Another idea for the Slackware gang: a post-install utility that offers to install extra stuff. It can be command-line driven like the regular Slackware installer. It could even BE the regular Slackware installer. This could make the install go more quickly and would lend itself to my "Express Install" idea, with the post-install available to add in all the extras, and perhaps all the other versions of browsers, email clients, media players, etc. could be "extras" and important stuff like swaret and Webmin would be default. Installation would be so much faster, and on one CD, too! Not only that, but you could pop open Firefox while your extras were installing, instead of sitting around twiddling your thumbs (or whatever you do with your thumbs) during installation. Dropline Gnome got this right – a simple, ncurses-based utility that goes out and downloads the required files and then installs them for you. Lickety split. I think Slackware could team up with the people over at Swaret and make an Ncurses Swaret GUI. I checked out Kswaret and it was kind of not useful at all. How about getting the Synaptic code and changing the underlying engine to use swaret instead of apt-get? THAT's what Slackware needs, and would help to unify system upgrades under the Synaptic flag, a la my standards rant above.
I have been using Swaret for a couple of weeks now. I took a stab at modifying the /etc/swaret.conf file to NOT exlude kernel updates and I switched the repository from 9.1 to "current." I ran swaret –update && swaret –upgrade kernel-source* && swaret –upgrade kernel-ide* && swaret –upgrade kernel-headers* && swaret –upgrade kernel-modules-ide*. My kernel was updated but lilo was not! Oops – perhaps swaret should provide some sort of notice that they took the liberty of copying files around and killing your old kernel files, but not in updating lilo. Luckily, my system booted with just a bunch of module loading errors and let me edit lilo to fix the problem. I re-ran lilo and did another reboot and I was up and running 2.4.25. Phew, that was too close to toasting my system. Another "gotcha" with Swaret is that it has a repository of what it THINKS you have installed, not what you really have installed. As I mentioned, I upgraded KDE to 3.2.1; when I did "swaret --upgrade" it "upgraded" me down to KDE 3.1.x! I still had my .tgz files so I went back and did installpkg *.tgz in the directory where my KDE files were. Swaret team, please do an idiot check to see what is REALLY installed. In the meantime, I have added KDE to my #exclude list in the swaret.conf file to prevent this from happening again, but I shouldn't have to.
I am now using this system as my web server, retiring my old K6-III/350 that was running Red Hat 9.0. Slackware is now my web server, my FTP server, and it is running SSH and VNC so I can remotely administer my system (I am forwarding the ports from my Linksys router). After sorting out the minor issues noted above, this system makes a MUCH faster web server than Red Hat 9.0. Okay, so the hardware is twice as fast as that old K6-III system I had running – still, it is much faster and much easier to use and more stable. Red Hat 9.0's Apache GUI configuration utility kept toasting my setup and I had to go in manually and change my server name and remember to not use that GUI utility again. The Slackware system is also easily usable as a desktop system while still being the web server, while Red Hat 9.0 on a 350MHz processor was not really what I would call "usable" in X.
I am very happy with my Slackware 9.1 system. It took me a long time to get to where I am today, but the journey has been full of learning and geeking and general fun computer stuff. Slackware 9.1 is a perfect desktop system for my current needs (I have that P4 system for gaming) and is also a great web server. The problems I had were almost all resolved quickly and I've had nothing but positive experiences with the Slackware community. I have a lot of suggestions that I hope the Slackware team will take seriously (if not them, then perhaps someone has been searching for a niche to fill with their own Linux distribution?). If you are searching for that perfect Linux distribution, I would suggest you spend a month or two with Slackware and really take the time to learn it – I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
About the author
Steve Husted is a long time computer geek, currently doing anything but the technical support he was hired to do in Sacramento, CA. He tries to sneak in some Slack time between work, a bachelor's degree, and family.