28 January, 2008

Slackware Linux ^_^

The Slackware Linux Project.

Written by: kimerik.olsen@gmail.com
Created: Wednesday, January 4th 2008
Last change: Friday, February 22nd 2008 - 02:xx GMT+1

What is Slackware Linux?

The Official Release of Slackware Linux 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.

The Slackware Philosophy.

Since its first release in April of 1993, 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. We have always considered simplicity and stability paramount, and as a result Slackware has become one of the most popular, stable, and friendly distributions available.

Slackware Overview.

Slackware Linux is a complete 32-bit multitasking "UNIX-like" system. It's currently based around the 2.6 Linux kernel series and the GNU C Library version 2.5 (libc6). It contains an easy to use installation program, extensive online documentation, and a menu-driven package system. A full installation gives you the X Window System, C/C++ development environments, Perl, networking utilities, a mail server, a news server, a web server, an ftp server, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, Mozilla Firefox Web Browser, plus many more programs. Slackware Linux can run on 486 systems all the way up to the latest x86 machines (but uses -mcpu=i686 optimization for best performance on i686-class machines like the P3, P4, and Duron/Athlon).

Who, and why?

The Slackware Linux Project started as a hobby-project (as many other linux distributions) of Minnesota State University Moorhead's student Patrick J. Volkerding, the founder and maintainer of the Slackware Linux distribution. Volkerding earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 1993. He has worked for many years and continues to work on this popular and extremely stable distribution. Also known to many as "The Man" and as Slackware's BDFL (the Slackware "Benevolent Dictator for Life"), without Patrick, there would be no Slackware. Patrick is a SubGenius affiliate/member.

The use of the word Slack in "Slackware" is a homage to J. R. "Bob" Dobbs: "..I'll admit that it was SubGenius inspired. In fact, back in the 2.0 through 3.0 days we used to print a dobbshead on each CD."


Introduction, excerpts from "Early Linux Distribution History" & www.wikipedia.org.


The first Linux distribution was created by Owen Le Blanc at the Manchester Computing Centre (MCC) in the north west of England. The first MCC Interim release, as it was known, was released in February, 1992. Soon after the first release came other distributions such as TAMU, created by individuals at Texas A&M University, Martin Junius's MJ, and H. J. Lu's small base system. If you want to read more about MCC Interim, click here.

This was followed shortly after by the
Softlanding Linux System (referred to as "SLS" for the rest of this essay), founded by Peter McDonald, which was the first comprehensive distribution to contain elements such as X and TCP/IP, and the most popular of the original Linux distributions in the early 90's when Linux still used to be distributed on 3½inch floppy disks. SLS dominated the market until the developers made a decision to change the executable format from a.out to ELF. This was not a popular decision amongst SLS's user base at the time. (It is now considered as obsolete.)

If you would like to inspect the source-code for SLS, it can be found here.

It was quickly superseeded by the oldest currently surviving distributions based on it - Debian GNU/Linux and Slackware Linux.


Patrick Volkerding released a modified version of SLS, which he named Slackware. (The first Slackware release-version; 1.00, was released on July 16th 1993.) It was supplied on 3½inch floppy disk images that were made available by anonymous FTP from Moorhead University, and it quickly replaced SLS as the dominant Linux distribution at the time.

Slackware was the first Linux distribution to manufacture and sell Compact Discs containing the complete system as well as full source code for the software included, and was the base for several other distros that came out afterwards (Like SuSe Linux [1992], and more recently Arch Linux [2002]).

In 1999, Slackware's release numbers saw a large increment from 4 to 7. This was explained by Patrick Volkerding as a marketing effort to show that Slackware was as up-to-date as other more popular Linux distributions, many of which had release numbers of 6 at the time (such as Red Hat releasing each revision of its distribution with an increment of 4.1 to 5.0 instead of 3.1 to 3.2 as Slackware did).

In 2005, the GNOME desktop environment was removed from the pending future release, and turned over to community support and distribution. The removal of GNOME was seen by some in the Linux community as significant because the desktop environment is found in many Linux distributions. In lieu of this, several community-based projects began offering complete GNOME distributions for Slackware.

Design philosophy.

Many design choices in Slackware can be seen as examples of the KISS principle. In this context, "simple" refers to the viewpoint of system design, rather than ease of use. Most software in Slackware uses the configuration mechanisms supplied by the software's original authors; there are few distribution-specific mechanisms. This is the reason there are so few GUI tools to configure the system. This comes at the cost of user-friendliness. Critics consider the distribution time-consuming and difficult to learn. Advocates consider it flexible and transparent and like the experience gained from the learning process.

Package management.

Slackware's package management utilities can install, upgrade, and remove packages from local sources, but makes no attempt to track or manage dependencies, relying on the user to ensure that the system has all the supporting system libraries and programs required by the new package. If any of these are missing, there may be no indication until one attempts to use the newly installed software, or compile software from original source. Slackware packages are gzipped tarballs with filenames ending with .tgz.

The package contains the files that form part of the software being installed, as well as additional files for the benefit of the Slackware package management utilities. The files that form part of the software being installed are organized such that, when extracted into the root directory, their files are placed in their installed locations.

The other files are those placed under the install/ directory inside the package. Two files are commonly found in the install/ directory, which are the slack-desc and doinst.sh files (and more recently, the slack-required file, which is used to resolve dependencies using third-party package-management tools). These are not placed directly into the filesystem in the same manner as the other files in the package. The slack-desc file is a simple text file which contains a description of the package being installed. This is used when viewing packages using the package manager. The doinst.sh file is a shell script which is usually intended to run commands or make changes which could not be best made by changing the contents of the package (like symlinks and so fourth). This script is run at the end of the installation of a package.

Dependency resolution.

While Slackware itself does not incorporate tools to automatically resolve dependencies for the user by automatically downloading and installing them, some third-party software tools exist that can provide this function similar to the way APT does for Debian.

The third-party tool slapt-get does not provide dependency resolution for packages included within the Slackware distribution. It instead provides a framework for dependency resolution in Slackware compatible packages similar in fashion to the hand-tuned method APT utilizes. Several package sources and Slackware based distributions take advantage of this functionality.

Editor's note:

I really like and personally favor slapt-get. Allthough I generate and package my own packages from time to time, it is useful to have a semi-automated system-tool to install libraries and applications needed to compile certain software packages without having to locate and install all of them by hand. Mainly because it can quickly become a slow and tedious effort when a software package depends on a plethora of other non-standard libraries and applications that can easily be found in third-party package repositories on-line.

Slackware 9.1 included Swaret and slackpkg as extra packages on its second CD, but did not install either by default. Swaret was removed from the distribution as of Slackware 10.0 but is still available as a 3rd party package. Alternatively, NetBSD's pkgsrc provides support for Slackware, among other UNIX-like operating systems. pkgsrc provides dependency resolution for both binary and source packages.

Hardware architectures.

Slackware is primarily developed for the x86 PC hardware architecture. However there have previously been official ports to the DEC Alpha and SPARC architectures. As of 2005, there is an official port to the System/390 architecture. There are also unofficial ports to the ARM, Alpha, SPARC, PowerPC and x86-64 (the slamd64 and Bluewhite64 distributions support the use of 64-bit computing) architectures.

Third-party software repositories.

Repositories of user maintained, third-party Slackware packages are provided by linuxpackages.net and slacky.eu (but slacky.eu as of November-07 requires you to register within the Italian community to download and install/upgrade packages from their repository), which include more recent versions of some software, and some software that are not released in any form by the Slackware maintainers. These repositories are often used in conjunction with third-party package-management software, such as Swaret and slapt-get.

Use caution when downloading and installing third-party software from these repo's! Many of the packages are sometimes newer versions of native Slackware packages, and can retard your system's expected performance, or even give you a shocking experience next time you reboot your system, rendering your system unusable.

Dropline GNOME, GSB: GNOME SlackBuild, GWARE and Gnome-Slacky are projects intended to offer Slackware packages for the window management system: GNOME. These projects exist because Slackware does not officially include GNOME as of Slackware version 10.2, but a large number of users would prefer to have GNOME installed without having to go through the lengthy process of compiling it from source code. Another project for building GNOME is the SlackBot automated build script system.

From the Slackware-10.2 changelog:

Sat Mar 26 23:04:41 PST 2005
gnome/*: Removed from -current, and turned over to community support and
distribution. I'm not going to rehash all the reasons behind this, but it's
been under consideration for more than four years. There are already good
projects in place to provide Slackware GNOME for those who want it, and
these are more complete than what Slackware has shipped in the past. So, if
you're looking for GNOME for Slackware -current, I would recommend looking at
these two projects for well-built packages that follow a policy of minimal
interference with the base Slackware system:


There is also Dropline, of course, which is quite popular. However, due to
their policy of adding PAM and replacing large system packages (like the
entire X11 system) with their own versions, I can't give quite the same sort
of nod to Dropline. Nevertheless, it remains another choice, and it's _your_
system, so I will also mention their project:


Please do not incorrectly interpret any of this as a slight against GNOME
itself, which (although it does usually need to be fixed and polished beyond
the way it ships from upstream more so than, say, KDE or XFce) is a decent
desktop choice. So are a lot of others, but Slackware does not need to ship
every choice. GNOME is and always has been a moving target (even the
"stable" releases usually aren't quite ready yet) that really does demand a
team to keep up on all the changes (many of which are not always well
documented). I fully expect that this move will improve the quality of both
Slackware itself, and the quality (and quantity) of the GNOME options
available for it.

Folks, this is how open source is supposed to work. Enjoy. :-)

Editor's note:
Personally I prefer the native KDE environment included with Slackware, and always have. It has a wider user-community, more software packages available and it is based on Norwegian GUI-technology (
Trolltech's Qt toolkit), which is pretty sweet since I'm Norwegian myself ;^)

As Patrick states; It's not a slight against GNOME at all. I, just don't personally favour it as my window manager of choice. That's one of the wonderful things about open source, the freedom OF choice!
(Compared to commercially available closed source software which shall remain nameless)

Extra Slackware-related stuff.

Linux Journal interview with patrick Volkerding

April 1st, 1994 by Phil Hughes


Linux Journal: When did you first start working with Linux?

Pat: I first heard about Linux in late 1992 from a friend named Wes at a party in Fargo, North Dakota. I didn't download it right away, but when I needed to find a LISP interpreter for a project at school, I remembered seeing people mention clisp ran on Linux. So, I ended up downloading one of the versions of Peter MacDonald's SLS distribution.

Linux Journal: Describe what Slackware is?

Pat: Well, I guess I can assume we all know what Linux is. :^) Slackware consists of a basic Linux system (the kernel, shared libraries, and basic utilities), and a number of optional software packages such as the GNU C and C++ compilers, networking and mail handling software, and the X window system.

Linux Journal: Why did you decide to do a distribution?

Pat: That's a good one. I never really did decide to do a distribution. What happened was that my AI professor wanted me to show him how to install Linux so that he could use it on his machine at home, and share it with some graduate students who were also doing a lot of work in LISP. So, we went into the PC lab and installed the SLS version of Linux.

Having dealt with Linux for a few weeks, I'd put together a pile of notes describing all the little things that needed to be fixed after the main installation was complete. After spending nearly as much time going through the list and reconfiguring whatever needed it as we had putting the software on the machine in the first place, my professor looked at me and said, “Is there some way we can fix the install disks so that new machines will have these fixes right away?”. That was the start of the project. I changed parts of the original SLS installation scripts, fixing some bugs and adding a feature that installed important packages like the shared libraries and the kernel image automatically.

I also edited the description files on the installation disks to make them more informative. Most importantly, I went through the software packages, fixing any problems I found. Most of the packages worked perfectly well, but some needed help. The mail, networking, and uucp software had a number of incorrect file permissions that prevented it from functioning out of the box. Some applications would coredump without any explanation — for those I'd go out looking for source code on the net. SLS only came with source code for a small amount of the distribution, but often there would be new versions out anyway, so I'd grab the source for those and port them over. When I started on the task, I think the Linux kernel was at around 0.98pl4 (someone else may remember that better than I do...), and I put together improved SLS releases for my professor through version 0.99pl9. By this time I'd gotten ahead of SLS on maybe half of the packages in the distribution, and had done some reconfiguration on most of the remaining half. I'd done some coding myself to fix long-standing problems like a finger bug that would say users had `Never logged in' whenever they weren't online. The difference between SLS and Slackware was starting to be more than just cosmetic.

In May, or maybe as late as June of `93, I'd brought my own distribution up to the 4.4.1 C libraries and Linux kernel 0.99pl11A. This brought significant improvements to the networking and really seemed to stabilize the system. My friends at MSU thought it was great and urged me to put it up for FTP. I thought for sure SLS would be putting out a new version that included these things soon enough, so I held off for a few weeks. During this time I saw a lot of people asking on the net when there would be a release that included some of these new things, so I made a post entitled “Anyone want an SLS-like 0.99pl11A system?” I got a tremendous response to the post.

After talking with the local sysadmin at MSU, I got permission to open an anonymous FTP server on one of the machines - an old 3b2. I made an announcement and watched with horror as multitudes of FTP connections crashed the 3b2 over, and over, and over. Those who did get copies of the 1.00 Slackware release did say some nice things about it on the net. My archive space problems didn't last long, either. Some people associated with Walnut Creek CDROM (and ironically enough, members of the 386BSD core group) offered me the current archive space on ftp.cdrom.com.

Linux Journal: Why did you call it Slackware?

Pat: My friend J.R. “Bob” Dobbs suggested it. ;^) Although I've seen people say that it carries negative connotations, I've grown to like the name. It's what I started calling it back when it was really just a hacked version of SLS and I had no intention of putting it up for public retrieval. When I finally did put it up for FTP, I kept the name. I think I named it “Slackware” because I didn't want people to take it all that seriously at first.

It's a big responsibility setting up software for possibly thousands of people to use (and find bugs in). Besides, I think it sounds better than “Microsoft”, don't you?

Linux Journal: Some of the people out here in Seattle call them MicroSquish. :-) I admit that I initially avoided going from SLS to Slackware because I didn't take the name seriously. But the feedback I heard on the Internet pointed out why I should take it seriously. What did you expect to happen with the distribution?

Pat: I never planned for it to last as long as it has. I thought Peter MacDonald (of SLS) would take a look at what I was doing and would fix the problems with SLS. Instead, he claimed distribution rights on the Slackware install scripts since they were derived from ones included in SLS. I was allowed to keep what I had up for FTP, but told Peter I wouldn't make other changes to Slackware until I'd written new installation scripts to replace the ones that came from SLS. I wrote the new scripts, and after putting that much work into things I wasn't going to give up. I did everything I could to make Slackware the distribution of choice, integrating new software and upgrades into the release as fast as they came out. It's a lot of work, and sometimes I wonder how long I can go on for.


This essay/article consists of several composed materials from various on-line sources: www.slackware.com , www.linuxjournal.com , www.wikipedia.org, www.slackwiki.org and http://www.linux-knowledge-portal.org/. And it is a tribute to reflect some of my (editor's) personal views, opinions and notions of this wonderful and versatile Linux distribution.

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