Championing Slackware : No Lancelot, I.

by Lew Pitcher

Editor's note : Following Jon Biddell's praise for Libranet, two more people immediately came forward to champion their distro of choice, both carrying the Slackware banner and both for somewhat different reasons. Let's start with Lew Pitcher's answer to the call.

Well, Marcel, that's some gauntlet you threw down, asking for people to champion their distribution of choice. I'm no Lancelot, but I'll certainly carry the banner for Slackware. So let's get to it....

I've used Slackware on my desktop since 1997, and I've not found a better, more stable, more capable desktop. I've tried Knoppix and Yoper, and worked on Red Hat and SuSE, but I always come back to Slackware. The image below is a screenshot of my current Slackware desktop (click for a full sized image).

What's so special about Slackware, you ask? I can answer that in three words: "It Just Works". No muss, no fuss, no special hardware needs, Slackware gives me exactly the desktop flexibility I want on the hardware of my choice, with the stability you expect from the longest-running Linux distribution available.

Slackware Linux was introduced to the world in 1993, with the intent to be the most "Unix-like" Linux distribution available. To the world of 1993, "Unix-like" was the hallmark of a stable, durable, and professional platform. Slackware has met and maintained this intent time and again, with a Linux distribution noted for it's ability to run without fail on just about any Intel-compatible hardware.

The Slackware philosophy extends to the system components and applications provided with the distribution; only the most stable, most secure applications are included in the distribution. The system tools are likewise stable and secure, and intended for use in any sort of environment, from scripts running on unattended servers in the "glass house" to tools that the desktop user might need. No matter what the software, Pat Volkerding (the Slackware architect) doesn't force his user community onto the "bleeding edge". Consequently, everything "just works", no matter what you use.

Slackware does not depend on fragile GUI tools for it's system management. A Slackware system can be configured and maintained entirely from the command line, making maintenance a simple task. That's not to say that there are no GUI tools; the real news is that Slackware doesn't need them. Slackware's "pkgtool" set of utilities makes package installation, upgrading, and removal easy, and tools like "swaret" and "slack-get" take the pain out of manual package management. Now, since Slackware is LSB-compliant, it also supports RPM packages through the RedHat Package Manager, and through "pkgtools" migration processes like "rpm2tgz".

So, what does Slackware give to the desktop Linux user? Well, there are the standard X desktop environments like KDE and Gnome and XFCE, and the simpler environments like Fluxbox, Blackbox, WindowMaker, FVWM2 and TWM. There are all the desktop applications that accompany these environments, like the KDE suite applications, Gnome applications, Netscape and Mozilla, The Gimp, Xine, XMMS, and a host of others.

My laptop, for instance, runs several desktops for several users. My 'at work' persona uses XFCE and my 'at home' persona uses Blackbox, while the 'guest' account is set up for KDE. On my home desktop machine, I typically use Blackbox or XFCE, but again, my wife's login and the guest account default to KDE. Slackware didn't dictate which desktop I could use; it gave me choice and latitude to select the best desktop environment for my needs, and provided all the tools to make my choice work.

Slackware isn't the 'user unfriendly' distribution many think it is. My 13-year-old nephew enjoys my 'guest' KDE account on my laptop. He has no trouble using Slackware to play Kolf or "surf the web". Of course, he doesn't know that Slackware is complicated and difficult, and I'm not going to tell him.

So, Slackware is my choice. It's a flexable, capable, stable distribution that suits all my desktop needs. It's simple to install, simple to maintain, simple to use, and simply the best.

If you are interested in Slackware, you can visit the Slackware website (at http://www.slackware.com/ ) or LinuxPackages (at http://www.linuxpackages.net/).

- --
Lew Pitcher
Master Codewright & JOAT-in-training

Web Editor - Wed, 2005-01-05 13:18.
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I keep returning to Slackware

Though this article is over a year old, perhaps someone else with questions will stumble upon it as I just did. I am not not a linux newbie, but was in '93? '94? when I first installed Slackware. I was not particularly interested in linux per se. I had just found out about networking PCs and using this thing called Mosaic for accessing a service called the World Wide Web, and my attempts to do so under DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1 led to frustration and frequent crashes. In desperation I installed Slackware. Since then I have run versions of Windows up to Windows 2000, linux distributions including Red Hat, Debian, Mandrake, and Fedora, and have administered UNIX servers running Irix, HPUX, Solaris, and even Idris (try to find one of those around). I keep coming back to Slackware. I am typing this on a laptop I configured as a replacement for a Windows user two days ago, and it runs Slackware with an XFCE desktop. Slack just works. Configuration is trivial these days, and bloat is non-existent. I still really don't care about OS or distro wars: I just want a system that runs reliably and doesn't get in the way of the tasks I want to accomplish. Slackware is it for me, and I will run it until it is no longer maintained. Your distro is your choice, and ultimately all that matters is how effectively your OS allows you accomplish tasks--but take advantage of my years of experience: you will never go wrong installing Slackware.

quiescere (not verified) - M - , 2006-01-16 08:39.

Nice to see

I'm glad I found this page. I'm running Slack 10.1 and I'm about to install Slack current on my brother's computer. Slackware was my first distro and my only distro. I tried Slack about 6 months ago and loved it. I tried many others but was dissapointed by all ("This isn't what linux should be!") I came back to Slack and I'll never leave until Slack stops. Tarballs are great b/c I can open them up and see where things are installing to. I also happily run KDE 3.4, though I have taken to XFCE as the lightwieght I use (when doing KDE updates and when on low end PC's.

Lunarcloud_88 (not verified) - Wed, 2005-07-13 18:11.

agreed

I've used Mandrake, Gentoo, Knoppix and Debian. None of which had the feeling of what I was looking for. All were insanely good, but the only distro I ever truly loved was slackware. It's just the right amount of everything that I want.

0g (not verified) - Sat, 2005-07-23 01:09.

Slackware RULES!

Good points about Slackware! I run it on my laptop with
icewm and fluxbox as my 2 main window managers. Runs solid.

...one small gripe i have for wishing to run Slackware
on a server system - PAM support is NOT built in by default (slack 10).
So building pam modules is a must if you require something more
flexible than authenticating via /etc/passwd or /etc/shadow.

Slack Guy (not verified) - Thu, 2005-02-10 14:10.

PAM not necessary

You say

...one small gripe i have for wishing to run Slackware
on a server system - PAM support is NOT built in by default (slack 10).
So building pam modules is a must if you require something more
flexible than authenticating via /etc/passwd or /etc/shadow.

It is true that Slackware does not use PAM, and if you wish PAM, you have to install it yourself. However, Pat Volkerding contends (and I agree) that PAM is unnecessary, and is a security hazzard.
If you want more flexibility than /etc/shadow and /etc/passwd, all you have to do is enable the appropriate "nss" authenticator in the /etc/nssswitch.conf file found in evry stock Slackware system. This has the joint benefits of being a standard Unix mechanism for enhancing authentication, and being more secure than PAM.

Lew Pitcher (not verified) - Thu, 2005-02-10 16:14.

Agreed on Slackware

Like several other posters, I've been using Slackware GNU/Linux since v8.1. Two weeks ago, I installed SuSE Linux 9.2 Professional on the machine on which I'm typing this email , but that's because I wanted to test out the new SuSE. Two weeks ago, it had been running Slackware (most recently, v10.0) for nearly a year, and with good reason.

Yes, Slackware is very clean and easy for me to configure. If I'm standing up a remote box on which I need lots of uptime, I'll typically choose Slackware. I've gotten more uptime with Slackware than even OpenBSD on commodity Intel hardware. It's just solid. I've found that, as a desktop OS, it is also quite nice; I feel like I actually have control of the computer. The one thing that would be a nice addition is the bundling of OpenOffice.org the way that other distros do, but given that we can download it at any time, and the automatic GNOME and KDE integration, that's an exceedingly minor quibble.

As for noobies with Slackware, that is a valid concern. Here's my observation on that topic. A 13-year-old kid came to me earlier this week asking for a "Linux" distribution to install on his Pentium-233 MMX laptop with 96MB DRAM. Apparently no version of Windows that he tried, from 98 to XP, would install and work on this box. I gave him Slackware 10 and recommended that he use XFce. Reason: I happen to have a laptop of the exact same model and specs that runs Slackware 9.1 with XFce. That 13-year-old now has a functional, useful laptop that otherwise would've gotten thrown away. If a kid his age can do it (he's your typical kid, not some genius prodigy), then I'd consider it user-friendly enough for most folks.

Another alternative for noobies is Vector Linux, which is basically tweaked Slackware that fits on one CD-ROM. Given Vector's heritage, it is, naturally, compatible with whatever Slackware package you care to load.

Terrell Prude', Jr. (not verified) - Thu, 2005-01-27 20:36.

ArchLinux

I recently switched to ArchLinux from Mandrake and am enjoying it immensly. ArchLinux is basically slackware with a better package manager called "pacman". The website wiki and the support forums helped me get everything up and running fairly quickly. It is not quick and pretty like Mandrake... but also not huge and bloated like Mandrake. I like having only the packages I actually use installed. I like having my window manager be snappy and having my programs load faster. And it's great to upgrade the ENTIRE system by just typing one command... "pacman -Syu". Boom, everything is updated and any dependencies automatically handled.

Check it out at:
http://www.archlinux.org/

Marko Vidberg (not verified) - Fri, 2005-01-21 17:27.

I should also mention that I

I should also mention that I do run debian on a server, and that Arch is similiar (comparing pacman to apt-get), but I find Arch even smoother at handling dependencies. Also, I should have mentioned that all the binaries are i686 compiled.

Marko Vidberg (not verified) - Fri, 2005-01-21 17:46.

Slackware just rules :-)

Hi,

I started to use Linux with Red Hat and Mandrake in 2001. I then used Debian and Knoppix a lot, but I recently installed Slackware on an old desktop (1998, pentium 2). I was amazed at how fast, stable and reliable my new distro was; I find it perfect for my desktop needs, and I keep on learning a lot about Unix/Linux, much more than with GUI-based distros.
I also think Slack is the best distro, and I don't miss rpm nor apt.

:-)

federico (not verified) - M - , 2005-01-10 08:59.

When I was a newbie.

Back in 1997, I learned GNU/Linux from this book, Linux Configuration and Installation. At that time, it was Slackware 3.2, and it was tough, but I learned and gained lots of GNU/Linux VERY valuable knowledges/experiences. That time I wanted to emulate/use applications that I have used/experienced on Sun OS, back on 1989 until 1994. Everything went well, and my target was achieved. I was able to run emacs + Japanese input, typesetting using TeX, plotting graph with gnuplot .....

Today, I am still stick to Slackware, and currently I am using Slackware 9.1, but I changed/updated many libraries and applications to suit my needs, from source codes. Starting from Linux kernel (2.6.10+VM uselib() privilege bugfix), Xorg, gtk-2.4, gimp 2.2, ...

I don't know what kind of achievement if I starts with other "user friendly" distros?

Mohammad Bahathir Hashim (not verified) - Sun, 2005-01-09 20:24.

Slackware article

I'm with the author. I've used Slackware for a while now (since 8.1), and even though I've tried probably two dozen other distros (usually on my second machine), I always come back to Slack. It hits the sweet spot between the do-everything-for-you, but bloated distros like Mandrake, Suse and Red Hat, and the good-night-you're-on-your-own but speedy distros like Crux and Gentoo (which I just replaced with Slackware on my new AMD 64 laptop). It's fast but complete, and because Patrick Volkerding doesn't add anything unnecessary to the software packages, there's no figuring out what the distro maintainers have done to the original package. Sure, some people are scared of configuring by hand, but when you pull up the configuration files you find they're all well-commented and easy to understand. A quick search on one of the usual Linux-related web sites answers even the toughest questions.

So go Slack. It's for the best.

joe f. (not verified) - Sun, 2005-01-09 13:11.

Total Agreement

I could have written this article myself. I am in total agreement. Slackware 9.1 just works, and I can't think of a reason to switch.

Alex Brainard (not verified) - Sun, 2005-01-09 10:28.

hmmm... distros again!

hmmm.... i really dont like to see such articles on TUX!

We already have 'I love this distro and here is why' articles on so many other web sites/magazines
like NewsForge, Distrowatch.

IMHO Tux should cater to the newbie and offer them articles on HOWTOs, guides
, desktop tips.

We already have 'Distro- Comparers' !

We want something new! Maybe a Linspire of the Documentation World!
[without the controversies of course] !

Ankit Malik (not verified) - Fri, 2005-01-07 10:16.

You use 'we', a lot. So are

You use 'we', a lot. So are you elected or appointed? It would be interesting to know who you represent.

An - ymous (not verified) - Sun, 2005-06-19 20:19.

distro wars

So how are the newbies supposed to choose from among the billion different distros without knowing anything about their relative merits? If the discussion is rational and informative, I see no problem with having it here.

For what it's worth, I do use Slackware as well. ;) One config file per service. Administration can be done through SSH without Xwindows. Uptime limited by your hardware. Lightning fast. Does everything just how I want it, and usually chooses good defaults so I don't have to tell it. I think that's info a newbie could use.

Bubba (not verified) - Thu, 2005-05-05 10:56.

It's about freedom

I disagree with the posts suggesting the Tux is not the place for this kind of discussion. Slack does get a underserved bad rep for being too technical for the Noobie. But the fact is, when I was a Linux noobie back in 1996, Slackware 96 was the only distro that I could coax on to my 486/DX2 laptop. The same machine that I am posting this from today.

The new user needs to be made aware of his/her options in regards to Linux. And be given the pro's and con's of each distro. Also, Just because someone is new to linux, it msut not be assumed that they are technically challenged. Indeed, although new to Linux in 1996, I had been a Unix Systems Administrator for 10 years at that time. So Slack to me was familiar territory even though I had just learned of it.

And Tux is the perfect venue for these types of discussions. It gives the new user exposure to all the different distro options. And good arguments for and against each distro. Then armed with this information, they can decide for themselves the best disro for them.

I firmly believe that there is no one perfect distro for all. Nor do I want there to be. I believe that the best distro is the one that suits the individuals needs the best.

I find that all the Linux distro's have merit. Even Fedora Core, which is destined to eternally be a developement distro, (Think Debian "Sid"). Linux is about choice and freedom. And it is about the open exchange of ideas. Any Linux noobie needs to be exposed to these ideas and be part of the process and world wide Linux community.

Regards,
Kevin L. Hudson

Kevin Huds - (not verified) - Sun, 2005-01-09 18:14.

Who are you?

I'm looking for a Kevin L. Hudson who worked for AT&T in the late 80's and early 90's. Are you this person?

Larry Thorn (not verified) - Tue, 2006-03-07 12:51.

Distros, for sure

Well, even though I might disagree with you, you do bring a valid point of view to the table. Certainly, there are quite a number of forums (fora?) on the internet where proponents of one Linux distribution or another say their piece. To a certain extent, such boosterism is redundant and tiresome to those who are familiar with the pros and cons of one or another version of Linux.

But (you knew it was coming, didn't you ;-) ), Tux Magazine isn't just another forum for the advocates to hang out at. Look at the banner at the top of this page, and you will see that Tux Magazine (and, by association, this site) is billed as "The first and only magazine for the new Linux user". The key phrase is "new Linux user".

I believe that the editors here are trying to provide that "new Linux user" with the sort of information he or she will need in order to make the decision on which distribution would suit their needs. "Which desktop would suit my needs" and "which application would suit my needs" are valid "new Linux user"-type questions, and so, in my humble opinion, is "which Linux distribution would suit my needs". This last question can't be answered without informing the "new Linux user" of which distributions are available, and what they offer that makes them fit their user's needs.

Perhaps you've settled on a distribution like I've settled on Slackware. That's good. But for those many users who haven't found their distribution yet, how are they to know what Slackware offers if they've only seen Yoper or Ubuntu or Knoppix? If nowhere else, this is the forum for that sort of information.

I don't presume to speak for the editors of this magazine, but I will say that, if I were a new Linux user, I'd want to know this sort of stuff.

Lew Pitcher (not verified) - Fri, 2005-01-07 22:49.

BINGO!

I am a Linux NOOB. No shame in the admission or the possible stigma...I just know that I am tired of giving my money to Microsoft for buggy, unsecure software. While Linux has a long way to go to match M$, I personally prefer it now that I have learned a bit about it. I have also learned (thanx to this thread) about Slackware. I am off to burn the iso now. while there may be a plethra of "I like Linux_X because" articles scattered about, sometimes spreading the word here is good as well. Thank you for the direction. As well, thank you for your excellent site and the contributions by those who come here. I think I might hang with you guys for awhile.

Ken Starks
Austin, TX

helios (not verified) - Sun, 2005-01-09 14:31.

Slackware all what you need !!

Hi everyone !! I work with slackware from 8.1 it's not to much but I can say in my work we always used slackware , at this time some times we are used suse because we are partners from novell but from my opinion slackware is very easy to install and flexible, for me the best of the things it's only that have 2 cds and only install all what I need and I don't have dependecies like fedora and other distros and is stable distribution, to install one server and compiled the kernel only I need like 40 minutes or less, I'm fanatic from slackware and I would like to say more things and explained my experience but my english is very bad !!

TIA

Le - ardoX (not verified) - Sat, 2005-01-15 03:54.