Slackware 13 Revisit

In my Slackware 13 review mfillpot gave some suggestions to improve the Slackware experience and I thought I would give them a shot.  First off, changing the init level to 4 to allow KDM to show up instead of this startx business.  I was happy to note that Slackware had emacs.  So many distros have vi and I never really learned how to use it well.  So I changed the value to 4 and restarted.  And there she is:

Slackware 13 - KDM
Slackware 13 - KDM

Complete with a list of usernames for your users to click on if they think typing it out each time is too much of a hassle.  (Of course, this has security implications, but that’s negligible in a personal setup)  So I wanted to test out sbopkg.  Last time I reviewed Slackware many of the comments were about how it was not a pain that Slackware did not resolve dependencies, but rather a virtue.  I see and understand their points, but I respectfully disagree.  So mfillpot’s suggestion of sbopkg being like apt-get intrigued me.  I went to the site he linked to.  As I looked at the site I wondered if I wasn’t getting into a chicken and egg scenario.  After all, how would I install this program for installing all my others?  I checked the documentation part of the site.  Strangely, no info on how to install.  Perhaps if I just download the source or package.  This turns out to be as easy as installpkg and the file I just downloaded.  Now to see how easy it is to install OpenOffice.org.

sbopkg starts
sbopkg starts

so I went into search search and searched for OpenOffice.org.

sbopkg OpenOffice.org information
sbopkg OpenOffice.org information

There were a bunch of options for those who are technical enough.  I just went straight for build.

sbopg OpenOffice.org start build!
sbopg OpenOffice.org start build!

I hit start build and off it went.

sbopkg download OpenOffice.org
sbopkg download OpenOffice.org

It downloaded and proceeded to build the package.

sbopkg done building OpenOffice.org
sbopkg done building OpenOffice.org

Then it was done.  It didn’t take that long considering it was in a VM and I was doing a bunch of other stuff on my computer at the same time.  And I didn’t see it anywhere in the menus and couldn’t launch it in the commandline.  I was about to come back to the blog and talk about how, after so much promise, sbopkg was crap.  But then I remembered that sometimes when I would install stuff in FreeBSD I would have to log out and log back in for my terminal to know about it.  So, to be on the safe side, I rebooted the VM.  And voila!  OppenOffice.org!

OpenOffice.org Writer installed on Slackware 13
OpenOffice.org Writer installed on Slackware 13

It was in the office menu where it belonged and all was right with the world.  So, this puts Slackware up a little higher in my mind.  Whereas before it was a clear “just use Zenwalk” for most people, I think that with sbopkg, Slackware becomes just that little bit more user friendly.  I’m not saying it’s at the same level as Zenwalk yet.  I mean, sbopkg was all on the commandline, for example.  But whereas before I think I would never have had a Slackware system, sbopkg makes it a possibility.

Review: Slackware 13.0

Even though I gave up on reviewing Linux distros a while back, I keep getting mountains of hits on here for people who who want Linux reviews.  Since my Slackware 12.2 review was the second-most commented post on this blog, I decided it was a good distro to revisit.  So, when Slackware 13 came a few months ago on the LXF magazine, I decided to throw it into Virtualbox to see how it has changed.  One difference this time around is that I now have the dual core machine so I am running Slackware on that machine (especially since it has hooks for better virtualization so it should run better)

It booted up the same as Slackware 12.2.  Like last time I hit enter.  It also once again asked about my keyboard and I hit enter – just like last time.  Once again, you had to log in as root and prepare the hard drive partitions.  Apparently none of this had changed since Slackware 12.2.  Then again, most of the time the installers for other distros don’t change.  (Although they do take occasional leaps like Debian)  Once again, the virtual hard drive was at /dev/hda.  This time I gave myself 512 MB for swap.  I type setup.  It looked exactly the same as before.

Slackware 13 includes ext4
Slackware 13 includes ext4

In my review of Slackware 12.2 I remarked that those who said that Slackware was full of outdated software were wrong.  Slackware often had the latest versions of programs available at the time of its feature freeze for the current version.  This is also true with file systems as Slackware 13.0 gives the option of running ext4.  I decide to choose that for this installation.  I choose ext3 for /boot in case LILO requires that.  I then choose to install from the DVD.  Once again I did a full installation of all the software groups.  This started at 2211 and ended at 2251.  This is considerably faster than last time, although I am now on a Dual Core machine that very likely has optimizations for virtual machines.  I then installed LILO and it was onto mouse configuration.  I then started network configuration and gave the computer the name slackie.  Then came startup processes and timezones.  I decided to select KDE as my default window manager this time around since I was curious to see how Slackware had decided to handle KDE 4.x.  After setting up the root password I was done.  Time to reboot without the CD/DVD loaded.

Slackware 13 booting after installation
Slackware 13 booting after installation

As per usual for Slackware, I was left at the login prompt.  I logged in as root and, as before, there was an email from Patrick.  Always a nice touch.  I then added a user.  Awesomely, when it was time to select what groups to add the user to, pushing the up arrow gave the basic ones you’d most likely need.  I logged out of root and in as my new user.  I typed startx and it went right into KDE 4.  (No KDM)  A pretty neat startup sound played.  And I was left with a very nice looking desktop.

Slackware 13 - KDE 4 logs in
Slackware 13 - KDE 4 logs in

I decided to see what was installed by default.  Basically, it appears that all the standard KDE programs are included.  This means that the top-notch KDE educational software is installed.  (Gnome doesn’t really match KDE at all in this category!)  There are also tons of games.  These are simple games like pacman clone, sudoku, battleship, and so on, but there are a lot of them.  For graphics programs we have Karbon, Krita, and KolourPaint.  Internet has all the Mozilla apps as well as all the KDE apps.  Multimedia has xine, xmms, Amarok and Dragon Player.  Office has the full KOffice suite and it’s at the 2.0 version!  Lots and lots of widgets are on tap to add to your background as well.  Slackware 13 seems to really have a lot of great applications on first install!  There’s also a pretty sweet logout message.

Slackware 13 - the KDE desktop as installed
Slackware 13 - the KDE desktop as installed

I played around with Slackware’s implementation of KDE 4.2 and found it to be a pleasurable experience.  I think Slackware has definitely benefited by waiting until this release to switch to KDE 4.

In the end, Slackware continues to grab the latest software and it continues to be the distro that leaves a lot of the decision-making to the user.  I have not yet tried Arch Linux, but I intend to try it soon.  It seems to be a distro trying to take the crown for most customization away from Slackware and Gentoo.  While Slackware’s installer hasn’t changed or evolved at all, it wasn’t too hard in the first place as long as it wasn’t your first time and you had a guide to follow.  As many people mentioned in my last review, the fact that Slackware doesn’t do dependency resolution is a good thing and won’t change any time soon.  For me this means that if Slackware came with what I wanted, I’d be happy.  For my personality, I don’t want to hunt for dependencies so Slackware isn’t for me.  I want to say you should definitely give Slackware a shot, even if you never use it for more than a few days.  It will be a good experience to see programs and desktop environments without any distro meddling or branding.  Overall, it is a solid release and KDE was more stable on Slackware than I’ve ever experienced it in Fedora.  Good job Patrick and others!

Review: Slackware 12.2

I already tried installing Gentoo.  Twice.  The other Linux distro for the hardcore, for whom the Ubuntus and the Fedoras is too easy, is Slackware.  Slackware is, of course, the oldest surviving Linux distro.  I’ve already reviewed some distros based off of Slackware such as Zenwalk and Slax.  Along the way I’ve come to learn about some of the appeal of Slackware and why people would base distributions off of it.  However, it does have a reputation as a very hard distro to install.  Fab, of Linux Outlaws, refers to it as the distro for those who “love the pain”.  But Slackware has always held a special place in my mind for the quirky reason that I almost selected it as my first distro (as I recount here).  I had no idea that the Slack in Slackware was a reference to the Church of the Sub-Genius.  (that’s why the Slackware Penguin smokes a pipe)

slackpenguinlogo

So I was quite excited when the latest LXF issue came with Slackware 12.2 on the cover disc.  Well, let’s get reviewing!  Right away, the following pops up:

Slackware 12.2 - Installation

The default kernel is called hugesmp.s so I figure it’s huge because it has all the options and smp because most processors are at least hyperthreading, if not dual core.  I hit enter and a bunch of text scrolls by.  Then I’m told to pick my keyboard.  So far it’s not as pretty as a “modern” distro, but nothing intimidating.  So what if it’s just text?

Slackware 12.2 - select a keyboard

and then it gets hard right away.

Slackware 12.2 - login and create partitions

I’m going to have to partition before installation.  But it doesn’t look as though I’ll be guided.  Also, I see that even with 64 MB you can have an install of Slackware.  You can’t probably do much more than create a simple server, but it’s nice to know you can go that low.  I think the minimum for SLI installs of Fedora, Ubuntu, etc are 128 MB or maybe even 256.  At least it tells me to use fdisk to get my hard drive ready.  I do a dmesg and see that my hard drive is /dev/hda.  Fedora and some other distros have changed to even the main drives being listed as sda, sdb, etc so this is important to know.  I use fdisk sparingingly, so I check the slackware site.  It has enough tips at this page to jog my memory, but I need to check out this page to remember how to do the swap partition.  I make my boot partition 110 MB.  I give my swap partition 1 GB and the rest of my HD goes to root.

I then type setup and get:

Slackware 12.2 - setup initial screen

I start out with setup your swap partitions.  It’s pretty easy and dumps me into setups your target partitions afterwards.  It’s nothing difficult, but at the same time, I wouldn’t recommend it as the first intro to Linux.  I was a little anxious that it appears not to care about the boot partition at this time.  Perhaps that comes when Lilo or Grub is installed.  I get to package selection.

Slackware 12.2 - select packages to install

I go with the defaults after a quick review.  I then select a full install.  In a fun change from a lot of distros, instead of just telling you what the package is named, it also tells you what it does!

Slackware 12.2 - package installation

However, it doesn’t give you a progress bar.  Although, in my experience, telling you how much time is left is always optimistically wrong, it would be nice to see how far along the process was.  So far, other than partitioning, it’s been pretty easy.  We’ll see if I’ve done the right thing once I can (or can’t boot) the system.

Installation takes about an hour (twice as long as most modern distros) and then I get asked questions about Lili, my mouse, network, and what devices to start up at boot.  The last one is the toughest one to decide on.  I pretty much stick with the default.  Then timezone.  Then comes the Window Manager.  I accidentally don’t pick Xfce and I’m annoyed that there’s no way to go back.  And I’m done.  Overall the installation routine wasn’t too bad.  Let’s see if it boots.  I reboot the virtual machine.

Slackware 12.2 - lilo screen

Neat minimalist lilo screen.  I end up at:

Slackware 12.2 - login screen

Another reason why Slackware is not for the new user.  I know (from experience) that I need to login and run startx, but the new user will think they did something wrong.  It says I have mail.  I type mutt and there’s an email to register to be counted as a Linux user and a Welcome email from Patrick Voldkeding, creator of Slackware.  That’s pretty awesome.  I use the adduser program to interactively create a non-root account for myself.  Then I logout from root and login as myself.  (Another thing most modern distros handle automatically for you)  Then I type startx and I see that I have accidentally selected Fluxbox instead of Xfce.

Slackware 12.2 - fluxbox

After some googling I find out that I can switch this with the command xwmconfig.

Slackware 12.2 - Xfce

Now I have Xfce!  The default colour scheme for the title bars is not as nice looking as with Fedora.  Interestingly enough both Fedora 10 and Slackware 12.2 are running Xfce 4.4.3.  This is surprising because Slackware is usually seen as having old software like Debian.  For some reason, the terminal program doesn’t work.

Slackware 12.2 - terminal acting weird

Firefox works fine and it’s version 3.0.4 – so just a little behind.  I also learn at this point that my scroll wheel doesn’t work.

Slackware 12.2 - Firefox

Emacs is included for editing, games consists of Chess, Gimp 2.4 (one version behind Fedora), multimedia is Xine (no rhythmbox), on the network front is Firefox, Seamonkey, Thunderbird, and Xchat.  No Office Programs have been installed.  So now I basically need to figure out how to install programs.  I’ll install Blender, as usual.  This, I find, is where Slackware falls over in terms of ease of use when compared to Fedora, Debian, etc.  You see, the Slackware repositories are tiny.  I guess that makes sense because officially it’s all done by just one man.  Blender is not in the repositories.  So I search around the net and I find a place hosting Blender 2.45.  But I don’t even know why I should trust this guy.  With the regular distros’ repositories, you’re supposed to be able to trust the packages.  They’ve been signed and if someone was doing something dishonest – their keys would get revoked, etc.  But I decided, since it’s just a virtual machine, to go along with it.  So I use wget to pull the package.

Then I su to root and type installpkg blender-2.45-i386-3as.tgz and it installs.  Just as I expected, when I try to launch it, it gives me an error about missing libopenal.  So this is like rpm dependency hell, except all of the rpm distros have dependency resolving package managers nowadays.  So I’d have to figure out where to get that file and install that – which might require other files to be installed first and so on and so forth.  Not good.

So what is my ultimate verdict for Slackware?  On the one hand, stories of how hard it is to install Slackware are greatly exagerated.  They may have been true in the past, but nowadays, it’s pretty darned easy to install.  I wouldn’t have someone do it as their first experience of Linux, but I was able to get to a working desktop pretty easily.  In fact, I would point out that I was able to get to a working desktop in Slackware and not in Gentoo.  However, with a lack of dependency resolution and a lack of repositories I just can’t see Slackware as being viable for anyone except those that need the most stable computer.  I imagine once you get everything installed the way you like it, you’d probably be fine.  But then when it was time to update those programs, you’d have to go hunting again for new versions.  I think I’d probably recommend Zenwalk over Slackware for someone who’s a little more casual (or wants “less pain”) but still wants a Slackware core to work with.  It would also seem like a good tinkerer’s system.  They really have not done any customization to the upstream packages – not even a Slackware background in Xfce.  So if you want a nice untainted core from which to experiment, Slackware’s good there.  If my readers point to a repository that can be used with Slackware, I’ll check it out.  I won’t delete my virtual machine for a few days for that purpose.

Review: Zenwalk 5.2

Somewhere along the line I got into my head that Slackware was a distro that involved having to compile everything. From what I can gather from Wikipedia, The Slackware Website, and some comments to my Gentoo post, I was wrong. Slackware apparently uses packages, just like every other modern distro. The difference is that dependency resolution (at least with the default first-party tools) is up to the user. This clears up so much for me because I always wondered why someone would want to make a distribution based off of Slackware if the point of Slackware was to compile from source and be super hardcore. After all, Slackware doesn’t baby you and give you all these little GUIs to configure your system. You need to get down and dirty with Emacs (or even dirties with Vi) and edit those config files. Here’s what the Slackware site gives as the reason to use Slackware:

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.

Originally developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991, the UNIX®-like Linux operating system now benefits from the contributions of millions of users and developers around the world. 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.

I had a bit of a chuckle at “ease of use” and “latest popular software”. Ease of use compared to which distro? I had the strange feeling that this description hadn’t been updated since back in the days when Slackware was easier than SLS Linux. That’s right! Slackware was the original Ubuntu. And as far as having the latest software…. I think they only recently went to the 2.6 kernel, which I think every other distro has used for the last five years. And, according to an interview I heard on Linux Outlaws, they are still shipping with Apace 1.3 as the default when Apache 2 is needed for most web projects nowadays.

So what are the advantages of Slackware? It’s the most UNIX-Like system. I don’t know what that means – but if you like Unix, you’ll like Slackware. It’s very stable. If you though Debian was cautious – here’s Slackware. Everyone seems to always mention stability with Slackware. Then there’s the vanilla aspect of it. Slackware has a reputation for giving you KDE as the KDE team envisioned it – not as some packager at Canonical or Red Hat envisioned it. For example, Xubuntu has a long bar across the bottom of the screen instead of the default XFCE setup of one small bar on bottom and one large one at top.

So there’s room here for Zenwalk to take this great bedrock of Slackware and build upon it to truly make it easy to use. Since the Zenwalk team is using Slackware as its basis, instead of Debian or Fedora, I expect for it to give me all the power of Slackware. I don’t want the GUIs trouncing all over my configuration files. But I do want GUIs if I prefer them. Zenwalk is often touted as a good distro to run on frugal hardware. But, I’m not going to stack it up against the other lightweight distros because Zenwalk was meant to be installed and not run as a liveCD that could be installed if you wanted to. (Although there IS a liveCD version of Zenwalk) One more thing – from what I’ve read about Zenwalk, although it began life as Minislack, it is not a derivative of Slackware in the same way that Ubuntu is to Debian. People can feel free to correct me in the comments, but it appears that it started based off of Slackware and then blossomed up into its own distro. However, it still maintains binary compatibility with Slackware, so whatever works with Slack should also work with Zenwalk. Well, I think that’s enough setup, let’s get this thing installed on Virtualbox.

I hit enter. I end up in an ncurses dialog.

I went with the autoinstall since I am dedicating the entire disk to Zenwalk. I hit ok a couple of times and the installation begins.

It’s not the prettiest installation, but it certainly is the most INFORMATIVE installation I’ve ever done of a Linux distro. I then chose the simple LILO install (a little over 30 minutes later). A few dialogues later I set the timeszone. Then it was time to select the startup services and reboot. And here’s the rather neat looking Zenwalk lilo screen:

Zenwalk then boots up with a nice graphical boot, BUT (VERY IMPORTANTLY as far as I’m concerned) it gives you the option of seeing the verbose output.

Then it does something I don’t think I can recall any other distro ever doing – it presents the user with the GPL. It’s funny because on the one hand it’s more like Windows and Mac in that it’s presenting the license upon first boot. But neither of those two has the wording “The license for most software…is to take away your rights.” Unfortunately I accidentally hit enter and couldn’t get back to it for a screenshot. Then I accepted the license for Adobe (probably for Flash or Reader) . Then alsa tried to detect my audio hardware. Then it was time to enter the root password and create users. Conveniently, it added me to all the groups I would need to actually use the system. Then the graphical login:

Ok, so I went into this wondering if Zenwalk could take Slackware’s benefits and then make it easier for the user – after all, if it couldn’t do that then why not just use Slackware? So for the install, I have to say that it was a very easy install for a Linux vet. I think anyone that’s done more than one Linux install could install Zenwalk easily. Even for a first time install – there wasn’t anything in there that was any more technical than what users get asked in any other Linux distro. It just loses points for not explaining things as much as others and for not being pretty. I was thinking today of how stupid it is that people call distros non-user friendly just because they use ncurses. As long as it’s asking the exact same thing as a GUIfied install, what’s the big deal? Well, now it’s time for me to log in.

So they use a nice littel informative display instead of the default Xfce rat. It gives the user an idea of what’s going on and why they can see their desktop, but not yet use it. Here’s the screen you get upon first boot. A very nice looking Xfce desktop.

I like the background and the icon set chosen.  Interesting differences I noticed when compared to Xfce in Fedora:  Zenwalk has the program menu in the top left corner while Fedora has it in the bottom panel.  Zenwalk only has 2 desktops by default and has the switcher in the top.  Fedora has four desktokps by default.  I also like Zenwalk’s folder icon set.

The title bar REALLY gets on my nerves, though.  I don’t know what it is about the shade of blue they’ve chosen along with the black outline on the minimize, maximize, and exit buttons, but it really gets in my nerves in a bad way.

Just like Debian, Zenwalk uses Iceweasel instead of Firefox; interestingly, it is version 2.0.  I’m not sure if this is because I haven’t updated or if this is as modern as Zenwalk 5.2 goes when it comes to Firefox.  Come to speak of it, I have not had any notification whatsoever that I need to update any packages.  I don’t know if this is because there aren’t any new packages available or if Zenwalk just doesn’t tell you in your desktop manager like modern Fedora and Ubuntu.  I’ll check into that momentarily.  Other programs in Zenwalk 5.2 are GIMP 2.4, Geany 0.14, Asunder 1.5 for ripping music, Gnome-Mplayer 0.6.2, Brasero for burning discs, GMusicBrowser for music, IceDove, Pidgin 2.4.2, Abiword, Gnumeric, and a few others I didn’t mention.  They really do stick to one program per task for Zenwalk.  The result is a neat, if sparesely populated, menu.

Zenwalk has a settings page that reminds me of Windows’ Control Panel.  Mandriva always gets good marks for this so it must be a good thing:

I see a package called Netpkg which I assume is for managing packages.  So far Zenwalk gets LOTS of points for the experience.  The internet just worked out of the box.  X worked.  All of this without having to edit any configuration files.  So far they are succeeding at being an easy-to-use version of Slackware.  But then it all comes falling down at Netpkg.  How in the world will any user know that is to install programs?  I think it should say Program Installation (Netpkg) or Netpkg (Program Installation).  Of course, it’s possible that someone who’s installed Zenwalk probably knows a bit more about Linux than an Ubuntu user, so perhaps they know to go read the manual online and figure out how to install new software.  More fail.  What would you do here if you have never used Linux before:

It says welcome to Netpkg.  But that’s it.  I guess you click on the pull down menu and then click on the globe icon.  But I have no idea.  Perhaps with all that empty space under Netpkg it could be communicated to the users what in the world they’re supposed to do.  Big fail there.  AND I was wrong.  You click on the arrow and select your mirror, but THEN you click the little refresh icon next to it.  NOT the Earth icon.

Anyway, I appear not to have any updates.  So looks like Firefox 2.0 (via Iceweasel) is the version Zenwalk is using for now.  (I clicked on a current mirror)  Oh no, I clicked on a restricted current mirror.  I fix that an there IS an upgrade.  And that makes a lot more sense.  I couldn’t imagine them sticking to Firefox 2.0.  Here’s what it looks like:

Any folder with a rotating arrow by it is a category containing updates.  If you click on any of them you get some info on the package being updated.  However, like Fedora prior to version 8 or 9, there is no mention of why the update is taking place.  So, it doesn’t say, update such and such a package for security reasons.  So I guess it’s up to the user to know what’s necessary to update and what can wait.  To keep it simple, I select Iceweasel 3.0 and click the globe icon.

For some bizarre reason you are able to install it without the dependencies.  If you did this, it would not work.  Don’t know why that’s there.  BUT Zenwalk does get easiness points here.  Why?  Because one of the things that annoys people about Slackware is that installing a package does not also install the dependencies.

After this process was over I had Iceweasel 3.0.4.  Overall it was a pretty easy process once I figured out what to do.

There aren’t any games installed by default, but there are quite a few available in the repos.  Blender is at version 2.46.  This isn’t too conservative a choice – I think Debian is still on 2.44 or earlier.  Fedora, for comparison, is at 2.48.

So my conclusion is that Zenwalk is doing a good job at what it set out to do – be an easy to use version of Slackware.  When installing packages, it calculates dependencies whereas Slackware does not.  While I’m sure I could do it if I wanted to, I did not need to edit any config files in order to get things working.  It appears to be a good distro.  It didn’t have anything tantalizing enough to make me decide to switch to Zenwalk, but it wasn’t a bad distro at all.  I think if I were first getting into Linux and hadn’t yet chosen a distro, I might go with Zenwalk.  It appears that it deserves all the praise people heap onto it.  If you’re distro-hopping make sure you make Zenwalk a stop on your journey.

Review: Slax 6.0.7

For some reason, I didn’t get Linux Format Magazine issue #110 when I was supposed to. I ordered another copy and it arrived recently, so it’s time for another slate of Linux reviews. Unfortunately, something appears to be wrong with the way they mastered the magazine DVD, because I was unable to boot into any of the Slax options. So I went online and got the latest ISO off of http://www.slax.org.

Slackware was the original Ubuntu. It was the first very popular Linux distro and it is the oldest distro still in production. Most users have on to Red Hat, Mandriva, Gentoo and, finally, Ubuntu, but Slackware still exists. There are a lot of people out there who still use it. I don’t know if this is because they cut their teeth on Slackware back in the day or because they like the pain of doing everything by hand. You have to admit there’s something nice about Slackware’s programs being the most untainted by the distro. You know that Slackware’s KDE is the closest to bare metal KDE you can get.

Strangely, considering how old Slackware is and how it’s considered the Linux distro for Linux experts, there are a lot of distros based off of Slackware. Slax is a LiveCD based off of Slackware and it’s been getting a lot of attention recently. Some of it has been good and some not so good.

I loaded it into RAM and it runs just as fast, if not faster than my installed Linux distros. Interestingly, compared to other Lightweight Linux distros I’ve reviewed it uses KDE instead of Fluxbox, JWM, or others. Here’s the default desktop upon first boot:

Net Connection
worked without any extra configuration

Programs
Slax basically consists only of KDE programs. Of course, this is fine because KDE programs are going to be well known (unlike mtpaint) and a lot of them are at or near the top of their class. Kolourpaint is for creating raster graphics. Kate and Kjots are available for text editing/programming. The KOffice programs are available for Office-level projects.

Kopete is included for instant messaging. Konqeror is the browswer (which is why I don’t have screenshots – it doesn’t work well with WordPress). Kmail for mail, Akregator for RSS feeds, and other tools for the net. Very comprehensive suite.

For multimedia applications we have Juk for audio and Kplayer for video. Gaming consists of KBounce (a very addictive Quix-like game), Patience and KBattleship.

So, last time around, I said that Antix was the new king of Lightweight Linux distros. Does Slax unseat it? On the one hand, Slax has KDE as the base system so it’s automatically going to be more familiar to newer Linux users. On the other hand, the choice of KDE probably means it won’t run on computers that are as old as the ones Feather, Puppy, and Antix run on. Still, there’s room for a distro like Slax for recently obsoleted machines. And, if you want to run it on a 3 year old machine like mine – it flies. Now, some of the other lightweight Linux distros have more programs or DVD ripping software included. However, this brings us to one of the neat aspects of Slax – modules.

While many distros and LiveCD distros are incorporating similar features, Slax is still unique in that you can remix the LiveCD to include whatever programs you want. You just go to the Slax website and download the modules you want. Then you put them into a certain folder and burn a new CD. Bam! Now you have a LiveCD distro with exactly the programs you like….as long as they exist as modules. They have a lot of work to do to get more programs working as modules, but, as far as I can tell, this is a new feature with version 6 so they can be forgiven for missing some programs.

Overall, I’m very impressed with how fast it runs if you have the necessary RAM. The program selection is decent – could be a little better. I would have liked Firefox because Konqeror doesn’t work quite right for me on all sites. I’d say that Slax is tied with Antix. I really like a lot about how Antix works and it truly is lightweight since it runs Fluxbox. Slax, however, has all that KDE has to offer and modules. If I were to walk around with two CDs (I don’t even walk around with one), I’d be sure to have Antix and Slax around for use on any computer where I wanted to run Linux and then leave without a trace of it. One more thing in Slax’s favor – like DSL, you can download files to easily create a bootable thumb drive/memory stick to use if your BIOS supports booting from USB. Definitely check out Slax, you’ll rethink your image of Slackware as a hard to use distro.