Slackware 14.1: an interview

I’ve been quite slack ( yip queue the puns ) on reviewing Slackware 14.1 but time has been short and to tell you the truth, after upgrading, there’s not a whole lot different from an existing user’s point of view ( except for that usual Slackware “it just works” air of operation ). That being said, there is a whole heap of functionality in Slackware 14.1 that deserves mention.

First some version numbers to see where SW 14.1 is at. Kernel 3.10.17 is bang up to date and features support for most current hardware. The huge and generic kernels continue to be supplied leaving it up to the user as to which they prefer ( generic requires an initrd be built ). Xfce 4.10.1 and KDE 4.10.5 are featured for desktop environments, both being fairly up to date ( at the time of 14.1’s release ). There’s also a whole lot of gadgetry underneath dealing with the automatic detection of hardware devices without the user resorting to ninja tricks.

A complete development environment including glibc 2.17 and gcc 4.8.2 is on offer along with a host of other development tools like LLVM and Clang. Then we have server standards like Apache 2.4.6 ( along with php-fpm support, my favourite new toy ), php 5.4.20, Perl 5.18.1, Python 2.7.5 and many others. As usual, Slackware’s package list is as complete for server use as you will find anywhere else. 14.1 is also the first Slackware to support a complete UEFI environment including install and booting. For desktop use, there’s a good helping of mainstream apps from Firefox to Amarok ( and including some GTK+-based apps ) however you’ll probably end up using one of the 3rd party repositories ( like ) to fill in the gaps or compile those apps not included. Security options are covered in detail with OpenSSL, OpenVPN, OpenSSH and GnuPG.

At just over 2GB in size, the installation image is about average for Linux distros but it does include a huge amount of apps and options. I’ve started playing with BTRFS recently and Slackware provides a good environment for this, having a fairly up-to-date btrfs-tools package and install-time support. Of course, Slackware includes support for a number of other filesystems, including all ext versions, xfs and reiserfs. Glusterfs or Ceph would be a nice addition though … PXE and USB installers are available for cases where traditional installation methods are not an option ( and they are quick ).

Slackware ( and derivatives ) remains one of the few Linux distros that allows for a complete RAID1 boot implementation ( something that has saved me on numerous occasions ). I know that there are some options for RHEL-based and other distros but they do seem a bit complex or don’t mirror the /boot slice.

The installation itself remains straightforward but sparse, using an ncurses-based graphics interface. Some of the hand-holding found in other distros is not evident here – you need to partition your disk(s) before installation and make package selections during installation that may seem a little archaic.  After, there are some tools like slackpkg, sbopkg ( 3rd party ) and slapt-get ( 3rd party ) that assist in keeping your installation up-to-date and provide app repositories.

If you want flash ( not flashplayer ) and desktop-style ease of use, then other distros are probably better suited. But if you need a rock-solid server OS or desktop OS you’re willing to tinker with, then Slackware suits the bill.

Update: I completely forgot about one of the most important changes in 14.1 – the switch from mysql to mariadb. There’s a lot of wrangling going on about which is better technically but at this early stage of dev, there’s not much diff between mariadb and mysql. Bigger changes are expected in the newer releases and a gradual move away from 100% compatibility.

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