Slackware 12.1 - The Newest Version of the Oldest Surviving Linux Distribution

By Caitlyn Martin
June 8, 2008 | Comments: 100

Last month I wrote in my Entropy (personal) blog about the failures of two of my computer systems. I ended up wiping the hard drive on my five and a half year old Toshiba Satellite 1805-S204 (1GHz Intel Celeron processor, 512MB RAM, 20GB HDD) and rebuilding it to temporarily handle more of the load. I chose to install two Linux distributions in a dual boot configuration and decided to take a good long look at the oldest surviving Linux distribution and one of the first ones I worked with: Slackware. A new release, 12.1, came out early in May so this seemed like the perfect time to take a look at the venerable distro.

I posted some of my first impressions in the Entropy blog last week. Slackware is still Slackware. It's designed for the very knowledgeable, experienced Linux user who wants the ultimate in control over their system. Slackware utterly lacks the kind of GUI administration tools found in most modern distros and assumes you will work at the command line and edit configuration files. Booting into X isn't even an option offered by the installer. Slackware has a well earned reputation for reliability, stability, and performance. It may also be the least user friendly major Linux distribution on the planet short of building Linux From Scratch.


Installation and Configuration


Slackware 12.1 is offered for download on your choice of six CD images (three for installation, three for source code) or a single 3.8GB DVD image. Those lacking a high speed connection can order either the CDs or the DVD, with or without a printed book called Slackware Essentials, from the Slackware Store. I chose to download the DVD image.

I booted the Toshiba laptop from the DVD and a welcome message appeared on my screen. At this point you can choose from one of three kernels for the installer to use. The default hugesmp.s kernel is recommended for most systems. huge.s is a choice for older systems and is what you must select if you're installing on a classic Pentium or AMD K6 (i586 architecture) based system. In theory this kernel can even support 486 processors. The third choice is truly inspired: a speakup kernel which supports a variety of speech synthesizers for visually impaired users.

I hit Enter to take the default and the Linux kernel and initial ramdisk loaded. The system then sat there with no visual cues for quite a few minutes. There wasn't even a flashing hard disk or DVD-ROM activity light. I know my system is old and relatively slow so I was patient and didn't assume that the installer had hung. Eventually another message appeared followed by a login prompt. After logging in as root (no password required) you have the option of partitioning your hard drive with fdisk or cfdisk if necessary. As expected there is no GUI or guided partitioning tool. The other choice is to run the setup command which launches the actual installer.

Slackware installer

The installer is text based and is very much like the "expert mode" installations of some popular distributions, i.e.: Ubuntu. Anyone who has read my reviews of distros knows that I have no objection to a text based installer and that I have consistently recommended the alternate (text-based) installation CD over the live CD for Ubuntu and related distributions. The Slackware installer, however, really does assume that you are at least somewhat technically astute and that you know what you are doing. A newcomer to Linux would undoubtedly find the process truly bewildering. There is excellent, detailed, well written documentation in the slackbook directory of the DVD (also available online) that should be more than adequate to walk a computer literate user with a modicum of experience through the process.

In addition to installing from DVD or CD there is support for installing from an iso image on a local hard drive or across a network. Slackware 12.1 is the first release to support http and ftp installations in addition to NFS. Tools on the DVD also included support for PXE boot and for installation from a USB stick. Small Boot Manager is included to allow creation of a boot floppy for systems with a BIOS that does not support booting directly from CD or DVD.

The main strength of the Slackware installation process is flexibility. For example, you can select groups of packages to install but you can also then choose "Menu" mode to select individual packages within each group. This process is time consuming but it allows you to have absolute control over what gets installed and insure that nothing unneeded or unwanted is included. I've done four installations so far. A truly minimal but functional installation with X took up just 600MB of disk space. X itself is optional so someone doing a server build who doesn't need a GUI could start with an even smaller base system. A more complete installation with a fairly large variety of applications took over 2.5GB.

The installer barely deals with X at all. If you've chosen two or more window managers/desktop environments you will be prompted to choose a default. However, there is no X configuration included in the installation process nor do you have the option to boot into X by default. Once installation is done you will have to login as root at the command line and use the traditional CLI tools to setup any additional user accounts you need. Once logged into your account of choice if you type startx Slackware attempts to use the default vesa server for X.org. For many users, particularly laptop users and some flat screen monitor users, that simply won't work. On my laptop it produced a black screen. The usual key sequences to break out of X didn't work either. I had to do a hard reboot. Slackware does offer two standard command line tools for configuring X once you're up and running at the command line: xorgconfig and xorgsetup. Since I had an X configuration that I knew would work from my Vector Linux installation I just copied the monitor and display sections into my Slackware /etc/xorg.conf file.

In addition the installer doesn't setup the system to load the kernel modules needed to support my laptop at boot. I had to manually add:

modprobe toshiba
modprobe toshiba_acpi

to my /etc/rc.d/rc.modules file to correct this. On a plain vanilla desktop system this wouldn't be an issue, of course, but I suspect other laptop users, not just those of us with Toshiba machines, will need to do some tweaking by hand to get their laptops to be 100% functional under Slackware.

I should also note that Slackware includes only one piece of non-free software: JRE. If you need a proprietary driver for a wireless card, a video card, or any other hardware you may have you will need to download it from an upstream source. If a Slackware package isn't offered you may have to compile the driver yourself. For example, my Atheros chipset PCMCIA Wi-Fi card still requires the MadWifi driver since ath5k isn't quite ready from prime time just yet. After compiling the kernel module from source code my WiFi card worked perfectly. Open Source purists won't approve of the inclusion of JRE in Slackware and the average user who wants their hardware to just work and isn't comfortable building their own drivers will find this situation unacceptable.



Once all the hardware was correctly configured the startx command brought up an Xfce desktop, my chosen default, as expected. KDE is the other major desktop environment offered by default. GNOME is not included in Slackware. A nice variety of lightweight window managers are also included in Slackware 12.1, including Fluxbox and Windowmaker.

Before moving on I should probably add a couple of additional configuration notes. Initially I had to mount removable media in a terminal session at the command line. To have HAL correctly add and remove icons on my Xfce desktop I had to create the .hal-mtab file in /media. It wasn't done automatically as is the case in most distributions. Also, if you decide to change your default system X session you need to either run xwmconfig at the command line or change the /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc symlink to point to the correct one for your chosen window manager or desktop environment of choice. Slackware does not include a display manager which allows you to choose your session at login unless you install KDE as part of the initial installation process.

Changes Since Slackware 12


On the desktop Xfce has been upgraded to 4.4.2 and KDE has been upgraded to 3.5.9. Slackware 12.1 is the first release to include HAL support. Once correctly configured it does allow Slackware to have a desktop environment that is as user friendly as any other Linux distribution. Web browsers include Firefox 2.0.0.14 and Seamonkey 1.1.19. Most of the tools and applications included in Slackware have been upgraded as well. This includes KOffice 1.6.3 and GIMP 2.4.5.

Under the hood Slackware 12.1 sports a 2.6.24.5 kernel with greatly improved hardware support. An alternate 2.4.x kernel, included in Slackware 11 and 12, has been dropped. X.org has been upgraded to version 7.3.0 so all the latest compiz-fusion eye candy and 3D graphic effects are fully supported.

Running Slackware 12.1


The performance of Slackware 12.1 on my laptop is excellent. Subjectively it seems to be slightly better faster than Xubuntu Hardy Heron but not quite as fast as Vector Linux 5.9 Standard. Other full featured distributions (SuSe, Mandriva, and Fedora) are noticeably slower even when running an Xfce desktop. Switching to the KDE desktop also allowed Slackware performance to shine. Slackware is noticeably faster than Kubuntu or Mandriva with KDE. The only distribution that I've found to be at all faster than Slackware with KDE Is Vector Linux SOHO. If you don't mind the work needed to configure Slackware it is an outstanding choice for older hardware and systems with limited resources.

Slackware 12.1 gives you a pretty minimal set of applications after installation, particularly if you decide not to install KDE. There is only a tiny repository called "Extra" which contains things like international aspell libraries. There are no additional applications to speak of. You won't find official Slackware packages for many very popular applications. There is no OpenOffice package, no mplayer package, no xmms package, and so on. Absolutely nothing which depends on GNOME libraries is included. k3b 1.0.4, by far the best CD/DVD burning software for Linux, can be installed with qt and kdelibs as dependencies even if you don't install a full KDE desktop. Other provided multimedia applications include Xine 0.99.5 and Amarok 1.4.9.1.

If you've installed Xfce as your desktop of choice you'll find a minimal set of applets have been included. No additional Xfce applets from the Xfce Goodies Project are officially packaged or supported by Slackware. xfmedia and xfburn are also not included.

If you have to reconfigure your network, add or change a user account, or do any other system administration task you can think of plan on doing most of it on the command line unless you've installed KDE and there is a generic KDE tool to do the job. Slackware has no graphical system administration tools of its own. Package management tools are also restricted to the command line and do not include any form of dependency checking out of the box. It's very easy to add a piece of software only to find it won't run due to some missing library. Once you start adding software from third party sources this becomes particularly messy if you don't do your homework and track down all the dependencies on your own. It's a recipe for dependency hell that's rarely seen on other major distributions in 2008.

Slackware is a DMCA complaint distribution so, as you'd expect, multimedia support out of the virtual box is terribly limited. Packages and instructions for adding proprietary codecs, if doing so is legal in your country, are available only from third party sources.

During my first three weeks running Slackware I have yet to find a single bug. That is something I've never been able to write in a review of a Linux distribution before and it is truly impressive.

Third Party Resources For Slackware


If it sounds like an awful lot is missing from Slackware you might be relieved to know that there are third party resources to provide pretty much everything that other distributions have. There are a variety of sites that provide ready to go Slackware packages for most popular applications and tools plus a fairly large selection of relatively obscure ones as well. The largest and best known repositories of third party Slackware packages are Slacky.eu and Linuxpackages.net. I've found that the quality of packages from these community supported sites does vary widely.

Many Slackware users prefer to compile software from source code rather than using packages which they might not trust. Compilation often can be simplified by sites that provide build scripts which automate the process. The best known site for Slackware build scripts, the only such site recommended on the official Slackware website, is Slackbuilds.org. Another option for those familiar with the ports system used by FreeBSD and Linux distributions like Gentoo and Crux is CruxPorts4Slack, a command line tool written by Henry Jensen, the man behind DeLi Linux. It allows the ports repository for the Crux distribution to be used with Slackware.

Proper dependency checking can be added to Slackware as well. Stefano Stabellini offered a Slackware mirror with dependency checking added for version 12.0. He does not have a version for 12.1 online as of yet. He is also the author of RequiredBuilder a command line tool usually used in package building scripts to create a dependency tracking file called slack-required. This file is used by third party package managers, particularly Slackware apt (slapt-get and the graphical gslapt) to offer the same sort of dependency checking users of apt in Debian, Ubuntu, and related distributions are used to.

There are, of course, a wide variety of graphical tools for managing your system that work with any distribution including Slackware. I'm particularly fond of WiFi Radar for configuring my wireless adapter and finding and connecting to WiFi networks.

All of this demonstrates that with considerable work and effort it is indeed possible to create a Slackware installation that is as user friendly as any other Linux distribution. Unfortunately none of this is an adequate substitute for a proper and extensive repository maintained by a Linux distributor with sane package management including dependency checking. This is where Slackware has always lost me and where, when you stick with what is provided with the distribution, Slackware has essentially remained unchanged since the mid '90s. It's still very time consuming and generally a royal pain to get everything configured and installed the way I like. The dependence most users will have on using third party sources of unknown quality is a major drawback of using Slackware. The alternative, building everything you need that isn't included from source, is time consuming even with the third party tools available and requires a fairly high level of knowledge on the part of the user.

Internationalization and Localization


Slackware includes with a full set of KDE i18n (internationalization) packages. The Slackware Extra repository provides a full set of international aspell dictionaries. All the international fonts provided by X.org are also included. scim, anthy, and the basic tools needed for Asian language support are part of Slackware. FriBiDi is also included for supporting languages written from right to left such as Arabic and Hebrew. Slackware provides all the building blocks you need for supporting pretty much all the popular languages around the world.

What isn't included is much in the way of translated documentation unless it's included by upstream application developers. (Some translations of Slackware documentation are available online.) The installer is in English only. Slackware also fails to include any graphical tools to switch between languages easily or to set default language or locale. That all has to be done at the command line or by editing appropriate configuration files. There is no sophisticated display manager to allow you to choose language on a session by session basis easily. In addition no packages for localized versions of any applications are provided. There are also no language packs for Firefox, Seamonkey, or Thunderbird. All have to be obtained from upstream sources.

As with most everything else in Slackware the most essential tools for proper multilingual support are in place but absolutely nothing is provided to make it easy or intuitive to implement those tools. The package selection for someone who wants their system in a language other than English is quite limited.

Conclusion


Slackware is very much old school Linux. It is clearly intended for advanced Linux users who know what they are doing and are comfortable at the command line. The only newcomers to Linux who should consider Slackware are those who wish to really learn how Linux works under the hood and are ready to roll up their sleeves.

Slackware clearly has some very strong points. It is stable and reliable, offers good performance, and gives the user absolute control over what goes onto his or her system and how things are configured. These strengths have created a cottage industry of derivative distributors promising a Linux system with the reliability and performance of Slackware and a user friendly experience. Distributions like Vector Linux (review), Zenwalk, and Wolvix (review) have delivered on that promise. To me Slackware is a fantastic base on which to build a first rate distribution. It is not what I consider to be a good distribution in its own right.

Even advanced users will find Slackware time consuming to install and configure properly. The dependence on third party or upstream sources for packages for many if not most popular applications is troubling at best. The lack of a package management system with proper dependency checking is pretty much inexcusable in 2008. As a Linux professional I find I spend way too much time mucking about with things that are dirt simple and really no-brainers in other distributions. The fact that Slackware is largely developed and maintained by one person and offers no commercial support makes it inappropriate for the corporate or institutional server room.

Slackware remains Slackware. It's been around for a very long time and it has a very loyal following. It's an excellent choice for the Linux hobbyist who wants to build, configure, and tweak their system to the nth degree. Slackware certainly gives you absolute control over your system. Nothing is made to be easy or user friendly. If you want your computer to "just work" then Slackware is certainly not for you. It's not a distribution I can recommend to most Linux users and it is one that I would actively discourage newcomers to Linux from trying unless they really and truly know what they are getting into.


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100 Comments

I am a linux n00b in a sense, i´ve been using linux for two years now exclusively, and settled on slackware from the start because i found it to be foolproof :) and easely understandable. I am somewhat surprised about your review because it feels like the review of some other slackware and not mine ;). Coming from windows 2000 i had no previous linux experience but it was only system that was quick/easy to install and which didn´t brake on my hands - strange as it may seem i´ve borked ubuntus and fedoras with their user friendly automatic tools, mandriva lived a bit longer, but it refused to compile a single bit for me, how should n00b know how to set up a system to compile things(?).


Yes Slackware boots default to runlevel 3(no gui), but it is so very easy to change it to runlevel 4 from /etc/inittab if you already know how, and slackware user will soon know these things. Then it is possible to choose any window manager from kdm graphical login menu.


I am not friend with commandline, that is why i mainly use kwrite to configure my computer, and mc (midnight commander) to edit text files when i´m outside x-windowing system - no need to have coding skills. It is possible to use configuration files over and over, so you configure just once, make notes (use basket notepads :) and you won't miss GUI configuration tools.


Adduser to add new user, read what it tells so you won't miss adding your user to plugdev and other groups to hal-automount - and no more configuration needed, at least not in kde.


Localization files are already included in program packages as far as i know (except kde, koffice, k3b). I am using Estonian and never had problems with missing language files, Gimp is in my native language, as well any other program that is translated.


Also i think it is important to mention that while slackware doesn't offer custom configuration tools, it guides user to understand how and from where linux system actually reads its configuration options and to edit these files directly with any text editor. Configuration files are extensibly commented so you may often just uncomment certain lines to make your configuration adjustments.


It may be hard for newcomer to set up X with all devices, but once you have done it, you´ve got the knowledge, backup and reuse your xorg.conf files (not blindly).


I know here in Estonia, there are computer users who doesn´t speak english and on windows system they are just clicking 'yes' and 'ok' or 'next-next-fishy' without knowing what they are really doing, of course they run into problems with viruses and spyware or, mainly, computer "getting old and slowing down", if this to be called user-friendliness then, yes, Slackware is unfriendly.


Cheers,
Marek
(sorry for my bad English and mistakes if any)

>To me Slackware is a fantastic base on which to build a
> first rate distribution. It is not what I consider to be a
>good distribution in its own right.


That is very true!


And I proved it myself! A few years back, I built a custom distro for a company that made medical office management software. I first built a server distro, then a desktop version of the same, and it was called MfxLinux. It has some nifty features like the ability of the server to start applications on the client desktops already populated with the information...for example, if the doctor wanted to make a prescription, he would type the info into the app which ran on the server, and up would pop Open Office, with the client's info, and an information sheet about the medication, the doctor could then change anything if they want, and then tell it to print, and out would come the prescription and information sheet.

It was a real challenge to set up the distro to use certain defaults for the print queues, IP addresses, and SSH keys as well as still being able to configure it for the wide variety of hardware on the client systems I don't think I could have done it with something like Ubuntu, but with Slackware, it was relatively to make the modifications, and use a custom program to package everything up for the custom installer. Other than those two pieces of software, everything was either part of Slackware, or packages that I added, like Open Office.


Building MfxLinux reinforced my high level of respect for Patrick, as even taking Slackware and building a modified distro based upon it taught me a great deal about the systems level engineering that has gone into making Slack "as simple as it needs to be, but no simpler" and retaining the power that Unix promises.

ttyl
Farrell

ok, i admit I didnt read the whole review but after installing and testing around 100 Linux distributions, I believe the conclusion is wrong. I find it easy to install and setup a slackware system. In many ways it is easier to install and setup than a Ubuntu or Fedora system. It also doesnt break near as often as they do. It doesn't have a dozen daemons running to slow your system down like they do. Slackware has a solid package management system that I find to be better than others since I prefer to install dependencies by hand because it helps to prevent breakage and often reduces the amount of dependencies needed. Deb and RPM often make you install more dependencies than what is actually needed for the application. I use Slackware because it "Just works" , even compiling from source, which does not work well with other Linux Distributions. I find slackware the most reliable, easy to configure, simple, and secure Linux distributions available.

Hi,

as the other commentators I am a HUGE Slackware fan and wanted to point out that Patrick still supports Slackware 8.1! That is SIX years! What other distros brand as "long time support" or "Enterprise" is business as usual for Slackware.

I am running Slackware 12.1 on my desktop and did not run into any problems with HAL.

To me "userfriendly" means not to restrict the user. And Slackware simply works.
Another big plus for Slackware is the excellent and helpfull community at linuxquestion.org and ##slackware (at freenode.net)

I rather agree with the conclusions drawn here.
I have been a Slackware man for a long time, although recently I have also been drawn to the brilliant Arch Linux.
I second the comments about the reliability of Slackware. It was always a solid distribution.
To me, the best version so far was Slackware 11, but I am using 12.1 at the moment, and it is very good. I have moved some of the things from the boot process - fc-cache and the like - and cron'ed them for once a month instead. Now, doing this with one of the beginner-friendly distributions seems absurd, but with Slackware, it is pretty much par. It works, it really, really works.
I am glad to see your reference to Wolvix - I found it impressive, utilising the strengths of Slackware while providing an excellent desktop experience. It also has Madwifi and Wifi-Radar, so that should make you happy!
Just a note: The thing about open source purists. Slackware includes the JRE, which is as yet unfree.

@Marek: I'm glad Slackware has worked out well for you. I can't comment on Estonia but here in the United States most computer users are not technically astute and are used to a point and click interface. To the "just works" means they don't have to think about it. Working in the corporate IT world for 28+ years now I now that this applies to about 95% of the population. The single largest reason Linux isn't popular on the desktop is that it isn't sold preloaded in most places and even installing an OS, *ANY* OS, is beyond the average user.

@netfun81: Your definition of "easy" and "just works" is different to say the least. If you had actually read the review rather than just reacting to the conclusion and blindly going into Slackware defender mode you would know that I wrote that Slackware 12.1 is the ONLY distro I have ever found to be bug free.

Slackware is easy to install and configure? Hand an Ubuntu CD and a Slackware CD to a moderately experienced but not highly technical user and see which one they get through the install with and which one they toss away in utter frustration? Clue: they will never get through a Slackware install. They won't even understand the questions.

I've been using Linux since 1995 and working with it professionally since 1998. I don't find Slackware easy to configure. I find it time consuming and fiddly. It's not difficult for me because of my level of experience but most people don't have your level of experience or mine. Not correctly detecting hardware (again, actually read the review) isn't "easy".

Installing dependencies by hand doesn't prevent breakage unless you know all the dependencies. It causes breakage. Try installing AbiWord into Slackware 12.1. There are 14 dependencies if you don't install the plugins, more if you do. There is nothing easy about it.

Most users want to drive their cars without knowing how to build a car. Most users want their PCs to work without knowing why or how.

@dangerseeker: Red Hat truly offers long term support. They still officially support RHEL 3. I know from experience working there that they'll go back further than what they officially support for important enterprise customers.

Patrick, however brilliant, is one man. He can't possibly offer corporate support to large enterprise customers en masse around the world. Comparing Slackware support to Red Hat or Canonical or Novell is a bit ridiculous.

@Morten: Thank you for the correction on JRE. You are, of course, correct and I will modify the article accordingly.

@Caitlyn: Your definition of a moderately experienced person and mine are totally different. Any moderately experienced person should be able to install Slackware with no trouble. Even a person completely new to Linux can get through a Slackware install by reading a bit before installing. I agree that if you are new to Linux you might like Ubuntu better at first, because its more like Windows. However, In my opinion Linux is mainly for Technical users and those that want more control over their system. If someone can't install and setup Slackware then maybe they should stick with Windows, because even Ubuntu will frustrate them.

@Netfun81: Well, I don't think much of anyone in the Linux community will agree with your opinion that Linux is mainly for technical users. That's the line used over and over again by those spreading Microsoft FUD. Clearly many thousands of Linux Eee PC users who were handed a box with Xandros (based on Ubuntu, BTW) didn't agree with you based both on sales of that box and on reviews written by some of those users. I don't think Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, would agree with you either. His famous "world domination" quote was only half-joking.

If you read my posts over on the old O'Reilly Linux Dev Center blog (unlikely, since you didn't even read my review before disagreeing with it) you'd know that I've introduced Linux to many non-technical users including members of my own family. My brother, who had never used Linux before in his life. recently went to a dual boot configuration with Linux Mint and Windows Vista. He found Mint to be easy. My 70 year old mother had no problem sitting down at my desktop running Xubuntu and doing what she wanted to do.

There is nothing intrinsically hard about Linux for most users. There is a whole lot that is hard about Slackware for the same sort of user I'm talking about. My review is certainly not the only one that has come to this conclusion. Someone pointed me to this review today which is a whole lot more negative than mine.

This is why I use Slackware,

"During my first three weeks running Slackware I have yet to find a single bug. That is something I've never been able to write in a review of a Linux distribution before and it is truly impressive."

That person is a tool,

"Someone pointed me to this review today which is a whole lot more negative than mine."

I just want to say that I disagree with Ms Martin's opinion that Slackware is not for newbies. I'm one and I had tried Red Hat and Suse first. Both had problems with my hardware. Slackware installed properly the first time, and every time. I've removed it for various flavors of Windows, but it keeps coming back. Some of the changes in Slackware 12 threw me. Specifically the change from Xfree86 to X.org was annoying. I have found that emailing Mr. Vockerman or anyone involved with Slackware has been easy and the turn around time on responses far better then what I get from Microsoft (I'm a partner), or IBM. The manual is written so even a CEO can understand it. (Lots of pictures, etc.)

@Caitlyn: That's the real the beauty of Linux: Choice. We don't have to settle for one distribution or Window Manager or Desktop Environment. There are loads of different opinions in the Linux Community and different needs. It's hard to convince a Ubuntu user that Slackware is better, and vice-versa. For me, there are more difficult distributions to install and configure than Slackware, ie, Gentoo, Arch, Crux, etc. Their users would probably say I'm not enlightened yet :)

you forgot to mention http://gnomeslackbuild.org/

Choosing a distro is very much like choosing a religion. There will be people who would tell you:-


I have been searching for the truth since year xxxx and in the end I found religion (distro) Y.


Slackware is like distant religions e.g. Mormon, Shinto or Shaolin. While it is not for everyone, it has its own strength. And its followers find peace in practicing this distro.


In the end the majority of people are ignorant about religion. They don't care about the distro as long as it solves their daily problems

Thanks for this useful article.

It's important to understand that Caitlyn's review defines "user-friendly" as software that is either auto-configured or at least configured with a GUI. And there's nothing wrong with that, except that she overlooks the other meaning of "user-friendly", one that applies more to slackware: predictability, stability, simplicity, familiarity, and adherence to standards. This is the slackware philosophy of "vanilla-ism", and this is actually the ultimate in user-friendliness for the system administrator or programmer.

You could say is that slackware is indeed user-friendly -- but only for those who already know what they're doing. It is not, however, user-friendly for those who are new to the whole thing. Another way to look at this is that slackware is very much command-line user-friendly, but not GUI user-friendly.

One more thing...

Quote from the article:
The lack of a package management system with proper dependency checking is pretty much inexcusable in 2008.

I disagree, and this is one of the main reasons why slackware still exists. From the perspective of system administration, this can be a very *good* thing. You just have to understand why, and the answer is (as I stated above) predictability, stability, and simplicity, all of which are very desirable characteristics for those who need them.

I think the bottom line is that slackware is not an ideal "newbie" distro, however it is a very ideal distro for those who already know what they're doing.

You know, there is a widely accepted definition of usability. It's what's easy and intuitive for most people to use, not what people are used to. Slackware doesn't meet that definition in the slightest.

I've been a professional system administrator for 28 years. You will never convince me that not resolving dependencies is simple or desirable or good in any way. Sorry, except for the Slackware faithful I think you'd be very hard pressed to find much of anyone who agrees.

I have never understood the religious devotion to one distro or another. To me a distro is a tool. If it serves my needs or the needs of my customers then it's good. If it doesn't it isn't good.

No, I didn't mention GNOME Slackbuild or Freerock GNOME or any other third party build of GNOME for Slackware. I debated whether it was appropriate to mention third party sources at all. In the end I decided that Slackware is the distro where users are most dependent on third parties and that some of the prominent ones had to be mentioned. I left out a whole lot more that could have been included. BTW, I consider the dependency on third party sources to be a major drawback of Slackware.

Slackware fills a niche and fills it well. A lot of other distros are equally reliable. There is a reason Red Hat Enterprise Linux has captured in excess of 90% of the corporate server market in the U.S. If it wasn't a really solid distro nobody would buy it. Does RHEL/CentOS have disadvantages? Yep, it sure does. Does Ubuntu have disadvantages? Let's just say fans of Ubuntu don't want me writing a review of their favorite distro. There is NO perfect distro, Slackware most certainly included. For me there are others that far better serve my needs -- and believe me, in the corporate world I need reliability and stability. Those are strong points for Slackware but they are hardly unique to Slackware.

On the overall I consider Slackware to be a hobbyist distro. It's great for those who want to configure and tweak their system to the nth degree. It's great for the Linux fanatic who wants to get under the hood. It's a great base from which to build a decent distro. In and of itself, to me, Slackware leaves a lot to be desired. I expect that the vast majority of people who haven't tried Slackware would come to a similar conclusion irregardless of what the obviously passionate Slackware faithful have posted here.

This article brought up memories from back in 1998 / 99 (I was then just starting out with computers) a computer mag published out here (India) carried Slackware on floppy images of the same on the free CD they gave with the mag. Me and a friend tried installing it, but at that time could not make head or tail of it. Subsequently the same mag provided a 'bootable' CD with RedHat 5.0 and my continuing affair with GNU/Linux was born.

A couple of points that were brought up:


User Friendly User-friendly as defined from the user point of view does not mean easy to install. User-friendly means that when the user logs into the computer, it runs, doesn't do things it's not supposed to, and does thing it's supposed to. Since over 80% (probably closer to 95%) of the users wouldn't even know how to start an install, talking about an OS that is user-friendly from an install/administrator function is just FUD.


Case in point - last year (2007) I installed Slackware 12.0 on a computer for a 65+ y/o, replacing Windows. The only complaint he had was running a single windows-only program for making greeting cards. Last month, I installed KUbuntu thinking it would be easier for him to work with. Last week, he asked me to reinstall Slackware for him because it was more user friendly for him.


@Anonymous: As an administrator, I would expect you to keep up on dependencies for company programs and not blindly rely on 3rd party software to dictate what is required. As the administrator, your job is to make sure that the company required software works properly - especially if programX requires one version of a dependency, but programY requires an newer/different dependency that may break reqired programX. That's what you (the administrator) get paid to do - ensure properly working software - as well as Q/A validating.


Given a couple of days (it's been a while for me, so I would have to refresh a few old skills [G]), I would have a Slackware repository on the local company server that would rival RH KickStart in doing remote installs on new systems, and updates to installed systems (I did that once, back in Slackware 9.x days as a hobby). And it would properly work at keeping the company machines up-to-date without the user having to worry about it.


@Caitlin: Interesting review, and you highlight several key points about what I love about Slackware -- stability and control. From a sysadmin point of view, Slackware is a dream to administer for a company once it's properly setup for the end-users. Just today, I was upgrading some of the security updates for a machine across the room from my desk. I administer a 13-machine small office, with 12 Slackware installs and 1 Apple OSX (the boss - of course he has to be different). The main server is still chugging along (dual-cpu machine from too long ago with 128M ram running Slackware 9.0). No fancy graphics, just the main core stuff that remote terminals connect to for the company software. Hasn't missed a beat in 5 years of service. And that includes moving the whole company to another building last year. I did upgrade the desktop machines to Slackware 12.0 and just this morning installed 12.1 on another desktop, but that's the beauty - I don't have to learn anything new to upgrade to the latest and greatest. It just works.

OK, I wasn't going to touch this, but figured I would since someone else advised me to post my comments here. This was originally posted in the Slackware forum of linuxquestions.org by a user of the same name (me). I would suggest doing some research before writing an article with so many negative points. I'm not here to argue that Slackware is the best distro (if such a thing exists), but some of the stuff you wrote is pure fiction -- so here goes. You should note that my tone is rather sarcastic, and the opposite of what I've written is generally (though not always) the truth. You should check out the LQ thread (http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/slackware-14/slackware-review-12.1-646255/) for some nice comments on why this article is garbage. One key point is your method of responding to comments in an attacking manner, while no one has responded the same way to you.


"I should also note that Slackware includes only one piece of non-free software: JRE."


Wrong. There are more non-free apps included, like xv.


"To have HAL correctly add and remove icons on my Xfce desktop I had to create the .hal-mtab file in /media. It wasn't done automatically as is the case in most distributions."


You probably screwed up, since that most certainly isn't required. You need to add yourself to the plugdev, cdrom, audio and video groups (either using gpasswd, editing the /etc/group file, or just by pressing that UP arrow when running adduser, as suggested) for HAL to work properly. If you did that and still needed to create the file, then something was seriously weird -- because it isn't, and never has been, required. This is mentioned in CHANGES_AND_HINTS.TXT, which can be considered official documentation.


"Slackware does not include a display manager which allows you to choose your session at login unless you install KDE as part of the initial installation process."


What's XDM, anyway?


" Slackware 12.1 is the first release to include HAL support."


Really? I guess 12.0 was fake HAL then.


"There is only a tiny repository called "Extra" which contains things like international aspell libraries. There are no additional applications to speak of."


Absolutely correct. Bittorrent, ktorrent, GRUB, jdk, mpg123, parted...they're not REAL apps, anyway, right? (There aren't many apps included, but this could have been stated correctly instead of flat out lying)


"It's very easy to add a piece of software only to find it won't run due to some missing library."


You know, I've never had this problem. I usually just check the app's site to see what else I need to install. I guess I'm doing things incorrectly.


"Once you start adding software from third party sources this becomes particularly messy if you don't do your homework and track down all the dependencies on your own."


Correct. Because slackbuilds.org and slacky.eu, the two biggest (and most useful) repositories, ignoring linuxpackages.net, don't list dependencies, right?


"It's a recipe for dependency hell that's rarely seen on other major distributions in 2008."


You obviously don't know what dependency hell is. I will agree that with multimedia apps, especially video editing apps, it can be frustrating. Otherwise, however, it really isn't.


"Even advanced users will find Slackware time consuming to install and configure properly."


Takes me longer to install Ubuntu [and OpenSUSE, etc.] than Slackware, but OK. (And I'm as far from an expert as it gets)


"The fact that Slackware is largely developed and maintained by one person and offers no commercial support makes it inappropriate for the corporate or institutional server room."


Yeah, Slackware sucks with servers. It even had that openSSL bug and such, right?
[ADDED: Since Slackware is maintained PRIMARILY, though not entirely, by one man, Pat must understand the entire system and how everything works together. This is a benefit compared to Debian, etc. in my opinion, where incompatibilities may arise because of the high fractionation of jobs to different areas. In addition, Slackware maintains vanilla sources unless absolutely necessary, and so apps are not altered by anyone that did not write the app in the first place -- and therefore avoiding harmful bugs like the openssl fiasco, when someone who *thinks* they know what they're doing makes modifications to the source code]


"Nothing is made to be easy or user friendly."


I personally disagree with that -- if I know what I'm doing in Slackware, it will work 100% of the time. If I'm fiddling with a GUI in Ubuntu, it works 70% of the time. But I understand this point I guess if you're incapable of learning, or unwilling to.


"If you want your computer to "just work" then Slackware is certainly not for you."


Again, I disagree. Once set up, Slackware "just works". Once set up, Ubuntu etc. works -- but not as in Slackware. This is more subjective, so take it with a grain of salt. I much prefer OpenSUSE to *buntu, but even still I think AFTER setting everything up, Slackware "just works" at least as well as other distros.


You make some good points about Slackware, but ultimately this article can safely be considered journalistic garbage since many facts are incorrect, incomplete, or biased. I don't think Slackware is for everyone -- but I don't think that this article presents it in a fair light. I've struggled more trying to get other distros (primarily *buntu, but some OpenSUSE) to do what I want. Slackware's simplicity and transparency makes tasks easy once you know what you're doing. Also, since the setup of an OS constitutes merely a fraction of the actual usage, it should barely be considered an obstacle. Slackware was my first Linux distro (starting with 11.0) and all I did was follow a nice install guide found on the internet -- and I had no trouble whatsoever. Upgrading Slackware is also WAY faster than other distros with a lower chance of failure since it's done manually -- as long as you read the documentation (UPGRADE.TXT and CHANGES_AND_HINTS.TXT especially).

First of all, yes, Slackware expects the user to either know what he is doing OR be willing to learn without the system (or another person) making all of the decisions for him. It's okay if you or any other reviewer doesn't like that, but it's not appropriate to "take away points" for it simply because it doesn't fit within your view of how things ought to be.

An advanced user who is familiar with Slackware can have a new installation done, configured, and in production use in less than an hour for many typical chores, and that's largely due to the simplicity that you seem to be so against. As others have indicated, "user friendly" does not necessarily mean "beginner friendly." There's almost always a trade-off involved there - making something easier for a beginner often makes it harder for an advanced user. Since users don't stay beginners forever, you actually make things worse on them later and you annoy the already advanced users.

The X lockup you encountered is actually a bug in the vesa driver shipped with Xorg in 12.1. The default xorg driver used in Slackware is vesa because it "just works" on the vast majority of hardware, but that bug obviously throws a kink in the works. It was an oversight that it didn't get documented in CHANGES_AND_HINTS.TXT, but one solution is to run "X -configure" and let X autodetect your hardware, then use the xorg.conf generated by that.
Anyway, the Slackware-HOWTO document on the cdrom has a section on configuring X.

Loading acpi modules and such is discussed in CHANGES_AND_HINTS.TXT.

Slackware 12.1 was NOT the first release to include HAL, and had you read the information in CHANGES_AND_HINTS.TXT, it would have "just worked" for you. The text that displayed when adding a new user account with "adduser" would have hinted at the required group membership as well.

The command line tools to change window manager, change network settings, add/delete user accounts, etcetera work just fine, so why do you insist that they're not good enough? Since they WORK, how are they not "user friendly" enough?

In regards to a package manager that supports automatic dependency resolution: for an experienced user who is familiar with the system, what sustantial advantage would it provide? I suspect that the answer is "none."

Why is it important that $OTHER_DISTRO offers $INSANE_NUMBER of packages? How many of them do you use? How often do you have to install them?
Let's face it - the typical user will need less than twenty packages not included with Slackware, and they'll only need to be installed once, so all the whining about "I have to find all these dependencies... blah blah blah..." has to be done exactly once. SlackBuilds.org (yes, shameless plug) even takes away that hassle for the apps that are available there. If compiling isn't for you (even though the SlackBuild script automates it), then it's not hard to find a few package resources who are obviously trustworthy - they have @slackware.com mail addresses. :-)

I got my first computer at the age of 58, no interest in them before then. Messed around with Windows XP for about a couple of years, read about GNU/Linux and dual-booting. Bought Linux Format magazine, Sept. '04, with Slackware 10 on two CDs. Had no trouble installing it. All you need is average intelligence, the ability to read, and the ability to think for yourself. Since then I've tried other distros: Debian, the *buntus, Fedora, OpenSuse, etc. But always returned to Slackware, now using 12.1. New Linux users are often warned not to expect Linux to be exactly like Windows. Don't go into it with preconceived ideas. That's where this review fails, in not judging Slackware on its own merits, in wanting it to be just like a few other distros. What would be the point in having 300+ distros if they were all the same?

I've had to chuckle reading some of the comments. I wonder if some of the Slackware faithful are even on the same planet I'm on. Slackware is great to administer in a 13 computer office? What about a 13,000 computer enterprise? I've worked in such places (government, large corporations) and I can tell you it would be a nightmare in the enterprise.

Patrick Volkerding's official release announcement for Slackware 12.1 claims it;s the first version with HAL support. That's my source. I will freely admit that I ran Slackware 11 and 12.1 but not 12.0. I guess I was wrong to assume that anything official from Slackware/Patrick was going to be 100% accurate. I do apologize for making such an assumption.

xv is long unmaintained shareware but you are correct that it isn't Open Source. However, my point still stands. Most of the actually useful non-free stuff, specifically device drivers, is missing from Slackware. Please tell me how not having support for popular video cards or wireless chipsets is "user friendly" or how it's Slackware "just works" when it lacks hardware support included in most major distros. Those are the claims that are "pure fiction", not what I wrote.

"The X lockup you encountered is actually a bug in the vesa driver shipped with Xorg in 12.1. The default xorg driver used in Slackware is vesa because it "just works" on the vast majority of hardware, but that bug obviously throws a kink in the works. It was an oversight that it didn't get documented in"

Default vesa *NEVER* works on a significant percentage of laptops, including every Toshiba model I've tried. It doesn't work on my flat panel monitor either. This is why most distributions have a hardware detection routine and X configuration in the installer. I am not denying that there may be a bug in this version of X. Supporting "the majority of hardware" means you are leaving out a significant minority. Most distros support much more video hardware correctly than Slackware does.

Anyone who claims I don't know what dependency hell is after going through the move from libc5 to glibc in Red Hat Linux circa 1998/99 is attacking me with no basis in fact.

Yes, the Slackware documentation covers configuring X. That doesn't make it easy compared to most major distributions where it's automated and just works.

"if I know what I'm doing in Slackware, it will work 100% of the time." -- That is true of any number of distributions I could name. No, Ubuntu isn't one of them. The problem is that Slackware requires a much higher level of knowledge than most other distros. This is why I say it's primarily for the advanced user and nobody else. Yes, some bright people who wanted to learn how Linux works under the hood succeed with it as newcomers to Linux. I never said it isn't for newcomers. I said it isn't for *MOST* newcomers who don't want to go through a very steep learning curve. Big difference.

"Correct. Because slackbuilds.org and slacky.eu, the two biggest (and most useful) repositories, ignoring linuxpackages.net, don't list dependencies, right?"

No, that's not correct. Slacky.eu both lists dependencies and supports slapt-get/gslapt. You've absolutely got that wrong. However, depending on third party resources of variable quality is a bad idea in any distro, not just Slackware. Slackware, with it's tiny software selection, forces anyone who isn't compiling from source to do just that. It's a major weak point of Slackware.

"Why is it important that $OTHER_DISTRO offers $INSANE_NUMBER of packages? How many of them do you use? How often do you have to install them?
Let's face it - the typical user will need less than twenty packages not included with Slackware, and they'll only need to be installed once, so all the whining about "I have to find all these dependencies... blah blah blah..." has to be done exactly once."

This is the most inane and ridiculous argument of the bunch. Sure, nobody uses all the packages in Fedora or Ubuntu or Debian or Mandriva or even the Vector Linux repositories. I'd bet dollars to donuts that most users, probably well in excess of 95%, use multiple programs not included in Slackware's itty bitty repository. The idea is that these distros offer choices. They offer a large selection of maintained and supported packages so that users can find what they want without hassle. Slackware doesn't.

In my work I have to try new software all the time. How often do I run into having to track down dependency issues if I run Slackware? All the time. What about security updates and bug fixes for software not included in Slackware? Most users, if they want to keep their system secure, have to go through the Slackware dependency nightmare on a regular basis.

"Absolutely correct. Bittorrent, ktorrent, GRUB, jdk, mpg123, parted...they're not REAL apps, anyway, right? (There aren't many apps included, but this could have been stated correctly instead of flat out lying)"

I didn't lie. I said "none to speak of". A handful for Slackware, thousands for other major distros. By comparison "none to speak of" is very accurate.

"You probably screwed up, since that most certainly isn't required. You need to add yourself to the plugdev, cdrom, audio and video groups..."

Um... no. There was a similar thread on lxer.com. I'm not the only one who had to "touch /media/.hal-mtab" It's something others have run into as well. It isn't a screw up or fiction as you claim as I did have the users in plugdev. This also makes my point. Other saner distros setup users in groups to make HAL work automatically, Slackware doesn't. Slackware is the ONLY distro I've seen that doesn't. That's part of not user friendly and doesn't "just work".

You can setup Slackware in an hour? You must not use many apps that aren't included. To get Slackware installed, configured, all apps installed and configured, took me days compared to hours in most distros. I do Linux for a living. I do know what I am doing.

"There's almost always a trade-off involved there - making something easier for a beginner often makes it harder for an advanced user."

I don't believe that for a minute in a well designed distro. How does having proper dependency resolution, something every last major distribution except Slackware, make things harder for anyone? Clue: it doesn't. Similarly, having a GUI configuration tool doesn't stop you from doing anything the old school way at the command line or by editing configuration files. Most professional systems administrators, myself included, do a huge percentage of our work at the command line no matter which distro we're supporting. Having user friendly tools doesn't detract from that one little bit since we're free to ignore those tools and do things in whatever way we find most efficient. It's all about choices that all other major distros have and Slackware lacks.

"ince Slackware is maintained PRIMARILY, though not entirely, by one man, Pat must understand the entire system and how everything works together. This is a benefit compared to Debian, etc. in my opinion, where incompatibilities may arise because of the high fractionation of jobs to different areas."

By your logic all larger organizations do a poor job or are largely disfunctional. The fact that Slackware almost entirely equals Patrick is a HUGE disadvantage. I'm sure you remember Patrick's health scare a couple of years back. Thankfully he recovered. What if, G-d forbid, something happens to Patrick someday? What future does Slackware have then? With a large organization of competent engineers that companies like Red Hat, Novell/SuSe, Turbolinux, or Canonical have the future is pretty well assured. That's also true in large community projects. While I certainly wish Patrick a long, healthy, and happy life I wouldn't want my business to depend on a distribution that in turn depends on one individual.

I didn't do my research? I ran Slackware 12.1 almost exclusively for three weeks and did all my work from a Slackware box. 10+ hours a day of Slackware every single day is more than enough to write a review.

All the arguments add up to either "I like Slackware" or "Slackware works for me" so everybody else has to feel the same way. Anyone who challenges the religious devotion to Slackware must be an idiot. Sorry, folks, it doesn't work that way. I stand by my review and I still believe that Slack is for the hobbyist, not for the majority of Linux users.

Folks, let's not get aggressive here. Caitlyn did get most of it right, after all. She correctly identified most of the strong points of slackware.

After reading through the comments, I just have a few more points:

- Slackware is not just a "hobbyist" distro. It may be considered a niche distro (the niche being "vanilla-ism"), but that doesn't mean slackware isn't for professionals. As a system administrator and database programmer, I can say in all honesty that slackware is my first choice to run on my servers. Yes, in a production environment. It is the simplest and easiest to administer, and lets me spend more time where I need to (database programming). It's also in the top 15 on distrowatch, if that counts for anything.

- I don't notice any idealism or fanaticism in the slackware community. There are always a few who are more "vocal", but they don't speak for everybody. The majority of the slackware community is practical, helpful, and level-headed, just like the distro.

- As for slackware being the least newbie-friendly distro, I have to disagree there. Gentoo wins by a mile. Not only is the install more complex, the administration is more complex. You not only have to learn linux, you have to learn gentoo and all of its complexity. With slackware and its vanilla-ism you only have to learn linux.

Overall I think the review was good, except for one or two comments which were off-base (like stating that lack of dependency checking is "unexcusable", when clearly in some cases it is desirable).

Hmm, I notice that Caitlyn is still banging the "religious devotion" drum. Please, let's not resort to strawman arguments (on either side). Again, one or two people cannot possibly speak for the entire slackware community.

Above all, there is a reason why slackware is the oldest surviving distribution. The reason is because it serves its purpose, and serves it well. The fact that its purpose benefits a minority, and not a majority, does not make it "hobbyist". A production server whose uptime can be measured in years is far from "hobbyist".

@Jim Grant: Some responses and a couple of clarifications:

I can say in all honesty that slackware is my first choice to run on my servers. Yes, in a production environment. It is the simplest and easiest to administer, and lets me spend more time where I need to (database programming).

The absolute control Slackware gives is indeed desirable for building servers, particularly one-offs. In the lxer.com thread I even said that it's probably my favorite distro for building a server for that reason. I actually have two objections to Slackware in the corporate server room. The first is that I once again have to turn to third party tools to do large scale automated server builds. Yes, I can get kickstart to work with Slackware but it's not included nor directly supported. The second objection is that I don't feel that the support offerings (again, all from third parties) are anywhere near what the big corporate distros can offer. For a small business or a n small organization this really isn't an issue since they can't afford and won't have the level of support offered to large enterprises in any case. As a consultant, though, Slackware is a tough sell even to small customers because many business owners feel reassured by large corporate backing. Neither of these points is a reflection on the quality of the distro, of course, but it does affect the level of acceptance its likely to receive.

It's also in the top 15 on distrowatch, if that counts for anything.

Distrowatch self-selects for Linux enthusiasts. It does mean something, of course, but I'm not sure how well it translates to Slackware being suitable for large numbers of users. There is no doubt that Slackware has a sizable and loyal following.

I don't notice any idealism or fanaticism in the slackware community. There are always a few who are more "vocal", but they don't speak for everybody. The majority of the slackware community is practical, helpful, and level-headed, just like the distro.

You may be surprised to learn that for the most part I agree with this. There was a similar thread on lxer.com after my Entropy blog post with my first impressions was picked up by that site. It was entirely respectful. Nobody called what I had written "garbage", there were no personal attacks, nobody called me a liar, etc... There were honest exchanges of opinions and ideas. There were points on which we agreed to disagree.

In this thread some of the comments were of a different quality. I had my conclusions challenged by someone who admitted they didn't even bother to read the whole review. There has been name calling. There are specific commentors that clearly have a "my way or the highway" attitude (no, not you) that smacks of fanaticism. Anytime we reach the point where anyone who voices a differing opinion is labeled as an ignorant idiot (or other words to that effect) we are dealing with closed minded devotion that I find disturbing.

As for slackware being the least newbie-friendly distro, I have to disagree there. Gentoo wins by a mile.

Gentoo is another distro that is decidedly user unfriendly. Whether it's better or worse than Slackware in a given area is a matter of opinion. I last used Gentoo in 2004 when I was brought in by a company where the admins had installed Gentoo into production without getting management sign-off. I haven't touched Gentoo since while I have come back to Slackware, which should tell you something. Perhaps if I took the time to use Gentoo extensively again I'd end up agreeing with you. Perhaps better language would have been to say that Slackware is among the least user friendly major distros. I did qualify my statement with the words "may be" since it's obvious that nobody can try every distro out there or even all the big ones frequently enough to keep track of them all. That would be a full time job.

Overall I think the review was good, except for one or two comments which were off-base (like stating that lack of dependency checking is "unexcusable", when clearly in some cases it is desirable).

I deliberately ran this by a couple of other Linux professionals I'm friendly with this morning. They couldn't see your point at all. Neither can I. I can't think of a single reason why having no dependency checking in a distro would be desirable especially considering you can turn it off in any distro package manager I've ever used. I'll stick with my strong language here even if you consider it "off base" since it's one of the major reasons I'm not comfortable recommending Slackware to much of anybody. We may just have to agree to disagree on this one.

Hmm, I notice that Caitlyn is still banging the "religious devotion" drum. Please, let's not resort to strawman arguments (on either side).

That description refers to two or three people who have commented, not the Slackware community as a whole. As I already pointed out I didn't see that at all in the longer (80 or so comments) thread on lxer.com.

Again, one or two people cannot possibly speak for the entire slackware community.

Agreed. A few over the top zealots can make an entire community look bad, though. Some may remember my experience with the Puppy Linux community which included a death threat for saying that I couldn't get their distro to run on five different machines in my household. Does what happened reflect the entire Puppy Linux community? Of course not.

Some of the name calling here and some of the comments do strongly resemble blind devotion, hence my reaction. I do not think those comments are reflective of the Slackware community as a whole, nor do I intend to paint the Slackware community with a broad brush.


Fair enough. I just want everybody to get along. ;)

I think where dependency-awareness really shines is on often-updated or often-changed installations. After all, if your system never changes, there's not much point in adding the complexity of dependency resolution. But often-updated and often-changed isn't what slackware is meant to be. There are already many distros which do this well. Slackware is meant to be a stable, predictable system, upgraded between releases, not between weeks. For that purpose, the lack of dependency resolution is a feature, not a flaw. It's about following the KISS principle, not about turning up one's nose to fancy features. ;)

"Correct. Because slackbuilds.org and slacky.eu, the two biggest (and most useful) repositories, ignoring linuxpackages.net, don't list dependencies, right?"


No, that's not correct. Slacky.eu both lists dependencies and supports slapt-get/gslapt. You've absolutely got that wrong. However, depending on third party resources of variable quality is a bad idea in any distro, not just Slackware. Slackware, with it's tiny software selection, forces anyone who isn't compiling from source to do just that. It's a major weak point of Slackware.

I even warned about my sarcasm and you still didn't get it. I know slacky.eu and slackbuilds.org check dependencies. That was my point. And I will say that slackbuilds.org at least is definitely not of variable quality, and I would consider it at least as good as official repos in other distros. It is maintained and contributed to by a few people that are actual Slackware contributors. That's official enough for me. I build everything from source using SlackBuilds, which are easily transferable to other machines. I don't see how this lacks automation features -- you compile the app on one machine, test to see if it works, and either install the package on all other machines or run the SlackBuild on other machines. I will agree that it adds the burden of manually tracking security fixes, but if I were running an important server I would personally try and keep my third-party sources to a minimum regardless. I STILL don't understand the dependency hell argument -- you may need to compile a few extra libs to get it working, but they're almost always listed at the site (and always listed at slackbuilds.org if you're using a SlackBuild from there).


Other saner distros setup users in groups to make HAL work automatically, Slackware doesn't.
That's the thing -- it DOES work in Slackware automatically. I still don't know what you, or that other person, did to your installation, but I've never had to touch that file and HAL has always worked out-of-the-box for me. It even recommends you to add your user to the required group using adduser, as Robby said -- but you seem to have ignored this fact.


xv is long unmaintained shareware but you are correct that it isn't Open Source. However, my point still stands. Most of the actually useful non-free stuff, specifically device drivers, is missing from Slackware. Please tell me how not having support for popular video cards or wireless chipsets is "user friendly" or how it's Slackware "just works" when it lacks hardware support included in most major distros. Those are the claims that are "pure fiction", not what I wrote.
Yep, you're right. I had to download the nVidia proprietary drivers unless I wanted to use the generic nv driver included with X. Likewise with ATI cards unless you want to use the included radeon driver. I guess this just doesn't seem like the end of the world to me to download one thing and install it (and it is an automatic installation process too) -- but I guess our opinions differ. I must admit, however, that I don't have a laptop and I've never had the need to use WiFi in Slackware. Getting drivers to work with that is a little more manual than some would like, and I will completely agree with you there -- but again, it shouldn't take more than half an hour (if you're taking your time) to set up the network along with X. It's hardly "days".


Yes, the Slackware documentation covers configuring X. That doesn't make it easy compared to most major distributions where it's automated and just works.
I've tried a few distros that didn't just work even though it should have. I had to manually edit xorg.conf to get the resolution to work properly (it was trying to use a resolution and refresh rate higher than my monitor supported). A simple `xorgconfig` in Slackware makes it work 100% of the time as long as I know how to answer questions. You can also copy the xorg.conf from a previous installation or another distro if you want. Again, once you know what you're doing, this will take an extra 5 minutes of your installation procedure. I still don't understand what the big deal is, but I guess our opinions differ.


By your logic all larger organizations do a poor job or are largely disfunctional. The fact that Slackware almost entirely equals Patrick is a HUGE disadvantage. I'm sure you remember Patrick's health scare a couple of years back. Thankfully he recovered. What if, G-d forbid, something happens to Patrick someday? What future does Slackware have then? With a large organization of competent engineers that companies like Red Hat, Novell/SuSe, Turbolinux, or Canonical have the future is pretty well assured. That's also true in large community projects. While I certainly wish Patrick a long, healthy, and happy life I wouldn't want my business to depend on a distribution that in turn depends on one individual.
I understand this point. I'm sure someone else would attempt to take on Slackware, but even in the worst case scenario, keeping current would just require that you watch security updates. Still too much work, but at this point it's not something I seriously consider. Also, there are other people (including Robby Workman, who posted above) who contribute to Slackware. As for me thinking that ALL large organizations do a poor job, this isn't the case. I'm just stating one possible advantage to a one-man show. This means that most other distros don't have THIS advantage. Slackware also doesn't have OTHER advantages, as you stated. I don't understand why it has to be an all-or-nothing thing, but apparently you're a fan of that.


I didn't do my research? I ran Slackware 12.1 almost exclusively for three weeks and did all my work from a Slackware box. 10+ hours a day of Slackware every single day is more than enough to write a review.
The fact is, you got some stuff wrong, as I explained. Therefore, you didn't research enough of what you posted about. In a well-written article there should be few, if any mistakes. Simply using Slackware isn't enough to know everything about it. Stating that you need KDM to have a session manager is flat-out wrong. Not enough research. Get it?


All the arguments add up to either "I like Slackware" or "Slackware works for me" so everybody else has to feel the same way. Anyone who challenges the religious devotion to Slackware must be an idiot. Sorry, folks, it doesn't work that way. I stand by my review and I still believe that Slack is for the hobbyist, not for the majority of Linux users.
When did I say anything about everyone having to feel the same way? I said Slackware is not for everyone. I just don't think you've presented it in a fair light. If you don't like Slackware, that's fine. I couldn't care less. But as someone in the media, you shouldn't let your bias show. Just present the facts, what you like about Slackware, what you don't. But you seriously seem to be attacking everyone that posts any criticism of your review.


You can setup Slackware in an hour? You must not use many apps that aren't included. To get Slackware installed, configured, all apps installed and configured, took me days compared to hours in most distros. I do Linux for a living. I do know what I am doing.
If I save the SlackBuilds from a previous Slackware installation, installing it on another box isn't hard and doesn't take long. Even if I use other apps that aren't included with Slackware.


The first is that I once again have to turn to third party tools to do large scale automated server builds.
I will admit that I do not know much about large-scale automated server builds. However, isn't a SlackBuild a fairly automated process? (Feel free to criticize this, as I truly do not know what I'm talking about -- curiosity got me on this one)


In this thread some of the comments were of a different quality. I had my conclusions challenged by someone who admitted they didn't even bother to read the whole review. There has been name calling. There are specific commentors that clearly have a "my way or the highway" attitude (no, not you) that smacks of fanaticism. Anytime we reach the point where anyone who voices a differing opinion is labeled as an ignorant idiot (or other words to that effect) we are dealing with closed minded devotion that I find disturbing.
It's not your difference of opinion that makes you look like an idiot -- that's the thing you don't understand. You present your findings as if they are fact, without question. And some things you said are incorrect. That's what makes you look foolish, not your difference of opinion. If you simply did not like the distro, that's fine. However, again, you're in the media -- you should present it fairly and accurately and let others make up their minds.


I deliberately ran this by a couple of other Linux professionals I'm friendly with this morning. They couldn't see your point at all. Neither can I. I can't think of a single reason why having no dependency checking in a distro would be desirable especially considering you can turn it off in any distro package manager I've ever used. I'll stick with my strong language here even if you consider it "off base" since it's one of the major reasons I'm not comfortable recommending Slackware to much of anybody. We may just have to agree to disagree on this one.
The fact that you can turn off the other dependency-resolving package managers is nice, but if you don't need them in the first place I don't see why it is a requirement for a distro. If you want a dependency-resolving package manager, either don't use Slackware or use slapt-get or some such thing. As for not understanding why you wouldn't want dependency resolving, have you ever had an application break because another app needed a newer version of a library? It's possible, and it's difficult to account for. Once it DOES break, you have to either compile the app yourself to restore its function (destroying the purpose of the dependency resolving) or get stuck not using an app that you want. Neither is a good solution. This can be avoided in Slackware if you compile your apps yourself.


Some of the name calling here and some of the comments do strongly resemble blind devotion, hence my reaction. I do not think those comments are reflective of the Slackware community as a whole, nor do I intend to paint the Slackware community with a broad brush.
I don't have 'blind devotion' in any way. Again, if you don't like Slackware, that's fine. However, AGAIN, you presented fiction as fact -- and you're not willing to accept that. You also STRONGLY biased this article against Slackware. You sneak in a positive comment or two, followed by a paragraph of why you think it is ancient and stupid.


I will also say that you consider yourself a Linux expert, from what I can tell, and you seem to be very 'worthy'. You do Linux for a living -- you MUST know what you're talking about, and better than me too! That fact is, I hope I NEVER consider myself to be an expert in Linux, because I don't think such a thing can happen. No matter how much you know about Linux, you'll get something wrong sometimes. And that's OK. But when you refuse to admit that, that's not OK. Also, Linux != Slackware. Just because you know 'Linux' SO very well, you may know nothing about Slackware. It definitely doesn't take me days to set up Slackware, even with a fair number of third-party apps. And I DON'T 'do Linux for a living'. It's taken me longer to set up other distros (especially *buntu, but OpenSUSE as well. I don't know much about Debian, so I can't comment on that) than Slackware. I still think you're either exaggerating or just not very good at setting up Slackware.


I could say more, but I won't. I will just hope that in future reviews, of ANY distro, application or product, you will be more objective, and at least get the facts right. Spending one day reading posts at linuxquestions.org would tell you how many things you got wrong -- and also why your review isn't up to par, in my opinion. Slackware isn't, wasn't, and never will be perfect for everyone. Neither will ANY distro. However, discouraging users from even attempting it is just plain bad journalism. Slackware isn't difficult if you read documentation. If you read said documentation and learn a little, not even a lot, about Slackware, future use and installation (and upgrades) are dead-easy and take little time. I think it's easier to become proficient with Slackware than with other distros -- and I actually get MORE done because of Slackware's simplicity (like having to edit text files) than fiddling with a GUI. But to each his or her own.

First of all sorry for my poor english ..
Second thanks for link to http://www.slacky.eu .. !

I' ve tried many distros ... Slackware is the best !

You 've to read man pages and o lot of docs ... you've to understand ... you've need to know what is Linux, the kernel, SAMBA, ext3, dns, lilo, resolv.conf fdisk / man X bash and so on ..

Sometimes you need to compile a 3.5Mb driver from source, now it is simple with the 64bit 4GHz Quadcore processor ...

... if you don' t want understand e learn something please don' t try to install Slackware ...
use some other buggy not-Operating System instead !

But really install and use Slackware is easy for me!

:-)

I was objective. I was not biased. I did try to put myself in the place of ordinary users, not just write things from my own perspective. Also, after all the diatribes, I don't see at all where I got my facts wrong. I DO understand. If I don't write a shining review of how wonderful Slackware is I must be a biased idiot.

I have NEVER written a shining review about ANY distro. All have strong points and all have flaws. All my reviews are mixed. If you don't like my conclusions I am an idiot in the eyes of some. Believe me, I get it. Looking at your link to linuxquestions confirmed that I get it. More people who dismissed me as inexperienced, a tool, an idiot, a couple of which admitting that they hadn't even read the reviews. I do understand. I've challenged the cult of Slack. Jim Grant: I may have to take back part of what I said before. The Slackware community DOES have a zealotry problem to deal with. TechiMoe complained of it after writing his not entirely shining review as well.

Oh, and kdm is still the only graphical session manager in Slackware. xdm does let you login at the GUI but there is no menu for different session types. Sorry, I did get that one right.

Slackckbuilds.org is not a repository of ready to go packages. It's a collection of scripts for compilation. That's hardly a substitute. You don't seem to get that. Having to compile everything is decidedly user unfriendly. My point about the lack of a decent sized official repository is valid even if you don't agree. It certainly isn't fiction.

I still don't like Slackware much and I am not afraid to say it. I am also not afraid to say that a community that doesn't tolerate criticism is a good reason not to use a distro. I certainly have good, solid, technical reasons for not liking it much even if some in the Slackware community can't understand why.

I stand by my review.

oh, well that's so sad... bickering over a distro!

at the risk of swelling the ranks of the so called zealots i'd just like to throw in something from Pat, for me it just explains what slackware is about whether you use it at home (i do) or at work (i do that too), whether you've been using it for years (in my case since ver3.6) or whether you just started:

"Have fun!"

these are the words that Pat signs off his release notes with, and i find them kind of reassuring, it's akin to printing Don't Panic on the cover of a book.

Slackware is still live, Slackware don't need apt-get and dependency check, automated udpdates and so on ... to work perfectly !!

Slackware is not only a simple GNU/Linux distribution ...
You know, that the tune up of Slackware is done with the reading of some documentation and editing some .conf file.
In Italy everyone can get some help from http://www.slacky.eu/forum and a lot of compiled packages, enthusiastic users, can help in finding documentation or solve some troubleshots.

The being of this community is the real difference from the other GNU/Linux distribution.

La vera differenza dalle altre distribuzioni GNU/Linux é proprio l' esistenza di tale community.

... again sorry for my english !
Ciao ... :-)

"An alternate 2.4.x kernel, included in Slackware 11 and 12, has been dropped."
Slackware Linux 12.0 was the first release which support the 2.6 kernel series exclusively (2.6.21.5). So, Slackware 12 didn't include "an alternate 2.4.x kernel".

Caitlyn, first of all, I like the new format. You'll probably get a lot more traffic here than at the LinuxDevCenter portion of the site.

There's been so much talk about this review and Slackware in general at LXer.com that I'm glad to see the actual piece itself.

As always, the writing and observations are excellent.

While I agree with you that Slackware is a bit too hard to use, for me the Slackware tools like xwmconfig and netconfig are really useful. They're just about as easy as using the standard GUI tools for the same job.

Slack's ancient package management is probably it's worst feature. And as I said over at LXer, I have a hard time trusting slapt-get/Gslapt.

And you did touch on the fact that to get some basic things working in Slackware, such as HAL, you have to do a little tweaking. In Slack 12, just getting access to the CD drive for k3B meant a trip to /etc/groups (or is it /etc/group ??) to add myself to the wheel group.

And again, you're right about the KDE-centric nature of Slackware. Just like you, I did an Xfce install once and found myself with very few apps. That's addressed in Vector, Zenwalk and Wovix, but not in Slack itself.

I wish that you had tried one of the many GNOME add-on projects for Slackware so I wouldn't have to do it myself. Adding one of those packages/products/whatever-you-call-its should give you OpenOffice, Abiword and Gnumeric, a few decent non-KDE text editors, the GUI tools for networking ... basically civilizing Slack for those of us not in love with KDE ...

But as I say, by the time you do that, why not just use Debian, or even (horrors!) Ubuntu?

Even though I'm a big proponent of Debian (OpenSSL debacle notwithstanding), Ubuntu works a lot better on my Gateway laptop, so that's what I'm using.

I still don't like Slackware much and I am not afraid to say it. I am also not afraid to say that a community that doesn't tolerate criticism is a good reason not to use a distro. I certainly have good, solid, technical reasons for not liking it much even if some in the Slackware community can't understand why.
Well, I'm done. I'm still being labeled a zealot. If this review praised Slackware 100%, it wouldn't be a good review either. The community must tolerate criticism -- we get a lot of it. ;-)


If you go look at the Slackware forum at linuxquestions.org, you will find one of the most helpful communities around. Newbies are generally given a plethora of help, and there isn't much of an elitist attitude, despite what others want you to think. The only time people get bitchy is if they ask questions that are specifically addressed in CHANGES_AND_HINTS.TXT, which answers 90% of the newbie questions and is official documentation. Seriously -- it's one of the most helpful communities you'll find. The only better resource is the Gentoo Wiki, in my opinion.


I will say that I hate Slackware fanboy threads as much as I hate biased reviews. I tend to gloss over those threads without adding anything. Yes, some people will argue that Slackware is the greatest. I'm not one of those people. It's right for me. I still think you exaggerate or stretch the truth to make Slackware sound worse so it fits in line with your (negative) opinions, and I also think you make it sound 10 times harder than it really is. The time it takes to administer my box is basically non-existent now that everything is set up.


Having to compile everything is decidedly user unfriendly.
./appname.SlackBuild; installpkg /tmp/packagename.tgz


It's not difficult for me because of my level of experience but most people don't have your level of experience or mine.
I do Linux for a living. I do know what I am doing.
I didn't do my research? I ran Slackware 12.1 almost exclusively for three weeks and did all my work from a Slackware box. 10+ hours a day of Slackware every single day is more than enough to write a review.
I wish you luck with your future endeavors, and sincerely hope that YOUR elitist attitude mellows out before writing a review of another distro/app/product.


Good luck, and goodbye.

This "comment" form screams "Movable Type" ... and I feel for you. I run a bunch of MT blogs, and it's been a big ol' blast.


For some reason, it looks like this form is coding the linefeeds as <br> instead of <p> ... so commenters need to hit two returns instead of one to get proper spacing of the paragraphs.


Sorry, just thought I'd respond to this (trying to be helpful, not spiteful):
In Slack 12, just getting access to the CD drive for k3B meant a trip to /etc/groups (or is it /etc/group ??) to add myself to the wheel group.
In CHANGES_AND_HINTS.TXT, which is considered mandatory reading before installation, it says this:


If you have permission errors when attempting to burn a cdrom or dvd image,
such as the following:
/usr/bin/cdrecord: Operation not permitted. Cannot send SCSI cmd via ioctl
then cdrecord almost certainly needs root privileges to work correctly.
One potential solution is to make the cdrecord and cdrdao binaries suid root,
but this has possible security implications. The safest way to do that is
to make those binaries suid root, owned by a specific group, and executable
by only root and members of that group. For most people, the example below
will be sufficient (but adjust as desired depending on your specific needs):
chown root:cdrom /usr/bin/cdrecord /usr/bin/cdrdao
chmod 4750 /usr/bin/cdrecord /usr/bin/cdrdao
If you don't want all members of the 'cdrom' group to be able to execute the
two suid binaries, then create a special group (such as 'burning' which is
recommended by k3b), use it instead of 'cdrom' in the line above, and add
to it only the users you wish to have access to cdrecord and cdrdao.

Slackbuilds.org is not a repository of ready to go packages. It's a collection of scripts for compilation. That's hardly a substitute. You don't seem to get that.

No, you're quite right. It's not a substitute. However what it is, is an alternative approach to that of a package repository. And it's an alternative that some of us prefer.

Need to know what compile time options were included in the software you just installed? Or maybe even change them. With a Slackbuild it's there in the script in plain text for all to see. What options was the package from the package repository built with? You've no idea. Want to change it? Tough luck.

Need to know what patches were applied and built into the software package? Exactly the same thing.

Want to be sure that the package maintainer hasn't slipped something nasty in there? Same again.

Slackbuilds give you a level of visibility that binary package repositories do not. Now, maybe not all users will want or need this visibility, nevertheless, its there for those that do need it and have the knowledge to take advantage of it.

Personally, I think that the target audience for a distro like slackware will find slackbuilds quite user friendly. Download a script and run it. It's not exactly rocket science.


The problem I have with your review is that it is looking at Slackware through RedHat tinted glasses. You look for features that you expect to see, such as a package repository and dependency checking and then when you don't see them you declare that:
"It is not what I consider to be a good distribution in its own right."

For people who prefer the way slackware does things, and judging by its longevity there must be a good number of us, its a very good distribution in its own right. But, it's also a very different distribution to something like RedHat, and that difference won't suit everyone and especially not anyone who just wants to use a computer as an appliance without needing to know anything about it.

If you'd said that Slackware wasn't a good distribution for a complete novice, I'd probably have to agree, though I was a novice when I first came to Slackware and got along with it just fine, and so have many others.

If you'd said that "Slackware wasn't a good distribution for someone who wanted everything to be looked after automatically" again, I'd have to agree.

If you'd said that "Slackware was a good distribution for those wanting extra control but only if they're prepared to get their hands dirty" then that would have been fine too (To be fair, you did hint at this in other parts of your review)

But you didn't say any of that. What you said was that "Slackware was not a good distribution in its own right."

I think this is what has gotten the Slackware Community up in arms. Well, this and the lack of respect you showed them in your earlier replies; the 'different planet' jibe and latterly all the "Zealotry", "religious fanatics" comments.

Quote from "the sorry state of open source today" (last article -Whereto):
"And Slackware will always matter, as long as craftsmanship, commitment, and quality make a difference. "

B.t.w., I started with Slack as a noob (still am a bit). :)

You know, I've been writing for O'Reilly blogs for a little over two years now, starting with a review of Fedora. I have always called things the way I see them. I point out what I consider to be the strong points and the weak points of every distro. I don't mince words and I am not about to change my style of writing or parse words to be nice to one distro or another. So, no, my next review will be in the same format and style as this one, just as this review was in the same format and style as my last one (a review of AliXe 0.11b). Nobody compels anyone to read my stuff.

Red Hat tinted glasses? I don't think so. Why? It's not just Red Hat/Fedora/CentOS that have dependency checking, user friendly GUI tools, properly managed software repositories, and decent hardware detection. Those are the four areas in which I find Slackware lacking. Debian, Ubuntu, and Mint are examples of distro s that do all four of those areas well. Ubuntu has other issues and I probably have more complaints with Ubuntu than Slackware, but not in those areas. Mandriva also does all of those well. So does SuSe. So do some Slackware derivatives including Vector, Zenwalk, and Wolvix. Even Gentoo does better in most of those areas. It's not Slackware vs. Red Hat. It's Slackware vs. everything else that's considered a major distro.

Yes, I have certain set expectations about what a Linux distribution should be and those certainly affect my review. That isn't bias. That's a fair comparison of what is out there. Comparing Slackware to other major distros it falls down in those four key areas I mentioned. It shines in other areas; important areas, certainly. However, I can't consider it a good distro by my standards with those failings. Sorry, I will still call it the way I see it. I don't think those standards are very far outside the mainstream.

"Elitist attitude"? Give me a break! I'm not the one dismissing users who want a GUI or "don't want to learn" how Linux works under the hood. That strikes me as the pot calling the kettle black. Sorry, I will still take ease of use into account in all future reviews.

My complaints about zealotry in the Linux community have been a running theme in my writing for at least four years now. That won't change either because I see it as a major problem that slows adoption of Linux and reflects badly on the community as a whole. It isn't limited to Slackware by any means nor am I singling out the Slackware community as being particularly bad in this area. I am singling out the tone and language of certain comments. There is a huge difference.



Last I heard O'Reilly was always looking for good writers. If you can write reviews and other articles that you think are better, more fair, more unbiased, or whatever I certainly invite you to get in touch with the powers that be here and contribute. A diversity of opinions is a good thing.

Oh, and yeah, this is a Movable Type platform and some things don't act quite as I'd been lead to expect. Hopefully the issues with formatting can be worked out.

@Caitlin Just to update you - I retired from the Navy in 1996, where I was responsible for keeping up the shipboard computer systems - both combat and PC based. And it wasn't the smallest ship in the Navy, either. The comment on the 13-computer system was just my current hobby in retirement.

In a corporate environment, I would expect the administrator to keep the company production repository up to date and valid. Since dependencies would be a priority for the administrator of the repository, the end user doesn't have to worry about that. in that respect, a 13-computer small business is equivalent to a 13,000 computer enterprise business.

And, btw, you don't need kickstart to do remote automated installs/upgrades. Slackware has had remote install capabilities since 3.5 days. Minor tweaking of the initrd on the boot image made it easy to automate install machines over the network just like kickstart, and a couple of minor scripts in a cron job will keep the system updated from the company repository. As I mentioned earlier, I did something similar some years ago with Slackware.

You may have a point from an end-user point of view at home, but an office/corporate environment would have already had those issues worked out so the end-user world not have to worry about it. Especially since the end-user (workers) should not be installing software that's not company approved on company computers anyway.

"Elitist attitude"? Give me a break! I'm not the one dismissing users who want a GUI or "don't want to learn" how Linux works under the hood. That strikes me as the pot calling the kettle black. Sorry, I will still take ease of use into account in all future reviews.
Holy sh!t! Do you even read before you respond? I know I said I was done here, but my God! You really want everyone to share your opinion -- that much is clear. I have said numerous times that I don't care if you, or anyone else, likes Slackware. If you demand a GUI setup and administration tools, then Slackware isn't for you. However, that doesn't mean that a GUI is BETTER at ALL -- but you are saying it IS better, as if it was fact. This is what I meant when I said you were very 'worthy'. You get more customizability through editing text files (otherwise there would need to be 300 checkboxes to offer each option) and it's simple and transparent, with very little that can go wrong. My mom wouldn't want this, but there are tons of people that wouldn't mind it. It's not difficult, and it's effective. Tried-and-true, if you like. If you don't want to learn Linux, fine! But that doesn't mean Slackware is a bad distro. You don't even really need to to learn that much to use/install Slackware.


Apparently, editing a text file by uncommenting/commenting, the equivalent of checking a box, is too complex for your inferior mind. That doesn't seem difficult to me, but I guess I must be a supergenius, right? My mom couldn't install Windows, she couldn't install Ubuntu, she couldn't install anything. She's definitely not stupid, but it's just not something she's interested in learning. And that's fine. But to actually use Slackware is as easy as any other distro. It's not more unfriendly -- it includes the same WMs/DEs (minus Gnome, of course). THAT is your "average user". I could teach her how to use Synaptic, but if anything went wrong (and it can), I'd get a call to come fix her computer. Slackware includes more than most distros by default as far as I know, and the number of third-party applications you need will be more minimal -- but our usage patterns may vary. The point is, you are saying Slackware's GUI-less interface is less friendly as if it were fact -- and I disagree. As a side note, ncurses is still a GUI. netconfig, xwmconfig, liloconfig, pkgtool, setup, and others are GUI tools for configuring Slackware. There are also some GUI tools in KDE (and some in XFCE) if you insist on using them.


In the end, you're clearly not Slackware's demographic, so any review about Slackware will include your opinions, which will differ from someone who actually uses Slackware. Overall, your review was mildly informative with some slant against Slackware. That's not great, but it's not the end of the world. However, your responses to your readers are very often close-minded. I know you will respond saying that I'm a closed-minded zealot that can't take criticism. That's really your problem, not mine. I'm a fan of other distros, I can fully understand why some people would want automatic dependency resolving. However, to say that everyone except hobbyists would want this, and that Slackware is a bad distro for not including dependency resolution, is just very ignorant and insulting to your readers. You have an elitist attitude informing your readers that Slackware is too difficult for them unless they are experts or willing to learn a ton about Linux. All it takes to install Slackware is to follow an installation guide step-by-step. You don't even need to know what you're doing. And after that, you will have a working system.


This is getting unproductive, if it wasn't already, and every comment that a Slackware user makes will probably be negative, and your response will be more negative because of the negativity of their response, and it will just compound into ridiculousness. I'm sure you're very frustrated with me, and I'll get out of your hair. Basically, I want to know what is on my system (a simple `ls /var/log/packages`), what is in each package (`less /var/log/packages/packagename`), etc. Slackware makes it completely transparent and easy, open to scripts that simply parse standard text files. There is no closed database that must be read using special utilities -- it's all open. And I think that's a good thing. Simplicity is a nice thing. Simplicity != GUI.


Have fun with your favourite GUI-filled distro (and I mean that sincerely) -- I hope you have better luck than with Slackware.

Oops, forgot to fill in the username for the previous post. That's me, if you couldn't tell by my obnoxious writing style.

@Ms. Martin

Overall, I think your review is good and balanced. You pointed out a lot of Slackware strengths, and you also pointed out what you see as flaws. Contrary to what some might say, I don't think any of your criticisms are due to ignorance of how to manage Slackware. You do, however, have a different view on what makes a good distro (the ambiguous "user friendliness"). We'll just have to agree to disagree on that, along with some related statements.


I would have liked to see more differences between Slackware 12.0 and 12.1 explained in your review (such as the NTFS-3G support), but I know you said you never used 12.0. Also, it would have been nice for you to mention the importance of the CHANGES_AND_HINTS.TXT, along with the great support provided by linuxquestions.org. Speaking of LQ, I posted a sort of mini-review of your review at the Slackware 12.1 thread.


Another interesting related thread is What features/changes would you like to see in future Slackware.


warmest regards

actually hal works out of the box in my experience. moreover hal has been incuded into slackware since v.12.0 but yours is a mistaken caused by the not-very-up-to-date distro description provided on the slackware site (I really don't now the reason for this!).
about non GPL/open software: I think that intel wifi card firmwares are non open in any sense, nonetheless they are included into the distro (as JRE is). The reason for this "strange" solution -your got some non open software but now all the goods you got in other distros- is that PJV is mainly involved into the BSD phylosophy rather than into the FSF phylosophy: all his system scripts are BSD licensed! Nonetheless no interest is shown in adding proprietary drivers from videocard vendors (you have free ones and _sometimes_ :-) they works well).

At last, I think you are right with your POV!

IMHO,
M

"designed for the very knowledgeable" and "There is excellent, detailed, well written documentation in the slackbook directory of the DVD (also available online) that should be more than adequate to walk a computer literate user with a modicum of experience through the process." - excuse me, can you decide if Slackware is for very knowledgeable or barely literate? I guess rudimentary understanding of what a PC is and how to read a script is enough to both install and configure Slackware.


I find Slackware scripts the easiest to read. When installed, Slackware sends mail to root explaining what to do next. What more hand holding is necessary to call Slackware "user friendly"?


I guess the review is flawed by design. The idea to write down personal impressions is very appropriate in a blog. It also makes a good review of a distribution that is all about that impressions, that is, Ubuntu, Mandriva, possibly Fedora and SUSE, etc. An O'Railly review of other distributions like Gentoo or Slackware must be different - the purpose of the distribution must be formulated upfront, not hidden deep inside the text so that a very good reader may partially reverse engineer it. The current approach, as demonstrated by the comments, creates lots of confusion.


Discussion on the dependency checking makes a perfect example. Patrick have explained why it is inappropriate in Slackware. I do not have the reference handy since I do not write for O'Railly. As far as I remember, dependency check may be critically harmful for a developer or a person doing advanced troubleshooting.


Thus, a comment like "In my work I have to try new software all the time. How often do I run into having to track down dependency issues if I run Slackware? All the time." is 100% accurate (well, 90%, "ALL the time" is an exaggeration), but pointless - Slackware is not for trying new software all the time.

I deliberately ran this by a couple of other Linux professionals I'm friendly with this morning. They couldn't see your point at all. Neither can I. I can't think of a single reason why having no dependency checking in a distro would be desirable especially considering you can turn it off in any distro package manager I've ever used.

The disadvantage of having automatic dependency resolution is a byproduct of the package creation process. This problem is not readily apparent if one only examines the task of installing a package. It also can't be understood if one limits her viewpoint to just a single distribution cycle. One must examine the entirety of the distro's development, deployment, operation, and bug detection in order to apprehend the benefits of the Slackware approach to package management.

For those who may not be familiar Slackare package management, a Slackware package is basically a gzipped tarball of all the necessary files (executables, libraries, headers, config files, and documentation). When the package is installed, these filesget extracted and placed in the appropriate locations in the filesystem (and, if present, an optional installation script is executed). During installation a file is created which logs which files were added and where (for later removal or replacement, if necessary).

Creating a Slackware package is just about as simple as compiling the program and creating an archive of the generated files. It should be noted that during this compilation process all dependencies are verified (and this is generally quite trustworthy, or the program won't compile). If the resulting package is installed on another system (as is typical) and the program run, a failed dependency will be detected by the kernel and an error reported specifying which library is missing. This failed dependency, and the requirement that the user remedy the situation, is what Ms Martin refers to a "dependency hell" (it is my contention that she is fairly unique in making this association, as a web search of the term will show).

Contrast the Slackware packaging process with that for Debian packages (chosen as a typical auto-dependency-resolving distro). The compile process is pretty much the same, except that it is not uncommon that the packager must apply Debian-specific patches to the source code from the original project. While this might not involve dependencies in a direct manner, it does mean that a user wishing to compile source must fetch that source not from the upstream project, but from the Debian source package.

More importantly, if there is no Debian source package for the upstream project (or if the user chooses to use the upstream source to avoid modifications made by the distro), compiling upstream source can potentially run into a problem whereby unmodified project code conflicts with modified Debian libraries. While this may be a rare occurrence, it can be a complete disaster for a user trying to determine what exactly has failed (even using a step-by-step debugger). Again, while this is not directly related to the capabilities of the package management tools, Slackware package management encourages a strict discipline of not patching upstream sources. It should also be noted that Debian package tools do provide a way for the package to flag such conflicts, should they be foreseen (nonetheless, disposing of such discrepancies invariable requires manual intervention).

During the compilation of the source code (or afterwards, if the project's build system doesn't support it), the Debian packager must separate out the project's documentation files and the headers. This is because Debian guidelines promote creation of separate packages for the program, its documentation, and its header files (needed if other programs are to be compiled that interact with it). This differentiation of packages for a single project is not typically problematic, but combine it with the scenario described in the preceding paragraph and the opportunity for having mismatched patched and unpatched headers, libraries, or source becomes multiplied (and, again, possibly not detected at compile time, not handled by dependency checks, and not generating meaningful error messages).

Finally, it is the responsibility of the packager to determine the dependencies for the package, and whether those dependencies are depends, recommends, suggests, pre-depends, or build-depends; as well as any conflicts that might exist between itself and/or its dependencies (if handled properly, conflict specification can often prevent the problem of mixing patched with unpatched packages). This duty demands that the package maintainer be fairly knowledgeable about the upstream project and track the constantly changing interdependencies of the various components being used. A mistake made at this point can result in a package that installs properly and registers with the system that all is well, yet produces a runtime error which yields an unmeaningful or misleading error message.

Debian developers do a rather remarkable job of ensuring that such mistakes aren't made, or that they are caught during development and test. However, a lot of time and effort goes into verifying this -- the last Debian Stable was not released until after Testing spent five months being in the Frozen state. Other distros are not nearly so diligent.

There are reasons that Slackware is so rock solid and free of bugs. A major contribution is that expenditure of effort validating dependency resolution is greatly reduced and development resources can be focused on other activities.

Using unpatched, vanilla source code means that the dependency resolution, conflict identification, and corresponding testing performed by an upstream project can be relied upon within a Slackware deployment. Using unpatched upstream code virtually negates the potential for errors and conflicts with unmatched code between installed packages. The benefit this accrues to the installation of non-official Slackware software is one of Slackware's greatest features.

Another major benefit of the Slackware approach is that the GNU/Linux system, and the Linux kernel in particular, can be relied upon to produce meaningful error messages. However rare they may be, a mistake made by DEB or RPM packager can result in an error for which misleading messages are generated, or anomalous behavior the cause of which can be extremely difficult to track down. The Slackware development team may be small but this transparency facilitates the early identification of problems and their causes.

This transparency, along with the simplistic elegance of Slackware, provides the ultimate benefit that a Slackware user, regardless of her technical abilities, has the potential of eventually understanding her entire system (though admittedly it should take more than three weeks). Under Slackware, package management isn't treated as some cargo cult process where something magical happens behind the scenes; where a system's configuration is contained in some binary database accessible only through distro-specific tools. In fact, basic Unix command line tools are completely sufficient to administer package management (should for some reason one not wish to use the Slackware tools provided).

In closing, it is in my opinion unreasonable to recognize Slackware's remarkable stability and reliability on one hand, and then fail to recognize its package management approach as a major contributing factor to that reliability. Automatic dependency resolution holds many advantages, but it also comes at what some consider to be too great a cost -- true even if the administrator chooses not to avail herself of that feature. This may not be intuitively obvious but if one considers more than just the facility of "installing a package", it should be readily apparent.

First off, I liked your article!


I have to agree with all your comments about Slackware
I've been using Slackware since 1994 (slackware 3.0 or thereabouts) It is _not_ an userfriendly distro, but it is a great tool to learn Unix/Linux, and a very stable platform that you can customize to your own specifications to a very high degree. The very basic package management tools are a "plus" for me because they allow this degree of customization. In other distributions the package manager (rpm, yum, apt) gets in my way sooner rather than later.


Over the years I've build up a collection of third party tools and scripts which help me to "bend Slackware to my will" and avoid "DLL hell", but none of these are easy to use for a beginner.


I work daily with Unix machines (HP/Digital) and when I have to try something work related on my home computers, it is Slackware that I turn to, because it is closest to the mainframe Unix systems.


As said before, Slackware is a great tool.
A tool to learn Unix/Linux, and a tool to create highly customized (and stable) installations.


With regards


H.J. Enneman

@Caitlin: I think you did a good review, it is natural to have pros and cons, but remember that the majority of Slackware users are experienced, they know how the system works, they appreciate the speed and acuracy of manual configuration, and so on. Also I think you should not give verdicts like Slackware is not good for enterprise, I am a sysadmin at a big company with almost 9000 computers. We are using in production about 50 Slackware servers for: proxyes, web, mail gateways, etc., and have few RedHats for Oracle. Let me tell you that the administration and maintenance is very easy with Slackware, you have no limits if you know what you are doing. I am an RHCE - but I preffer Slackware. For server usage dependency problems are a myth. I preffer Slackware because I am not constraind in any way to do my job. I am not forced to install whatever redhat has for me or else break the system. I am not forced by the package manager to stay with a certain version of software. And the stability is amazing, also very few bugs. If you are not a system administrator, don`t tell to one that Slackware is not good because you don`t have the practical experinece to judge if in long term administration slackware is a pain or not. The only problem with slackware and eterprise is that you cannot buy support directly from Slackware, you have to look at third party. As for package manager, repository, etc. they are all myths of those that prefer clueless gui wizards. I can demonstrate to anyone that I can do a certain job on slackware at least in the same time with one that uses gui tools. In the end, I am not saying that slackware is the perfect distro, I am not tryig to say that it is better than Ubuntu or RH... but that "oldest surviving distro" can be the best to one who knows how to benefit from it`s features. If slackware does not compare with others on gui tools and packages, it certainly does compare with everything else in terms of stability and lack of bugs.

The articles you write are entertaining. :) It's risky even mentioning drawbacks of a distribution. With Insomnia I stay up reading more than I write code.

1. Slackware takes the adage that a dab will do you.
2. Something like Mandriva attempts a different mentality, saturate the problem and find all the solutions.

Minimalistic approach will work every time. Preachers only introduce the concepts of religion to someone as they don't saturate them. But people enjoy entertaining the notion of an easy life with few problems.

I will say that Slackware has worked on every PC I've tried the bootcd on. I used to carry a root/boot floppy combo with me. Way before Knoppix I had Slackware.

Then again, its a lot of stress to reinstall. Ubuntu just installs and configures everything. Mandriva has about the best KDE enviornment I've seen. I never cared for Debian.

I like access to a source/binary image. This isn't hard to find with Slackware. If anything I would see Slack adapting to a ports repository. Think FreeBSD.

Gentoo has the right idea. I think its risky maintaining online repositories. Debian got hacked in someway at one time.

Good fight, Good night. :)


Here's what is so ironic...

MANY MANY YEARS AGO, when Red Hat was still at version 4, and Slackware at version 1.x, I was trying to work out which distro to use.

I had a bit of experience with Slackware 0.99.x (version numbers might not be entirely accurate) and was curious about the seemingly more popular and commercial Red Hat.

Well, Red Hat gave me SO MUCH GRIEF trying to work with rpm that I went back to Slackware. I have been a huge Slackware fan ever since, flirting for a short while with Stampede Linux (defunct), but basically a Slacker all the way from version 4 to 12.

"Once you start adding software from third party sources this becomes particularly messy if you don't do your homework and track down all the dependencies on your own. It's a recipe for dependency hell that's rarely seen on other major distributions in 2008."

Ah yes... now I remember why Red Hat pissed me off so much back then. The bloody ^!#%!@^! dependency management was why...!!!! LOL!

If you prefer to deal with vanilla sources and try to install a package by yourself from source tar.gz (e.g. you like to experiment), RH (as well as any other distro which enforces its own dependency checking) will have you jumping through innumerable hoops. With these distros, you can't just install a package, you are also charged with keeping its bloody dependency tree intact, as if you don't have enough problems already...

One great side effect of being forced to take care of package dependencies yourself, which few people realize, is that it is an awesomely entertaining way of educating yourself with all sorts of linux and open source packages (especially libraries). A graduate of the Slackware school of Linux education has a very broad knowledge of exactly what libraries glue together a GNU/Linux OS.

Once you digest it (admittedly it took me like 4-5 years of on-and-off usage), Slackware's package structure is actually quite logical and easy to remember. Nowadays, even when I'm faced with having to install a new, unfamiliar package on a minimalistic Slackware install like say, on a VPS, just by looking at error messages that complain about certain missing libraries, I can quickly figure out which package to install and which directory in the Slackware package directory structure to get it from (usually under l/ for libraries...).

There are certain rules of thumb which take seasoned Slackers many years to learn through exploration which could be condensed in a short guide that will take newbies very far very quickly when using Slackware, but I think no one has still written that guide yet. Them Slackware gurus are way too busy fiddling with their Slackware boxes... :-P.

@Web Mech: The comments you make about early versions of Red Hat Linux circa 1996-1998 are certainly valid but that was a long time ago. It is no more difficult to build a package from source on Red Hat Enterprise Linux or Fedora today than it is on Slackware. There is no extra work that you wouldn't have on Slackware vis a vis dependencies. The one and onluy difference is that you have large respoitories so that building packages from source is often unnecessary and with packages from those repositories you generally have no worries about dependencies at all.

You are correct that an exerpeiced user can figure things out on Slackware beased on his or her experience. That's true of any distro. You are also correct in characterizing Slackware boxes as always needing fiddling with. Your last comment, in many ways, sums up my review of Slackware: reliable, stable, but constantly in need of work that requires a level of sophistication that distros with user friendly tools don't require.

"The comments you make about early versions of Red Hat Linux circa 1996-1998 are certainly valid but that was a long time ago..."

What I meant was that if you, for example, want to install your own version of the X.org server compiled directly from the X.org sources (NOT taken from Yum or source rpm), you will very likely have an **extremely** painful time tracking down all the packages that depend on it and its libraries and fixing the RH dependency tree to work with this new version. (Try it, if you don't believe me...)

Somehow, I don't see how you can change that with Red Hat (or any other dependency-handling distro for that matter).

If you are happy to always get your source code via yum or RH repository, that's not a problem. But for people who wish to integrate compiled vanilla .tar.gz taken from other sources (like say, the *original*), distros with dependency checking (not only RH) will require an additional level of care and feeding. So yes, "there absolutely IS extra work that you wouldn't have on Slackware vis a vis dependencies".

"You are also correct in characterizing Slackware boxes as always needing fiddling with"

Well, I didn't mean it that way, e.g. fiddling because they have problems. I just meant they're having too much fun exploring Linux to actually write a guide to Slackware. Once you get things working in Slackware, they tend to stay that working.

Basically the tradeoff is more initial pain but for more control and knowledge of innards, plus much smoother sailing down the line.

@webmech: I've been trying to figure out why someone would want to rip out the version of X.org supplied by a distributor and replace it, thereby losing updates and support. Even in Slackware X.org is complex and has lots of packages and lots of dependcies if you roll your own. I can't think of a good reason. OK, let's assume there is one or you wouldn't have brought it up.

Adding the newly created packages to the rpm database in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, or Fedora really is simple. It's a single command:

rpm -i --justdb packagename

In a case like X.org where I am likely to have many packages I'd just script it to pull the package names from a file. That's pretty simple, isn't it? More work than Slackware? Considering that all packages that depend on X would still be able to get correct dependency resolution from the rpm database I honestly don't think so.

I didn't mean to imply Slackware users fiddle because Slackware frequently breaks. If my last comment came across that way I apologize for communicating poorly. When someone like me has to continually install and evaluate new software as part of their employment not having dependency resoultion does mean constant tinkering and getting under the hood. That's what I meant. As I pointed out in the review Slackware has a very well earned reputation for stability and reliability.

I agree with you that Slackware gives you more knowledge of how a system works. It's truly excellent for that. I don't agree that automatically translates into smoother sailing.

Basically the tradeoff is more initial pain but for more control and knowledge of innards, plus much smoother sailing down the line.

Also, let me clarify the above. The "pain" I'm talking about is in learning the Slackware ropes. Once you are over that learning curve, Slackware can, in many ways, be less painful to work with than "friendlier" distros.

>If you want your computer to "just work" then Slackware is certainly not for you.

Then my advice would be to buy some Apple, 'just work' is some lame hype to advert lame operating systems. That said, I'm a huge fan of Slack since the early 90s and I wouldn't trade it against some glimmer.

The KISS principle in Slackware or FreeBSD is something you will learn to value if you have some real-life problems. If your nice and shiny 'just work'-distro breaks, then you will be in real hell. Why? Because you didn't learn anything ;-)

I started with Slackware 4.0 back in 1999 and came to be very glad I did. I was by no means any kind of advanced user at the time: I had spent a little time on the UNIX command line in the mid 90s when someone tried to teach me rudimentary web development ... but up to the time I gave Linux a shot, I was a fairly clue-free Windows user. All I knew was that I found the Windows experience sort of unfulfilling.

If all someone coming from Windows is looking for is a system that "just works" then I guess, yes, other distros would be more appropriate for a new user; however, if that person is (like I definitely was) interested in how things really work under the hood, then there may be no distro that is better.

I guess it's nice we have choices! :) My distro of choice is Slackware 12.1.

Why is it either/or? There is lots of space in between an Apple and Slackware, and I think that it's pretty foolish to suggest otherwise.

Just to add my 2 cents/pennies (choose your currency) worth. I too started out with Slackware a long time ago (on a pile of floppy disks), and on a production web server have been using it ever since. More recently I transferred to Kubuntu for my desktop computing, having been seduced by the automatic package installer etc. I installed Kubuntu at home for a media station, but as my logs started to fill with error & warning messages, and I was getting weekly crashes I thought I would return to Slackware (12.1). Yes, it did take some time to reinstall all the packages I needed from slacky.eu, but it isn't difficult, and dependencies are listed there. But the Slackware version simply works! And that is the reason I am going to stay with Slackware for as long as I can!

Andy West - TheBigF

Caitlyn, I agree with you and would like to add that one very compelling reason why minimalist Linux distros are losing ground is due to the USA's legal environment. Government, financial, and medical sector (and likely others)mandates exist to perform risk and vulnerability assessments of all network assets. Minimalist Linux and Unix make this task difficult if not impossible due to their lack of RPM or APT db's with inherent package tracking. Enterprises can't afford the fines for using random systems and have moved to Linux capable of providing credible and simple collection of installed packages information.

>moved to Linux capable of providing credible and simple collection of installed packages information.

First of all, any computer system that will be used in highly senstive areas must pass a security audit and be deemed fit for use by the controlling authority.

Slackware packages can easily be listed and obtained by a simple command. Version number and all. It's a simple text file. Nothing could be simpler than that.

The existence of rpm and deb packages don't render other package systems obsolete or inferior. Rpm and deb packages are just two common forms that packages can take.

@GaryM: You have taken a piece of a sentence out of context and made an argument that simply doesn't hold water if you include the entire premise of my argument. The problem I described is that Slackware does not have an extensive repository of software. Slackware users often rely on packages or scripts from third party sources which are difficult to trust.

I know how security audits work. I've been the auditor on many occasions.

My only complaint about Slackware package structure is the lack of dependency checking which is not a security issue.

@TheBigF: User friendly distro doesn't equate to Ubuntu or Kubuntu (thankfully!). Ubuntu is far from my favorite. While I haven't had your experience with error logs I have run into far too many serious bugs for my liking. It isn't a binary either/or choice between Slackware and Ubuntu. THere are over 500 active Linux distributions and there are many choices which, IMHO, are much better at "just working" that Slackware without the problems of Ubuntu.

@Phil: I don't disagree with you. Where have I suggested otherwise? My personal choice is neither Apple nor Slackware.

@Web Mech: Sorry, I don't think Slackware ever becomes easier than friendly distros. Unless your system software is absolutely static Slackware is always about fiddling with the system. I have better things to do. If you like that sort of tinkering well.... more power to you.

The last comment was mine. I don't know why it came up as "Anonymous".

>@GaryM: You have taken a piece of a sentence out of context and made an argument that simply doesn't hold water...

Caitlyn,

Unless you are assuming several personalities on this comment forum, I was addressing "RiskyBusiness" who started out their statement with "Caitlyn, I agree with you..."

Please read more carefully instead of assuming things. Thank you...

Caitlyn,

Slackware rocks!!! Go use Microsoft Windows if you don’t feel you can put in the hard work to build a stable and reliable system!

Sly

If you're macho enough for Slackware, you might be macho enough for LoseThos, a really macho operating system.

Man, did this thing jump the shark. I thought I'd seen it all back in my Mac days.

I read the article and while I'm a confirmed Slacker, I really have no problem with it, assuming your readers know where you're coming from. I think everyone else's problems stem from the set of assumptions you proceed from: users are lazy idiots, to kind of sum it up. Based on that you make the assumption -- or assertion -- that any OS that causes a lazy idiot to have to do anything beyond hitting the power button is user unfriendly and barbaric beyond all reason. Any requirement to know anything about your own machine or operating system to get the benefit of a fast, stable computer is a huge, indefensible imposition. While your opinion of the average user has apparently sunk low enough to justify those assumptions and assertions in your own mind, you have to realize that's going to prompt a lot of disagreement.

Also, there's a lot of semantic backing and forthing because of things like the fact some people think easy and simple are or should be synonyms. Slackware is dead simple. Not particularly easy, perhaps, but simple.

For example, booting into X requires changing one character in one file. OK, that might take a google search to figure out, but how complex is that?

I came to Linux from the Mac side of things, and I went straight into Slackware 8.1. I was smart or lucky enough to have a working computer nearby so I could have the installation instructions up and do searches as necessary. It was simple.

Maybe you could have prevented some of this by simply adding a simple tip or two. You already note that Slack is fast and stable. If you had said something like "if you think it's worth installing Slackware, an hour or so of research beforehand is in order. Go to sites X, Y and Z and print off some instructions if you need to. Take a peek at your System Control Panel (if you have Windows on the machine) and write down some info about your hardware. Also, if you can manage it, have a working computer handy during the install and configuration for the occasional online search. It might seem like a lot of work compared to plugging in a new Vista box from Best Buy, but it really pales in comparison to something like trying to fix the infinite reboot loop many users were stuck with during the Windows XP SP3 upgrade."

Because really, only Apple approaches the standard you seem to be setting, and any user with experience on Windows knows enough to either look things up for himself when things go wrong, or call a friend.

@Caitlyn

I do agree that Slackware is the kind of system that you have to know what you're doing in order to use it. It is absolutely not for newbies who has no intention to learn.

For user friendliness, it depends on what level (or what kind of users) you're talking about. For users who only know how to do things with GUI and mouse (i.e. typical Windows users), it could be tough for them to complete a single simple task like copying files on Slackware; but for users who are accustomed and comfortable with CLI, the default shell bash (available in other distros also) is very user-friendly and efficient. e.g. I don't know how use GUI to copy all *.jpg files under a certain directory, which has a whole bunch of sub-directories, in a single shot, but I know how to get it done in a single command line.

As you said that "The lack of a package management system with proper dependency checking is pretty much inexcusable in 2008", I think it's the opposite. Why are we still stuck in the dependency hell as of 2008 this year? How come nobody ever come up with a brilliant solution to solve all these? Slackware took the let-the-users-learn approach, which is by far the most brilliant strategy, to get rid of the everlasting problem. I'm not saying that rpm and deb package management system worth nothing, but I'm not those kind of invent-a-power-glove-to-use-chopsticks or make-a-robot-to-drive-a-car person. User friendliness is important, but so is education.

Hallo! Mr. Stabellini has actually updated the PACKAGES.TXT file for version 12.1, the trick of the hat to have automatic deps checking while - hopefully - managing packages in Slackware.
Here is the release announcmemnt:
"20080629
Finally dependencies for Slackware 12.1 are ready! Sorry for the delay, but I have been really busy. I have to admit that I thought about dropping this project, but many emails from users made me change my mind."
Happy Slack, Splack & Slackintosh (and all Slackware derivates...) to everybody

Hallo! Mr. Stabellini has actually updated the PACKAGES.TXT file for version 12.1, the trick of the hat to have automatic deps checking while - hopefully - managing packages in Slackware.
Here is the release announcmemnt:
"20080629
Finally dependencies for Slackware 12.1 are ready! Sorry for the delay, but I have been really busy. I have to admit that I thought about dropping this project, but many emails from users made me change my mind."
Happy Slack, Splack & Slackintosh (and all Slackware derivates...) to everybody

I used Slackware as my main desktop system between 2003 and 2006, and I still love this distribution. Seeing so many Slackware lovers really makes me glad. I've learned a lot from using Slackware, and owe much to Patrick and his way of doing things. But, at the end, I left for another distribution: Archlinux.
Why?
Archlinux is as hard to install as Slackware. You have the same amount of controle of your system. You have about the same speed. Maybe Archlinux is a little bit faster.
But if you want to stay up to date the easy way Archlinux is much better than Slackware. It has much more packages in its repositorys. If you chose to stay up to date with Slackware using "current" repositories, and having packages installed from other sources you will quite often end up breaking dependencies to those packages. If you want to upgrade to a new release, you'd better install a fresh system.
With Archlinux you just type: pacman -Syu
and the whole system, all packages, get up to date. No worry. No breaking of dependecies. OK, once I had a problem with a new kernel, but thats only once, and it's at least one and a halv your back in time.
So my opinion is. Slackware is good. I would prefere Slackware to Ubuntu because of its speed, quality and the overall feeling of freedom using it, but Archlinux has the edge because of packagemanagement.

Caitlin, it appears to me you have a problem accepting criticism - witness your repeated attempts to justify your article. Besides a few factual inaccuracies, there's not a whole lot wrong with it, just a few things here and there.

A major problem though in your article is that you failed to mention that you are aboviously testing this as a desktop system. It makes a huge difference from a reader's perspective - in a server arena, most admins would agree that SW's lack of graphical management tools and hold-my-hand interfaces is in fact a help rather than a hinderence. Witness Microsoft's inclusion of an advanced CLI in Win2k8 and you'll see that even they have realised the power of scripting in an administrative environment.

All the 'issues' you've mentioned pertain to a desktop environment and are of no concern to those who understand SW's place in the linux ecosystem. SW as a desktop requires some medium to advanced ability; so what, we who use it don't mind. SW as a server blitzes everything else in terms of reliability, maintainablity, security and robustness.

In conclusion, make sure you set the tone of your article correctly to position your perspective. Your somewhat negative view of SW certainly isn't deserved or waranted.

I would like to second Mr. Pedrica's commentary. I read through the entire article and thought it was very thorough, detailed, and informative, But the entire 'flavor' of the article seemed to look at Slackware out of context. Adding references to Slackware's strengths throughout the article doesn't cancel out the overall negative tone, the numerous misrepresentations were not fair. Slackware has never presented itself as a drop-in replacement for other distros like Suse, or Ubuntu -- each has a user base with different needs and at different skill levels.

I'm amazed that a three month old article, with few new comments for a long period of time, is suddenly targeted en masse by Slackware community members all over again. What gives? I'm not going to debunk and argue these comments one by one again. What's the point?

If y'all saw my July article quoting Linus Torvalds who essentially echoes my thoughts on what he calls "overly technical" distro you know that I'm not saying for a minute that users are idiots or want something like Windows. Most of my complaints about Slackware have nothing whatsoever to do with the GUI yet my comment about the lack of GUI tools is a prime target for some as if that calls into question everything else I say. Sorry, folks, it's fair comment because a lot (most?) users do want convenient GUI tools. Having those tools doesn't make them idiots nor does it prevent anyone from learning.

You know, all Linux distros I've seen have the CLI. They all have bash and all the major ones have a number of other shells for those who prefer them. They allow you to compile software all you want, get under the hood all you want, and tweak anything you want. It's true of Red Hat/CentOS/Fedora, it's true of Mandriva, it's true of Ubuntu, it's true of Debian, it's true of SuSe, and yes, of course, it's true of Slackware. That isn't unique to Slackware nor an advantage of Slackware.

My review has a negative tone? Well, yes, it does. It is a mixed review but it reflects the fact that I don't recommend Slackware for the desktop OR THE SERVER for must people. The objections on the server have nothing to do with the GUI. They have everything to do with no dependency checking, a minuscule repository, reliance on third party sources for packages unless you want to have to compile everything yourself and work extra hard and extra long, and, of course, the fact that Slackware is essentially a one man show, all of which make it unsuitable for the enterprise as well as for most desktop users who want their computers to just work. That "most", as already mentioned, includes Linux Torvalds, not someone I'd consider to lack knowledge.

I don't take criticism well? What I'm reading is that if I don't suddenly change my mind about Slackware and agree with my critics I don't take things well. Did it ever occur to any of you who are so certain that Slackware is the be-all and end-all of Linux distributions that other folks may not see it that way? I haven't changed my opinion of Slackware. I have changed my opinion of the Slackware community. I now see it has way too many members who brook no criticism and really are ready to defend their beloved distro to the bitter end. How else can I explain this sudden rush of comments three months on?

Oh, and on that article about Linux' ideas of what makes a good distro (he uses Fedora and likes Ubuntu, too), where the article has drawn a lot of comments from folks who aren't die-hard Slackers, the opinions are almost diametrically opposed to the opinions voiced here.

I stand by my review. It is factual and accurate. A review, by definition, is an OPINION. I get that you don't like my opinion. That's fine but it's still my opinion based on 13 years using Linux and 10 years working professionally with Linux. It reflects what my customers look for in an OS, not what hobbyists who like to tinker look for. I fully accept that the Slackware community doesn't like my opinion and therefore doesn't like me. I promise you I've already gotten over it.

I would like to reply with my own comments, since I've been using Slackware since version 9. I am by no means an expert, I'm just a humble home user.

First, my DVD also had that lag. I do not know where it comes from, but since I have experienced it with the install CDs as well as the GnuParted Live CD, I'd say it's my laptop.

Second, I agree that VESA mode in X.org is annoying for laptop users. However, Slackware tries to guide you (in the book) to configure it before you "startx". VESA is included just so people can get started.

For what it's worth, it was only a year ago when Mandriva did not properly configure my graphical system when I installed it. I was going to do a fresh install and decided to see "what was new" in Mandrake-land, only to be disappointed. I happily went back to using Slackware.

As for what modules load at boot, you can configure this (if you know you way around /mnt/etc/rc.d) before you reboot after completing installation of Slackware. It's not hard at all. You just have to know. I'd rather boot up to realize something isn't loaded and configure my distribution than to boot up with way too much stuff (those slower distributions you spoke of) and hope I can blacklist them all.

As for not being able to use HAL to mount stuff, if you had added your user to the proper groups, mounting devices would've been very easy; in fact, automatic if you want to add Thunar-volman or use KDE and tell it to do it for you.

Slackware does include a display manager: the KDE display manager. If you set your default init level to 4, you can use that to pick your session type from there. Adding your user to the power group (using KUser if you want) also extends to you the privelege of rebooting the system as a user. This isn't difficult at all, and is probably in the book.

As for Xfce-goodies, I would like to see those included. However, they're easy to install, and rworkman's website already has the packages ready for you.

As for dependency checking, that's not the function of a package manager. That's your job. We've all seen automatic dependency tracking utilities break. In fact, we see a high number of such people on IRC and we help them fix what some dependency tracking software broke. Read our logs.

IMHO, the easiest solution is to compile your programs from source code. Sounds a bit time consuming (unless you go find an unofficial package by an official Slackware developer lol), but the ./configure script of almost all source packs for programs I've ever compiled hunt for dependencies for you. In the end, this is the safest way to do it, in my humble opinion. Using makepkg after you are done installing to make a package from it is pathetically simple. I've demonstrated before that within one hour of installing Slackware I've either installed or built everything extra that I need. Since I back up the packages I build, in theory I could have it done in 5 minutes.

Trying to assert that Slackware needs something without being able to justify it on your skills (i.e. failing to add your user to the proper groups, failing to notice that KDM comes with Slackware, etc) is rather shallow in my opinion. It's funny how people are so quick to say it's anyone else's fault but their own. Dependency tracking is your job, not the package manager's. RPM is more than a package manager: it also manages dependencies. Please revise you review to include your new-found insight.

Proverbs 26:4-5 (NKJV)
-4- Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.
-5- Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Oh, and that quote from the Bible was not intended to call you a fool. I'd call myself a fool before calling anyone else one, and that is not my intent at all. It only demonstrates the catch 22 anyone who is familiar with Slackware is experiencing right now: whether we respond to this or do not respond to this, either way nothing is gained.


I haven't changed my opinion of Slackware. I have changed my opinion of the Slackware community. I now see it has way too many members who brook no criticism and really are ready to defend their beloved distro to the bitter end. How else can I explain this sudden rush of comments three months on?

This review was recently linked on OSNews, perhaps that may explain the surge in comments.

Its unfortunate that you've had to change your view, and regrettable that some persons have decided to be so disagreeable about a well-written review. I run debian at the moment, but used slackware for a number of years (right up until my last laptop died), so I hope that entitles me to be considered an extended member of the slackware family. Debian was my first distro, then I ran slackware precisely to get "under the hood" and see what makes it tick. And along the way, it was the slackware community that helped tremendously in figuring out the cli (in its various incarnations), editing config files, compiling the kernel, everything that has made me a moderately competent *nix user today. While there are issues that one faces in a slackware setup that are not typical in other distros, hopefully you recognize that along with the official slackbook and slackware docs, the help that is available from other less confrontational slackers is invaluable. In my opinion, the wealth of information from slackers on the web giving slack fixes, tweaks, guides, and general slackware advice is more of a testament to the spirit of the slackware community than the comments of a few disgruntled persons.

ive been using slackware since 1999. slackware + blackbox = lean, mean, thin, superfast machine! not as fast as a BSD, of course, but the best desktop methinks!

Caitlyn, the surge on comments might also be explained because this was linked on Linux.com yesterday (this is how I came into your article).

There are some incorrect facts that some other people had pointed out, such as citing JRE as the only non-free software. In fact, besides JRE and xv, there is the much more important ksh93 shell straight from the Bell Labs. Once upon a time, Netscape was also included (and the Flash player with it).

I use Slackware since 9.0. I started with Red Hat 6.2, 7.1, 7.2, and then moved to Mandrake 8.2, 9.0, 9.1 and 9.2. Like you, I do GNU/Linux for a living; but I differ with your conclusion. Slackware is excellent and easy to administer. But I also recognize that everyone is entitled to his own opinion, and despite my disagreements I liked your review as a whole.

Regards,

Eduardo
Asuncion, Paraguay, South America

I just came across your article this evening about Slackware. I have been a FreeBSD user since their 2.2.8 release, and in the past year or so installed Slackware. Of all the Linux distros I have come across (Fedora, RHLinux from way back in the 6.x days, Debian, Gentoo, Ubuntu), Slack is probably the one distro that reminds me of BSD the most. It is lean and mean, and configuration files JUST MAKE SENSE. Along with Free/OpenBSD, it is one of the OSes I use. (Running VMware on Slack 12.0 is a dream. It just works.)

I have used Slackware for many years and loved it; the system is simple and clear and I never had a problem with dependencies but I am (probably) an experienced user and write Slackbuilds and compile packages myself. Yet I stopped using it when GNOME support was dropped because I use many GNOME applications on a daily basis. Yes, you can install a third party GNOME distribution (I have tried it with versions 11 and 12 of Slackware) but it is not the same as having an officially supported GNOME desktop. These third party distributions are all different, they replace different base components and include different packages (some of which are not part of GNOME at all). I find this situation less than ideal: a single unified GNOME Slackware team would be a much better solution, IMHO. I would be happy to return to Slackware if a unified GNOME support came back.
In the mean time I still think of Slackware as Linux as it should be.

Hi I´m Mariano from Argentina (South America).
I've been using Slackware 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12. Now I´m using 12.1, Slamd64 12.1 and FreeBSD.
These are the best OS!

I was using Slackware in the past. A few years ago Slackware was a nice distro.
Nowadays there is no reason to use Slacware.
If someone needs a simple and a lightweight distribution and learn a couple of things about Unix he can use Arch or Debian or Gentoo or even FreeBSD.
Slackware is too slow in 64 bit machines, no package management.
It's a one man's distribution.
The truth is that Patrick can't make a reliable package manager.
I am not using Slackware anymore.
For hardcore users Arch is more interesting and it runs faster and more reliable than Slackare in every single machine.
My opinion is not to waste time with Slackware.
You can learn more about Linux using Gentoo or Arch.
There is no reason for Slackware to exist anymore.

My only thought on this, is why the apparent desire that all Linux distribution be similar? I think its great that there is substantial demand for both ends of the spectrum of user friendliness. OS's are not religions, no one is harmed by the fact that some would prefer snazzy GUI tools, and some won't even bother to install X. Some want lots of software, some want as few packages installed as absolutely possible.

If Slackware, Redhat, or Microsoft Windows provides the software and experience that the individual wants for the particular CPU, thats what they should use. I prefer Slackware and Windows for my little cluster; and I am happy that I have that option.

I have used Arch. And i had problems with stability and wireless. while i was in internet, wirelless did not work i had to reboot. Machine did not responding b/c Arch has new packages every day and they are not stable. I can say that ubuntu 8.04 is more stable than Arch and a better distribution.

Slackware is simple, stable as rock and fast. Period.
I use slackware since 1995 and i never changed.

I have a two comments/questions (as a relative novice) who would like to use slackware:

1) What does one do if there is no slackbuild for a package that one wants? It seems that one has to write one's own slackbuild (if relectant to use untrusted packages)? Given that slackbuilds.org is limited, this might be a problem for me.

2) How does one keep abrest of security patches for slackbuilds? Must one monitor some general security site?

3) Does slackware actually run faster than Debian? Here I am assuming that you've done a minimal installation of Debian (~300MB) and have only installed extra packages that you need.

@Anon: Excellent questions, all of which highlight what concerns me about Slackware.

1) If there is no package from a third party site you trust (http://www.slacky.eu is probably the best of the bunch) or a ready Slackbuild you end up having to compile from source. For most newcomers that ia a somewhat daunting task. OTOH, if you want to learn how Linux software packages are built compiling from source is an excellent start to learning how it's done. In general it's a good skill to have.

A Slackbuild is simply a shell script that automates the process of compiling from source. Anything you can do at the command line can be scripted. So... if you create your own Slackbuild according to the website's guidelines you are helping other Slackware users. It may also simplify installing a future version for you. It is NOT something you necessarily have to do to use software that isn't available prepackaged or scripted for you.

2) Yes, if you use any software not provided by a Linux distributor you have to monitor general security sites to know what may need patching. That is true with ANY distribution which either doesn't offer a package you need or want. Slackware is excellent in the sense that they do provide updated packages to patch any known security vulnerabilities. That, however, is only for the relatively limited number of packages they provide.

3) The answer to thsi question isn't clear cut. I've done a minimal build or Debian and Ubuntu and was able to achieve a result that was every bit as fast as Slackware. Where that falls apart is when you start adding significant software. I've seen both Debian and Ubuntu packages that had lots of dependencies that weren't strictly needed or which added specialized support that I didn't need. It's that extra cruft that tends to slow things down.

So... minimal vs. minimal I doubt you'll see much difference between Slackware and Debian. A normal, rather well loaded installation is another matter.

Thanks for your comment Caitlyn. Perhaps you, or somebody else, could recommend a distribution. I'd like something that is simple like slackware, so that I can have a shot at really understanding what is going on, yet also has a good-sized packages/ports repository that is updated with security patches. I'd also like something that is reliable and stable. I'm not interested in having the latest packages. I suspect that FreeBSD or OpenBSD would be best, but they don't yet work properly on my computer, and I need one or two programs that aren't available for them. Maybe slackware is the best choice.

I'm curious to know what distribution you use yourself (as you say you don't care for Ubuntu).

Ew. Just installed my first linux two months ago. Guess what, I went for Slackware. And it rocks.

Hands on all the time, nothing that is downloading and installing unmonitored things to my system, and if something goes belly up, all I have to do is fire up vi and fix it (where I can imagine some GUInux users being stuck completely if their X is corrupted).

@Anon - Slackware is: simple, reliable, transparent. It's not sporting always the latest software (KDE4 and X11R7 to come in Slackware 13) but of course get security update notices as they come in no problem. Give it a try!

One topic that I have missed during this *long* comments thread is the lack of one of the biggest strength of slackware (and the one that Pat finds VERY important): NO PATCHING

I have worked as a software consultant for more than a decade now and started with linux (yes it was slackware) at -95. My customers has been in telecommunication, automotive, defence, electronic manufacturing and some other.

I have used allot of different distributions (redhat [all flavours], suse, gentoo, montavista, ubuntu, ...) professionally and all of them is heavy on patching there software. Often I'm supposed to make new software, drivers to an existing distribution and often the patches done by distribution manufacture in such a way that the code that works for one distribution don't work for an other distribution.

I think this is were slackware has one of it's advantages, it respects the vanilla source and make it simple to build and develop new program.

The thing that makes me sad about the review (and yes I know it's just an opinion) is the recommendation not to use slackware in professional environment. I have deployed slackware installations, both servers and workstations, with good result. Yes, my audience has often been software developers so maybe a little more knowledges with computers ;). So as a senior software developer I disagree with the conclusion not to use slackware professionally.

Thank for an otherwise really good review.

Oh, no, not again....

re:
CM: "A few over the top zealots can make an entire community look bad, though. Some may remember my experience with the Puppy Linux community which included a death threat for saying that I couldn't get their distro to run on five different machines in my household. Does what happened reflect the entire Puppy Linux community? Of course not."

If "what happened" doesn't "reflect the entire Puppy Linux community", then why did you tie them together, there, and now here again? .... At all?

Thank you for your last sentence above, but unfortunately, the damage was already done in your second.

I'm a Puppy Linux user and I know many others through the forums. They are kind and helpful people, and don't issue "death threats" to others who might have difficulty booting Puppy Linux. Instead, we help them. As I would be happy to do with you, if you ever want. Just sign on anonymously if you want , and ask for help booting. No one will threaten you, I promise!

We also don't mind if people use other OS's as well -- many of us do as well. And there are discussions in the OT area of other Linuxes people also use.

Please stop tying that nutcase with the rest of us.

Thanks

@Steve/Skiprock: The problem with your post is that it wasn't one nutcase. A large number of people from the Puppy Linux community rallied around him. They engaged in character assassination (my character, of course) on the Puppy Linux forum and that has gone on periodically since then. John Murga wrote my editor trying to get my posts pulled and he wasn't exactly kind to me in the forum either.

Sorry, it isn't one nutcase. It's a vocal segment, and a shockingly large segment, of the Puppy Linux community. When and if the nastiness directed towards me and the character assassination is removed from the Puppy Linux forum is removed (it's still there for all to read) and an apology is posted my attitude will change. Failing that I consider the Puppy Linux community to be toxic.

Oh, and yes, I'll keep saying that so long as the abovementioned forum posts remained. Don't like it? Do something about the Puppy Linux forum.

Slackware is the only distro I would even consider switching to from windows. But everyone has the program they love. Mine is usenet and there is not one single Linux program equal to Xnews and VuePrint. Usenet users are technically savvy and not millions, but influential and all that is offered is junk - not even Agent. Make it so and folks will come. Linux is still a game when it cannot handle the oldest form of the net.

Sorry, but Linux only wants new things and forgets the net. Basically junk.

Wow. I am kind of amazed by the some of the comments.

Background: Computers in one form or another since about 1981 - mainframes, minis, and PCs, Timex Sinclair, C64, Tandy. Old and rather light experience in ATT Sys V r3.2x. Used to administer some *NIX systems about 13 years ago (RedHat was what we settled on back then)

I'm looking to run a very stable distro as a home server (OpenVPN, mail, samba, webserver, host some some cgi for the webserver, a database, and some other misc network related stuff, probably with other some 'industrial' type functionality to be added later). No desktop stuff.

Back on Red Hat (server) we had to recompile the kernel because something we were doing wasn't directly supported - I don't remember exactly what it was but the experience was not so terrible that I've tried to block it from memory.

My Linux skills are pretty effin' rusty to say the least, and I don't want to spend a lot of time managing packages (or anything else) but do not mind spending a BIT (read a couple of hand fulls of hours) more time or trouble in the beginning if the result is a more stable system in the long run.

If I am understanding correctly, at the original time of the article, the Slack lack of a package manager and automated dependency checking could lead to some tricky headaches - or at least what seems to be more than insignificant work (which I am not particularly anxious to do - characterize me as lazy if you wish, I prefer to think of it as reserving my time doing more interesting stuff than stare and compare for dependancies) further down the road.

Then a read an entry from Ennio on October 9, 2008 3:47 AM, which seems to indicate Slackware now Supports package management and automated dependency functions.

Am I interpreting / parsing this correctly?

I am also open to other distros, and will gladly consider and research suggestions.

Trying not to come across as lazy,
--Mark

...cont'd from above.

I ended up on this review page because of Slackware's reputation as a rock solid distro.

--Mark

I have installed over 580 different Linux distros since I began using Linux in '93 when Slackware first came out. Never installed SLS thought, although that is what all Linux distros are / were first based on.
The only two distros I have never had die on me were Slackware and Yoper v2.1. I do want to mention, I'm not saying other distros are less in their own respects. I tend to dig into every sector of a disk, so me borking other distros was because of me, not their stability ability, lol.
If I had to say, because of the popularity and distribution ability (no pun intended), any distro from Canonical would be the best and most supported distro for a new Linux'er. Those who don't know, that includes Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu. There are other non-supported derivatives, such as GoUbuntu and MediBuntu which are based on Ubuntu, but don't have nearly as many docs or support on them.
The one thing everyone has to keep in mind, is Linux is about choice. The ability to choose what you want and how you want it to look and not have to be forced into using what you get.
Great support sites are all over the net. I like http://distrowatch.com and http://linux.com. Ladislav Bodnar deserves credit for all the hard work and help he has put into DistroWatch. It may just be considered the ipso-facto of who's who when it comes to Linux.

I too just seen this article because some one posted it on irc.
FACT is your FACTS are still wrong and very clear they are."I should also note that Slackware includes only one piece of non-free software: JRE." no matter how many times it is pointed out that this is untrue you still prove you ignorance to correct it. xv has been in slack for many many years. easy enough to check out with umm "GOOGLE". But all threw the comments you repeatedly deny you were wrong when its clear you are.
Slackware utterly lacks the kind of GUI administration tools found in most modern distros and assumes you will work at the command line and edit configuration files" this also makes it quite clear the emphasis on GUI like its the only way that things will work best. Which is not true . I don't even bother with pkgtools . So why would I want a GUI. I've used them in the other ditro but really don't want the dep hell crap. outdated deps,wrong verions and mismatching. Google to this date still has those problems with auto dep tools. They have shown the weakness all over google. Good to a point. But not always needed or wanted. Like Pat says there are distros with it so go use them if thats what you want. "It's designed for the very knowledgeable, experienced Linux user who wants the ultimate in control over their system." Once again only partly true . It doesn't take only experienced people . I too was a newbie with no experience and got it working first try .

"There is only a tiny repository called "Extra" which contains things like international aspell libraries. There are no additional applications to speak of."

Once again that statement is clearly saying there is only one thing in ther and NO ADDITIONAL APPLICATIONS. very clear but wrong there are . but then again you proved you can't read because you were giving a sarcastic humors answer to that but failed to understand it. There is and was at 12.1 time "bash-completion bittornado bittorrent blackbox-0.70.1 brltty btmgr-3.7 checkinstall dip-3.3.7p emacspeak-ss-1.9.1 emacspeak grub inn ktorrent mpg123 parted" and a couple more . But I guess I'm only seeing things.

This one is the biggest contradiction
"During my first three weeks running Slackware I have yet to find a single bug. That is something I've never been able to write in a review of a Linux distribution before and it is truly impressive." yet you end up saying you wouldn't recommend it. O.o So you recommend the buggy ones because of a pretty dep checker(which Google shows have bugs by not working right all the time). wow floors me

Also looking at the 12.1 ANNOUNCE.12_1 CHANGES_AND_HINTS.TXT ChangeLog.txt etc do i see it say
"Slackware 12.1 is the first release to include HAL support." in fact looking at the changelog all I see is updated . but 12.0 you see added.
the 12.0/12.1 ANNOUNCE.12.1/12.0 both say "We have added to Slackware support for HAL" thats not saying at all that it was the first time or last.

Anyway there is enough simple clear and obvious untrue facts which have been show quite clear as wrong.


You are so right on. Slackware sucks for usability. Only experienced users can use it. Compare usability to Mac OS X and Mac OS X blows it out of the water. It's hard to install, harder to configure and hard to use. No noobie is going to get through install without a problem. Linux Mint and Ubuntu are cakewalks compared to Slackware.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is a Linux fanboi and not objective.

Nice to see an OBJECTIVE REVIEW ABOUT A LINUX DISTRO FOR A CHANGE.

Bad enough that the fanbois play right into Microshaft's hands and give them a PR edge.

No wonder Linux is a marginal OS and will continue to be so forever. Nothing will change. Only UBUNTU and APPLE has a shot of denting Microshaft's world domination.

Caitlin and Ravevn, both of you waffle. This is waffle.

- Slug

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