Sunday, June 22, 2008

Once again into the breach.

And so it goes. Once again the Usenet alt.os.linux.slackware ("aols") faithful were drawn, or rather sucked, into an argument based on Slackware Linux relevance in todays world of ever growing Linux distributions. Some of which are aimed squarely at new users to the Linux distribution experience and have all manner of tools to aid those new users. Is this a bad thing? Well, yes and no. Yes because with every new 'helper' tool created it fragments the market further. No because the more users we get the more prolific our favourite operating system becomes. So, it is a double edged sword.

But, back to the issue raised. Those aols faithful cannot see passed the fact that, to them, Slackware is the only distribution that does the right thing. That, of course, is obvious because aols is, after all, a newsgroup for Slackware users. However, seeing a distributions faults is something we should all readily admit to so we can all aid its creator in making it a better product and if that creator is not open to that help then some 3rd parties can do it themselves, then if people want it they can have it, those that don't want it can leave it alone. The aols faithful however can not, will not or simply do not see any faults in Slackware nor do they think its creator can do anything wrong, bad or poor. Wrong as in the init sequence. Bad as in package choices. Poor as in who he decides should be among his secondhand men or women.

I have said before some of those he deigns suitable to help him are very unpopular people within the Slackware user-base. One or two of them have managed to make former Slackware stalwarts move to other distributions. Of course, not all of them are bad people with zero management skills, just a couple of them are.

The choice of init sequence, while out of step with just about every other major, and minor, distribution not based on Slackware, is something to be proud of. It is simple, easily understood by new users (if they ever look at it that is). While the old timers are comfortable with it. The rest of the Linux distribution vendors moved on to either their own creation or SYSV style inits while slackware stuck to its guns.

The creator of Slackware removed the ever popular Gnome2 from the distribution citing difficulty and lack of time building it. Building it while not the monstrosity it once was is time consuming if one wants a complete working Gnome2 desktop but to cite difficulty as an excuse gave the impression he lacked the skills to do it which of course he does not, but that was and still is the impression people got and are still getting. I have built Gnome2 since Slackware dropped it many times and can testify to the fact that to do it properly one must have lots of time. Time to suss out and build all the prerequisites, which is the bulk of the time used, then the time to build the actual Gnome2 desktop that gels the whole thing together. It certainly is not difficult. Time consuming yes. That abomination (because it relies on QT which is an even bigger abomination) called KDE by contrast is very easy to build, especially the minimal KDE offering Slackware utilises is. Even KDE has external to the project 3rd party programs and library requirements if one wants to leverage the full in all its glory KDE experience. Plus there are many extra programs and libraries that can be added to the base KDE set which enhance the user experience but there Slackware ships only the very basic KDE upon which one can build a more rounded experience.

Apart from having QT/KDE as the main desktop, with many smaller insignificant peripheral window managers available, when each new shiny version ships there are no further issues that I find significant show stoppers. Those, like myself, who like, nay prefer, a Gnome2 desktop , like myself, can do one of 3 things. 1) create ones own scripts, or script, to build it oneself. 2) use one of many 3rd party build scripts to build it oneself and 3) use one of the 3rd party binary sets that are available. So, all is not lost in the continuing QT/KDE GTK2/GNome2 saga for Slackware users.

Personally, I would not care one iota if KDE and QT disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow. It would not impact on my computer usage in any way whatsoever as I am steadfast in the care I take to make sure I use nothing I use uses QT and KDE. I said at the time when Gnome2 was removed from Slackware that it would result in smaller user base and from what I have seen that is exactly what has happened. Slackware on the desktop is a rare beast to find. Slackware on a server while not the numbers it once was is still there in some areas. In the server market stability is the keyword and once the QT/KDE pairing are removed Slackware remains, as it has almost since its first appearance many moons ago, stable. On the desktop however the number of Slackware installs is ever dwindling.

So, while those in aols 'tilt' every time Slackware's relevance in today's overcrowded Linux distribution market place comes up I have to say my findings is that it is becoming less and less relevant in that market place. The decision to drop Gnome2 was a poor one. The choice of some of the 2nd lieutenants is unwise at best and is having an adverse affect on the distributions current market penetration. Slackware is however an excellent base from which to create something else. Zenwalk is one such example of making Slackware better. If only Slackware's creator would stop listening to his underlings/helpers and his own reluctance to touch his own creation and incorporate some of of the good things Zenwalk has to offer then Slackware's relevance in todays market would show signs of improvement but that is an unlikely scenario to happen as is the chance of the creator writing his own similar improvements.

Is Slackware still relevant in todays market? No. For reasons outlined above, I honestly do not think it is.

(I personally use Bluewhite64 which is a one for one rebuild of Slackware for the 64 bit CPU and after trying all the 64 bit Slackware distributions I have to say BLuewhite64 is by far the best of that limited bunch. I highly doubt I will ever move away from it. Mainly because I am so comfortable with it and at my age learning something different becomes harder with each passing day. I have no QT/KDE stuff installed prefering instead my own Gnome2 builds. I have used Slackware since its first public release. Once I moved into the 64bit CPU world and after rebuilding everything for my own use I tried all of the available 64bit compiled Slackware derived distributions, settling in the end on BLuewhite64.)

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