back to article Oh hello. Haven't heard much from you lately: Linux veteran Slackware rides again with a beta of version 15

From the department of "I'm not dead yet" comes news of a Slackware 15 beta release, nearly five years after the distribution last saw a major update. Created by Patrick Volkerding (who still lays claim to the title Benevolent Dictator For Life), the current release version arrived in the form of 2016's 14.2. While there have …

  1. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

    2016's 14.2.

    Well, if you must, you can always run Slackware current. :-)

    .

    And for non-core stuff, the slackbuilds.org versions often stay updated pretty well. Frequently easier to update IME than trying to find a new-version deb for my Stretch installs (but maybe my debian-fu is just weak).

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: 2016's 14.2.

      -stable is actually quite up to date, if not exactly modern in places.

      You'll have to get nethack 3.6.6 from -current, though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2016's 14.2.

        You'd know.

  2. Elfo74

    one of?

    "While there have been some rumblings over the years, the lengthy absence of a full new version hinted that all might not be well with one of the oldest Linux distributions and its band of contributors."

    Not one of the oldest? THE oldest.

    1. amacater

      Re: one of?

      By about two weeks - 17th July Slackware as against August 16th 1993. On a point of order, however: MCC Interim Linux - founded 1992 - included instructions on how to convert the distribution to Debian. Potentially, any system remaining from that vintage might legitimately claim to be the oldest continuously updated system :)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: one of?

        If you want to go that far back, the original "boot & root" floppy distro was first. SLS (Slack's parent) and Interim (Debians) were both based on that. Slackware is considered the first usable distro for many reasons. For example, did you actually try using the first couple years of Debian? I did. There is a reason I still run Slack.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge
        Coat

        Re: one of?

        Meh. Longest beard wins.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: one of?

          I bid on a contract for a un*x shop once. I won the contract without a face-to-face interview. When I walked in on the first morning, the guy in charge of the data center looked startled & exclaimed "Where's your beard?!" ... Despite around half a century of un*x experience, I do not now, and never have had, a beard. Still makes me chuckle, though :-)

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: one of?

        Someone kindly made me a bootable HD with Yggdrasil late 92/ early 93 IIRC - its was 0.98.1 kernel if that discounts it.

    2. Crypto Monad

      Re: one of?

      > Not one of the oldest? THE oldest.

      I don't think so. The first Linux I ran was Soft Landing Systems (SLS), and according to Wikipedia at least, Slackware was a fork of that.

      It certainly was buggy: I remember that the permissions on the /var/spool/mail directory were set wrongly out-of-the-box, so that you couldn't even send mail between two local users. But fixing that sort of problem was a great way to learn how Linux/Unix actually worked :-)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: one of?

        Arghh the 25 floppies and clicking N to every weird elvish rune Tex font in the installer

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: one of?

        Slackware is the oldest continuously maintained distro. SLS faded into obscurity by mid 1994.

      3. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: one of?

        He didn't "the first" he said "the oldest".

        SLS Linux is long dead. It never had a chance to get old. Ygdrasil predates Slackware too, but Slackware is still around, the others are not. It continues to set the record for oldest Linux distro every day it remains active.

        1. Vometia Munro

          Re: one of?

          > SLS Linux is long dead. It never had a chance to get old. Ygdrasil predates Slackware too, but Slackware is still around, the others are not. It continues to set the record for oldest Linux distro every day it remains active.

          Blimey, that sentence alone is causing a bit of a ruckus in the retirement home for wrinkly old brain cells. I don't recall anything useful from that time but those names do evoke memories of swapping the same couple of spare 3½" floppies back and forth to my "it's still good really!" 386SX PC. tbf it managed better with Linux than it did with Doom the following year... Trying to get an upgrade out of my then employer was its own entertainment ("er... we have this old Vax you can have.")

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: one of?

          So Yggdrasil is the oldest - I still have a HD with it on, and a CD!

    3. Ozan

      Re: one of?

      Slackware is the oldest still updated. There were older but they are not around anymore.

  3. Corporate Scum

    My friend has a 14.2 box that's still running.

    And by that I mean it hasn't been rebooted since it was installed. Lets face it, is Slack really a general purpose desktop OS? Is it trying to be?

    Sometimes boring stability is exactly what you want. The Slackware ethos works for some of us precisely because it doesn't pack a bunch of cruft. Sure, other distros can be stripped back down from the kitchen sink defaults, but when I want to build a box to do a thing, I'll put what I need on it. Most other distros that are still "sexy" have done a ton of work to specialize and customize things. That means if you are going to build a new Kernel or have to compile an application from source you have to worry about jamming up the web of dependencies and customization from the distro. Much less so with Slackware's minimalist approach. I only really wanted a shell and ssh anyway, not the latest Gnomificated desktop madness. And less Lennart.

    That's not for everybody, but it's nice that there is still the happy balance between the worlds of Linux and BSD.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: My friend has a 14.2 box that's still running.

      The fat install and no dependency graph is the unique selling point for slackware I suspect. I think it may be the only distribution providing that short of LFS. I gather crux linux has some dependency tracking system now.

      The unofficial isos mentioned in OA are available as live images in a variety of flavours or as an installer. The installer is text based and assumes you know how to partition the hard drive, but the travails of yesteryear have been smoothed over for the most part now.

      PS: where is Jake?

      1. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: My friend has a 14.2 box that's still running.

        jake was planting his veggie garden, but thanks for your concern.

        It turns out that man does not live on *nix alone.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: My friend has a 14.2 box that's still running.

      I hope your friend's old Slackware box isn't connected to a network. There have been a few kernel upgrades that require a reboot since 14.2 was released.

      Slack is as general purpose as the wet-ware installer is. It is easy to make it work pretty much anywhere you like (assuming you're not running very, very obscure hardware, or extreme bleeding edge stuff)..

  4. herman Silver badge

    Super Stable

    If you want a blazingly fast and super stable Linux, which is guaranteed to ignore the latest fads, bling, gizmos and doodads, since you just want to get the job done, then Slackware is for you.

    1. Kimo

      Re: Super Stable

      I bought a new tower shortly after Windows XP came out, and the original version was buggy as hell, especially with WiFi on USB. So I paid for a CD set of Slack (on dial-up at the time) and ran it happily until well after XP SP3 made it a stable OS.

  5. JamesMcP

    Slackware on a floppy plus ISDN....

    Back in the mid90s, I set up my first linux box. I'd been using linux in the labs or at work since '91 so I wasn't a total neophyte but I'd never done an install.

    I started with a 1.44Mb floppy disk with a "router" build of slackware. I used it to boot my 75Mhz AMD PC and was able to connect to the LAN and (via ISDN) the internet. It had lynx and an FTP client.

    The 128k ISDN (bonded channels!) and using two sessions let me download in one session while reading man pages and make my next action plan in the other. About the time I figured out what I should do, a package was downloaded. Tar, gzip, gcc, sources, libraries, binaries, I compiled and recompiled so many times.

    Eight hours, hundreds of MAN pages, a large pizza and 4L of carbonated sugar water later, I had a recompiled kernel running XWindows in my monitor's native resolution & refresh rate (score!) with the soundblaster (SB16 maybe...) able to play Torvald's "I pronounce Linux..." file and a web browser (Netscape 1.0b I think).

    I still count that as one of my "geek" milestones.

    1. pklausner

      Re: Slackware on a floppy plus ISDN....

      1991? When you needed Minix to get it installed?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Slackware on a floppy plus ISDN....

        Didn't need Minix if you could write your own boot loader, or hack Microsoft's.

  6. eswan

    Been a happy user since version 3.0 (Now with ELF binaries!)

    Hopefully still systemd free.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Yes.

      Slackware is still free of the systemd-cancer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes.

        "systemd-cancer."

        Careful, you'll given Poodleing an idea for a new daemon.

    2. Ozan

      I started with 3.5 and still am using it. Nothing beats it. Fast and stable. Also I am so used to it, I can install it and configure it easier than any other distro right now. Plus, it's really rock solid and can take lots of tinkering and abuse.

    3. TheSicilian
      Flame

      To each their own, and I'm glad that the Slackware crowd is still doing their thing, but I honestly don't get all of the systemd hate. It's a good init system, it deals with complicated dependencies much better than its predecessors. I was glad to see it come to CentOS, and honestly have no complaints from a sysadmin-ly perspective.

      It's more complicated under the hood, sure, and it has some silly features that I admittedly do not like, but for me Linux is strictly a thing that runs on servers, and the distros that I use for everything (Ubuntu / CentOS / Rocky when it comes out) make sensible choices about which parts of it are worthy of inclusion.

      1. jake Silver badge

        There is a reason that an init, traditionally, is a small bit of code that does one thing very well. Like most of the rest of the *nix core utilities. All an init should do is start PID1, set run level, spawn a tty (or several), handle a graceful shutdown, and log all the above in plaintext to make troubleshooting as simplistic as possible. Anything else is a vanity project that is best placed elsewhere, in it's own stand-alone code base.

        Inventing a clusterfuck init variation that's so big and bulky that it needs to be called a "suite" is just asking for trouble. The systemd-cancer is b0rken by design and implementation.

        A cancer? Yes, by any definition. Consider: systemd takes root in its host, eats massive quantities of resources as it grows, spreads unchecked into areas unrelated to the initial infection, and refuses to die unless physically removed from the system, all the while doing absolutely nothing of benefit to the host. That sounds an awful lot like a cancer to me ...

  7. rcxb Silver badge

    Benefits of Slackware

    I'm quite fond of Slackware.

    It seems to be the only Linux distro out there which includes the devel headers in every package. And why not, they're tiny? Yet all other Linux distros insist on keeping the devel headers away from users, imposing a massive barrier to entry on users who first decide to try compiling some software from source. No idea why that's so novel in the Linux world... All the BSDs include devel headers like Slackware.

    And no dependency nonsense. If I compile some library from source, I can still install binaries that depend on it, without a ration of crap from the packaging system's dependency tracking. And the worst part? Those packaging systems won't bother to check and tell you when the contents of an installed package have been removed/corrupted/etc. They can find out with a single command, but they don't really care to keep track of your system, just a database that says X is installed, so you can go on your way. Bah!

    I don't use Slackware anymore, just because if I've got to use Linux_X at work, it saves my brain so many cycles to use Linux_X at home, too. Slackware may be less of a hassle for me, but if I've got to put up with a set of hassles anyhow, I might as well limit myself to the one single set of them.

    Slackware's style comes with some downsides, too, but it's a great system to learn Linux on, and I don't mean just install and blindly use it (ala Ubuntu), but to actually learn the gritty details of how Linux works.

    1. AZump

      Re: Benefits of Slackware

      "...I don't mean just install and blindly use it (ala Ubuntu), but to actually learn the gritty details of how Linux works."

      It's been a while for you then. With 14.2, you literally do just install and use it. The most I have to do after "setup" is copy over my database, www root, /etc, then chown the dirs/files. Start SQL, *done*

      The thing I always loved and still love about Slackware is it's the only distribution out there where an "install everything" leaves you not only with a complete system, but, no unnecessary services running, no giant clusterfuck of broken or misconfigured packages, and no missing dependencies. It just works.

      Ya, from version 7.1 to 13 I always had to configure, compile, change permissions in /dev, *something*. With 14.x, everything works out of the box.

      Lord knows I don't miss trying to find the horizontal and vertical synch ranges for every monitor I booted on.

      I still manually configure the X server for extended functionality, but, the dynamic on-the-fly automagic configuration of X has not let me down yet. ...it just can't figure out my "extra hardware" and that's not it's fault.

      The thing that still impresses me the most is how Slackware manages RAM ans Swap. After an "install everything" and bringing up Apache, SSHD, MySQL, and KDE I'm running inside 670MB of RAM and 0 swap.

      I've only seen Slackware swap one time, a whole 1MB. ...and that was when I wrote some bad code. Once the program was killed, system instantly freed all memory and cleared the swap.

      My swap partition is never more than 512MB. I don't suspend to disk, and if Slackware needs to swap, a larger swapfile isn't the solution. I used to swapoff -a in rc.local, but, no need. Unlike Windows and "windows like" linux as well as some highly respected distros, Slackware doesn't need to swap, and it doesn't want to swap. Swapping BAD!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Benefits of Slackware

        "you literally do just install and use it."

        As long as you don't use printers, but yes in general its install and play.

        "My swap partition is never more than 512MB"

        I've not used one at all for years. I'd sooner the kernel just killed processes than everything grinds to a halt as the drive thrashed itself to death and I have to try and kill stuff anyway or reboot with a shell that is barely responding. And with SSDs its probably best not to use swap space if you want them to last.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Benefits of Slackware

          In my experience, printers haven't been an issue with Slackware for around 2 decades.

  8. PhilipN Silver badge

    What's the hurry?

    I am waiting for the next version of Ygdrassil Linux.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: What's the hurry?

      Yggdrasil, friends. Two g's, one s. Named for the ancient Norse Tree of Universal Support.

  9. AZump

    Why I'm a Loyalist...

    I started with RedHat. ...and a 3Dfx GPU. Trying to get that 3Dfx up under RedHat was impossible. Missing packages, wrong permissions, misconfigured packages, etc. Tried RPM, tried compiling. Modules wouldn't build and if they did, they wouldn't load. I tried IRC for support. I was chastised for not being an expert. Called N00b, dumb-ass, etc. Best (only) advice I got was "compile the kernel" which of ourse didn't work and left me with a broken system. I reinstalled RedHat again, and tried again. Weeks passed. A coworker knew some Linux, so I asked him for help. His advice was 2 simple words. "Install Slackware". So I did. 3Dfx and Glide compiled, modules loaded, and I was playing Unreal natively! Happy Dance! I had better framerates than Windows 98, air of superiority attained!

    After a few months I really started to dig into the system. I got stuck. I went to IRC. ...and got help directly from Patrick Volkerding as well as a few others. Nobody made me feel stupid. Nobody belittled me. They listened to what I wanted, what I had done, asked related questions, and gave appropriate advice. It was so civil and grown up. ...and Slackware had by now proven it was more stable than RedHat, and it made sense!

    I tired (purchased) SuSE, Mandrake, and something with "tiva" in the name, I downloaded the ISOs for probably 10 others. Always almost immediately went back to Slackware. I've since tried almost every distro out there. I always come right back. There are a couple I can say nice things about, but, they aren't slackware. ...and almost all are SystemD now, so, *puke*.

    Sure, I've wanted a stable "update" for a half decade now, but, if it 'aint broke...

    Because Pat and Crew were so kind and patient, they have my business (I pay for Slackware) and my loyality. I only wish they still shipped Enlightenment, but, I have a live linux (Elive) to show off when I want to impress someone with Linux's eye-candy, packages, and performance.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Why I'm a Loyalist...

      The paying for Slackware bit has entered the modern world - there is a Patreon page now as the Slackware Store that sold the DVDs was found to be passing only a small portion of the revenue to the developer.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why I'm a Loyalist...

      I've found the sort of people who call others Dumbass, noob etc, often have an overrated sense of their own expertise and are usually poster boys for the Dunning-Kruger effect. Real experts - if they have time - will try to help.

  10. Tim99 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Linux?

    What is this Linux of which you write? Some of us use(d) BSD, and like it...

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Linux?

      I've used, and contributed to, BSD since before it was BSD (I got to Berkeley at the wrong time, apparently) ... as a direct result, I use BSD rather extensively on servers, network-facing stuff, and various wild and wonderful hardware, both legacy and modern.

      But I still use Slackware as my desktop, and redundant alternate-OS fall-over boxen[0].

      Try it, you might like it.

      [0] Morris worm fallout.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Linux?

        Wow, you really are replying to every post here!

  11. kneedragon

    In the beginning

    Context: I have told this story, but ... the very first Linux I ever saw, was in March '95, at Southbank TAFE, in one of the computer labs given over to networking lessons, and we were shown a packet sniffer. But when we gathered 'round, it didn't work. Black screen, white writing, looked like DOS or something, but ... I'd also done one or two classes (book learning - no computers so far turned on) about an industrial 'real men's operating system' called UNIX. This looked like the fabled UNIX.

    Then ... after about a minute of not working, our teacher arrived at the conclusion the fault was with the network card. (No built in networking on the motherboard then.) So he opened the case, went to the terminal and gave a command, which he told us was to turn off and de-power the network interface (I didn't see what the command actually was) and then he pulled the cable out, unfastened the screw, and removed the PCI card. Walked across the room, opened a draw, took out one of about 20 cards (somewhat used) that lived there, took it back and plugged it in, secured the screw, went to the terminal and issued the reverse command to power up and re-activate the Ethernet ~ TCP/IP stack, and instantly we were in business. No reboot required.

    I'm not sure I'd like to try that myself, today, but I know with complete confidence, there's never been a Microsoft DOS / Windows machine you could do that with. So at the end of the lesson, I went and asked him what the tool was, and he gave me a 30 second description of what Linux was, as he packed up his stuff. The distro he had, was Slackware running headless - tty only. That was slightly over 25 years ago.

    About 2 weeks later, I saw a copy of RedHat, which had the X-server and the gnome2 desktop environment, (It was running on a 486) and I'm still using it. I don't install the googly-eyes that track the pointer these day though... but Tux hasn't changed all that much.

  12. Grunchy

    Bob Dobbs

    This is that Linux from Lou's older brother.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Bob Dobbs

      Dr. Dobbs was his paternal Grandfather.

  13. bigtreeman

    timing

    I now only use Linux for cad/cam and Netflix. (OpenBSD)

    Yesterday I installed 14.2 because I'm sick and tired of Debian crud. Amazed at how old and outdated I went looking for Slackware devel branch - Current. Downloaded this morning, burned to usb while walking the dog, installed, then read this article.

    Because Slackware still uses lilo, the dual boot to OpenBSD is totally effortless compared to grub which can't do it. Install and initial configuration (almost) with my eyes closed and it all just works. Now setup my cad/cam and get back to work (or Netflix fix)

    https://slackware.uk/people/alien-current-iso/slackware64-current-iso/slackware64-current-install-dvd.iso

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: timing

      You can also use a bootloader on a USB stick. Handy to have in an emergency, even if LILO is working nicely for you.

      Although I've only had a couple of problems following the -current branch since it has existed (and have never lost any data), I both use, and recommend -stable for important work ... especially now that it's officially in Beta.

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