Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Slackware 12: The anti-'buntu

Filed under
Reviews

It's probably safe to say that today's desktop Linux users have come to expect a certain out-of-the-box experience ("OOBE"). This usually includes the following features:

  • An easy-to-use, graphical installer &em; either run from the context of a live CD, like PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu; or something more traditional, like Fedora Core's Anaconda. It usually includes a graphical utility to help you partition your hard disk.
  • A good-looking desktop (usually KDE or GNOME), pre-configured to come up after booting into Linux.
  • Graphical configuration tools that help the user take care of common chores like setting up hardware, without having to resort to the command line.

(OOBE or not OOBE? That is the question.)

And then there's Slackware, which is more traditional. Slackware is the oldest surviving Linux distribution; its first version came out in 1993. Version 12 was recently released. As its Wikipedia entry notes, it's got a reputation for sacrificing ease-of-use (in terms of configuration and package management tools provided by the distribution) in favor of letting the end user configure the system and its software by herself.

The two main desktops that come with Slackware 12 are KDE v3.5.7 and XFCE v4.4.1. (Slackware doesn't include GNOME; there's a community-driven project named dropline GNOME which will, eventually, have an easy-to-install version for Slackware 12.) Software is very current, and includes X.org 7.2, kernel 2.6.21.5, gcc 4.1.2, and Firefox 2.0.0.4.

 

Installation

Slackware 12 was recently released, and while you can find ISO images of the four installation CDs on some mirrors, I opted to download the complete installation DVD via bittorrent. After booting from it, it asked me if I wanted to use a keyboard map other than English (the default); asked me if I wanted it to configure my network card; and then prompted me to run the "setup" script.

Before running setup, however, you will need to parition your hard disk, if you haven't already. (I personally prefer to create partitions prior to installing a distro, regardless, using the GParted live CD.) Instead of providing a graphical partitioning utility (like gparted), Slackware offers you fdisk (which is completely command-line-driven) and cfdisk.

The "setup" script is a simple menu-based utility. The SlackBook, a well-written reference manual and tutorial on how to install and use Slackware, has a good walk-thru of the process (including screenshots). It's quite simple and fast, if you take the setup utility's recommendation and install everything (which avoids the setup utility asking you which packages you want to install).

A few notes about the installation process:

  • You can specify mount points for all of your pre-existing partitions, including NTFS and FAT32 partitions, although configuring the system to let a regular user read (and, for FAT32, write) to them is left up to you.
  • You're given the option of making a bootable USB stick (although for some reason, mine didn't work in either of my two computers).
  • The installer lets you choose a custom console font, which is a neat addition.
  • LILO is Slackware's default boot manager. If you'd rather install GRUB than LILO, you can skip the LILO installation. Later, you can boot from the rescue CD (or DVD), specifying your root partition, then mount the installation CD, install the GRUB package from the /extra directory, and then run the "grubconfig" script. Grubconfig will walk you through the process of installing GRUB and creating its configuration file ("menu.lst"). (Since I already had another distribution's GRUB controlling the boot process on my computer, I chose not to install LILO, and simply added an entry for Slackware to my existing GRUB setup.)

When you're done with the installation process and reboot your computer, you end up at a bash prompt, and are left to log on as "root". So now what?

Now it's time to get busy adding a regular user account and configuring the X server. There are two utilities you can use to configure X, "xorgconfig" and "xorgsetup". The former will prompt you to provide quite a bit of detail about your hardware; the payoff is an "xorg.conf" that's extremely well-commented (i.e. the purpose of each section is explained). The latter will do the configuration automagically, but leaves the comments out.

If you're planning on installing the proprietary NVIDIA driver, this is a good time to do it. If you installed everything, you'll already have the needed kernel source. Using "xorgsetup" is the better than using "xorgconfig" if you're going to install the NVIDIA driver. I chose to let the NVIDIA installer write its own entries to "xorg.conf" after running "xorgconfig", and it made a huge mess of the comments.

After configuring X, you can log into whichever window manager you chose during setup. If you chose KDE, like I did, switching to runlevel 4 will bring up kdm, the KDE Display Manager, and from there, you can log in and configure KDE to your liking. (Note that Slackware's set up so that, by default, you can only switch to text console "tty6" if you want to go back to a text console in runlevel 4. This can cause some confusion. You can edit /etc/inittab to change this behavior.)

     

Make your desktop look the way you want it to

 

Software and Package Management

My guess (by looking at my package logs) is that the entire Slackware distro proper consists of somewhere around 800 packages, give or take. (Contrast this with Debian's pool of around roughly 18,000 packages.) Package management centers around three simple utilities: installpkg, removepkg, and upgradepkg, which do exactly what you'd expect. Dependency resolution is mostly left up to the user.

These utilities can be supplemented by a command-line utility named slapt-get, which emulates its Debian cousin. There's also a graphical interface to slapt-get named GSlapt (which is a separate download). These utilities make installing software from the Slackware repositories very easy.


GSlapt in action

To help you compile programs from source, there's a utility named checkinstall. After running the standard "./configure" and "make" commands in your source directory, you run "checkinstall" instead of "make install", and it will create a Slackware package for you (and also install it, if you choose). See checkinstall's README file for more information. (Although checkinstall was included in the "/extra" directory of the Slackware installation media until the very last minute, it was removed due to some sort of incompatibility. As of this writing, a new version hasn't been released yet.)

There are a couple of sites offering precompiled Slackware binaries: LinuxPackages, which hasn't caught up with Slackware 12 yet, and Slacky, an Italian site.

Finally, there's also an interesting project at SlackBuilds.org, which allows you to download the source code to a large number of programs, along with a wrapper script that compiles them into Slackware packages, which can then be installed using "installpkg". (See their HOWTO for more information.)

Compiling from source can sometimes be frustrating, but that's usually the fault of the software developer. For example, Slackware includes a nice bittorrent client named "bittornado" in its "/extra" repository, but doesn't include wxPython, which you need to install in order to run bittornado in GUI mode. While there are precompiled Slackware packages for wxPython available, thus far they're only for Slackware 11, which included Python 2.4, rather than Slackware 12, which includes Python 2.5. Long story short, there's lots of documentation available on how to install wxPython, and some of it hinted at the answer, but none of it addressed the problem of how to get the current version installed. In the end, I had to find the proper configuration file to edit, and figure out what line to change, in order to get wxPython properly installed in /usr/lib/python2.5/site-packages.

Eventually, a precompiled version (or a SlackBuild) of wxPython for Slackware 12 will come out, and that problem will go away.

 

In Conclusion...

If you want an easy-to-use Linux distribution that doesn't make you work too hard, Slackware might not be for you. On the other hand, if you want a distro that's quick to set up, and know how to configure it by hand (or aren't afraid of learning to), you might fall in love with Slackware. It's definitely an interesting way to learn how to use Linux. And it's definitely a way to get a stable server up and running in very little time.

 

More Slackware Resources

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

u don't need wxpython

I run slackware 12.0 updated from slackware 11.0 which was updated from slackware 10.2.
I downloaded the wxpython build script from www.slacky.eu and wxpython source code and compiled by myself.( Remember wxpython requires the libgnomeprint,libgnomeprintui,libgnomecups etc)

If u don't want to do it, u can use ktorrent an excellent torrent.
slackware is the best distribution of all. It does what u want to do.
Slackware users are the masters.
If u want a distro b/c it is fast,stable and simple then use slackware.

re: typing

What do you do with that vast amount of time you save by typing "u" instead of "you", and "b/c" instead of "because"?

Cure cancer, write a Broadway play, solve obscure math theorems, what?

wxPython

wxPython does not need libgnomeanything; I'm not sure where you got that information.

Thanks!

I've been meaning to post this earlier, but thanks for the references, eco2geek - we appreciate it Smile

--
http://slackware.com/~rworkman/
http://rlworkman.net/
http://slackbuilds.org/

More in Tux Machines

Having offended everyone else in the world, Linus Torvalds calls own lawyers a 'nasty festering disease'

Coding curmudgeon Linus Torvalds has gone off on yet another rant: this time against his own lawyers and free software activist Bradley Kuhn. On a mailing list about an upcoming Linux conference, a discussion about whether to include a session on the GPL that protects the open source operating system quickly devolved in an angry rant as its founder piled in. Read more

The Battle of The Budgie Desktops – Budgie-Remix vs SolusOS!

Ladies and gentleman, it’s the moment you have all been waiting for… the main even of the evening! In this corner, wearing Budgie trunks, fighting out of Ireland, created by Ikey Doherty, the man behind Linux Mint Debian Edition — SolusOS! And in this corner, built on the defending champion, also wearing Budgie trunks, aiming to be the next flavor of Ubuntu, Budgie-Remix! Read more

Leftovers: Software

  • 5 Cool Unikernels Projects
    Unikernels are poised to become the next big thing in microservices after Docker containers. Here’s a look at some of the cool things you can do with unikernels. First, though, here’s a quick primer on what unikernels are, for the uninitiated. Unikernels are similar to containers in that they let you run an app inside a portable, software-defined environment. But they go a step further than containers by packaging all of the libraries required to run the app directly into the unikernel.
  • Cedrus Is Making Progress On Open-Source Allwinner Video Encode/Decode
    The developers within the Sunxi camp working on better Allwinner SoC support under Linux have been reverse-engineering Allwinner's "Cedar" video engine. Their project is being called Cedrus with a goal of "100% libre and open-source" video decode/encode for the relevant Cedar hardware. The developers have been making progress and yesterday they published their initial patches that add a V4L2 decoder driver for the VPU found on Allwinner's A13 SoC.
  • Phoronix Test Suite 6.6 Milestone 3 Released For Linux Benchmarking
  • Calibre 2.65.1 eBook Viewer Adds Driver for Kobo Aura One and Aura 2 Readers
    Kovid Goyal released today, August 26, 2016, a new maintenance update of his popular, cross-platform, and open-source Calibre e-book viewer, converter and library management tool. Calibre 2.65 was announced earlier, and it looks like it's both a feature and bugfix release that adds drivers for the Kobo Aura One and Kobo Aura Edition 2 ebook readers, along with a new option to the Kobo driver to allow users to ignore certain collections on their ebook reader. The list of new features continues with support for right-to-left text and tables to the DOCX Input feature, as well as the implementation of a new option to allow users to make searching case-sensitive. This option can be found and enabled in the "Searching" configuration section under Preferences.
  • Calamares 2.4 Universal Installer Framework Polishes Existing Functionality
    A new stable version of the Calamares universal installer framework used by various GNU/Linux distributions as default graphical installer has been released with various improvements and bug fixes. Calamares 2.4 is now the latest build, coming two months after the release of the previous version, Calamares 2.3, which introduced full-disk encryption support. However, Calamares 2.4 is not as big as the previous update as it only polished existing functionality and address various annoying issues reported by users.
  • RcppArmadillo 0.7.400.2.0
    Another Armadillo 7.* release -- now at 7.400. We skipped the 7.300.* serie release as it came too soon after our most recent CRAN release. Releasing RcppArmadillo 0.7.400.2.0 now keeps us at the (roughly monthly) cadence which works as a good compromise between getting updates out at Conrad's sometimes frantic pace, while keeping CRAN (and Debian) uploads to about once per month. So we may continue the pattern of helping Conrad with thorough regression tests by building against all (by now 253 (!!)) CRAN dependencies, but keeping release at the GitHub repo and only uploading to CRAN at most once a month.
  • Spotio Is A Light Skin for Spotify’s Desktop App — And Its Coming To Linux
    Spotify’s dark design is very much of its identity. No-matter the platform you use it on, the dark theme is there staring back at you. Until now. A bunch of ace websites, blogs and people I follow have spent the past 24 hours waxing lyrical over a new Spotify skin called Spotio.