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Slackware is the most venerable of Linux distributions, loved and trusted by hordes of users, sysadmins and programmers around the world for its solidity and closeness to the ground. Slackware comes from an earlier time when Linux users were almost exclusively hackers who walked the command line without fear or prejudice, scorned the world of point and click, and never went out overdressed.

Not that Slack is behind the times – a Slack user can sit behind the same GUI as any SUSE, Ubuntu or Fedora user. Just that Slack comes from a different tradition where the virtues are simplicity, straightforwardness, and lack of bloat. The asset most valued by the Slack user, and most often claimed for Slackware Linux, is system stability.

Slackware is often perceived to be behind the times, because it doesn’t necessarily come with the latest and greatest version of every piece of software, which is a deliberate policy of Patrick Volkerding, the one and only maintainer of Slackware Linux, who prefers to include only software that is proven to be mature and stable.

In contrast, most other distributions adhere to the release early, release often, ‘bleeding edge’ philosophy that has been a feature of many GNU/Linux and other free software projects since the earliest days.

The stripped-down cleanliness of Slackware Linux may explain why there is still a vast user base of loyal and trusting Slack users, despite its lack of apparent commercial appeal.

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It's hard to argue that Unix is anything other than a textual environment. Commands are text-based and manipulate information primarily as text. Human and machine readability overlap with a clarity unknown to users of other OSes. So how well do GUI "desktops" or desktop environments play with this fundamental Unix approach? One could well envisage some kind of GUI which could follow the Unix model of pipes and information flow, and there may well be such a project buried deep beneath the sludge of abandoned projects on SourceForge, but the end result would still rely heavily on textual selection.

Unix-based OSes, particularly with an overwrought and in some ways elegant GUI such as Mac OS X do have a tough time integrating the two approaches, and the command line is very much treated as a tolerated, yet rather distant older relative. The default terminal app seems clunky and washed out in comparison with the brighter, broader desktop.

Thankfully GNU/Linux users do have a choice and a good many geeks would rather exercise their command line chops at a healthy distance from the rodent infested world of the desktop GUI. Some have even gone so far as to pay homage to the green screened days of their forebears, picking up an elegantly designed DEC terminal (see DECed Out) and coding strictly from this revered beast over a serial line. Indeed, working in what some may see as a highly restricted manner, say straight from the console, can readily and quickly hone Unix skills and familiarise users with the richness of the shell.

Nevertheless, which ever way you pan it, and command line advocates can do a good job at selling even the most spartan app, life at the console can get pretty claustrophobic with little wallpaper to brighten matters and a rather tiresome ctrl, alt and function key finger three step to further induce melancholia.

The Text Pistols

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KaOS 2018.01 KDE-focused Linux distro now available with Spectre and Meltdown fixes

It can be difficult to find a quality Linux distribution that meets your needs. This is partly because there are just too many operating systems from which to choose. My suggestion is to first find a desktop environment that you prefer, and then narrow down your distro search to one that focuses on that DE. For instance, if you like KDE, both Kubuntu and Netrunner are solid choices. With all of that said, there is another KDE-focused Linux distro that I highly recommend. Called "KaOS," it is rolling release, meaning you can alway be confident that your computer is running modern packages. Today, KaOS gets its first updated ISO for 2018, and you should definitely use it to upgrade your install media. Why? Because version 2018.01 has fixes for Spectre and Meltdown thanks to Linux kernel 4.14.14 with both AMD and Intel ucode. Read more

Today in Techrights

KDE: Linux and Qt in Automotive, KDE Discover, Plasma5 18.01 in Slackware

  • Linux and Qt in Automotive? Let’s meet up!
    For anyone around the Gothenburg area on Feb 1st, you are most welcome to the Automotive MeetUp held at the Pelagicore and Luxoft offices. There will be talks about Qt/QML, our embedded Linux platform PELUX and some ramblings about open source in automotive by yours truly ;-)
  • What about AppImage?
    I see a lot of people asking about state of AppImage support in Discover. It’s non-existent, because AppImage does not require centralized software management interfaces like Discover and GNOME Software (or a command-line package manager). AppImage bundles are totally self-contained, and come straight from the developer with zero middlemen, and can be managed on the filesystem using your file manager This should sound awfully familiar to former Mac users (like myself), because Mac App bundles are totally self-contained, come straight from the developer with zero middlemen, and are managed using the Finder file manager.
  • What’s new for January? Plasma5 18.01, and more
    When I sat down to write a new post I noticed that I had not written a single post since the previous Plasma 5 announcement. Well, I guess the past month was a busy one. Also I bought a new e-reader (the Kobo Aura H2O 2nd edition) to replace my ageing Sony PRS-T1. That made me spend a lot of time just reading books and enjoying a proper back-lit E-ink screen. What I read? The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams, A Shadow all of Light by Fred Chappell, Persepolis Rising and several of the short stories (Drive, The Butcher of Anderson Station, The Churn and Strange Dogs) by James SA Corey and finally Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. All very much worth your time.

GNU/Linux: Live Patching, Gravity of Kubernetes, Welcome to 2018

  • How Live Patching Has Improved Xen Virtualization
    The open-source Xen virtualization hypervisor is widely deployed by enterprises and cloud providers alike, which benefit from the continuous innovation that the project delivers. In a video interview with ServerWatch, Lars Kurth, Chairman of the Xen Project Advisory Board and Director, Open Source Solutions at Citrix, details some of the recent additions to Xen and how they are helping move the project forward.
  • The Gravity of Kubernetes
    Most new internet businesses started in the foreseeable future will leverage Kubernetes (whether they realize it or not). Many old applications are migrating to Kubernetes too. Before Kubernetes, there was no standardization around a specific distributed systems platform. Just like Linux became the standard server-side operating system for a single node, Kubernetes has become the standard way to orchestrate all of the nodes in your application. With Kubernetes, distributed systems tools can have network effects. Every time someone builds a new tool for Kubernetes, it makes all the other tools better. And it further cements Kubernetes as the standard.
  • Welcome to 2018
    The image of the technology industry as a whole suffered in 2017, and that process is likely to continue this year as well. That should lead to an increased level of introspection that will certainly affect the free-software community. Many of us got into free software to, among other things, make the world a better place. It is not at all clear that all of our activities are doing that, or what we should do to change that situation. Expect a lively conversation on how our projects should be run and what they should be trying to achieve. Some of that introspection will certainly carry into projects related to machine learning and similar topics. There will be more interesting AI-related free software in 2018, but it may not all be beneficial. How well will the world be served, for example, by a highly capable, free facial-recognition system and associated global database? Our community will be no more effective than anybody else at limiting progress of potentially freedom-reducing technologies, but we should try harder to ensure that our technologies promote and support freedom to the greatest extent possible. Our 2017 predictions missed the fact that an increasing number of security problems are being found at the hardware level. We'll not make the same mistake in 2018. Much of what we think of as "hardware" has a great deal of software built into it — highly proprietary software that runs at the highest privilege levels and which is not subject to third-party review. Of course that software has bugs and security issues of its own; it couldn't really be any other way. We will see more of those issues in 2018, and many of them are likely to prove difficult to fix.