posted by Mikhail Zotov on Mon 21st Apr 2003 04:08 UTC
IconFor three months now, I have been a Slackware user. I am also an OSNews reader. Being so, I see that there are a lot of myths about Slackware. Some of them seem to be misleading. I'd like to comment on a number of them basing on my (not so long) experience using Slackware.

From 1999-2002 my experience with Linux was confined to major rpm-based distributions: Red Hat, Mandrake (about 90% in summation), and SuSE. Here I must stress that until recently I could only run Linux at work because I didn't have a suitable PC at home. On the other hand, there is no Linux system administrator in our lab. And I don't have time at work to try different distributions. In such conditions, Red Hat and Mandrake suited me fine.

In December 2002, I became a happy owner of a Celeron-1.7GHz PC (thanks to my friends!). After about three weeks of "jumping" from one "smaller" rpm-based distro to another (Caldera, Conectiva, the CERN edition of RH, and ASPLinux) I installed Slackware 8.1. Since then, it is always in my box so that now I am a three month Slackware user (mostly Slackware 8.1 and a little bit of 9.0). This means that I (hopefully) have some experience that may be useful for others. If you read, keep in mind that I am definitely a newbie both in Linux itself and Slackware in particular. Well, I guess I won't give you a chance to forget about this

Myth 1. Slackware is for geeks/developers.
First of all, I think that if an instrument is used by experts and professionals then this means that it is a really good instrument, though it may really look or be too complicated for a rank and file user. To figure out whether this is true or not for Slackware, let's split the above claim into parts.

1a. Slackware is user-unfriendly.
It seems that Slackware developers make two a prior assumptions about potential users of their distro: (i) users are not hopelessly dumb and (ii) from time to time, users are able to use a keyboard and perhaps even read docs. If these assumptions are not valid then Slackware may look user-unfriendly. (In my opinion, a Windows-like GUI as the one used in RH 8.0 and 9.0 releases doesn't mean user-friendliness. Perhaps, this is a matter of taste.)

1b. Slackware is difficult to install.
This is definitely true if you have only one finger and it is deadly glued to your mouse. Slackware installation procedure does not have a GUI in the sense of Red Hat or Mandrake. One who decides to install Slackware will need to type "root" and even "setup." If the hard drive is not ready for the installation it will also be necessary to type "(c)fdisk" after "root." Believe me, this is not so difficult as it may look. More than this, it is much less time consuming than clicking here and there. The rest of the installation needs approximately the same number of keystrokes as it is necessary in RH or Mandrake.

By the way, the installation procedure is exhaustively documented -- just check Slackware-HOWTO and other docs included in the distribution.

In fact, there is nothing much to talk about. Installation of Slackware is straightforward and easy. In comparison with the installation procedure of Windows XP, it's a snap.

1c. Slackware is difficult to configure.
At first, I was a bit perplexed by the fact that there is no "All-in-one Configuration Center." Very soon, I found out that it is not needed. There are very few settings that are not configured during the installation procedure and that one would like to change. The BSD-style init scripts used in Slackware are simple enough to be understood/edited even by a newbie like me. They also have extensive comments inside, so don't worry.

If you really need a GUI program to configure your box, install linuxconf. It works well. But better you don't.

There may be a problem with configuring X. Slackware does not detect a monitor "on the fly" like say Red Hat or Mandrake do. For the first time, one may prefer to use XF86Config from his/her previous Linux distribution. If you start X anyhow, go to KDE's kxconfig (available in KDE 3.1, Slackware 9.0). It will do the job for you. More than this, it can do the job fine. As for me, it has tuned my monitor better than it has ever been (even with original NVIDIA drivers for Windows).

Settings of your favorite WM are made exactly as in other distros.

In my opinion, a Slackware user feels him/herself closer to Nature, i.e., to Linux, than say with Red Hat or Mandrake. After you edit a script or two instead of clicking your mouse here and there you'll find that the entire system has become closer to you. Believe me, this is a wonderful feeling!

1d. Slackware is difficult to run or manage.
As far as I understand, this is mainly concerned with the Slackware package management. This is true that pkgtool does not check dependencies for the packages you mean to install. (This is not done even during installation.) Well, being an rpm-minded person, I missed this feature at first. Then I have found that (i) there are bash scripts that can check dependencies for you, just check Google, (ii) in most cases, READMEs provide all necessary information. Surprisingly, I have found that after reading a README I use the corresponding program much more efficiently than I do without. Thus, my advice is: read READMEs. They are written for us.

If you want to have an automated procedure for making updates, install autoslack, available at http://www.linuxpackages.net/.

It is also worth mentioning that Slackware's installation CD can also be used as a rescue one.

Table of contents
  1. "Slackware Myths, Part I"
  2. "Slackware Myths, Part II"
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