Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Slackware Linux

One of the first Linux distributions I ever tried was Slackware, some time before the dinosaurs, circa 1995 - it was quite an adventure, since in those days, nothing worked the first time.  Yesterday, I gave the latest Slack a spin and it felt like donning an old frumpy jersey - for that comfy, warm, lived in feeling and nowadays, everything 'Just Works', TM.


What hooked me, was that the ethernet port is named eth0, so all my old scripts work.  The boot loader is LILO.  The boot code is in the MBR.  The initialization system is in /etc/rc.d and rc.local works right off the bat.  SELinux is nowhere in sight.  The log files are plain text and I can watch my system with 'tail -f /var/log/messages'.  Systemd?  What is systemd??? Never heard of it, sorry...

In short, everything works totally Olde Skool, the way the Fates intended and Slack is Fast.

Slackware is the ultimate Long Term Support Linux, since for the better part of the past quarter century, it has been the same.

I haven't realized how much the other bloated and slow Linux systems were annoying me all the time and I think that from now, on, I'll be a Slacker again.

If you have no idea what you are doing, then maybe Slack isn't for you yet.  Rather go and experiment with PCLinuxOS, Fedora or Suse Linux for a bit, then come back later.  Slack doesn't have training wheels.

Where To Get Slackware

The Slackware installer is not unfriendly.  It simply assumes that you know what you are doing and basically just gets on with it.  Installing Slack takes only a few minutes (or a few weeks/months/years, if you are new!).

The first problem is downloading an ISO file to install:
http://bear.alienbase.nl/mirrors/slackware/slackware-current-iso/slackware-current-install-dvd.iso

See the mirror information page here: http://mirrors.slackware.com/

Virtualbox

I then made a Virtualbox VM with name Slackware and OS type Linux 2.6 / 3.x (64 bit) with 1 GB RAM and VDI disk size 20 GB.

Under Storage, Controller: IDE CDROM, I selected the downloaded ISO file and started her up.

Once booted up and logged in as root, you will get a nice, friendly, self explanatory prompt:
#

An interesting observation is that Slackware is much faster than other Linux versions.  Slack with KDE runs fine in a virtual machine, while with most any other distro, one should stick to XFCE to get non-frustrating speed in a VM.  Pat's keep it simple and don't fix it if it ain't broke principles, really pay a dividend.

Partitioning the Disk

Slackware uses LILO which writes to the MBR, so you need to configure the disk as DOS with MBR and then create at least two partitions for swap (type 82) and linux system (type 83) and set the bootable flag on it, just like in the good old, bad old days.

So run fdisk /dev/sda, type o to create a MBR DOS partition, type n to make a new partition for +18 GB and again, for 2 GB, type t to change the 2 GB partition to 82 (Linux Swap), type a to make the 2nd partition bootable and type w to write it to disk.  Easy as borscht!

Deviate from the above, and LILO won't install.  You may be able to get it going in Expert mode, but good luck with that.

Setup

Now run setup and accept all the defaults, the way Pat intended, so that you have a full system with compiler and source code, about 9 GB.  Eventually, set the hostname and domainnameThe setup program is so simple, that there isn't any point in trying to describe it.

Reboot.

Log in as root and create a user account:
# useradd -m username
# passwd username

Log out and log in as the new user, then run startx to get your graphical desktop. 



I chose XFCE, but KDE works fine in a VM too - you can change with xwmconfig.  It will be a bit sluggish until you install Guest Additions below.

Guest Additions

Select Mount Guest Additions CD Image from the Virtualbox Devices menu, open it with a file manager and note the path. Open a terminal, su - to root, cd to /run/media/username/VBOX... and run the VboxLinuxAdditions.run file.

The system will build itself and install the faster Virtualbox aware mouse and video handlers.

Log out and log back in.


That is all there is to it.  You are now an official Slacker.

A Few Slack Links

Slackware is community driven like no other Linux distribution.  Patrick Volkerding manages the essential system.  Others provide the niceties.  You don't need to be a genius to use Slackware, being a subgenius is sufficient...

The default Slackware system works and does most anything, but after a few days, you may start to look around for a missing tool or tenSlackbuilds is the answer and sbopkg is the aspirin for the resultant head-ache.  Otherwise, if you are extremely lazy and want a Slackware desktop system that is screaming fast and 'Just Works', install Absolute Linux, referenced down below.

Package build scripts:

Slackware Forum:

The forum is hilarious.  There can be multiple years between questions and answers, since Slackware changes so slowly.

Documentation:

Everything about Slack in a few brief chapters:
http://slackbook.org/beta/

Slackermedia book:
http://slackermedia.info/handbook/doku.php?id=slackers

Absolute Linux, a screaming fast simple desktop distro based on Slackware with IceWM:
http://www.absolutelinux.org/index.shtml


. -.-. .-. .- ... . --..  .-.. .  .. -. ..-. .- -- .

Herman

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