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Taking Up the Slack(ware) - page 3

Catching Up with Slackware 8.1rc2

  • June 6, 2002
  • By Kurt Wall

Unlike other Linux distributions, Slackware makes no attempt to configure sound, X, a printer, or add mere-mortal users, so these were the first tasks I undertook after the post-installation reboot. The initial login is also to console mode, that is, run level 3. If you prefer a graphical login, simply edit /etc/inittab and change the default run level to 4, the value Slackware uses for the graphical login.

On to configuring XFree86. In the past, I had mixed success using X configuration utilties like xf86config and xf86cfg. So, these days, I just do it the simple way:


# X -configure

I had to hand-edit the generated configuration file because XFree86's DDC probe did not seem to recognize my monitor. After adding entries for the horizontal sync, vertical refresh, and the NoHal option to disable XFree86's attempt to load Matrox's Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL), I was up and running with X. A quick useradd command added a merely mortal user. Next, because I knew that my AudioPCI card would work with the ess1371 module, a quick "modprobe ess1371" enabled sound (I had to change the permissions on /dev/dsp in order to allow non-root users to play sounds, however). I had the most trouble configuring my printer -- it wasn't until I read the mail "sent" by Patrick Volkerding, Hizzoner Mr. Slackware himself, to root's mail account that I found APSfilter's SETUP script and got my printer working.

So, what's wrong with this picture? The installation worked almost flawlessly. The applications and libraries are, for the most part, the latest and greatest versions known to be stable and reliable. The package names have been modified to mimic the RPM naming convention, and Slackare even ships with RPM 4.0.2, albeit unsupported. You can use leading edge (some might say bleeding edge) journaling filesystems out of the box. In short, you have a basic, highly functional Linux box that will just work without all the geegaws that thump performance. So, as far as I'm concerned. there's nothing wrong with this picture.--unless you are new to Linux or are addicted to graphical utilities and eye candy.

That's the catch: Slackware leaves you close to the silicon. Those new to Linux or lacking in their confidence to install and administer a Linux box without lots of point-and-click, drag-and-drop tools might find themselves too close to the silicon. What I find most appealing about Slackware, a feature that continues to shine in this release, is that it stays out of your way, at the cost of forcing you to administer it at the command line and to know what you're doing. This isn't a problem for me, but newcomers and those spoiled by the point-and-shoot tools of the Red Hats of the world may find it too big of an adjustment. For this latter group of users, there's too much to do that requires learning how to administer a server class system. And make no mistake about it: Slackware Linux is a server class system that happens to work very well as a desktop system, too.

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