posted by Matthew Trow on Thu 17th Feb 2005 22:22 UTC
IconI was quite excited about the release of Slackware 10.1, the same way I was excited about 10.0 and versions before that. As a self confessed 'Linux Desktop Dabbler', to date, I've found Slackware my favourite Linux flavour to Dabble with.

As far as I can see, there's isn't any huge changes over the 10.0 release, which is to be expected, but it's the quality of the updates and the stability of slackware that always wins me over.

Other popular distributions will dazzle you with cutting edge releases of more software and window manager options than you can shake a 'Linux in a Nutshell' book at. Slackware remains true to what makes it so popular. Simple, no fluff, stable.


I decided to backup the few config files that I generally have custom versions of to save time. These are smb.conf, xorg.conf, lilo.conf, my 2.6 kernel config and a few others. During installation, I then formatted my hda1 partition, leaving just the home partition intact. I guess this is a habit I've acquired from using MS-Windows for so many years. I'm never truly comfortable with trying to upgrade and while I know it's very possible with Slackware, I wasn't feeling brave enough to attempt the Slackware 10.0 to 10.1 Upgrade HOWTO.

There's not much that can be said for the Slackware install process that hasn't been said many times before, but I'll go ahead and say it again, in perhaps a slightly different way.

The install process is functional, it's curses based and plain as bread and water.

I'm not really a fan of incredibly fancy install processes for Operating Systems - I just want to get the job over and done with as quickly as possible. Suffice to say, Slackware installs damn quickly. There are no sections for adding a user or configuring X. It basically boils down to setting up your partitions, choosing the install source, choosing the package selection / packages and basic configuration. As with most Linux distributions, you can spend time customising the packages to be installed, however, with Slackware, I tend to find I'm comfortable with the defaults.

This is not a distribution that Linux newbies can install easily, as some work is required after Installation to get up and running.

Post Installation

I've pretty much got the Slackware post install down pat to suit my needs, but I did have a few issues, which to be fair, were not the fault of slackware. One issue was compiling the 2.6.10 kernel and then the latest NVIDIA drivers, only to find that there some sort of patch made to the kernel that is causing issues. Of course, I spent 40 minutes trying to get X configured before deciding that there must be a conflict - my bad. Installing and compiling the kernel got me back on course again.

Another hiccup I had was sound. For reasons that escape me, had I disabled the onboard VIA82xx sound card in BIOS and spent 10 minutes wondering why alsaconfig wouldn't detect any PCI sound devices - oops.

Besides those little problems it must be said that you have to know your hardware to install X successfully. It can be daunting if you've recently come from the comfy GUI Install world of Mandrake or Fedora, but it's not insurmountable.

I'll be honest and say that I spent some time with past versions of Slackware configuring X windows to exactly suit my needs and now simply keep my old config file backed up, always a good idea.

Window Managers

Slackware 10.1 ships with KDE3.3.2, Gnome2.6, XFCE4.2 and blackbox-0.65. It should be noted that KDE seems to be the default Window Manager of choice, judging by the official 10.1 release announcement.

I decided to see if Dropline Gnome 2.8 for Slackware 10.0 was compatible with 10.1 and it turns out it is, but on my fairly low-end system specifications, specifically the video card, it was incredibly sluggish. I turned off whatever eye candy I could, but I just couldn't work effectively with it.

What the heck, I gave KDE3.3.2 a whirl, switched off literally ALL the eye candy and it runs smooth at 1024x768x24 - I'm happy. I took XFCE4.2 for a spin too and I quite liked it, but KDE will be my desktop of choice for my simple needs.

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