Making the Case for Slackware in 2018

If you started using GNU/Linux in the last 10 years or so, there’s a very good chance your first distribution was Ubuntu. But despite what you may have heard on some of the elitist Linux message boards and communities out there, there’s nothing wrong with that. The most important thing is simply that you’re using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The how and why is less critical, and in the end really boils down to personal preference. If you would rather take the “easy” route, who is anyone else to judge?

Having said that, such options have not always been available. When I first started using Linux full time, the big news was that the kernel was about to get support for USB Mass Storage devices. I don’t mean like a particular Mass Storage device either, I mean the actual concept of it. Before that point, USB on Linux was mainly just used for mice and keyboards. So while I might not be able to claim the same Linux Greybeard status as the folks who installed via floppies on an i386, it’s safe to say I missed the era of “easy” Linux by a wide margin.

But I don’t envy those who made the switch under slightly rosier circumstances. Quite the opposite. I believe my understanding of the core Unix/Linux philosophy is much stronger because I had to “tough it” through the early days. When pursuits such as mastering your init system and compiling a vanilla kernel from source weren’t considered nerdy extravagance but necessary aspects of running a reliable system.

So what should you do if you’re looking for the “classic” Linux experience? Where automatic configuration is a dirty word, and every aspect of your system can be manipulated with nothing more exotic than a text editor? It just so happens there is a distribution of Linux that has largely gone unchanged for the last couple of decades: Slackware. Let’s take a look at its origins, and what I think is a very bright future.

A Deliberate Time Capsule

It’s not as if it’s an accident that Slackware is the most “old school” of all Linux distributions. For one, it’s literally the oldest actively maintained distribution at 24 years. But more to the point, Slackware creator and lead developer Patrick Volkerding simply likes it that way:

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.

For those of you not up on your Linux distribution buzz-words “stability” and “tradition” could here be taken to mean “old” and “older”.  Cutting edge software and features are generally avoided in Slackware, which is either a blessing or a curse depending on who you ask. A full install of the latest build of Slackware could potentially have software months or years out of date, but it will definitely have software that works.

The upside of all this is that things more or less stay the same in Slackware-land. If you used Slackware 9.0 in 2003, you’ll have no problem installing Slackware 14.2 today and finding your way around.

Benefits of Simplicity

The Slackware installer has remained nearly unchanged since the 1990’s.

If you’re looking to learn Linux, there’s great benefit in Slackware’s almost fanatical insistence on simplicity. Rather than learning a distribution-specific method of accomplishing a task (a common occurrence in highly developed distributions like Ubuntu), the “Slackware way” is likely to be applicable to any other Linux distribution you use. For that matter, much of what works in Slackware will also work in BSD and other Unix variants.

This is especially true of the Slackware initialization system, which is closely related to the BSD init style. Services are controlled with simple Bash scripts (rc.wireless, rc.samba, rc.httpd, etc) dropped into /etc/rc.d/. To enable and disable a service you don’t need to remember any distribution-specific command, just add or remove the executable bit from the script with chmod. Adding and removing services is extremely simple in Slackware, making it easy to set up a slimmed-down install for a very specific purpose or for older hardware.

Speaking of keeping things simple, the controversial systemd is nowhere to be found. In Slackware, the text file is still King, and any software that obfuscates system configuration and maintenance is likely to have a very tough time getting the nod from Volkerding and his close-knit team of maintainers.

Finally, one of the best features of Slackware is the avoidance of custom or “patched” versions of software. Slackware does not apply patches to any of the software in its package repository, nor the kernel. While other distributions might make slight changes or tweaks to the software they install in an attempt to better brand or integrate it into the OS as a whole, Slackware keeps software exactly as the original developer intended it to be. Not only does this reduce the chances of introducing bugs or compatibility issues, but there’s also something nice about knowing that you’re using the software exactly as the developer intended it.

Frustration Free Packaging

If you’ve heard anything bad about Slackware, it’s almost certainly been about the software packages. Or more specifically, the lack of intelligent dependency management. In other distributions, the package manager understands what software each package relies on to function, and will prompt you to install them as well to make sure everything works as expected. There is no such system in Slackware, but that is also by design.

In an effort to make things as simple as possible, the expectation is that you install everything. Slackware is developed and tested with the assumption that you have a full installation of every package in the repository. In fact, this is the default mode for the Slackware installer; you have to switch into “Expert” mode if you don’t want everything.

If you don’t want a full install and would rather pick and chose packages, you are free to do so, but you’ll need to manually handle dependencies. If you get an error about a missing library when you try to start a program, it’s up to you to find out what it depends on and install it. You’ll quickly develop a feel for just what is and isn’t required in a Linux system by going through and manually solving your own dependencies, which again comes in handy if you are trying to tailor-fit an OS to your specific requirements.

Should You be Slacking?

Today, the argument for Slackware might actually be stronger than its been in the past. By not embracing the switch over to systemd, Slackware is seeing more attention than it has in years. It’s still unclear if it can avoid systemd forever, but at least for the foreseeable future, Linux users who aren’t onboard with this controversial shift in the Linux ecosystem have found a safe haven in Slackware.

Slackware was my first Linux distribution, and today I still recommend it to anyone who’s looking to really learn Linux. If you simply want to use Linux, then I have to concede Ubuntu or Mint is probably a better starting point for a Windows-convert. It’s the difference between learning how and why your operating system works, and having the OS leave you alone so you can work on something else. Not everyone needs to learn the former, but it may help you in the future if the latter falls on its face.

123 thoughts on “Making the Case for Slackware in 2018

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      1. I remember it. I never installed it though, I used Slackware. I now use Ubuntu because it’s popular, and any problem can usually be solved by a Google search, no need to ask anything, someone else already asked it. I do hate systemd though.

  1. I’ve been a Slacker since it was still called the SoftLanding System(SLS). I know it didn’t precisely morph into Slackware; Just go with it.

    I finally left Slackware for Arch a year ago because I found it difficult to keep my main desktop up to date without a dependency manager and wanted to use GNOME again, which is impossible under Slackware without systemd. That’s it. Add proper dependency management to the core package utils and add GNOME back in and I’d likely be back in the Slackware fold overnight.

    1. SLS… yay!
      The days before SLS were pure adventure.
      With SLS some simplicity came.
      Then Slackware and a Bit later Debian which didn’t even have a release name yet back then.

      Nostalgia attack… \o/

      If you just want to avoid SystemD madness, there are enough other distributions with modern package management and administration tools that do not use it.

      And looking at you may find you just can’t use it because it simply does not exist for your architecture.

      But ok… for supporting everything from toaster to supercomputer, we run NetBSD… right?

      …oooor OpenWrt!

      For tasks needing more than a µC and less than a full everyday multiuser system, one should look at OpenWrt. A deeper look at OpenWrt (buildroot, SDK, imagebuilder) would make a nice Hackaday article series… ;-)

      Everyone just should use what fit’s the job.

      Slackware sure has its place in the digiversum!

    2. I think you’re the first person I’ve encountered who actually *wants* to use GNOME3. In your opinion, what does it have going for it that other environments are missing?

      For context, I tried it once and was turned off by the large amount of wasted screen real-estate and the lack of options to do anything about it.

    3. Same thing here. Stick with Slackware for long time. Tried Debian with some apt-pinning to have desktop tools more updated than stable/testing base and imploded my distro twice a week, openSUSE is stupid and installs too much stuff on your computer(even creating some reverse dependency hell when you want to remove something), Fedora updates are 2GB per week, so, Arch was a good solution.

      Using Arch for the easy-to-use-yet-powerful trait, and as i consider myself a non-noob used, i’m learning more by dealing with Rpi projects and buildroot, and not losing precious time tunning my desktop distro :)

    4. Ooh, thanks for the memories. Those SLS floppies took a loooong time to download at 2400, but it was amazing to see any Unix run on my own hardware. That was Linux kernel 0.99.12 with the LILO bootloader. Fun times. But glad we don’t have to do that still :-)

    5. I started off on slack on floppies on a 386, paid for a actual oss license to support 4front, fought x for a week typing in dot clocks into the config before I had a gui etc. Then debian when the volunteer team gave me a free install cd at a show, then switched along the way to most of the distros and other *nix’s (solaris, sco, *bsd’s etc) and ended up on Gentoo for the past few years after redhat split fedora out. But…Gentoo maintenance is a chore, lets be honest. Eventually emerge sooner or later gets in a conflict unless your on it every couple of days, and I needed some old versions of software to speak to other boxes which only ran the old version, which needed old libs etc so pinned them making it worse over time until a complete wipe was the answer.
      As I’m really time limited of late, I went to devuan on two of the boxes because its easy to keep maintained, and systemd free and that’s worked out ok. I have one debian9 box for keeping myself educated about systemd and force myself to use it first hand(and familiarity has not bred any admiration for it, but lets not turn this into something to be shouted down by supporters of it), but I’ve also gone back to freebsd on one of my other boxes that I wanted to be locked down a bit tighter and I’m liking it a lot currently, it has some individual traits that I’d forgotten about, but with the ports collection its pretty nice and worth a look.
      So, just a idea, maybe give a bsd daemon a look over if gentoo ever gets too out of shape for you.

      1. I’ve had a box running Gentoo, with no wipes, since 2002.Its changed hardware (motherboard, cpu, etc), and drives, but all I did was copy the partitions over. There was never a reinstall. I even went through the great GCC ABI change stuff with that box. I suspect its one of the oldest continiously updated Gentoo boxes around..

        And I’m about to nuke it. I recently bought a NAS, and that does 99% of what I need..

        That said… I did the whole Slackware thing back in the day too…. Except they didnt have X yet.. So I spent a week compiling X (literally)…

        1. I compiled X windows on a SPARC 2. Sun did not supply X windows, so I had to download the generic source. It took several days. I got lucky it worked the first time. This machine originally ran SunTools as a graphical environment. Well worth the time spent to get X.

    6. I like to imagine that you could follow the SysVinit article on the ArchWiki and (possibly) grab a recompiled version of GNOME from the AUR, but that *is* unlikely. That said, always glad to see another user of Arch Linux!

      My path (I’m a relative newcomer) was roughly: Ubuntu -> Debian (screw Plymouth, I didn’t come to Linux for splash screens!) / Puppy (hardware and ramdisk!) -> Arch. My love of modern packages is just…. just too strong. I type this from kernel 4.14.15 and Firefox 58.0, and every so often I log into GNOME so I can see how Wayland is coming along. Also, steam-native. Get that Portal.*, get that Race the Sun.

      But that’s the wonderful bit of all of this – everyone gets to make their own choices, even within distributions!

    7. I remember creating something like 50 floppies for my linux install, which I’m pretty sure were Slackware. I created custom labels for them each of them with the platypus mascot. Because that was pre-Tux, and I also seem to remember voting in a contest to pick the mascot. I liked the platypus because it is a venomous mammal which seemed badass.

  2. Gentoo is the better option for learning Linux, last time I tried to compile anything using a slackware system the development libraries were hopelessly out of date, its fine that the installer hasn’t changed, if it ain’t broke… but you really do need upto date development packages…

  3. > To enable and disable a service you don’t need to remember any distribution-specific command, just add or remove the executable bit from the script with chmod

    Service management is a lot less system-specific since systemd came about. Love it or hate it, it’s become the standard for a large portion of distros.

      1. There’s nothing wrong with the basic concept of systemd as a modern init replacement, which is what it was originally intended to be.

        The problems are wholly and solely due to Sievers and Poettering. Their Spanish land grab, their attitude, their refusal to fix serious bugs even when they cause kernel panics…

  4. I used Slackware in the past and I kind of liked it … but installation of new programs was somewhat of a hit and miss afair. You often had to spend a lot of time trying to get all the required dependencies.

    But it was fast, and as a learning/teaching/clean design system it is really good. Just a bit too hard for the average Joe like me.

  5. There’s always Gentoo & Friends.
    I’d go as far as to say they’re the modern day Slackware.
    After all, you typically install it by chrooting into a “base” image you extracted into your preformatted root partition.
    But if your main focus instead is lean&mean, then there’s Alpine Linux.

    And Arch will always be considered a traitor for not remaining only friends with benefits with systemD.

  6. I came into my own on linux shortly after building my first PC and realizing I had no money for an operating system, and wasn’t fond of using the old Windows 98 install disk I found in the folks basement when they were running brand spanking new XP upstairs. I landed a sweet book called “Redhat for Dummies”, which came with a DVD. Unfortunately, poor of OS also meant poor of DVD drive, and I was instructed (by the parents) that I was not to cannibalize the home PC for its DVD drive. I began the laborious process of downloading all six CDs of RedHat over the slowest possible DSL connection humans had, and burning disc after disc. After all that, I began learning that Linux was -not- an easy solution. Having said that, I pity those who have known nothing but Ubuntu. My passing familiarity with the ins and outs of “Hard-Mode” linux have landed me job opportunities, tech advantages over my peers, and more. *sigh* I really love Linux.

    1. OK, I’ll pile on the “when I was a lad” stories…

      In 1995, I had to mail-order install CDs and walk uphill both ways to the mailbox to get them. I still have them – the Red Hat 1.0 Mother’s Day release. Kernel 1.2.8.

      1. Ah the memories – I still have a box of Slackware floppies (5.25″) and the luggable they were installed onto – a 386DX with maths co-processor. Pretty much the first usable release of Linux iirc, I even ran a couple of serial terminals off it… What a learning curve that was, thank goodness we now have stackexchange and most problems have solutions that are just a google or two away.

        1. My first Linux experience was also with Slackware, as it’s what the IT guy at my high school recommended, since it’s what they used for a few things at the school. Got a stack of floppies, downloaded the floppy images I’d need to install at school (We had dialup at home but I figured once I got it up and running I could just use that to download other stuff).. Got home all eager to try it after scrounging a 340MB hard drive from the pile of junk hardware at the school (This was the late 90s so 340MB wasn’t terrible considering the drive in my computer was 540MB) since I didn’t want to mess with dual booting. Got it installed, disk error on disk 12 of 14.. Swears. Swap the drive back to Windows so I could download it. More swears. Back to Linux. Have to start from scratch, yet more swears… Got it all installed, and X wouldn’t work because there wasn’t a driver for my video card. Said F this crap, added the 340MB drive as a second drive and didn’t monkey with Linux until 2004 when I learned about Ubuntu. Installed it and was surprised that everything just WORKED right out of the box, actually used it as my primary OS until ~2011 when I went back to school and they “required” Windows (But they gave me a copy of Win7) but I still use Linux mostly, although now it’s a mixture of Kubuntu and Fedora KDE. For server stuff I use CentOS with no GUI unless I need it.

    2. Ouch, you did it the hard way! If Windows XP existed at the time then I’m pretty sure that so did Mandrake. You could have just downloaded one floppy (2 if the main one didn’t include your nic driver). It had an installer that pulled it’s RPMs from ftp sites. Sure, you would still be downloading but only the files you actually choose to install. Plus that part was automated unlike the process of download cd, burn cd, repeat.

      Just run through the menus, being a beginner chose either the KDE or Gnome desktop option (KDE was better) and let it choose all the defaults for you. Then when the downloads start walk away, come back tomorrow. Yes… I think that already was easier than installing Windows!

      Mandrake was based on RedHat. It was basically RedHat with a far more polished desktop, perfect for people coming from Windows.

      My first distro was also RedHat and I also got it from a book. I installed it a few years earlier than you probably though, 1998. Thankfully that meant it came on CD-ROM rather than DVD which I also did not have a reader for at the time. I played with that about a month before I found Mandrake. I stuck with Mandrake almost until they went under. :-( Next came Debian and Gentoo is home today.

  7. last i heard it’s still quite the hassle for package dependencies. I would still recommend aptitude above all else, and thus debian-based distro’s. After +20 years of running debian you’re gonna have to come with much better arguments to convince me to try something else.

    1. for the record, I tried SuSE, Red Hat, Gentoo, and yes the ubuntus. Nothing beats debian imo. I have some friends that keep pushing me to try on of the BSD variants, but i havn’t gotten around to it yet.

  8. I wish authors would quit bringing up “controversies” whenever mentioning systemd. It’s a good init system. It’s not what the old guard is used to, but you know what? That doesn’t make it any less good. Binary logs aren’t a problem. Swallowing up other projects for better integration isn’t a bad thing.

    1. “Swallowing up other projects for better integration isn’t a bad thing.”
      But it just is not the unix way.
      And I want to stay on the unix road.

      In some years systems with SystemD will have evolved far away from what we call unixlike, so this discussion will end. There will be Android, SystemD and Unix and that will be ok then.

      Peace, Pasta & Ramen!

      1. Make that Android, SystemD, Linux, and *BSDs/Unix

        the *BSDs are far closer to real Unix that Linux will ever be, even sans SystemD. The *BSDs are direct derivatives of the original AT&T source. Linux on the other hand was built to not rely on any of the AT&T source, but be as compatible as possible.

        If you really want to learn the Unix way, load up a copy of FreeBSD.

        I personally use FreeBSD for my Web/Email servers. Rock solid, minimalist install. You could run the thing on a Pre 2000’s system and still expect decent performance.

    2. “the awful trait isn’t THAT awful guys”
      Yeah, no. It’s needlessly complicated and bloated by striving to be exact opposite of simple and modular.

      It’s only “successful” because Red Hat has decided “it’s our way or the highway” regarding init systems since they employ the developers and have far too much weight to throw around for a single organization to have in the Linux verse for the adoption to have been fully democratic.

      It’s reminding me of Microsoft in all the wrong ways, especially with GNOME also hard depending on it.

      1. Redhat was smart to pick up systemd. Their main source of income is selling support. They knew this complicated and untested mess would wreak havoc. I understand AIX has binary logs. However I fail to see the point in Linux. Now there has to be a duplicate set of programs to parse them. You used to use grep, awk, sed and the like, now these have been recreated to read the new style of log files. So what was the point of that?

    3. No, Systemd really does suck.

      “It’s not what the old guard is used to”
      Nice way to hint that a dislike of Systemd is just a case of agism. Nobody cares that Poettering is young. They care about all the use cases for which Systemd breaks their previous favorite distros.

      “Binary logs aren’t a problem.”
      For you. So what? For many people’s uses they are.

      “Swallowing up other projects for better integration isn’t a bad thing.”
      Breaking compatibility with those projects that do still serve people’s use cases is a bad thing.

      1. As a embedded system developer who has had to build/maintain a shitload of different custom distributions in the past.

        systemd is a god send. It’s awesome. It’s the nr1 best thing happened to GNU/Linux as a complete system. Out with all the stupid startup scripts that do everything slightly different. And in with a well defined, consistent system where you service works, or doesn’t. But not, works occasionally, or only if you restart it from a terminal due to different environment settings.

        Yes, this breaks a few things. Actually, I’m prepared to say it in another way. It exposes the broken stuff. Because stuff was broken and an ugly patch job before systemd, but the elite people where used to it. So the ugly patch job was fine in their eyes.

        I’m still in flux about the binary logging. On one hand, the quick filtering is pretty nice. On the other hand, it seems to be prone to data loss on power failure. But the whole service startup of systemd (you know, the core of what it does) is awesome and a life saver.

        1. Bingo. This should have been the design intent of systemd. Some reverse ageism follows. Young (relative to myself) Lennart failed to DESIGN systemd. No engineering here. He has some good ideas but just will not listen to anyone. And binary-only logs are just insane and cruel.

          You can have my Slackware distro when my cold, dead hands are pried from the keyboard. As for dependencies, this seems to be broken with all distros used. For my employer’s factory, the really dangerous stuff is done without an OS, but it talks to a vanilla Debian server. Only Slackware complaint is that it took me a long time to figure out UEFI (but added with 14.1), and the way Python is compiled (ucs4).

          For installs, look at

          1. The original intention was to provide a modern init replacement, nothing more. But as you say, Poettering won’t listen to anyone. He was warned repeatedly that Sievers was ‘a bad egg’ but still brought him on board despite his history of inappropriate behaviour, refusal to fix problem he caused, etc.

      1. A very well thought out and coherently presented argument…

        Seriously… Just piss off. You’re doing those of us who are trying to moderate the worst of Sievers/Poetterings excesses more harm than good.

  9. “Stability and tradition”… looks a bit like a Theresa May Brexit mantra :-)
    More seriously, I used Slackware since its first edition : download at work (home network wasn’t really cheap and fast at time), writing a lot of floppy then charging my home computer… with all the joy when finaly the X11 cursor appeared instead of error messages !

  10. Last century, when I wanted to turn a stack of 8 old 386 pcs from a beige bedside table into a beowulf cluster it was slackware booted from floppies that underpinned it. Nice to see it’s still going.

  11. I started with Ubuntu a couple years ago and just wrote my first systemd service yesterday—it waits for the network then launches a Python chat server after boot. I use it to quickly send code snippets, links between machines. For some reason Crontab isn’t consistent for me, and systemd has the added benefit that the error log is saved ($ systemctl status ).
    Been thinking about gentoo or arch to learn the mechanics better—the single biggest draw of Ubuntu imo is the sheer volume of walkthroughs and Stack posts for everything a noob like me needs; Samba, Apache/LAMP, and tons more. And aptitude is such a luxury…

    1. Or you could just setup samba, setup a share on your desktop machine, mount a path on linux machine to the share and be done with it, automagically move files into your linux system.

  12. Only someone that did not HAVE to install Linux that way would want to go back to that. I cant think of a worse security policy than installing every package whether you need it or not. Seems to really expand your attack surface for no reason at all. I remember installing from boot floppies and CDs as well as installing onto Sparc architecture machines with all the big endian, little endian issues I really don’t miss those days at all.

    1. Short version….

      While I wouldn’t want to do that to a server, on a desktop installing everything might be a good way to find new software that you might like!

      Long version….

      As my desktop I have been running Gentoo for about 15 years now. A while back I discovered a problem. I wasn’t being exposed to anything that was new. I did my updates quite regularly but they were mostly bug fixes and security patches. Nothing ever tried to install any applications that I didn’t ask for. Older programs really ever go away unless there is a significant reason why it has to.

      So.. my computer was a friggin Linux time capsule!

      Surounded by mostly Windows users I didn’t know it but when I met a younger Linux user and had a conversation… it was like we were talking about two completely different platforms! I had no idea what half the applications he mentioned were!

      So… I installed Ubuntu on my laptop for a while. I tried the applications it comes with. I found some I liked better and some I liked less. I did a bit of Googling and even viewed a bunch of user’s screen shots. I chose the best of the new and the best of the old (IMHO) and then installed those same programs back on my Gentoo desktop.

      That was a couple years ago, I guess I am good for a few more before I need to do it again.

    2. Yeah I noticed that too. Slackware has changed since the last time I used it. When I last used it you decided what was in or out and it took a couple of hours of decisions. The default was pretty slim usually 2 disk packages. Which was just enough to get you a shell and most of the simple utils. If I installed anything I usually grabbed it from the main page of the project anyway. They were usually 2-4 versions ahead of whatever was in slackware.

      A good package manager viewer and source builder would go a long way in that project. There have even been some very nice attempts at it over the years which were shot down. I went to debian/ubuntu because frankly I got tired of babying the box and package updates. The more modern distros let you set it and forget it. Which is what I really wanted out of the services I was using.

    3. You would probably like Alpine Linux then. It’s about as minimalist as it gets and still a fully functional OS. No systemd, no X, just the kernel, busybox, and enough framework to boot to a prompt. Its package manager has dependency resolution and syntax is dead simple (“apk add nano” to install a text editor for example). The installer is based on OpenBSD’s wonderfully streamlined installer, and it’s fully supported by Docker and other container systems.

      It’s my second favorite distro after Slackware.

  13. Yep, Slackware was my first distro as well – I think it came on a CD, but there were a few boot floppies you had to get through first (possibly before the days of bootable CD support in the BIOS?).
    I still remember the agony and triumph of getting X to work, manually futzing with video timings, tweaking the front porch and back porch to get the image right to the edge of my CRT. It’s amazing how much of those analog video conventions still remain in the digital domain.

  14. My first go round with Linux was when you had to make two floppies and the big package you got with it was vi. X was perhaps a year in the future.

    I really liked the CentOS single disk server for a long time. It took me a long time to give into having a GUI. Now for the most part I run a popular long term release version. It is nice knowing that the guts you build on top of will be stable for a given amount of time.

    I never got into slackware but I don’t like the they expect you to install it all bit. If they had a dependency manager that would go a long way towards making it something I would consider.

    IMHO recent flavors of linux have gotten worse than microsoft. At least in dos the dir command does not return a page with things in color.

    1. Worse than Microsoft? Not even close. Try to buy a laptop preloaded with Windows: there is so much useless crap preinstalled (trial versions of this and that, spyware, HP and MS keyloggers, …) there that it’s just mind boggling. And, you need to install/buy a lot of additional software to get a usable system.

  15. If you wanna get really fiendishly deep into Linux innards for educational purposes it’s hard to beat Linux From Scratch. LFS steps you through using another Linux install to build a working custom-compiled Linux from the source tarballs up, including libraries, compiler infrastructure, kernel, loader, and init system.

    1. concur. LFS is about as hardcore as you can get for Linux, but it is also the most flexible, if you just need an OS that does a few simple things, or runs on custom hardware this is the way to go.

  16. I tried Debian, in 2000. It was the least commercial distribution, so I chose it. But all that fussing over dependencies was daunting for a beginner. Debian didn’t come with Pine, which I was used to, and I wasn’t ready at that point to install it from elsewhere, so I gave up. (Debian considered Pine’s license to not be “free enough” so they wouldn’t include it.)

    A few months later I saw a copy of “Slackware Linux for Dummies” complete with two CDs, it was 7.0 or 7.1, not quite recent. There was a tear on the cover, so it was bout $12, a reasonable price. Slackware included Pine, that was all that really mattered. Ironically, I’d previously dismissed Slackware because if the name.

    If they can make a Dummies book about it, it’s hardly “too complicated” for the masses.

    I had no problem doing a tiny install (a 240 meg hard drive, before I allocated swap space). Slackware didn’t fuss over dependencies so I didn’t have to worry. There were levels of install, you could be selective on some things but Slackware would warn you when something was considered “mandatory”.

    I realized that 486slc with 8megs of RAM was too limited, so a few months later I “splurged” on a used 200MHz Pentium with 16megs of RAM, and all was fine.

    I’ve never seen a reason to switch to another distribution. I have sampled some others but having invested the time it wasn’t worth switching.

    It is easier with a larger drive. Installing things doesn’t mean they get activated, so the daemons don’t run out of the box.

    It just runs. And Slackware 15.0 is almost within sight I’d say.


  17. In my opinion, once you install slapt-get you’re good to go with Slackware. It’s still straight forward to install and customize on an x86. For ARM (and RPi specifically) there is SARPi. Which is not as straight forward, but you can download an installing image(.img.xz) if you’re on Windows, or manually format if you’re already using Linux (most flexible, not hard)

  18. Maybe we should stop pretending FOSS is the ultimate goal. “The most important thing is simply that you’re using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The how and why is less critical…” Really? That attitude is exactly why it’s still not really taken off after all these years. A bit of pragmatism and less of an all-or-nothing approach would go a long way.

  19. I’ve been running Slackware since we had dialup only here. It was an interesting experience. I actually managed to get things working via a port, and realized it was Slackware based, when I noticed that the packaging scheme matched Pat’s brilliant idea.

    And in fact there are two other arch ports available, one is for ARM of course. And one is for S/390.

    I also have a few packages available that have your name on them Tom……

    I run Slackware as a zipslack creation on either native unzipped on my Dell Dimension system or pushed into a drive for a a virtualization job. And then native here on this Laptop.

    And yes Slackware and Tux are close to their respective ages.

  20. “In an effort to make things as simple as possible, the expectation is that you install everything.”

    That’s what Macintosh did before OS X if you installed a System for any Macintosh. You got *everything* whether or not your particular computer could use it. Even when you selected to do a custom install you’d still end up with extra drivers for printers and some other stuff. Then there were the updaters to System and OS versions like 7.6.1 and 8.1, 8.6 and 9.2.x. They had no custom options. They didn’t check to see what your hardware was or what was already installed. Apple’s idea was to bulldoze in *everything* and flip you the digital bird. So the fastest way to do a clean install of System or OS was to install for any Mac then the update, then dig in and remove all the useless pieces.

    That’s how “It just works” came to be, by using massively bloated operating system installs.

  21. You’re not expected to install everything. The install is done that way to make it easier for Linux newbies who don’t know what they want. It’s very simple to change for anyone who has been round the block at least once.

  22. My first linux was Red Hat, but I quickly found everything was distribution-specific. I ran it on a very modern (at the time) gigabyte dual pentium III motherboard and a whole gig of ram. I found slackware and loved it. Things were what they were supposed to be! There was a lot of tweaking and compiling to get things to work, but so satisfying learning what was really going on and then trying it out and seeing it work. I had a lot of time to spend messing with it and did so.
    I enjoyed it and learned a lot, but now I prefer to spend my time doing other things. I’m typing this on a kubuntu 17.04 box that pretty much works without much effort on my part.

    1. ^This. I still have “idepci” 1.44M boot floppies from when I used to install on 486s but I’m too old to be compiling things or configuring them before they work (openssh excepted, which has delightful options). I use Ubuntu and if it isn’t packaged then it’s invisible to me.

  23. Oh my god, the days of Slackware on floppies, back when you had to actually compile your own kernel to get the necessary drivers for anything beyond a dumb terminal functional. Kinda miss those days. Wait a minute, I actually want to use my computer, not spend a week compiling a kernel, so no I don’t lol!

  24. Never had to install Slackware from floppy disk, but it’s been my daily driver since Slackware 10.0 A friend of mine, and long time Slacker, suggested I try it after I gave Mandrake Linux a try. Never looked back. Now I’m on 14.2 with -current packages on x64, and slackware-arm 14.2 on the RPi Model B (1st generation).
    Anyone interested in giving Slackware a try, can use AlienB0b’s liveslack USB image.

  25. One other thing not mentioned here, and most Slackers know already, is there are really two branches. Stable and current. While the stable release (ie 14.2) will be that, stable, a lot of the work is going into the current branch, and is very up to date. Updated kernels, libraries,, and applications are added constantly. In my experience the -current branch is perfectly usable for everyday use
    While package management is not what a lot of people would consider convenient, there are tools to mitigate this, and switching from stable to current is as easy as changing what repository you are using on your favorite mirror. Need something outside of the Slackware tree? A few members of the Slackware team keep their own repositories of packages and build scripts, or there is the huge list of build scripts on, and it lists the dependencies, whether they host a build script or not.
    Using Slackware has taught me a lot about Linux. For years I would compile my own kernel, customized for the hardware it was running on, and compile things that I didn’t have a package for, from source, and resolve any missing dependencies. I had to learn how to get ALSA working correctly by editing configuration files with a text editor, and get WiFi up and running without a GUI.
    It’s been a learning adventure, and I just can’t see myself using anything else.

    Reminds me of my favorite joke. “Ubuntu is an African word for ‘Slackware’s too hard for me'”

  26. I have an old Asus netbook, now without hard disk. I created a boot able Slackware SD card and I use the netbook with external keyboard and mouse and VGA TV thru ethernet cable on the internet. I also created persistent programming directories. Slackware contains all the tools , what I need.

  27. Oh man this brings back painful memories of my first LUG. It was basically a couple of greybeards going around fixing installs in lightning fast (you will learn nothing) CLI whacks. The other 80% of the group just argued with each other about current and upcoming distros and beta versions. It was kinda like HaD lol. I envy the current gen of Linux adopters in that they don’t have to deal with all that and can read and watch tutorials (after 3 days of wikis to figure out which distro they want to use lol).

  28. Off topic:
    (Please Mike S., don’t delete this!)
    I’m running Linux Mint on my personal PCs.
    What I really miss is a “system console” window that sat in one corner of the screen silently writing updates about background processes and other system status.
    How do I do this now? Even my net queries come up with “how do I open an X terminal?” and that is not what I’m looking for…

  29. One of the nicest things about Slackware is that it doesn’t change much. After 20yrs working with computers I found that so many systems re-invent themselves every few years, and as time moves on it gets harder to drum up enthusiasm to learn yet another new system, that does pretty much what the previous system did in a “new and improved” way. Slackware protects all that mental energy you invest in getting to know your system (as much as possible – i still don’t like uefi ), so you can still do the same stuff with minimal relearning. I started with redhat and moved to slackware when it started to cost. Red hat is partly owned by micros*ft, so there are no surprises at some of the development it funds, Slackware is also useful when you have limited broadband in this day and age!. As has been mentioned already, some other distro’s require a lot of downloading on a regular basis. It is nice to have great control over that.

  30. Started using Slackware from the 8.0 days, when KDE 3.0 came out, on my work laptop computer (a Dell Latitude D600). It was a remarkably useable laptop OS. What impressed me the most about it was its speed and cleanliness, while still being user-friendly enough to do office productivity.

    From that positive experience, I installed Slackware at home and used it as my main multimedia computer. Compiled mplayer w/ the codecs and all that myself. Did my own custom kernels, all that.

    The reason I’m using Kubuntu now is that I wanted to see what the *ubuntu universe was all about. Turns out *ubuntu is also a fine distribution and great for not just tinkerers, but also end-users. For most converts from Microsoft Windows, I use *ubuntu, typically the KDE spin. Slackware’s more fun for the tinkerer, though. I like ’em both.

  31. While I’m not new to Linux, I’m interested in learning about this. I’m wondering though, how hard IS it to install, config, and setup? I’m no stranger to the Terminal, and have been using Linux since 2001 (Fedora 11/12!) It would just be nice I think, to expand my knowledge on this, so that, should the need arise and the GUI of Gnome or Cinnamon can’t help me, I can deep-dive and “Do It Myself”. Guess I’ll head over to the Slackware homepage and see what I can find out. Anyone have any tips or advice they can spare?…before I end up like the kid in the comic above?

    1. For Slackware? Simply grab the right DVD for your chosen system, either directly download from a mirror or even a torrent file. And then boot it. And follow onscreen prompts. The install methods are easy as are the file system. It is what you put on it as a desktop that’s up to you. I use KDE when this laptop is running Linux. Sometimes on my Dell Dimension it also runs Slackware but 32 bit sometimes native. There you go.

    2. Some of the muddling is the change from hobbyist to user.

      “Linux is hard” is from the standpoint of the users, who now far outnumber everyone else. It overlooks those with experience other than Windows. I wanted to use Unix about 1981, when there were lots of articles about it, telling us what a great OS it was. But it was expensive, the software and the hardware to run it. So I got a Radio Shack Color Computer and Microware OS-9, which was a multitasking/multiuser operating system said to be “Unix-like”.

      “Slackware is the hardest distribution” may be true, but it’s relative. I never had problems with it, and I had little experience with Unix or Linux.

      Most computer owners are users, they bought computers with Windows installed and didn’t program or do much beyond a handful of things. Increasingly, they have long experience with Windows, some since childhood. They appear “technically capable”, but it’s just lowering the bar. Computer use is now akin to using a telephone, something simple, something everyday. For them, shifting to another operating system is hard enough. Having to install is even harder, since its not in their experience.

      It’s no different from me reading in the seventies that “BASIC is much easier than assembly language”. Likely a true statement, but it doesn’t mean assembly language is beyond everyone. Now the user base is much idr, they speak and it leaves out the rest of us.


  32. Slackware was the first Linux distro I ever used, because at the time it was the only one. Though not the first time I used Linux. When Slackware came along it really made life “easy” for those wanting to install Linux. My second Distro was Debian because they were the first to support Micro-channel. My third distro was what would become SUSE which has remained my primary distro ever since.
    Recently Slackware has become attractive again by not migrating to the abomination that is systemd and in that regard it and Devuan are pretty much alone as far as mainstream Linux distros free of that filth.

  33. I have been using Slackware since at least 1996. The first distribution I used was Yaggdrissel (misspelled) in the early 1990s. I have looked at other due to various requirements for work but I have found that Slackware is the best, most flexible, and stable environment, and is what I use for my home network. The key item is it allows you to cleanly setup your systems they way you want them to be set up. And when doing whole networks of machines it has always been easy and consistent to set up – from laptops to desktops. And if you have every played with or used Unix Slackware will be comfortable but better.

    If a person wants to get “under the hood”, or just look “under the hood”, Slackware is a distribution to use. It allows you to really see and understand what is being done. And Patrick Volkerding has kept Slackware just back from the “cutting edge” so you get the benefits of stability, flexibility, and support for most current hardware.

    Then one can add in the packages from AlienBob and, or pretty much any software package the most sites supply as installable packages (tar packages), to meet your needs. While I miss some of the Gnome tools (such as gthumb) some of them are easy to build. And several sites supply Gnome packages for Slackware and Meta is a Gnome 2.x variant. The key is that with a little bit planning a person can easily add tools and packages to meet your wants and needs. Of course I tend to use fvwm2 since it gives me a ability to organize screens and tools.

    Slackware is worth getting and using. The stability along makes it worthwhile to try.

  34. Ah Slakware! The only time I used to compile the kernel. Not so much of an issue now that CPUs are spiffy and RAM is prevalent.

    It was also around that time that one had to pay to get TCP/IP to run on the sad MS-DOS systems: Hummingbird or some such so it made communicating via Linux free and simple.

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