The upgraded boost package in slackware-current last week had broken LibreOffice’s “localc” program. Which is typical because I compile LibreOffice with a “–without-system-boost” flag. Apparently a dependency on the system’s boost libraries gets added nevertheless. Patches to cure this behaviour are very welcome!
Thus it became necessary to compile new packages for slackware-current. Co-incidentally there was also a new LibreOffice release last week: a minor upgrade to the 5.2 series, check out the announcement on the Document Foundation blog . And note their designation of this release: “LibreOffice 5.2.1, targeted at technology enthusiasts, early adopters and power users, provides a number of fixes over the major release announced in August. For all other users and enterprise deployments, TDF suggests LibreOffice 5.1.5 “.
There were a few things I enjoyed about Zenwalk 8.0 and several I did not. Before getting to those, I want to acknowledge that Zenwalk is, in most ways, very much like Slackware. The two distributions are binary compatible and if you like (or dislike) one, you will probably feel the same way about the other. They're quite closely related with similar benefits and drawbacks.
On the positive side of things, I like that Zenwalk trims down the software installed by default. A full installation of Zenwalk requires about two-thirds of the disk space a full installation of Slackware consumes. This is reflected in Zenwalk's focused "one-app-per-task" approach which I feel makes it easier to find things. Zenwalk requires relatively little memory (a feature it shares with Slackware) and, with PulseAudio's plugin removed, consumes very few CPU cycles. One more feature I like about this distribution is the fact Zenwalk includes LibreOffice, a feature I missed when running pure Slackware.
On the other hand, I ran into a number of problems with Zenwalk. The dependency problems which annoyed me while running Slackware were present in Zenwalk too. To even get a working text editor I needed to have development libraries installed. To make matters worse, the user needs a text editor to enable the package manager to install development libraries. It's one of those circular problems that require the user to think outside the box (or re-install with all software packages selected).
Other issues I had were more personal. For example, I don't like window transparency or small fonts. These are easy to fix, but it got me off on the wrong foot with Zenwalk. I do want to acknowledge that while my first two days with Zenwalk were mostly spent fixing things, hunting down dependencies and tweaking the desktop to suit my tastes, things got quickly better. By the end of the week I was enjoying Zenwalk's performance, its light nature and its clean menus. I may have had more issues with Zenwalk than Slackware in the first day or so, but by the end of the week I was enjoying using Zenwalk more for my desktop computing.
For people running older computers, I feel it is worth noting Zenwalk does not offer 32-bit builds. The distribution has become 64-bit only and people who still run 32-bit machines will need to turn elsewhere, perhaps to Slackware.
In the end, I feel as though Zenwalk is a more focused flavour of Slackware. The Slackware distribution is multi-purpose, at least as suited for servers as desktops. Slackware runs on more processor architectures, has a live edition and can dump a lot of software on our hard disk. Zenwalk is more desktop focused, with fewer packages and perhaps a nicer selection of applications. The two are quite similar, but Slackware has a broader focus while Zenwalk is geared to desktop users who value performance.
Also: New Toolchain on Current
Slackware is the oldest surviving Linux distribution and has been maintained since its birth by Patrick Volkerding. Slackware has a well deserved reputation for being stable, consistent and conservative. Slackware is released when it is ready, rather than on a set schedule, and fans of the distribution praise its no-frills and no-fuss design. Slackware adheres to a "keep it simple" philosophy similar to Arch Linux, in that the operating system does not do a lot of hand holding or automatic configuration. The user is expected to know what they are doing and the operating system generally stays out of the way. The latest release of Slackware, version 14.2, mostly offers software updates and accompanying hardware support. A few new features offer improved plug-n-play support for removable devices and this release of Slackware ships with the PulseAudio software. PulseAudio has been commonly found in the audio stack of most Linux distributions for several years, but that is a signature of Slackware: adding new features when they are needed, not when they become available. In this case PulseAudio was required as a dependency for another package.
Slackware 14.2 is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds for the x86 architecture. There is also an ARM build. While the main edition of Slackware is available as an installation disc only, there is a live edition of Slackware where we can explore a Slackware-powered desktop environment without installing the distribution. The live edition can be found on the Alien Base website. Both the live edition and the main installation media are approximately 2.6GB in size. For the purposes of this review I will be focusing on the main, installation-only edition.
Booting from the install media brings us to a text screen where we are invited to type in any required kernel parameters. We can press the Enter key to take the default settings or wait two minutes for the media to continue booting. A text prompt then offers to let us load an alternative keyboard layout or use the default "US" layout. We are then brought to a text console where a brief blurb offers us tips for setting up disk partitions and swap space. The helpful text says we can create partitions and then run the system installer by typing "setup".
Today, July 14, 2016, Arne Exton informs us about the availability of a new build of his SlackEX Live Linux operating system, which has been rebased on the latest Slackware release.
Based on Slackware 14.2, powered by the latest and most advanced Linux 4.6.4 kernel with support for the latest hardware devices, and using the KDE Development Platform 4.14.21 that shipped with the KDE Applications 16.04.2 software suite, SlackEX Build 160711 is a 64-bit (x86_64) OS brings support for installation on USB flash drives.
Slackware was familiar. I could easily go back to using it. However, I have been spoiled by my experience with opensuse. With slackware, there are no configured repos. Any install of addition software takes additional effort, though perhaps just unpacking a tar file. And security updates require periodic checking for announcements and then manual installing.