40 UTC

``There is such a thing as too much choice.'' [Steve Husted].

It's good idea to start standarizing from Slackware Linux. Afterwards we will standarize Operation Systems -- single one should be enough. At the end we will standarize whole the world. Everybody knows: hot dog is the best food, Coca-Cola is the best drink, and Colgate Total is the best toothpaste. Everything else is unnecessary. Down with it!

Gimme some slack
by Michael Hall on Fri 16th Apr 2004 10:24 UTC

I spent four years as a RedHat consumer before discovering Slackware. I tried nearly all other distros (not Gentoo, and from what I read I'm not likely to ... I'd rather understand my own system properly than let some robot control it all for me. If you can't edit a config file go back to Windows.

Anyway, nothing I read here has convinced me otherwise. Slackware is the way to go - I'm mainly into servers, and believe that anyone who understands Linux can make a Slackware or any other box secure ... other put your trust in the packages that some robot sends you. SELinux? Like PAM, that may not end up being all it's cracked up to be. I've already read some people questioning whether that horrendous complexity is more of a hindrance than a help.

As for wheel mice, alsa and all that other consumer crap, who cares? If that's what you want, try XP.

RE: Gimme some slack
by Steve on Fri 16th Apr 2004 23:36 UTC

What do you mean, "As for wheel mice, alsa and all that other consumer crap, who cares? If that's what you want, try XP?"

How does that help anyone? Without the consumer, Linux goes the way of BeOS and OS/2: great ideas that died.

Let me tell you that MILLIONS of people care about that "crap," that's who cares. I shouldn't have to use Windows to get good sound and a wheel mouse that works on install.

If you haven't noticed, this isn't about Windows vs. Linux, and none of my article would lead you to believe that it is. Zealotry does nothing to further Linux. It's just not about "use XP" or "go back to Windows." You seem to have missed the points about improving the Linux experience; Windows is a non-issue here.

RE: Gimme some slack
by Michael Hall on Sat 17th Apr 2004 04:58 UTC

OK, point taken, though I'm not sure I'm the zealot here ...

I think it is also true to say that thousands of Linux users build systems that just don't need to keep up with all the latest desktop gizmos and gadgets out there. Most of the systems I build don't even have X on them, so I simply don't care about wheel mice, sound, desktop software and all that stuff. It is a non-issue as far as I'm concerned.

Also, I cannot for the life of me see how having to understand how to edit a config file is a bad thing if you are building production servers. I'd be real worried if someone COULDN'T do this. Maybe we need to recognise that Linux is used for lots of different tasks, not just desktop home entertainment centres.

I don't know if Slackware makes a good desktop system because I've never tried to install one. I DO know that it makes a fantastic server base. If people don't like it, don't make a fuss, just use something else.

RE: Gimme some slack
by Steve on Mon 19th Apr 2004 22:00 UTC

I intentionally left out Windows because I didn't want to start a religious war.

You are 100% correct - not everyone needs the latest stuff or all of what I mentioned. That's why I recommended an additional installation option. Don't use it if you don't like it.

I never said editing a config file was bad, I would just more centralized admin to make my life easier when administering a few systems. Ergo Webmin. I actually said I do NOT like custom config utilities - read "redhat-config-foo".

My Slackware system IS my web server AND my main desktop system, except for gaming, which is what XP is for: a glorified XBox.

I really DO like Slackware. I just wanted to share my experiences with my favorite distribution. Just because I don't like some things doesn't mean the whole thing is bad. It's better than my experiences with Red Hat, that's for sure; I just had to have the time to learn Linux first.

Thanks for your reply.