posted by Michael Hall on Thu 15th Jul 2004 07:35 UTC

"Slackware 10, Page 2/2"
Click for a larger view A welcome new addition is the mdadm RAID management package. While the older raidtools package remains entirely adequate for the task of building software RAID arrays, mdadm offers several additional functions that make managing and monitoring arrays much easier. Only raidtools is available during system installation, however, so this remains the tool to actually build an array at that point.

Another interesting new addition is dnsmasq, a lightweight caching DNS and DHCP server that simplifies the provision of these services on a small LAN. It is certainly much easier to configure than BIND and the INC DHCP server, but I'm yet to determine just how much functionality it actually delivers. On networks where Samba is functioning as a PDC, for example, dnsmasq would need to be able to provide Windows boxes with WINS server information if it were to replace the INC DHCP server.

Yet another new package is Sun's Java 2 Software Development Kit Standard Edition (J2SDK 1.4.2). Personally, I have never used Java-based software, but there are many interesting Java applications out there which may now be more easily deployed on Slackware. In particular, I'm thinking of several excellent XML related projects at apache.org such as Xerxes, Xalan and FOP, but that's another story ...

On the web server front, Slackware 10 has continued with the Apache 1.3 series (1.3.31). Again, the question of "outdatedness" versus stability can be debated, but in practice I have no problem with Apache 1.3 for the time being. While many features of Apache 2.x are definite improvements, most are not directly relevant to Apache as I use it, typically as a Linux-based intranet server on a small to medium sized LAN. In any case, quality third-party Apache 2.x packages for Slackware are available for those who need them. In terms of software commonly used in conjunction with Apache, Slackware again jumps to the leading edge with latest stable versions of PHP (4.3.7) and HtDig (3.1.6).

For anyone interested in installing X Windows, Slackware 10 is again about as good as it gets with both GNOME 2.6.1 and KDE 3.2.3 included. For those who use them, this is probably good news, but as I don't normally install them I can't really comment further in any useful way.

So, Slackware 10 includes lots of useful new packages, but what does it lack? If I could request just one additional package it would probably be postfix, as replacing sendmail with postfix is typically one of the first tasks I always undertake on a newly installed system. Postfix's management and security benefits aside, it also integrates easily with amavis and clamav (for email virus scanning) and spamassasin (for spam filtering).

Other less commonly deployed network servers such as Squid and OpenLDAP would also be nice, but on the other hand I'd hate to see Slackware acquire the bloat of some other distributions, so something has to give I guess. Third-party packages for most software is readily available from sources such as www.linuxpackages.net, while Slackware's inbuilt package system makes building and managing custom packages far easier than with any other Linux distribution I am aware of.

And now for the verdict. Slackware 10 is a well-rounded distribution that will continue to make a first-class Linux server platform. Changes in the new release are incremental, not radical, and Slackware remains one of the most stable, reliable and flexible distributions available today. True to tradition, Slackware 10 is refreshingly free of the convoluted and confusing "enhancements" often added by other Linux vendors that can make straightforward system administration tasks a real pain if you don't use their GUI tools. If you build and manage Linux server systems, I certainly recommend trying a Slackware solution!

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About the Author
Michael Hall is a freelance Linux consultant and web developer based in Alice Springs in Australia's Northern Territory. When not hacking Linux in some way, he is either outside gardening organically under the blue Central Australian sky, making noise with his trumpet, eating or sleeping.


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