Monday, 22 February 2010

The adventures of Slackware

As previously mentioned Slackware's finally grasped my undivided attention. Which makes a change, since prior to that, Debian or Ubuntu always seemed to be the one I kept coming back to.

It's provided me with no end of interesting challenges, and more than a few headaches, but on the other hand, I can also say I have a system that works my way - more so than I did for the very brief time I had a GNOME Gentoo desktop.

Slackware 13, installed from a DVD is what I have.
Now, I'm known (probably) for being a bit of a GNOME junkie - I prefer it, if at all possible. Slackware, on the other hand, has eschewed it entirely, which is a bit of an inconvenience for me.
So one of the first things added was the GSB (Gnome Slack Build) which provided me with... well, a mostly working Gnome environment, GDM, etc.
On the other hand, it also has the slight problem that possibly because of the missing GNOME dependencies in certain Slackware packages, some things don't quite work. USB devices won't mount, it admits DVDs are there, but pretends they're not, and all kinds of apps complain loudly if you run them via a terminal.

But, it works, and it gave me the parts of GNOME I still like. I've since worked around most of the issues I had with it simply by returning to the default KDE desktop, and starting to bring GNOME to it.
The KDE panel had it's notification area and task switcher removed, windows were allowed to cover it, and it now resides in the top left corner. On login, two additional commands are executed - 'gnome-settings-daemon' imports, as it's name suggests, my GNOME settings, and saves them on logout. 'gnome-panel' again does exactly what it says it does; launch my gnome-panel.
Which is laid out along the bottom, with a number of handy applets that I can't seem to find any KDE equivalent of.
First is Gnomenu. The KDE Kicker menu is nice, but I often get lost in it. True, I often do in Gnomenu as well, but I know it better.
Second is cpufire-applet, which displays the cpu usage as a neat little fire. The higher the flames lick, the more it's being used.
Third is the default network monitor. I like to keep tabs on what's doing what on my network. Call me possessive, but when it really is MY network, I don't like the idea of having something go wrong with it, and I try not to let it happen.
Fourth is Topshelf. My god, I have not found anything more useful than this. It happily sits there, one small little icon, which I can click on to bring up a window with any document I've added to it. It's one-click access to all my current works, which since I like to write a lot, is my list of stories.
The rest, of course, is simple - the task manager, notification area and clock.

Between this gnome-panel setup and KDE's working perfectly - a rarity for me - I actually have a system I can use.
I would prefer Nautilus to work slightly better, since it seems to have more functionality than both Dolphin and Konqueror combined, but yakuake (since guake doesn't work) has started to make up for that. If only I could remember which options do what which when using tar.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Slacking off

No, not literally.
Slackware has finally garnered my attention for long enough that it's beeen installed on one of my PCs already.

Now, those of you who read this blog will know by now that I've tried this before, using the Install CD (CD1, in case you were wondering) which invariably gave a Kernel Panic.
It turns out, that while the image I used was perfectly fine, the disk burner did something to it that caused that.
So I spent last night downloading a Slackware 13.0 DVD image. From a mirror, via because the main Slackware site is down. Again.

This time, it's booted perfectly fine, leaving me ready to try to install. At the moment it's formatting what is due to be the / partition.

I'll grant, I prefer graphic over text installers, but that's a preference. Slackware's installer is a text mode, but it isn't bad at all - it explains nicely. However, I don't think it's friendly for those newbies who might be better off using Ubuntu for a bit longer.

You might be asking what finally got me to give Slackware a second chance. The answer is Wolvix.
Wolvix is based on Slackware 12.2, and is intended to be a LiveCD only distro. It does have a HD install available though, and since that's what I use most, I gave it a shot. It does warn it may not be bug free, but it worked fine for me - a nice, clean interface, a button to launch GParted if needed, it's all there, nice and simple.
Wolvix also shows off the best of XFCE, a desktop environment I normally avoid in favour of GNOME. After learning that Slackware seems to have dropped GNOME entirely, however, I was willing to give it a go.
The LiveCD boots slowly, but it has a wide array of hardware compatibility. Nothing was left undetected at all.
As with many LiveCDs, you log into a root-user session. Manually, though that's little trouble through it's SLiM login, which tells you to use 'root' 'toor' to log in.
It's responsiveness while in LiveCD mode was sluggish, but that's to be expected. It's not running from the HD, which was the next. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be an option, but the Wolvix Control Panel is where its hiding, along with options for a Frugal and USB install.
Post-Install, Wolvix was much more responsive, and felt more like a desktop distro. The first thing to do, as with any system, was to check for and add updates.
This presented a minor problem, as the slapt-get package manager, and it's graphic fronted gslapt required an update before practically anything else could be updated. Trying to update GSlapt from the command line with slapt-get tried to pull in libpng, which gave the same problem of 'incomplete download'
A breif search on their documentation however revealed that to solve this, you first use slapt-get to update slapt-get, and then upgrade GSlapt, finally allowing you to upgrade the rest of the system. It's all due to some change in slapt-get that handles authentication, I believe.
That hurdle aside, I set about finding regular packages I use.
As slapt-get is based, obviously, on apt-get, so GSlapt would appear to be on Synaptic. Having used Synaptic a gread deal, this made for an easier time.
GSlapt also marks dependencies without telling you - unless there's an error handling them. I don't mind this, but I like to know all the same. The dependencies, although it does make the disclaimer that it's only as good as the person making the package, were handled near perfectly.
One thing I did note is that several packages are marked on an 'exclude' rule, preventing modification. Packages such as udev and the kernel. This may or may not be overly important, so I left them be. Probably safest.
I did note at this point there was very little to do with GNOME at all - it seemed like it had just been lifted out. Slackware came to the rescue there explaining that for some reason in the past they'd been removed.
So I added a few 3rd party repositories to GSlapt. This isn't recommended by any means, but since Wolvix is slightly outdated on some software, it was going to be a necessity in order to bring it up to date.
However, again, I ran into issues. Dependency problems plagued me from there. Which is what finally prompted me to Slackware 13.

Which so far has done a grand job of winning me over. True, I'm still getting to grips with it, but it definately lives up to the adage that 'If you use Slackware, you'll learn Linux' and no doubt about it.
I'm still working on it though, so you'll have news of my Slackware Adventures later.