Interview with Eric Hameleers: Why You Should Try Slackware

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Linux Magazine spoke with Eric Hameleers (known as Alien BOB) about the 64-bit port and why users should consider switching to Slackware. As Eric discusses, this 64-bit release came from a ground up approach which has even managed to benefit the 32-bit build in the process.

CS: What were the biggest challenges you faced in porting Slackware to 64-bit?

EH: Quite rapidly, it became clear that if Slackware was going to develop two architectures (x86 and x86_64) in parallel, it would double the effort required by Pat, unless I did something smart. So I changed priorities. The new priority was, to give all build scripts a facelift. We decided on a “template” for the scripts and then I began adapting them one by one with the goal of unifying the scripts for x86 and x86_64 architectures. Pat was sceptical about this at first, but in the course of the 13.0 development cycle he got sold on the concept because indeed, it pays off in the end when you can build both your ports from the same set of sources. We intend to carry it further even, because our two other ports (for S/390 and ARM platforms) are converging to the same source tree as well.

Another issue I faced was the installer. Historically, Slackware’s installation environment has been hand-crafted by Pat with contributions from others. This meant there was nothing available that would allow me to create an installer from scratch. With the help of Stuart Winter (who wrote an installer for his ARMedslack port earlier on) and Pat himself, the three of us managed to work out a method for creating indentical installers for the x86, x86_64 and ARM platforms. This was crucial because it allowed us to keep the installer stable while we added a whole lot of both small and big improvements.

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Also:

Anyway, I've recently done some upgrading: Slackware64 13.0 on my HP TX2500 series laptop. It's a pretty shiny laptop with a lot of built-in peripherals. I haven't previously gotten a copy of any distro to work well enough on it to be considered useful.

So here are a few of the things that have amazed me in the last two days:

1. Slackware is still as much of a pain to install as it has always been. However, once installed, it has a lot less that needs configuring than in the old days. I typed "init 4" and was happily presented with a working kdm.

2. Xorg 7.4 is pretty nice. Without an /etc/X11/xorg.conf even existing, it simply starts by itself with some sane defaults, detects some peripherals, and even has some of my multimedia keys working out of the box. This used to be like pulling teeth on any distro, nevermind slackware.

3. My built-in Broadcom 4328 wifi mostly works with ndiswrapper.

Read the rest of Continued Amazement here