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Slax 5.1.4 - Your Pocket OS

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Slax recently released version 5.1.4 of their amazing "pocket os" and since it had been almost a year since our last look, we thought we'd better find out what 5.1.4 was like. Much like its predecessor, it has a whole lot chocked into a small kde-based download. At 192 mb, is it worth the download?


Slax's homepage says it better than I would. To quote them,

"SLAX is fast and beautiful Linux operating system which fits on small (3.14") CD-ROM disc. It runs directly from the CD (or USB) without installing. The Live CD described here is based on the Slackware Linux distribution and uses Unification File System (also known as unionfs), allowing read-only filesystem to behave as a writable one, saving all changes to memory.

Imagine the ability to boot your favorite Linux distribution whether you are at home, at school, or at work. Imagine walking on the street and carrying the only thing you needed in life - the 8cm compact disk with your Live Linux CD. Wouldn't you want to experience such a feeling? Smile "

Well, "the only thing you need in life" might be a bit of an exaggeration, but perhaps it might be the only thing one needs in computing. It's a complete os featuring all the basic requirements: surfing, emailing, instant messaging, connectivity, office, image viewing and file manipulation all sitting on the wonderful performing base of Slackware Linux. Slax comes with a 2.6.16 kernel, xorg 6.9.0 and a light version of KDE 3.5.2. In other words, it's an updated small portable version of Slackware.

Booting slax is as easy as popping in the cd and rebooting your computer. The default configuration worked great here, but there are many "cheat codes" available and found by depressing F1 at the boot screen. Booting progresses with the output displayed in the bottom portion of the screen while a nice image of a shamrock dresses it up at the top. At the end of this process, one is taken to a login screen. Instructions for logging in and gui startup are displayed as well as instructions for some basic configuration. Startx starts the gui at 1024x768 with vesa drivers and xconf will start an autodetection of your graphics system for perhaps enhanced display and performance. Also noteworthy from this same screen is the command for "slax-install." The screen states that at this time it "still doesn't work," but it alludes to future capability.

        

The gui starts with a customized kde splash and consists of xorg 6.9.0 and KDE 3.5.2. The slax version is quite scaled down as evidenced by the size of the iso, but it doesn't seem so by looking at the apps. As stated, there are apps for office work, connectivity and commuications, and even image viewing. There are tools for system configuration and monitoring as well as file manipulation and multimedia use. I think their choices in slimming down the kde desktop seem quite intuitive. The desktop itself is attractive featuring a customized wallpaper and panel. In the panel one can find quick launchers for konqueror, kopete, kmplayer, and juk. In the systray sits a connection monitor, locale selector, kmix applet, and krandrtray. Desktop icons are Home and System.

        

The games list consists of kbounce, kbattleship and patience. The graphics menu contains kuickshow, kpdf, and kolourpaint. Your office choices are kpresenter, kspread, kword, and kontact.

        

Multimedia applications include kaudiocreator, K3B, KMpalyer, juk, and KsCD. For the internet and communications are konqueror, remote desktop setup and browsers, Kppp, KWiFiManager, Akregator, Kmail, and Kopete. Some utilities you might find useful are kpager, kdeprintfax, Kate, Font viewer, Kcalc, kjots and knotes. Also included are some system configuration and monitoring tools.

        

        

There are also many modules available for download and installation from the slax site. Also on the site is a nice looking forum for discussions on all things Slax. In fact, the whole site is rather great looking, complete, and easy to navigate. It's always a nice touch and professional when a developer goes that extra mile to provide a wonderful web interface for use of and help with their distro - in many languages as well. Also of particular interest is their users' contributions of their screenshots. There are some great looking desktops shown there! All in all, Slax is a very respectable project and their distro is an amazing offering. The developers work hard to offer such a fantastic distro and provide timely updates. I've always like Slax quite a bit and this offering continues that tradition. It is definitely worth the download!

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Some recent changelog activity includes:

v 5.1.4 SLAX (all editions) (6th of May 2006)

- added KDE 3.5.2, koffice 1.5.0
- updated alsa sound drivers
- updated to latest Linux-2.6.16 patches
- updated ndiswrapper and atheros wifi drivers
- fixed gtk2 config to use nicer default theme and font (firefox users are happy)
- fixed manual IP configuration
- dhcpcd now waits only 5 seconds to DHCP response
- removed noatun at all
- upgraded many libraries from Slackware current
- added new busybox binary to linux live scripts, this fixes some accidental problems with mounting union during startup.
- created official development module and kernel source module for SLAX
- added iocharset= boot option, to mount NTFS/DOS fs with your encoding
- added make_disk.bat to CD tree, to create USB bootable disk in windows
- properly remount ro disk device if SLAX is using data from it
- added FUSE and SSHFS filesystems, this will replace webconfig in the future
- cups set as a default printing system in KDE
- artsd doesn't autosuspend now, as this caused hundred of artsd processes
to be started on some machines (and in vmware), causing SLAX to swap or hang
- autoexec boot argument replaces "~" by spaces now, very useful if you need
to execute some command with parameters
- when autoexec is used, halt (powerdown) instead of reboot
- added openldap client and upgraded samba client files
- removed 2 useless videos from k3b extras
- and finally, added kernel boot splash image (no patches needed!). Use vga=normal boot parameter if you like the old text mode
v 5.1.0 SLAX (all editions) (31th of March 2006)

- added DejaVu fonts (Bitstream Vera with enhancements)
- added missing libmikmod libraries
- added missing libstdc++ libraries
- properly unmount device mounted by changes= boot argument
- added kbuildsycoca to kde-uselivemod to rebuild menu entries
- webconfig configuration size limit raised from 8MB to 28MB
webconfig now saves ALL modifications in the whole filesystem
- webconfig now uses direct access (uselivemod and dir2mo),
configsave and configrestore are deprecated and will be replaced by
changes= cheatcode soon.

v 5.0.8 Standard Edition (23th of March 2006)

- updated to Linux Kernel 2.6.16
- based on newest linux live scripts
- updated squashfs and unionfs kernel modules
- this fixes uselivemod and configsave/configrestore
- the rest remains the same, KDE 3.5.
- fixed bug in mounting of dos partitions (long filenames work now)
- slax now uses only 60% of RAM maximum for its filesystem - Slax Server Edition released, includes Apache 2, PHP 5, MySQL 5.

Slax? Slow?

Have you actually USED Slax before? I've never heard someone call running from Slax slow before. I've used it on everything from 233 MHz K-6s to 633 MHz Celerons to Sempron 2800+s, and I have to say that I've never used a faster live-cd. I agree, if it was architecture specific, it might be faster, but that would break the wide compatibility users of the distro enjoy.

As far as using different compression, I'd have to say that I'll take the size of the SquashFS modules over the speed of tgz packages any day. The goal of this project is to fit a functional Slackware system into a footprint small enough to fit on a 210 MB cd. Tomas has done exactly that, and I have to say that to this day, I am amazed at the results.

And finally, I'll address your concerns with the amount of memory required... this is a function of KDE, not Slax in particular. I booted Slax on a computer with 60 MB of RAM just this morning. You can run Fluxbox in 128 MB of RAM, as well as XFCE. Tomas has created different Slax versions to address these concerns, and the modular design allows even further customizations with comparative ease.

Good point

I speak of things I know not of. I can see where you're coming from now, and I don't disagree. Unfortunately, I know that getting Tomas to implement such changes will be fairly difficult.

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