Writing by admin on Friday, 6 of July , 2007 at 3:26 pm
Slackware Linux 12.0 was formally released on July 1, 2007. I have been looking forward to reviewing Slackware for a few weeks and now that the official release of version 12.0 has occurred, I cannot think of a better time to review it. Slackware has existed for nearly 14 years as version 1.0 was released in 1993; making Slackware one of the oldest Linux distributions in existence. Slackware is known for releasing very tight and well-test distributions making me quite happy that they do not rely on fixed release schedules where new full versions are released every few months. According to the Slackware website, the Slackware Linux Project is “aimed at producing the most ‘UNIX-like’ Linux distribution” available while maintaining Linux standards. Off to DistroWatch for the summary of Slackware Linux (also available on the Slackware website).
“The Official Release of Slackware Linux by Patrick Volkerding is an advanced Linux operating system, designed with the twin goals of ease of use and stability as top priorities. Including the latest popular software while retaining a sense of tradition, providing simplicity and ease of use alongside flexibility and power, Slackware brings the best of all worlds to the table. Slackware Linux provides new and experienced users alike with a fully-featured system, equipped to serve in any capacity from desktop workstation to machine-room server. Web, ftp, and email servers are ready to go out of the box, as are a wide selection of popular desktop environments. A full range of development tools, editors, and current libraries is included for users who wish to develop or compile additional software.”
Slackware has consistently ranked in the top ten of all Linux distributions for many years according to the ranking system used at DistroWatch. I would like to point out that I have never used Slackware before so this review will be my fresh opinion on how Slackware installs and looks, along with other details, on my Inspiron 8500 notebook.
Let me first say that the Slackware installer may be difficult to use for Linux newbies or people that are intimidated by mostly text-based installs. That said, I found it quite intuitive to use and feel that those with moderate experience will have little troubles. Slackware 12.0 does not use a live installer and the DVD image file came in at around 3.6GB. Both DVD image and 6-CD images are available to download from the Slackware site (via .torrent to reduce bandwidth, but if you look hard enough in the mirrors you will find the .iso’s).
Once the DVD/CD1 begins to boot, the user is required to press enter and can then type setup to begin the install process. Please note that if you want or need to change/create various partitions do so at the command line before beginning the install process. The cfdisk utility is great for performing this action. The setup begins by offering 9 different options that allow for customization of target partitions, swap partitions, source media, software packages and more. Below is a screenshot of this setup utility.
After setting up the partitions and such, you move to the install phase where there are a few options once again (full, menu, expert, newbie, and custom). I decided to just go with the full install to avoid any extra setup. If you are a Linux newbie I would recommend the full install over the newbie install as the prompting is quite cumbersome. Below is a screenshot of this selector that shows specifics for each option.
There is a post-installation configuration wizard that walks through setting up the boot loaders, network, mouse, keyboard, timezone and more, but also includes the option to create a USB boot disk. According to the menu, this USB boot disk will allow you to boot straight into the root filesystem of your machine. I opted to skip this as I did not find a use for it. For those of you that have used this USB boot disk before please post some comments with further details and what you have used it for.
Overall, I was very pleased with the Slackware installer. It may not have the pretty interface or ability to use a mouse, and it does require that the user be comfortable with formating/creating partitions from a command line (cfdisk was great in this respect), but I found it great to use. Even if you are slightly intimidated by the screenshots above, give it a shot! You will learn a lot and there are many resources available to help new users with the Slackware installer. The installation process, both on my laptop and desktop virtual machine, took approximately 18 minutes…very impressive for performing a full install with such a large image.
To start off this section I need to mention that the Slackware team believes heavily in keeping the system simple. Slackware is known to be one of the most reliable/stable systems available and that is partly because of keeping everything simple. This does not mean lost functionality, but it does mean that you will not be seeing unstable beta software such as Beryl or Compiz. While I do enjoy the capabilities of these two pieces of software (now merged together under Compiz Fusion), I fully respect what the Slackware team has done and appreciate the focus on stability.
The overall visual appearance of Slackware is all KDE 3.5, but for good reason - why change what has been known to be so stable and visually appealing? So many distributions try to customize their visuals to differentiate themselves, Slackware does not do so and I think this is a wise move for a distribution that strives to be the top in stability and function. Putting the time into the back-end is sometimes far more useful than putting it into the front when so many great visual environments such as KDE, XFCE, and others focus on the visual aspect. Of course, I do appreciate the distributions that do look great (ie. Linux Mint), but do not feel that anyone should shy away from Slackware because of their ’standard’ look. Below is a screenshot of the default desktop in Slackware 12.0 along with a shot of the menu.
In the couple of days I have been using Slackware 12.0 I have noticed ZERO hiccups - that is, everything just seems to work and no applications have even crashed. Both DivX and MP3 files played out-of-the-box with Xine and it is nice to see Amarok and so many other media applications installed. KOffice is used as the default office suite and while I have been using OpenOffice for quite some time now and while I still prefer OO to KOffice, that is just a matter of familiarity. Slackware comes installed with nearly everything most users would want including Firefox, Thunderbird, The GIMP, XChat, Pidgin, Kopete, a plethora of development applications and many more.
Java is installed by default, but in order to watch YouTube videos I had to manually install the Flash Player by using the provided tarballs. While this is not overly difficult, some new users will undoubtedly have troubles. One other thing that I wish was present is something along the lines of apt-get or yum. After reading into this a little, I saw that package management in Slackware is mostly left to the user, including resolving dependencies. I believe that this is the biggest drawback in recommending Slackware to Linux newbies, but also understand that many seasoned Linux veterans prefer having this sort of control. If anyone has any comments towards this, including applications that can be used for easy installation, please leave a comment below.
Something I particularly enjoy about Slackware is how quickly it boots - partly due to booting to a command line rather than a GUI. Once the system loads, the user is presented with a command line in which the user can login, check email, load a GUI and many other things (I have very limited skill with the command line and realize that many power-users are able to use it for virtually everything). In order to start X, simply type startx and the default desktop environment will load. Below is a screenshot of the startup screen.
I would like to clarify that my reviews are generally meant for Linux newbies and those looking for a high-level overview of new releases. Many Slackware users will feel like this review does not give nearly enough information on what Slackware is capable of and I hope that these users will post further information in the comments section.
Slackware is undoubtedly one of the most stable systems available and offers power and flexibility to those users who require such. It should be mentioned that many applications and even the kernel are often unpatched with this distribution, leaving patching decisions up to the users. This sort of thing, along with difficult application management, makes it very difficult for Linux beginners to jump into Slackware. Fortunately, Slackware comes with a slew of applications that will satisfy most users. For those looking to GetSlack, there are many resources available to help with everything from installation to dependency management. Such resources include Slackbook and Slackers Bible.
In the end, Slackware is an absolutely fantastic distribution. It is clean, straightforward, and really sticks to the Keep It Simple Stupid principle that the Slackware team fully believes. While I cannot recommend it to beginner users, it can offer a fun challenge for novice users and a great experience for more seasoned users. Recently, I have grown to love my Debian-based distributions, but you know what? There are plenty of Slackware-based distributions to check out.
Want to try it? Head to the GetSlack page to download the torrent or look for images!
Comment by Robby Workman
Made Friday, 6 of July , 2007 at 6:21 pm
Thanks for a fair review. There are a couple of other resources I’d like to mention (and Pat mentions one of them in the docs included with 12.0).
First, build scripts for many additional applications are available at http://slackbuilds.org - instructions for use are also available there.
Disclaimer: I’m one of the project admins there.
Second, both Eric Hameleers and I provide numerous packages that are not shipped with a standard Slackware installation; they are unofficial and unsupported by Slackware.com, but we do support our own work. See http://slackware.com/~alien/ and http://slackware.com/~rworkman/ for details.
Comment by david
Made Friday, 6 of July , 2007 at 7:34 pm
I think you mean, ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ principle not ‘keep it simply stupid.’
Comment by werner
Made Saturday, 7 of July , 2007 at 2:42 am
I have installed on my computer 12 distros, but mainly Im using Slackware, whats most superior over the other ones.
On my site, can be downloaded packages, inclusive actual versions of the kernel:
Comment by mark
Made Saturday, 7 of July , 2007 at 10:22 am
@David where do you see the text “keep it simply stupid” ? in my reading i saw the text ” keep it simple stupid” maybe the author already made the correction.
for the review, it seems fairly straight-forward and without the excessive drooling i see in other reviews for other distros. i’m very comfortable using both pc linux 2007 and mint cassandra and so i doubt i will make any changes for my home use. however, in the next year, i am going to be opening my own school of english here in rio de janeiro and i wonder what i will be using for a server platform.
Comment by MTS
Made Saturday, 7 of July , 2007 at 10:38 am
I have noticed ZERO hiccups - that is, everything just seems to work
For me, this is it. The system as installed is generally very tight, stable, and quick. Some many complain about package management, but for me it has never been a problem. I build quite a bit of my own stuff, and with guys like Robbie around as well as sites like linuxpackages.net you can generally get what you need if you don’t want to do the configure-make-make install gig.
Comment by Ray Malitzke
Made Saturday, 7 of July , 2007 at 3:53 pm
Great to have Volkerding back in good health and with a great leap into actuality. A Slackware user since 1993; but more porting and development oriented. Those build scripts are fantastic staring and imitating point. Not like redhat/fedora ramming gnome down your throat; or Suse doing likewise with KDE. Debian drives me nuts with their alphabetical ordering. Gentoo misses developers more and more with their inflexibility; and misses the desktop user also by requiring too much baby-sitting.
Slackware having brought the i486 folks into today’s linux might now go for i686 (used pentium II machines go begging). While Slackware started the classification scheme with a, ap, d, t, l, x directory trees this could be refined ‘a la’ FreeBSD ports or Gentoo portage. Big established packages (KDE, seamonkey, samba, etc) could be made optional infavor of more libraries and tools. Looking forward to many more years of great Slackware work.
Comment by Gerald Morris
Made Sunday, 8 of July , 2007 at 4:58 am
Having adopted slack at v 9.0 in 2002, I’ve just enjoyed watching the distribution get better and better with every release! I botched the upgrade from 11.0 to 12.0 by cavalierly ignoring instructions, but upon realizing what a catastrophic mistake that was, then correcting it, I now happily report that i12.0 has met and exceeded my already high expectations. THIS is what the others have to measure up to, and none of them quite do it. hats off to Pat and the rest of the Slackers out there for contributing to the world’s BEST PC OS, period!
Comment by Mathieu
Made Sunday, 8 of July , 2007 at 5:56 am
After tried many “easy-to-use desktop” distros for 6 months after years of MS, I went to Slackware from 10.0 to learn more about Linux. The slack book on my knees, I enjoy the power and ease of use of this distro. To be honnest, I actually use sabayon 64 but I do not see any difference of perf compare to Slack 11.0 though I’m going to install the 32bits Slack 12.
I have some problems with sabayon and other distros I used that never happens with Slack. I’m glad that “Pat is back” and I return back to the root of Linux.
Thank’s for your great test, just one word: for newbies who want to learn about how linux works just try Slackware.
Comment by john smith
Made Sunday, 8 of July , 2007 at 6:09 am
Hello to all!
This is a fair review, indeed, congrats!
I use Slackware for desktop and servers from the 9.1 version and I was never dissapointed, this distro really works and you can relay on it no matter what.
Slackware 12 is the most cutting edge Slackware ever, but whit the same known stability and speed. It comes with the newest kernel, HAL, D-bus, Apache 2.2.4. and PHP5… even with compiz :).
The package manager tools are updated and you can easily install, remove, upgrade packages (pkgtools and slackpkg). For other slackware packages check www.linuxpackages.net and www.slacky.eu. If you don`t find there what you want, be sure that compiling from surce will work smootly. As for dependencies, you can forget about it, in allmost 5 years of usind slackware daily, I never runned into dependencies problems that cannot be solved easily. With Slackare you will never be at some company`s hand, you will be in control, and decide what is best for your setup. You will never be tight up to use THAT version of patched kernel, or that version of Apache, etc. or else you will broke something. With Slackware you will have no limitations but your knowledge, and more time you spend in slackware, more will be the knowledge.
Just try it and you will fall in love at first sight
Comment by Zaine Ridling
Made Sunday, 8 of July , 2007 at 10:34 am
Taking Slackware’s stability as a challenge, I installed and tried to break the thing, but everything worked. In fact, given its reputation, I’m surprised at how many different — and common — tasks I could do with it. Now I see why everyone who uses Slackware loves it: IT JUST WORKS!
Comment by werner
Made Sunday, 8 of July , 2007 at 11:42 am
There is still something important what not everybody has seen.
Slackware seems to be the only distro, whose install cd sistem includes the ext4dev and jbd2 modules, so that you can directly enter in / repair ext4 file sistems, with #mount /dev/hda1 /… -t ext4dev -o extents . Thats extremly important for people which use the ext4dev file sistem (like me using it directly, for my server)
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Comment by slackuser
Made Monday, 9 of July , 2007 at 11:58 am
Way to go. Reasonable interview.
But I beg to differ.
Slackware is *great* for some newbies, those that really want to learn. Yes, we’re talking STEEP learning curve here. But everything is by the book, and you *really* have to try before you break anything in slackware. Excellent practise environment.
OK, you noticed, I’m partial to Slackware. So I’ll stop pluggiing it , and you go find out what you think yourself.
Comment by dive
Made Monday, 9 of July , 2007 at 1:20 pm
Nice review. Actually Compiz is included but I found it rather unstable.
Comment by kleanchap
Made Monday, 9 of July , 2007 at 1:33 pm
I am a long time (since 1993) die-hard Slackware user. There are countless # of times Slackware saved me from trouble.
As for the positive about Slackware, everything installed on the system works great. The system never failed me until now (for data recovery, server type functions etc).
However, I have to give my .02 cents/euros or whatever worth of gripe regarding Slackware. This frustration I am expressing is due to the nature of my work. My work is mainly in the the security area and my primary interest is using SELinux. SELinux is very poorly supported on Slackware. PAM library integration is another area where Slackware has fallen behind. None of the newer security technologies/libraries are being integrated well into Slackware. True, it is a great server class system. It is great even as desktop system and a development system. But again, it is making itself vulnerable by loosing the security users group from using this system.
Comment by saxa
Made Monday, 9 of July , 2007 at 2:08 pm
Congrats for a nice review.
I would add that for gnome people and who is not against PAM, you have also a nice desktop which soon will be ready also for slackware 12.0
Get it from http://www.droplinegnome.org
Comment by mike
Made Monday, 9 of July , 2007 at 2:18 pm
Solid review, though I’d be curious to hear what some of the slack veterans have to say about 12. Also, you can check out slapt-get, if automated package management is your thing. I can’t vouch for it, and everything I read suggests its a bit of a hack.
The only downside to using 2.6 as the default kernel is that now I won’t be tempted to spend 5 hours compiling a custom kernel - making it perfectly tuned to the machine, eliminating every unneeded kernel extension, cutting it to fit like a bespoke suit… Gotcha! I hate doing that!
Comment by slacker
Made Monday, 9 of July , 2007 at 2:26 pm
I have used Slackware from the 9.1 version, and I have to say it is the preferred distro for me. The stability, speed and the way packages are managed it’s the best I have seen.
I agree that Slackware can be used by newbies who REALLY want to learn how to use/configure Linux. There are some good sites that will walk newbies through.
Refer to sites like this: http://shilo.is-a-geek.com/slack/
It will help a lot on the way of installing and setting up Slackware for any user
Comment by dive
Made Monday, 9 of July , 2007 at 5:28 pm
And let’s not forget that ‘Slackware’ is the coolest named distro out there
Comment by Theodore Kilgore
Made Monday, 9 of July , 2007 at 7:13 pm
I have been using Slackware since version 1.0, as have several others who have responded here. I would like to add a few comments intended to help someone who is doing a new installation.
1. fdisk doesn’t bite people or fry hard disks. Why are people so frightened by it?
2. My favorite option for installation is “menu” which is easier to use than “expert” mode. I recommend it because it permits commonsense choices, such as
— don’t install tape drive support if you have no tape drive and no plans to install one.
— don’t install support for all the file systems under the sun if you will use only one on your hard disk and one or two more for compatibility with dos or windows partitions.
— lots of other stuff like the above.
The truly important thing is that you the user/installer have the choice in _your_ hands.
3. Every Slackware package has a brief description. Unfortunately, these descriptions cannot be read from inside the setup program. They ought to be, which I consider to be perhaps the one big shortcoming of the setup program. However, one _can_ read them during installation in order to make intelligent choices. Just do Alt-F2 or Alt-F3 to switch to virtual terminal 2 or 3 (and Alt-F1 to go back to terminal 1, where setup is running). In the other terminal you will have a command prompt. Do “df” and see where the installation CD is found. Go there, and look at the description file (same name as the package, but with suffix .txt) and read before deciding to install or not. You can read it with cat name.txt were “name” is the name of the package. If the text is too long, you can scroll backwards with Shift-PageUp. After reading the description, you can decide if you want/need to install it or not.
4. You can always complete the installation later, after doing just enough to make the machine boot and do some basic stuff (install only what is necessary from A and AP series first). To do this, reboot the machine, stick the CD back in, mount it, go to the relevant directory on it, and use the command installpkg. You can install lots of packages with one installpkg command. The Midnight Commander, a text-based file manager found in the AP set, is very useful for this. Just find the package you want to install and type installpkg, then do Alt-Enter, which will bring the name of the highlighted file down to the command line. Lots of other distros do not even include the Midnight Commander, which I find amazing and puzzling.
Comment by CD Baric
Made Monday, 9 of July , 2007 at 10:27 pm
“Slackware has existed for nearly 14 years as version 1.0 was released in 1993; making Slackware one of the oldest Linux distributions in existence.”
Point in fact, Slackware IS the oldest Linux distribution, not ‘one of the oldest’. Slackware is the granfather of Linux distribution and many of todays big name distros got their start splintering off Slackware (SuSE for one).
“Slackware has consistently ranked in the top ten of all Linux distributions for many years according to the ranking system used at DistroWatch.”
Distrowatch is not and has never pretended to be a ranking system of Linux useage, they only rank how many people ask about individual distros - hardly a notable metric.
I have been installing and using Slackware in home and commercial service as servers, workstations and home desktops since 1995. I have only visited Distrowatch twice and only to look into Kubunto.
One of the major benefits of a standardized distro is the ability to install almost any Linux application and utility from source. Not the case with many RPM, Apt and Deb based distros.
Slackware is here yesterday, here today and here tomorrow (anybody remember how hot Mandrake was at one time?)
Thanks again Pat for all your work and polite efforts.
CD ‘Bar’ Baric
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Comment by Thomas
Made Wednesday, 11 of July , 2007 at 2:59 am
This was a very good review. It clearly states its goal and its target audience, yet it still recognizes the strengths of the distro, even though these strengths might not target the intended audience.
Slackware is indeed a great distro, and for a brave beginner in can be a great learning experience. For the expert, Slackware is nothing but stellar. The term “it just works” really do describe Slackware very well.
I’ve been using different Linux distros over the years (mainly for servers), but only after having found Slackware (4 years ago) have I felt truly “at home”. Once you Slack, you never go back.
Today I run Slackware on both servers (11 of them) and desktops (8 of them). Heck, I’m even wearing a Slackware t-shirt right now!
Also I would like to say that Slackware has a very mature, helpful and knowledgeable community. And you just gotta respect a distro that hasn’t changed its webdesign for years on end!
Comment by pht_b0y
Made Friday, 13 of July , 2007 at 8:36 pm
Been using Linux since Redhat 5.2. Went looking for a distro after the RH9 Fedora split. Tried the top 10 over and over.. Slack wins everytime. I must admit to being a heavy FreeBSD user for my servers simply for the love of ports and pkg builds (no Gentoo comments please) but I come back to slack for my workstation, penetration testing exercises or just whenever I need a stable distro that is not filled with fluff. Now.. why hasn’t anyone mentioned SWARET!! http://swaret.sourceforge.net/
Not sure about what everyone else thinks but its been damn useful for me since starting with slack 9. Simply installpkg swaret… copy /etc/swaret.conf.new to /etc/swaret.conf, vi the file and change 10.2 to 12.0 and run swaret –update. It even has the ability to pull packages from www.linuxpackages.net. Its small, fast, and does dependency checking for you. I know slapt-* are out there but swaret is simple, fast, and makes sense.. just like Slackware.
Last thing to note. Kernel 126.96.36.199, fully customised to my hardware works like a charm as usual with Slackware.
Roll on Pat!!
Comment by k4p
Made Tuesday, 24 of July , 2007 at 6:22 am
Arch Linux is much more faster than Slackware
Comment by zmyrgel
Made Friday, 27 of July , 2007 at 12:58 pm
Arch linux is also more unstable.
I’m pretty much distro-hopping but after a while I notice myself coming back to Slackware. There’s just something done right in it.
Next distro I plan to install is the Slamd64 to get most out of my T60 and still be familiar working environment.