posted by Michael Hall on Thu 15th Jul 2004 07:35 UTC
IconMy first experience with Slackware Linux came with version 9.1, after 4 years of using various versions of Red Hat and SUSE Linux. I disliked the general direction these distributions were moving in and didn't see their increasing focus on the "big end of town" as auguring well for either myself or clients of my small one-person IT consultancy business. I quickly became a Slackware convert and have since used it exclusively for all my server deployments. Check in for more and 15 screenshots from Slackware 10.

Click for a larger view These are typically file and intranet servers on small to medium sized networks of up to 50 or so clients, typically providing additional services such as DNS and DHCP. Above all, I am impressed by Slackware's stability, clean layout, easy customisation, and excellent package building and management system.

Slackware 10 has now arrived after much anticipation, and my initial assessment is that the latest offering is even more appropriate as a server platform than the previous one. Generally speaking, the overall layout and inbuilt Slackware tools have not changed much, which is a good thing, while the software selections represent a balanced mix of old and new. At the time of writing, all software was also fully up to date in security terms, which is always nice.

The installation process using the standard Slackware installer was a breeze, as it was with the previous version. I honestly believe that Slackware's reputation for being difficult to install is not just undeserved but quite wrong, particularly in the case of servers being installed by system administrators who presumably have a basic level of Linux knowledge. Overall, the process is certainly no more demanding than any other mainstream distro that requires users to make choices about their installation.

The only caveat I'd place on this statement relates to creating a RAID array during installation. Slackware doesn't provide a simple option for doing this, though it is still possible to create an array. The task requires the use of command-line tools such as fdisk and mkraid, and some hi-jinks with swap partitions and lilo configuration files, so a reasonable level of Linux skills are necessary.

Brand new shot of Coaster Older packages that remain in the mix include things like lilo and inetd, which for some is evidence of Slackware being an "outdated" distribution. I am of the opinion that in situations where stability and reliability are paramount, the use of such packages has more advantages than disadvantages. In terms of functionality and security, lilo and inetd perform as well as any alternatives and if something "ain't broke", why fix it?. In any case, such packages are hardly critical: bootloaders are irrelevant once the system is running, and I normally never run anything that inetd manages anyway, apart from the occasional FTP server. Looking instead to what could be considered "core" server software, Slackware 10 is clearly one of the most up to date distributions currently available.

One of the most significant updates in Slackware 10 is the inclusion of the 2.6.7 kernel (in /testing on CD2). It appears to be quite reliable and is very easy to install alonside the default 2.4.26 kernel. Whichever kernel you opt for, you are sure to have the latest available stable version. The 2.6.7 kernel brings with it many improvements both big and small. These include the udev dynamic device management system which greatly reduces device clutter and makes it easy to locate devices, and new CD-ROM handling that no longer requires the ide-scsi module. Nevertheless, for production server installs I'd definitely recommend sticking with the 2.4.26 kernel in the interests of stability. In particular, Slackware developer Patrick Volkerding notes concerns over the safety of hard drive partitions under the current 2.6 kernel, and believes that overall system performance is still better under 2.4.

With increasing demand for the deployment of Samba on Linux as a file server and primary domain controller (PDC) for Windows NT domains, the inclusion of the latest stable version of Samba (3.0.4) is a big plus. It is now no longer necessary to install third party packages to replace the older 2.x version that shipped with Slackware 9.1. Samba 3 now allows a Linux box to completely emulate an NT domain server, with considerable inroads being made into Active Directory integration as well. In the server market, Samba is definitely a "killer application" that makes migration to Linux an attractive proposition for many small to medium sized organisations.

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Table of contents
  1. "Slackware 10, Page 1/2"
  2. "Slackware 10, Page 2/2"
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