Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New age Slackware.

It used to be said that Slackware was the best all round fit for both server installations an desktop systems. It was also said to be the best fit for both old, older and new systems. In the days of yore many, if not most, of its users were command line junkies. Nowadays though, almost none of that holds true.

Sure, the venerable Slackware distribution can be, and is, used on a few servers here and there with the desktop components not being installed but my own findings are that Slackware is nowadays mostly found on desktop installations. That assumes one can find anyone outside of the clique that makes up its current user base who is actively using it. This change of direction came around the time Gnome2 was dropped from the distribution and the horrible KDE became the main desktop GUI. This was a major choice by the creator of Slackware and not one that was popular. My dislike of KDE is because of its QT dependency. I dislike QT with a passion which means I dislike KDE too and anything else that depends on it.

Slackware, rightly, has a reputation for being staid in its choice of software. Some of the software that makes up the distribution is not bleeding edge. This gave Slackware a reputation for being solid in use. Slackware has always shipped with a choice of desktop Gui's but the dropping of Gnome was a minor disaster for Slackware which ultimately lost it a few users to other distributions that did include Gnome. There are also a few people that built Gnome for Slackware almost making a mockery of the Slackware authors claim that Gnome2 was hard to build and maintain.

In the latest release, due real soon now, the use of a default 2.6.x kernel, and the tools that go with it, also shows a leaning by its creator towards desktop installations. Many users, or potential users, of Slackware are now told to use an older version if the system it is being installed on is an old one. How old is old? Well, my reckoning is any CPU from the pre 2004 days. That move to a 2.6.x kernel combined with the dropping of Gnome2 excludes a lot of users.

So, with the combined dropping of Gnome2 and now the move to a 2.6.x kernel, Slackware stands to lose a few more users. I have no idea just how many installations, server and desktop, comprise of Slackware installations but my findings indicate the number has dropped dramatically in recent times, which is a shame because it is a fantastically stable distribution.

Added to this the Slackware creator has gathered together a bunch of people who he is hoping will take up the slack (no pun intended) should the creator decide for whatever reason, he has had enough and quits. Not all of these people are popular amongst its current user base and will I reckon lead to even less usage of Slackware in the next few years. Some of these people are arrogant, something the creator of Slackware has never been seen to be. They stomp all over other peoples work by stealing it. They never give attributes where due. Work that they gave away for free on various web sites dotted here and there. Web sites that in some cases have been around longer than some of these people. They jump on anyone who might have something bad to say about Slackware itself or the creator of, even if that something has merit.

I have used Slackware since around 1993 when it was born from the soon to be ashes of the SLS (Soft Landing Systems) distribution and have followed it not only by usage of it, but also with a general interest when compared to other distributions. Nowadays I have a 64 bit CPU which Slackware itself does not support but other distributions based on Slackware do. Of these ports I find Bluewhite64 to be the best fit as it directly mirrors, save for the 32 bit compatibility layer, Slackware itself. So, the transition from 32 bit Slackware to 64 bit Bluewhite64 via Slamd64 seemed to me to be an obvious one. I took it and find that Bluewhite64 with Gnome2 is the best of breed. I just find it a shame that the Slackware creator dropped Gnome2 from the distribution. Through my own scripting of the Gnome2 build process, and all its various dependencies, and the usage of other peoples scripts to build it, that the claim it is hard to build and maintain is laughable. However, it is, and was, his choice as it is after all his distribution that one assumes mirrors his own usage on the desktop at least and that is something I respect.

It has hurt to write this post because I honestly think that Slackware and the none sanctioned 64 bit ports of it are the best distributions by far, but that said, what I have said here is based around my observations of how the distribution has developed in recent times. It does not make good reading if you are, like me, a stout and devoted Slackware user but it is my view of the current state of play.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Maybe he just doesn't like gnome. I personally prefer KDE. Maybe it is because that is what I am use to. Not because I think it is better. In my mind one is a ford and one is a chevy. They do the same things. Only have controls in different places. You obviously know a lot more about Slack than I do. I have only been a user for a couple of years. I have it on servers as well as desktops and laptops. I just like it. My hat is off to the creator. Just my 2 cents.