My husband hooked me up on Slackware almost three months ago (he used to run Slackware in the ’90s). While I use a large range of OSes on a daily basis, when I am under Linux I now prefer to use Slackware. This is my mini-article with thoughts on Slackware 9.1 after using it for three months on and off. Ten screenshots are included.In my experience…
I love how simple Slackware feels (it feels like the BeOS of the Linuxes, in a way :). You of course need to learn 5-6 Slackware-specific tricks and things, but your adventure should stop right there. Everything should just work, manipulating services, changing configurations, etc.
Installing applications is very easy, you just download .tgz files from either the Slackware FTP site or the third party apps found at LinuxPackages.net and then you type “installpkg file-name.tgz” or “upgradepkg file-name.tgz” or “remove app-name” and the rest is history. The funny thing is that while Slackware’s tools don’t support dependency checking (third party package tool Swaret does) I did not usually have any problems installing anything. The packagers make sure that all dependencies needed are to be found on their web site or on LinuxPackages’ site usually grouped together and they are easy to find these groups, and so it makes software installation pretty trivial.
To demonstrate how much the Slackware guys and its developer community value backwards compatibility for the convienience of the user, downloading and installing packages and its dependancies manually from the Dropline Gnome distribution it works perfectly with stock X11 or stock Gnome (for example, I got the xine, totem, Evolution packages from Dropline and they worked fine on my stock X/Gnome even if Dropline offers its own version of X and Gnome.) The only problem I hit sometimes when I install gnome packages is that scrollkeeper takes forever to do its part. This is a known behavior that happens in a number of distros and in my opinion scrollkeeper should be fixed or re-architected.
Creating packages and sharing them with other Slackware users is easy. Instead of the usual “make install” after compiling something, just do a “checkinstall -S” and it will create and install the .tgz package for you! The .tgz file is now ready for sharing with others (tip: on Slackware is best to always configure stuff as ./configure –prefix=/usr because some specific libs don’t like the default /usr/local location, even if it’s on the $PATH).
The other great thing about Slackware is that its -CURRENT tree, the unstable one, is actually… very stable. I admit that I am constantly running -Current on my desktop (not /testing though, which is really beta) and I haven’t noticed any problems. Things continue to work as they did before.
Speed-wise I consider the 486-compiled Slackware the fastest distro on the machine that it shares with i686-compiled Fedora, Java Desktop System, Lindows, SuSE and Mandrake (along with other OSes too). Slackware is the snapiest of all under normal Gnome desktop usage at least. And it boots much faster than any of the other distros too. About 20 seconds boot time on this Samsung 40 GB drive (with DMA on).
In my review in September I mentioned a problem with the software mixer found on the VIA AC97 on-board card, but installing my Yamaha XG-754 worked like a charm with ALSA and I am quite happy with the quality (there are some noise artifacts sometimes in some alert sounds though).
Slackware has been rock solid for me. I know of two reproducible ways of crashing its Nautilus and one of crashing the included KOffice, but that’s it. I mean, if you know my reviews, you know I can always find bugs and problems all over the place. Slackware has proven ‘more than good enough’ stability and bug-wise.
Slackware takes the “safe approach” and it doesn’t patch the kernel with custom hacks like some distros do. They only use the default kernel code pretty much. But having said that, it still works with my FireWire PCI card and my new USB camera out of the box. Only the mouse movement is pretty bad on X, but all distros have that (except Fedora as it has special kernel patches for it).
By now you probably have noticed that my two Slackware articles I have ever written (this one and my Sept. review) are pretty “short” for my standards. This is because there is nothing either glorious or problematic to report. It just works. It is a distro which doesn’t have to “pretend” about anything. It is what it is and does nothing more or less than it markets: a Linux distro based on the BSD layout which makes a good small/medium business server and if you are a more-than-average user should also make a good desktop too. It promises nothing more and it succeeds to this goal as it doesn’t have many of the annoyances found elsewhere.
I think I have used more than 25 Linux distribution versions in the last 4-5 years (more than 12 unique ones). Slackware is the first one that “stuck” on me. Not because it fixes long term problems with the Unix/X usability or doing anything so different from the rest, but because it is simple, it is easy to understand its “way”, it’s stable, and it’s easy to install applications. In general, Slackware wins on the edges, it is not that different from the rest, but different enough on the places that count to offer a consistent experience.
The only thing I want to see from Slackware in the future is more research and effort besides the “package, test, ship” direction. Slackware hasn’t changed much the last few years and it already shows its age compared to more modern OSes. Some effort to include integrated server/system tools for various tasks and some differentiation on the desktop side would be most welcome. Oh and Patrick, please add FAM, I can’t live without it.
For those who say it’s not for newbies – you’re right. However, if you don’t mind getting your paws dirty you can do what I did – jump in at the deepend. Apart from about 2 weeks worth of trying to run SuSE (following which I spent about 2 years not using Linux) I tried Slackware, and through chatting to a mate on the net who used it I quickly got sorted.
I’ve read this article in libranet 2.7 installed this morning upgraded to debian unstable to get gnome 2.4 – it was really UNSTABLE – I wasn,t able to get OO.org running.
Then I realized that I was going to take a closer look at Dropline Gnome anyway = quick format. Dropline rules !
Eugenia, You mentioned knowing 5 slackware tricks – can You give us some more info on that ?
One of em’s gotta be turning up and un-muting the volume channels in alsa
Spent ages wondering why I didn’t have sound on a fresh install =OP
Spent ages wondering why I didn’t have sound on a fresh install =OP
Haha! Ditto, here!
I personally love slack, ever since I first tried it in 7.x… I dual boot windows and slack, and wouldn’t dream of switching to another Distro.
Perhaps someone should put together a set of scripts to make a fresh Slackware install more desktop oriented…. here’s a couple ideas ;oP
hmmm… maybe this wouldn’t be a bad idea….
I think you’re on to something there. Of course booting to gui requires X to be set up – something I always miss out when installing as I like to get the nvidia drivers.
Guess that’s probably another of the tips and tricks..
set the default runlevel in inittab
A while back, I figured out that I should probably set PKG_CONFIG_PATH in etc/profile, and I can add my 2-cents that this is definitely that way to go. It makes compiling and installing software (like gphoto, gdekslets, etc.) a snap.
In fact, I emailed Pat and asked him if Slackware should be doing this by default.
Haha, i had the exact same problem. I went nuts for 5 minutes before i found out about alsamixer.
Funny how this little things make us laugh when they happen in slackware. Maybe Eugenia is right, we all know what i stepped into, we shouldn’t be (and weren’t) expecting some huge text file with “PRESS THE M KEY AND THE UP ARROW UNDER ALSAMIXER, THAT IS IF YOU FIND ABOUT ALSAMIXER… OK OK, TYPE “alsamixer”, there.”
I clearly fall into that greater than 20 distros, I would argue greater than 50 distros. Most of the time I am back running slackware after a few days. RedHat has almost lured me away more than once, so has Lycoris. I have been looking for a way to get Windows free and Slackware + Dropline GNOME was the answer.
If you read osnews regularly you might have cought a very good XFree86 trick. Copy the XF86Config file generated by KNOPPIX, it is that simple. Well, back up, the non-gui installer of slackware is actually very simple and easy to use. As simple and easy to use as any of them (the favorites debian and gentoo are clearly exceptions to this rule). Then once slackware is installed either boot knoppix from cd and copy the xf86config file or if you have it saved somewhere else.
Sure dropline gnome is an extra step, and non-gui but is even simpler than slackware to install.
Because the intaller has changed very little you only ever have to learn it once, go for a full install with newbie and never ask the question (what are all of those other options about)…
and what is the deal with grub, many of the distros I have tried are total failures simply because of grub, I quite often have to go and fix other distros with slackware and lilo, I just dont get it.
“when I am under Linux I now prefer to use Slackware”
I admire your work. I think we’ve learned a lot together discussion these topics over the last year and I hope the learning never stops.
You have my respect.
Actually some seem to be missing one of the major points of this. Yes /usr/local is ok for programs you install but if you go to update a program that is already on the system and you don’t at least attempt to intall it in the same way and location you end up with stray junk all over the machine in a rather short time. Now if it is a library or somehing you now have two copies one old and one new wana guess which one is going to be linked in to other programs you compile? It is just good practice to not blindly compile programs without first looking at what it is and where it should go. This is very true for ones already on the system. Telling folks it ok is just not good sound advice. And be carefull with some of the packages sites you might see posted around I just downloaded one today and good thing I checked it first my / would have had some wacked permission and a local user as the owner. Stick to sites that you know provide good packages such as Linuxpackages.net or a handfull of the others.
Slackware is a great distro (I usually use SuSE). It’s much resposive and boots/shuts much faster. Just finished installing K3b-0.10.3; downloaded from the K3b site (just the source), compiled and installed without a hitch. The fonts are great. Mozilla has already java & flash plugins installed. Gnome 2.4 rocks; it has a feature that changes screen resolution on the fly. Only problem is no scrolling with my USB mouse though I selected USB option during install, but it’s easily fixed with ZAxisMapping option in XF86Config. I don’t know if this an XFree86 thing; but did anyone succeed an automatic configure of mouse scroll option without editing XF86Config? Nevertheless, I am sold on Slackware.
after reading thru’ 111 all messages, I remembered there was a quiz about fonts in Openoffice-1.1.
Slackware-9.1 provides a fonts set quite good w/ Bitstream Vera Sans/Mono/Serif. However,you can absolutely try to install and configure out the others such as Microsoft True Type Core Fonts (msttcorefonts) (downloadable at http://corefonts.sourceforge.net/ ) and utf-8 fontsets on your slackBox. After all done, Slackware will be The Miss Linux 2004 right now :-). And then, Openoffice-1.1 can heritage all fonts from slackwareBox (located in /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts) by installing fonts for it:
#cd /path/to/your/install/openoffice (eg, /opt/openoffice)
then openoffice will pop up a windows to configure printer and fonts, follow steps there to install all fonts for openoffice.
Back to your ~/home and try ./soffice. Well now you got a heaps of nice fonts for openoffice//
//Slackware drives me to slack–where? 🙂
If scrollkeeper updates are slow you need to install the sgml-tools package.
The best part of this review was that it talked about what it’s like 10 months after the installation – which, I think, is the true test of a system. I have a pet peeve for sluggish systems, and whenever I install an OS (quite often since I also do it for friends), I spend at least an hour turning off all of the bells and whistles and still don’t seem to get the response that I’m looking for. Slackware has always just felt more responsive for me, and is why I like it. Plus, I was able to get a light system installed that hard booted into X in under 6 seconds. Not bad, huh?:).
@ex-slackware user or Randy Myers
If you lost your cable account I would say it was for breaking the TOC of your ISP. If you want to SPAM constantly in the newsgroup about pointless things that no-one cares about then maybe you might be breaking yout TOC and your ISP should kick you out.
Image if someone spammed this message board with Eugenia sucks every message.
The newsgroup’s FAQ is neither very useful or very visible, so there’s little wonder people ask questions that are answered in it. Certainly, there is no reason to expect that anyone who doesn’t frequent the newsgroup would have any reason to know that the FAQ exists. Why not post a link to that rather than launch into a tirade about how to ask questions?
Since I wrote most of that FAQ would you like to explain what is so wrong with it?
And by the way I am one of the people on the AOLS newsgroup that has fought for years to get people to act nice. Both regulars and newbies. The FAQ’s where written exactly to solve most common problems so that we could have more time dealing with the difficult problems.
And what I really don’t under stand is why it is that if I go to all the trouble to make these things easy for some people that certain people feel it is their [explecitive deleted] right to tell me I am a [explecitive deleted].
I will now quote something from the AOLS quote.
Now why the [explecitive deleted]’s can’t any get that straight. It really makes me wonder if I should try and help these people if some [explecitive deleted] just want to be [explecitive deleted] about it.
As far as the Vaio, u may need a boot disk or something with specific drivers. With my Compaq laptop, slack wouldn’t install until I changed a couple of settings in the bios.
If all else fails, most distros support installing from an iso image on the hard drive.
Some users will have boot issues with 9.1. My older desktop won’t boot it, and the floppy images were too big for my floppy. In this case you can burn the floppy image to cd, and create ur own bootable install iso. There are some instructions floating about on how to do this.
The review is great, and so are the comments. A few things about checkinstall:
It’s a third-party add-on package, on the Slackware Extras CD (or in the /extras directory on ftp).
Like you, I use checkinstall every time I compile from source (./configure && make && checkinstall). Checkinstall can also create RPMs or DEBs as well, and integrates your compiled software into your distro’s package scheme.
I compiled MPlayer with checkinstall. When I did a swaret –upgrade with linuxpackages.net as a repository, swaret thoughtfully upgraded MPlayer with the newer version on linuxpackages.net.
What is the difference between Dropline Gnome and Gnome?
What is the difference between Dropline Gnome and Gnome?
Dropline Gnome is a customized Gnome distribution made specifically for Slackware. I features a niceish installer-updater and a few cool customizations. See http://www.dropline.net/gnome/ for more information.
BTW, I am going to purchase slackware after reading Eugenia’s review I feel sort of persuaded…. Currently i am using Xp and would like to set up a dual boot machine. Is this as easy to do as w/- major distros? (partitioning etc, ..)
What about Real player? and Acrobat reader? Are they easily installable on slack?
Thanks for your awnsers
Nothing wrong with the FAQ, and good for you for doing it, but I don’t see it as aimed at newbies. It seems more appropriate for folks with at least some experience with Linux.E.g., real newbies don’t yet have the context needed for man pages and such to make any sense.
Beats me why some people are rude and obnoxious on newsgroups. Perhaps they’re just rude and obnoxious, period.
You mention having tried many distros and liking Slackware the best. What was your experience with Gentoo?
I concur. I’ve used slackware for a long time, and I love it. However, I kept having problems with alsa (slack 9.1) and kernel recompiles, so I stick with slackware 9.0. Dropline has also come a long way (BTW, doesn’t dropline update everything to i686? it used to… this would explain the speed of slackware 9.1 with dropline).
The only other thing I can think to add to slackware is a more extensive iptables documentation. I found mine on the web, true, but I’ve come to appreciate that they include lots of documentation in /usr/doc/Linux-HOWTOs and /usr/doc/Linux-Mini-HOWTOs.
One thing I forgot to mention in my last post. Slackware may be “not newbie friendly”, but I was new to linux when I first tried it. I found that if one follows the easy-to-understand instructions (or most the time just hits the enter key, since slackware installer picks the best answer as the default answer), it’s easy to install and use. Therefore I highly disagree with the “slackware isn’t for newbies” comments. In fact, it’s probably the best for newbies in the end, due to its great stability and very balanced set of included software.
Remeber: buy the CD set if you want to support Patrick Volkerding and Slackware development. Or even better: become a Slackware subscriber (subscribers only pay $25 per set and have a higher priority when a new release ships).
Just my thoughts after being a long time Linux user. Slack, simply put is the best distro. Is it for newbies? Dont know, define newbie. Slack was the first distro i used and I was surely worse than any newbie. But I devoted time and I learned. There is documentation and there is google.com; u dont need anythin else period. If u r of the kind of newbies that just dont care how everythin works or dont wanna learn and just have an alternative to windows, or if u just want to impress your friends of being a l33t linux user —-> SuSE !! Easier than windows to install, everythin autodetected and the most user-friendly the money can buy. By far superior than any other commercial distro, inlcuding red-hat which sucks so much ass. And no, mandrake isnt more user-friendly and by the time u will be realisin that it will be too much time wasted on a crappy system. Slack is a true rock-solid linux system for hardcore users(or adventurers). SuSE is the only commercial distro that is worth buyin, plus they r true pro these guys. And by the way, Gnome good but KDE just plain better. Flame on!
Never regretted my switch to linux. If u go that way and dont quit from the very beginin then u just wont go back to Windows, no matter what. windows is good but for kids… c ya
Am I a newbie? I’ve only been using Linux since about July so I guess I am. I tried all the so called ‘easy’ distro’s but in the end found Slack easier because it *works*.
So I have to type startx at a terminal: That is better than RPM freezes, supermount bugs and other wonderful problems I encountered before Slack put all the other distro’s (IMHO) in the shade.
Currently i am using Xp and would like to set up a dual boot machine. Is this as easy to do as w/- major distros? (partitioning etc, ..)
Yes, it is very simple. Just stick the Slackware CD in and follow the instructions. Slackware comes with cfdisk, and that helps you do partitioning.
What about Real player? and Acrobat reader? Are they easily installable on slack?
Real Player and Acrobat Reader are as easy to install as any other Linux distro. Just untar the program, which is similar to unzipping it with WinZip, and read the README file and the INSTALL file.
With Slackware, I hope you like to read documentation. If you don’t like to read or learn, then don’t try Slackware. But if you do, then try it. You’ll have a lot of fun. And be sure to join us at alt.os.linux.slackware if you have any (intelligent) questions. There are some really helpful people there. And ignore what you read about the “evil” newsgroup. We’re nice to you if you’re nice to us.