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.

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