Slackware isn't all that hard

Story: Slackware: the classic distro that's as timely as ever.Total Replies: 15
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Steven_Rosenber

Sep 28, 2007
9:45 AM EST
Every distro has its quirks, but the stability of Slackware and its many easy-to-use text-based tools (netconfig, xwmconfig, pkgtool, updatepkg ...) put it well within the expertise of most users. The KDE desktop and all of its utilities offers a more GUI way to configure Slackware.

And there's no denying the speed of Slackware.

One of the greatest strengths of Slack is its update policy. I really don't need a new release every two months, or even every six months. I need a non-broken release. And for the most part, Slack just works. A major release once a year, or even every two years, is fine for me. And since Patrick Volkerding continues to support older versions of Slackware with security updates, those of us who are happy with a certain setup can stick with it.

The package management in Slackware is different than apt, aptitude and Synaptic in Debian, there's no denying it. And the pros and cons of automatic dependency resolution in apt is certainly something to both debate and admire.

But for a certain segment of the user base, the Slack way is workable, sometimes preferable and refreshingly simple. I don't know all there is to know about what goes into Slackware, Debian and RPM packages, but all are viable, even if they're different. I haven't compiled anything from source yet, but it's something I'm hoping to do soon. And for those who want a graphical way to handle packages, there are alternatives that work with Slack.

Sure, I've run into a few problems with Slackware, but its nothing I couldn't have figured out by reading the documentation and going in the forums beforehand. If Ubuntu somehow became problem-free, I'd applaud that. But we all know that it's not.

When you think of servers, Slackware is definitely a player, but I think Slack makes an excellent desktop system as well -- even in a business setting, because it installs pretty well locked-down and has an excellent array of applications pre-installed. Since Slack is a multiple-CD install, you get more in the initial configuration of the distro. I'm running Slackware-derived Zenwalk now on one box, and that's a great system as well. The focus on Xfce was what I wanted, and the application mix enabled me to set it up easily and quickly.

And just like Debian, Slackware is the base for many other distros. I mentioned Zenwalk. There's also Vector, NimbleX, Wolvix, even Slackintosh. I'm sure there are others that I don't know about.

That said, I will continue to use Debian as well. It's just too good -- and too flexible -- to ignore.
Sander_Marechal

Sep 28, 2007
1:25 PM EST
Quoting:And the pros and cons of automatic dependency resolution in apt is certainly something to both debate and admire.


Ultimately, the solution to that problem is to change the way open source applications depend on other packages. Today the dependencies are usually resolved at build-time. I.e. lots of --with-foo and --without-bar at the configuration stage, accompanied by a slew of #ifdefs in the code. The problem for distributions with binary packages is what to depend on at build time. A few packages aside (e.g. Apache and Apache-mm-prefork) they are not going to ship different versions of the same package, so they enable most of the options. Which means lots of dependencies.

Developers should aim to resolve dependencies at run-time instead, or through a configuration setting. You want option function xyz that needs library foo? Install library foo and put "enable xyz" in the configuration file. Even better: The application could detect at start-up whether library foo is present and enable xyz if it is.

In such a system, foo is only a requirement at build time (for the header files). It's optional at run-time. And that's where an advantage of binary packages over source packages comes in. You can install foo on the build server so you can create a binary. But the user doesn't actually need to have foo installed on his own computer to install and run the binary application.
hayrono

Sep 28, 2007
6:14 PM EST
Slackware is Great I've tried many distro's I settled on Slackware 5 or 6 years ago. Always searching for the perfect distro. I found that Slackware would install on any old hardware and not bomb out on the graphical install because it doesn't use one. Plus the way it installs gives you a great way to get everything setup so it works. Once setup it give me super stable and fast system that I haven't found in any other Linux distro. It works great on older hardware and even better on newer hardware (if you have it). Simple and Secure that just gets better and better with each release. Not for the beginner but for anyone who wants to learn. This story tells it the way it is, GREAT. For me anyway.
gus3

Sep 28, 2007
8:09 PM EST
The learning curve with Slackware may have improved, but when I first tried it in 1997, the curve was steep. However, it paid off in being able to figure out how SysV works, even before I knew what SysV was. Slackware uses BSD init, not SysV, but my first introduction to a Red Hat system would have incurred ten times the pain, were it not for my Slackware knowledge.

I actually understood, once upon a time, how /etc/printcap worked, thanks to Slackware.

http://gus3.typepad.com/i_am_therefore_i_think/2006/05/you_n...
hkwint

Sep 29, 2007
12:03 PM EST
Here are my Slackware experience / thoughts I'd like to share with you:

In the past, I very shortly (only a few weeks) used Slackware in a dual boot with WinXP, end '02/begin '03 IIRC. However, I found it rather difficult to configure and install things. I have to note, the _only_ other thing except Windows I had used at that time were OpenBSD, NetBSD and FreeBSD; those are user friendly neither. So basically I had almost no UNIX-experience, and it proved quite hard for someone who's used to Windows to deal with things from CLI. Nonetheless, these days I still think a CLI (not ncurses!) can be more user friendly than a GUI: everything happens sequential, so there are few distractions. In Windows / KDE (to a lesser extent) there's the problem of seven Windows sequentially opened and placed on top of each other. I think using Slackware was one of the things which finally led me to that conclusion.

All three *BSD's have automatic dependency resolving, but Slackware didn't, which led to problems and was one of the most important reasons to ditch it I remember. That's when my friend switched me to Gentoo (he knew a lot about it): automatic dependency resolving, no bloat (because of the USE-flags and very, very minimal standard base), always the newest packages and fast too.

Reading this article, I think Gentoo has many in common with Slackware, except that Slackware is older, its versions probably more stable, commercially backed and Slackware's management team is more stable as well (ahum). If it was not for the dependency problem, I would still have been a Slackware user too; and apart from the dependency problem, I can remember I was glad with Slackware. As an old Windows-only user, I was very glad to know what was on my system too.

Looking back, it might have saved some time to use Slackware instead of Gentoo while trying to learn Linux; mainly because of the time I spend on optimizing in Gentoo, which is one of the important parts in the Gentoo-world. However, gains of those optimizations were minimal, and I rather could have used that time to do more 'useful' stuff.

Nonetheless, just like Linus himself, these days I crave for a distro which just works; I just want to get my things done without having to configure everything by hand, so I finally might switch to one of the newer candy distro's... Hard decision to make.
Sander_Marechal

Sep 29, 2007
3:23 PM EST
Quoting:Nonetheless, just like Linus himself, these days I crave for a distro which just works


At this point I just don't understand Linus at all. He would love a distro that "just works" but for some reason or another, he disliked Debian (and spin-offs). For the bulk part, Debian "just works". What gives?!
gus3

Sep 29, 2007
3:37 PM EST
hkwint:

Quoting:always the newest packages and fast too.
Slackware (well, Patrick) used to be very cautious about using the "latest and greatest" until it had been vetted for security issues and bugs. Slack 12.0 is more up-to-date on latest code.

But Gentoo fast? Well, for raw CPU speed tests, perhaps. But once disk access comes into play, speed suffers in a bad way. All that updating, of the Portage database, then the downloaded code, then the build space, then the installed files space, leads to serious filesystem fragmentation. You may get good CPU speed, but the disk access will kill it.

The broken promise of system speed, coupled with a bad dependency check on Poppler, drove me back to Slackware.
hkwint

Sep 30, 2007
8:31 AM EST
Quoting:For the bulk part, Debian "just works".


Probably still needs too much configuration I think? Compared to Mint Linux or so...

Quoting:But once disk access comes into play, speed suffers in a bad way.


That's my reason to use EVMS.

Quoting:...leads to serious filesystem fragmentation.


Don't know, but never felt that was a problem. Have to find out though. They once told me reiserfs or ext2/3 don't need defragmentation like FAT, but I guess that was too optimistic.

Quoting:But Gentoo fast?


Gentoo itself not, but the system you can build with it can be. I found a good speed increase while using no-sources, though those are not maintained anymore, and probably not stable, and only using Windowmaker helps a lot too. Then you can prelink some stuff. As you see, it depends on what you make of it, just like in Slackware. It would be nice and interesting to try if I can feel or measure some difference between the two, but I don't have any idea how I should do that.
phsolide

Oct 01, 2007
6:10 AM EST
I've used Slackware on all kinds of slightly ancient hardware (ca 1996 Hitachi Laptop, ca 2002 Wal-Mart PC, discarded ex-corporate Gateway boxes, etc) since Slackware 9.0.

I've never had the kind of "dependency" problems that people complain about. I had worse problems with RPM packages under SuSE 7.2/7.3/8.0 - having to "force" an install, or worse, figure out why you had to force an install. But then I don't mind doing the occasional "from source" build, especially for Vim, which seems to always ship with goofy options compiled in.

Slackware rules!
vainrveenr

Oct 01, 2007
8:42 AM EST
Even so, there are so many more distros derived from Debian than there are from Slackware. The Debian-derived distros that readily come to mind are Ubuntu and its own derivatives (e.g., Kubuntu, Xubuntu, ...etc) MEPIS AntiX Damn Small (DSL) KNOPPIX Freespire Xandros.

On this note, is there a definitive list of ALL current distros derived from Slackware, no matter how "alpha" any of these may be?

Already have several of the most well-known Slackware-derived distros listed here: Slax Vector Zenwalk

As one can see, this list is half the size of the Debian derivatives.
number6x

Oct 01, 2007
9:34 AM EST
Distrowatch gives 42 for slackware: http://distrowatch.com/search.php?category=All&origin=All&ba...

and 130 for debian: http://distrowatch.com/search.php?category=All&origin=All&ba...

Of course we know the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything is Slackware.

On Edit: (I note that SuSE is not listed as based on Slackware. SuSE started out as an SLS based distro. Slackware is also based on SLS. Then when Slackware came out SuSE based itself on Slackware. I guess it is independent enough not to be called 'Slackware based' any more. Maybe 'Slackware derived' is better. I wonder if there are others that were once Slackware based, but have now moved on and are no longer listed?)
jdixon

Oct 01, 2007
9:42 AM EST
> As one can see, this list is half the size of the Debian derivatives.

You left out Wolvix, Nimblex, and SuSE, that I know of without looking.
jdixon

Oct 01, 2007
9:44 AM EST
> I wonder if there are others that were once Slackware based, but have now moved on and are no longer listed?

College Linux. It's now based on Debian. There are probably others.
number6x

Oct 01, 2007
9:47 AM EST
jdixon,

I'm even running wolvix on a laptop!

I just chose 'slackware' in the 'based on' search. Wolvix is SLAX based, so the distro watch listings might not get grandchildren.
hkwint

Oct 03, 2007
11:34 AM EST
Quoting:But Gentoo fast? ... But once disk access comes into play, speed suffers in a bad way. All that updating, of the Portage database, then the downloaded code, then the build space, then the installed files space, leads to serious filesystem fragmentation.


Verified and proven nonsense. Over more than 18 months, FS fragmentation on my ReiserFS partitions is
hkwint

Oct 03, 2007
11:35 AM EST
Quoting:But Gentoo fast? ... But once disk access comes into play, speed suffers in a bad way. All that updating, of the Portage database, then the downloaded code, then the build space, then the installed files space, leads to serious filesystem fragmentation.


Verified and proven nonsense. Over more than 18 months, FS fragmentation on my ReiserFS partitions is less than 2% and the average fragments per file are ~1,03. I tested this on /var (where stuff is compiled) and /usr (where portage resides).

Used the perl script supplied here:

[url=http://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-t-429915-highlight-perl fragmentation report.html]http://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-t-429915-highlight-perl f...[/url]

The one supplied by "as", Tue Feb 14, 2006 1:46 pm

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