Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Can beginner to Linux use Slackware? Yes you can!

I wrote something about Slackware Linux that I have it on my desktop. I also wrote that I tried Mandrake Linux first before I loaded Slackware on my desktop. What I got in my mind is what if beginner to Linux wants to try Slackware? Good idea or bad idea? First of all, I want to say that this is just my thinking based on my experiences of learning Linux. It could not be suited well for certain people. I do not want this post as a starting point for another distribution war between Linux users. Slackware for beginners? Most people will say it sounds scary. Let's break it down.

Slackware Linux
In 1993, Patrick Volkerding designed Slackware with east of use and stability as top priority goals. Slackware Linux Project has aimed at producing the most "UNIX-like" Linux distribution out there. Slackware complies with the published Linux standards, such as the Linux File System Standard. Slackware have always considered simplicity and stability paramount, and as a result Slackware has become one of the most popular, stable, and friendly distributions available.

For Beginners
Before I start, I just want to make it clear. Yes, a user who is new to Linux, want to know/learn about Linux, has some knowledge of computers, not afraid to learn how to edit various files and scripts by hand while configuring it, willing to read documentation if required, can use Slackware. However, I don't recommend to a user who just want to use Linux but don't want to know about it, you want software installation to be click-n-run, just use other Linux distributions like Linspire, Mepis or Ubuntu.

Slackware Pros:

- Free
You can download Slackware for free. There are many sites available to download Slackware iso.
Download links: Get Slack, Planet Mirror, Linuxquestions.org, LinuxHelp.net, Slackware Torrent

- Clean (not bloated), Simple and Fast
Slackware is not bloated with extra stuff, even the word "Slackware" is hardly find in the OS after you installed Slackware not like other Linux OS. Slackware is always keep it clean and which is great for older computers to run at full speed.

- Solid stability and security
Slackware always use stable kernel and packages and don't try to include all latest which are still in testing stage gives users solid stability and security.

- Complete configurable as the way you want
Slackware don't control how you manage your system, it is your own system and configure the way you want. If you don't want some services not to run at start up, just change the mode of that service not to run. Slackware will never stop you from doing this and that because of blah blah blah.. (of course if you know what you are doing).

- Knowledgeable community
If you ask for help in forum/community, slackware community is the best. They always try to help each other out. Even in other distribution forum, you will see many answers from Slacker because most Slackware users know what they are doing.

- Compatible with old hardware
Slackware Linux doesn't require an extremely powerful system to run (though having one is quite nice :). It will run on systems as far back as the 486. You will be amazed by looking at the following list of minimum system requirements needed to install and run Slackware.

  • 486 processor
  • 16MB RAM (32MB suggested)
  • 100-500 megabytes of hard disk space for a minimal and around 3.5GB for full install
  • 3.5" floppy drive
Additional hardware may be needed if you want to run the X Window System at a usable speed or if you want network capabilities. Slackware always stick with the stable kernel which works on most system whether it's 7 years old or whether it's 9 months ago. Simply nice :).

- Great learning tool
Many other distributions just don't challenge a linux user to "learn" as much as they could because they keep using GUI to makes changes to their system. What do you do when GUI breaks and you need to fix something?

- Slackware knowledge can applied to other *nixes
The Slackware Philosophy said the Slackware Linux Project has aimed at producing the most "UNIX-like" Linux distribution out there. Slackware complies with the published Linux standards, such as the Linux File System Standard. So if you know Slackware, you know Linux! :)

Slackware Cons:

- Steep learning curve
For a beginner to Linux, it is a steep learning curve to use Slackware, but hay you want to learn Linux right?

- Menu driven text based installation
It will tell you what it is going to do with installation. If you are used to with GUI installation, it will be a bit different installation for you. But you can configure your system as you like during installation. For me it is better because I can pick what packages to install and not to install. I don't have to reinstall after one-click GUI installation of some other Linux Distributions. Not to mention, Slackware installation is a lot faster than other distributions.

- Literacy required
Some computer literacy required to use Slackware. This can be easily solve by visiting Slackware forums and read some general informations about Slackware. Here is a list of friendly and helpful forums and helpful sites:




Slackware Tips and Tricks by Jack S. Lai


The Revised Slackware Book Project

Installing Slackware Linux

Configuring XFree86 in Slackware

SLackware Installation Guide in PDF

Slackware Linux Basics


For Beginners to Linux

Most of the users who wanted to try Slackware but still haven't try it yet are mostly they have heard of Slackware installation. Most people think that menu driven text based installation is quite challenging. If you want to start using slackware either you are the one who want to know what Linux is about or you want simplicity and stability of Slackware. If you are in first group, Slackware's menu driven text based installation is like a door-gift for you. It will ask you how do you want to partition your hard drive. You can decide how many partitions you want and what file system you want to format with. Then you can select what packages you want to install it on your system. If you are in the second group there are step by step installation tutorial about how to install a slackware. This site has a great manual how to install Slackware. I know this manual is for Slackware 9.2, current stable Slackware release is 10.2 and, Slackware 11 is coming soon. So this manual is out of date? It could be true for other distributions, but not for Slackware. Slackware always keep its rule called KISS (Keep It Simple & Stupid). So the versions in the manual is out-dated, however you can still apply it to latest Slackware installation because it is already simple and the can't make more simple :). Here is the another great site by a great slackware user. It will explain you start to the end. Just follow the instructions and your Slackware box will be up and running in an hour. The following is from Slackware Linux Basics.This is a short overview of the important directories on a Slackware Linux system and I think it is very important to know before you use Slackware.
  • /bin: essential user binaries that should still be available in case the /usr is not mounted.

  • /dev: device files. These are special files used to access certain devices.

  • /etc: the /etc directory contains all important configuration files.

  • /home: contains home directories for individual users.

  • /lib: essential system libraries (like glibc), and kernel modules.

  • /root: home directory for the root user.

  • /sbin: essential binaries that are used for system administration.

  • /tmp: a world-writable directory for temporary files.

  • /usr/X11R6: the X Window System.

  • /usr/bin: stores the majority of the user binaries.

  • /usr/lib: libraries that are not essential for the system to boot.

  • /usr/sbin: nonessential system administration binaries.

  • /var: variable data files, like logs.

Dare to Slack? I think this post has enough information to be a Slacker eventhough you are new to Linux. There is a saying "Once you Slacke, you never go back!" Google is your firend!
Happy Birthday Linux!
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