posted by Mikhail Zotov on Mon 21st Apr 2003 04:08 UTC

"Slackware Myths, Part II"

Myth 2. There are no or very few docs on Slackware.
As I have already mentioned, every Slackware distribution includes a detailed installation guide and not only. Besides this, there is The Official Guide To Slackware Linux, available at Slackware's site. It seems to be a little bit outdated (it was released with Slackware 8.0) but in unimportant details only. I found it to be very useful, at least for a newbie like me.

Besides this, one can find a Meta-FAQ, an "unofficial" Slackware book, and numerous other Slackware-related FAQs and docs. Just check the daily FAQ posting at Slackware news group.

Finally, there are two books available that one can buy at http://store.slackware.com/

Myth 3. There are tons of rpms and debs around but nothing for Slackware.
First of all, Slackware includes a lot of the latest stable versions of miscellaneous software. Next, one can find even more in its "extra" folder. Besides this, one can find tons of packages configured especially for Slackware at http://www.linuxpackages.net/ and its ftp twin.

Finally, don't forget that you can (almost) always install your favorite program from source (if one is available). Slackware 9.0's "extra" includes a nice program -- checkinstall -- that helps one to maintain the software data base properly. In particular, it creates packages in Slackware-specific format so that you don't need to recompile your favorite program in case you uninstall it and then decide to install it again. With checkinstall, one can manage packages installed form source in a standard Slackware way -- by running pkgtool.

Myth 4. Slackware is for servers (Vector Linux is for desktops).
Well, I agree that Slackware is so stable that it can work as a world server. This doesn't somehow mean that it cannot be successfully used at a desktop PC. It includes all widely spread window managers -- KDE 3.1, Gnome 2.2, blackbox 0.65 to mention a few -- and a lot of office/multimedia software.

As for Vector Linux (VL below), I have tried 3 (downloadable) releases: 3.0, 3.2, and 3.2-Soho. In my opinion, this is a pretty nice distribution though it is not polished yet. (Just take a look at /tmp or /var/tmp immediately after the installation.) It includes a number of configuration programs that may be handy and that are not included in Slackware: sndconfig and Xconfigurator taken from Red Hat, SaX from SuSE (this one worked for me in SuSE but didn't work in VL) and perhaps some other. It is quite colorful and makes an impression of a distro prepared with a user in mind. Still, having tried this three releases I didn't find anything that could make VL a better choice for a desktop PC than Slackware. To the contrary, I found a number of features that I didn't like. For example, I was unable to boot Vector with the /boot partition using ext3 filesystem. To compare, ArchLinux, which is only at its 0.4 release handles this easily. More important is that VL doesn't give one an opportunity to choose which packages to install and which to omit. As a result, VL-3.2 (Soho) occupies around 1.5Gb on the hard drive. More than this, if you uninstall a package and then decide to install it again, there is no straightforward way to do this: VL doesn't provide either separate packages or their sources. Here comes another VL-related issue that seems a bit strange for me: an absence of package sources. I had a discussion on the subject with a guy from the VL team at their forum. It looked like this:

Q: Where can I find the sources?
A: We don't want to occupy extra space at ftp.ibiblio.org.
Check Slackware's sites if you need sources.
Q: Slackware does not include sndconfig and SaX.
Where can I find them?
A: You are trolling our forum!

To be fair, all other VL users who took part in the discussion were very polite and friendly.

I am not sure whether this is a violation of the GPL or not but I am not going to buy/run Vector on a regular basis until its team provides package sources.

Myth 5. Slackware's forum is abusive.
Well, according to my experience, one can meet a couple of guys at alt.os.linux.slackware whose answers roughly mean "RTFM". Just don't mind or ... follow their suggestion. The overwhelming majority of people at the newsgroup are very friendly and helpful. Most of my (dumb) questions received clear and comprehensive answers within an hour or so. Thank you, men!

Besides this, there is another Slackware forum: http://www.linuxpackages.net/forum/. It is nice, friendly, and useful.

Myth 6. Slackware's site is ugly and outdated.
This is true if you mean that it does not contain tons of blinking advertisements. It is simple and clear. I like it. Though it could possibly include links to the sources of "unofficial" information. If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself.

Myth 7. Slackware is damn fast and stable.
Do you expect that I will argue that it is not? Surprisingly, I won't. Slackware is really fast and stable. I don't mean that Red Hat or Mandrake or SuSE or whatever of the main Linux distros are not stable. Surely, they are. But Slackware boots up approximately two times faster then these three do. Isn't this what one would like to have for a home PC?

So, my point of view is that Slackware is definitely a very good distribution. Is it right for you? Maybe not. But if you can afford yourself to spend a couple of hours on weekends to look "inside" Slackware then in a month or so you may find that you enjoy using Linux more than ever -- as this happened to me

Does all this mean that I am going to confine my Linux experience to Slackware? Definitely not. My "GETFUN" list includes: (i) take a closer look at ArchLinux, CRUX, Debian, and Gentoo (in alphabetical order) and (ii) get rid of Red Hat at work. Don't ask me why. Just give yourself a chance to try Slackware

About the Author:

About me and my background with computers: I am a physicist, I am definitely not a computer/Linux guru. I have no idea about C. Nor vi. About 20 years ago I took a course on FORTRAN. IMHO, this doesn't count. From 1996-1998 I used Window 95 and felt (more or less) happy with it. In 1999, I installed Red Hat. The first installation made me develop my computer skills: I read the RH Installation Guide and Dos-to-Linux-HOWTO. As far as I remember, the most difficult thing with Linux was figuring out how to quit a man page. In a couple of months, I have found that: (i) I am deeply in love with Linux (ii) I don't need Windows any more (iii) I don't even want to see Windows any more.

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