Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is Slackware worth it?

Last night I installed rtorrent on Slackware current on my Pentium M 1.4 Ghz laptop and this is how it went.

rtorrent is not a main Slackware package, so I went in search of a SlackBuild. I easily found the rtorrent SlackBuild and downloaded it and read the README file. It was dependant upon libtorrent ... no problem there was a SlackBuild for that too. libtorrent was dependant upon libsigc++ ... no problem, Slackbuild had it available. So far, no big deal. libsigc++ installed with no problem. I was not so lucky with libtorrent.

libtorrent had problems with the build. After googling, I found it needed a patch. Since I have no clue as how to apply a patch, I had to google how to apply a patch to the source code. After a few attempts, I finally got it.
I then turned my attention to rtorrent and began the build process... fail! After googling some more, I discovered it too needed a patch. Of course, I was now a patch applying guru and was good to go on my first attempt.
I then compiled and waited and waited as the gcc compiling "screen saver" scrolled pass my terminal. Over an hour later, I had rtorrent installed. Awesome!

I then re-booted and went into my Debian Sid partition on the same machine and did:

aptitude update
aptitude install rtorrent

In just over a minute I had rtorrent installed.

So, is Slackware worth it?

rtorrent is a low resource ncurses bittorrent client. Is my performance on Slackware for this applications really going to be that much better then on Debian? I doubt it. My time is precious. Granted I did learn how to apply a patch, but if I stick with Debian, I will probably never have to apply patches.

As I've previously stated, I like Slackware, but I'm nearly a week into installing it on my laptop and I'm still configuring it. I tried to install wicd and thought everything went well, but I can't get it going. I still need to build the lastest SlackBuild and can't even begin to imagine how long that will take to compile. While on the other hand, I had Debian configured in 2-3 hours. With all this being said, I really like Slackware but I can't seem to really adequately explain why.

So maybe you can help me come to terms with my fasination with this distro. Is Slackware worth it and why? Why do you like Slackware?


Jake T said...

I feel the same way about Arch.

I like the idea that I can build my system from the ground up, but my time's valuable and I'm not sure I want to spend ALL that time just getting it to work.

deepspawn said...

Well, what happens when you want to install something that's not in the debian repos? You need to compile, but then you find the version of the libraries needed aren't there and you can't replace them without breaking everything else on debian?

What happens when you want a compile flag that isn't on the binary package?

I haven't compiled on debian based system in ages, but every time I have tried it has been a pain in the ass.

Stuff placed in weird directories and official documentation of some packages did not work because of debian modification of that package.

But you can replace debian for some other distros that suffer the same problems I described above.

It's just my personal experience but that's why I always liked Slackware and now I'm using Arch too. They let you do whatever you want without messing in. Slackware is a bit more irresponsible than Arch but that approach works for me.

Aaron Toponce said...

I've always wondered why people spend the time to download gigs of source to their machine, then spend hours, and sometimes days, compiling the source. Waste after waste of time.

I tried Gentoo once. I'm not new to GNU/Linux by any stretch of the word. I grabbed a copy of the Gentoo installation doc, and went forward. Two hours later, while still building packages, I realized at that point that I could have had a Debian system up, and running, all packages installed and configured the way I want.

I understand some arguments. Say, with FreeBSD putting everything that isn't part of the base into /usr/local. That's a good separation of user software from system software. But the time it takes to get ports in line, and then to compile the package? No thanks.

While source-based distributions have their strengths, I certainly prefer binary-based distributions hands down for many reasons. The biggest reason, probably, is I can either spend the time it takes to "geek it up" or I can get stuff done. I like geeking it up, but I like being productive more.

Aaron Toponce said...

@deepspawn I must say that I have yet to compile something in Debian. Either I can find a .deb package or a .tar.gz binary package. The last time I compiled something on Debian was the kernel, and I just wanted to see if I could get the kernel, the initrd and system map all under 3MB.

Jared said...

@Aaron Toponce @deepspawn Regarding compiling... I tend to agree with Aaron. I've been using Linux since 2001 and Debian or Debian based distros almost exclusively since 2005 as my main OS. I have yet to not find an app that I needed in the repos. One great advantage of Debian is its huge repo of apps and the ease of adding and reliability of most 3 party repos. So, I don't ever see myself ever needing to compile from source in Debian.

I was shocked to find that, rtorrent and other very common apps were not included in the supported pkgs for Slackware.

Now this being said, I do feel that Slackware is performing slightly better on this laptop then Debian (Debian runs hot and slightly slower), but to what significance. The performance increase is nominal. So, what makes it worth it. Mind I'm having fun and learning new things, but as Aaron stated, I need to get things done.

deepspawn said...

@atoponce @jared Well that's choice, but when you hit bugs that you can't bear the wait until a binary is there. Or when you want to use stuff like awesome or uzbl, you need to compile. If you don't do that kind of stuff or simply can wait, debian should be ok.

In fact that's why I use arch and not Slackware, your point is valid, I wanted to run awesome but getting it right on slackware was a bit too time consuming.

In the end I agree partly with you, but debian is not the answer for me or another binary heavy distro, I like compiling stuff, not as much to use gentoo but enough to use Slackware or Arch.

I don't do openoffice, I don't do gnome or kde or xfce, and for some reason I hit bugs that are only in the git/svn/cvs versions of the programs I use

Jared said...

@deepspawn I'll need to give Arch a try sometime. Thanks for the comments.

Nathan R. Hale said...

I've compiled lots of apps on Debian derivs...mostly Ubuntu. Usually it's fairly easy and straight forward. I've toyed w/the idea of Arch or Slack, but as others have noted, apt is a huge boon for productivity when it comes to installing apps. I guess when it comes down to it, I'd rather use my time enjoying utilizing apps instead of installing them...even if I'm forfeiting a bit of a performance boost.

otzy_007 said...

but there are also some apt like installers for slackware. One of them is slapt-get:
and also there are lots of repos for slackware so you don't need to compile. For example, here's your rtorrent package:

Jared said...

I've heard of slack-get, but hear that it's not really recommended. I'm willing to take a look at it. Thanks for the feedback.

Aaron Toponce said...

@deepsawn- If there are bugs in Debian unstable, which there most certainly are, that affect my day-to-day, and are high enough that I need taken care of immediately, I'll file a bug report. Debian Sid is updated frequently enough, that I'll inconvenience myself a day or two before the update comes down the pipe.

If I must have it *now*, I'll go upstream, grab their already compiled binary, and install in /opt, until Debian releases an update. This as only happened once that I can think of, from running Debian since about 2003.

Now, on the flip, I've run Arch. It was good. Very good, in fact. I love the simplicity aspect they are going for. The only thing that kept me from running it day-to-day was the fact that Arch does not separate the Free Software from the non-free. Further, they don't sign their packages with GPG keys, just MD5 sums. So, security and freedom are lacking IMNSHO. I realize this isn't their goal, but it kept me off it.

Lastly, when I do a Debian GNU/Linux install, I just install the base, so when I reboot, I'm left to a bash prompt. At that point, I go to my wiki, and copy/paste an apt-get command to get *exactly* what I want, and nothing else. This means no GNOME, no, no KDE, no xserver-xorg-video-all, no 200 language packs, no Java, etc. My box runs lean and mean when it's ready to go.

But, because this post is about Slackware, I'll get back to topic. Slack was fun in '99, when I was discovering GNU/Linux, but I couldn't keep on top of it. Far too much work than I was willing to spend. I dabbled with SuSE, Mandrake, Red Hat, and others until I found Debian around 2002 or 2003. It's been Debian since, and probably will continue to be.

We're all on the same team though, right? So, what works best for you is all that matters.

Michael said...

Slackware's biggest weakness has always been lack of proper package management. I'm sorry but I don't have time to track down 50 different packages, download them, and then HOPE they install properly.

I started learning Linux on Slackware 7.1 used it for a while but I got tired of having to compile everything myself. Once I switched to Debian I never looked back.

EVERY modern unix has a package manager that handles dependencies and automatic updates, there's simply no good reason not to have it. Even Solaris is getting in on the act with IPS repos.

Nemesis said...

I like Slackware because it's not a box of chocolates and you always know what you're gonna get. I find more reasons everyday I use it. Obviously I can't list them all here though some of the most prevalent are simplicity when it comes to how the OS actually works and that the basic Slackware install comes with the programs I like and use most often and nothing more, whereas Debian does not and has plenty of the things I don't need. There are also small quirks in (most) other distros that I find that Slackware just doesn't have. These are quirks in usability which are far more tedious to figure out and manipulate than having to apply a patch. Yeah, it might be annoying to take some extra steps to install something you really want and can't find a package for and have to make a slackbuild (great script for making slackbuilds by jkwood can be found here; or get it from, but it's small in comparison to not having to manage functionality later down the road when you need something to work right at that moment and it doesn't. I won't go into specific details again about these quirks, yet just another reason why I choose Slackware. Another GREAT aspect is the amount of knowledge the users and developers have. I ask questions in many different channels in Freenode IRC and mostly either don't get a response because no one knows or it's usually some sort of "work around" that doesn't explain what is the real issue or how something actually works. In #slackware they actually understand what's going on and can help when no one else can. To sum it up; I came to the end of the internet and that's where I found Slackware.

There are precompiled packages for OpenOffice specifically at rworkman's site;

Remember, systems and programs that offer greater flexibility usually have a steeper learning curve.

massysett said...

I understand your concern about OOo--compiling it would take hours. But the SlackBuild on does not actually compile OOo; instead it just takes the binary RPM and repackages it. It's done in an instant.

That said I understand the virtues of Slackware and Debian; I use both. They're both good systems, with their own strengths.

MS said...

Nice lively discussion, this thread does more to explain the differences between the distros and the preferences of the users than I've seen anywhere. I definitely see a dichotomy between those who just want it to work, and those who want to work on it. That said, I decided to spend some time and effort learning how to compile code and becoming comfortable with how my system is set up. Now when I look at Ubuntu's package management systems that I loved before they seem... confusing. With arch and slackware both you really know what is on your machine. And for me, it's fun learning how linux works and it's satisfying knowing what's in the nooks and crannies of my sweet tweaked out system.

As I was reading through the thread had some random thoughts/comments:

Arch/Slackware compiling times: You really don't spend much time compiling code in slackware. There will be some packages you want to get, but only really big things like OpenOffice or wine take a long time. Slackware comes with a good assortment of tools out of the box, Arch on the other hand is bare by design. If you don't have a fast internet connection you'll spend a lot of time downloading, especially during the initial setup.

Package management: I don't think this is a huge deal.. I've been caught in "dependency hell" only in Debian/Ubuntu systems. It's as simple as reading the documentation and installing the necessary packages. Slackpkg is built into slackware 13, allowing the basic functionality of installing and removing packages. For slackbuilds, SBOpkg is a great tool which automates the process, from download to installation, while still giving you all the modification options to your builds, should you chose to modify them. A very similar tool called yaourt does the same thing in Arch, hooking you in to the AUR. Also, Arch resolves dependencies automatically.

Wine in Slackware64: setting up multilib is confusing at first but elegant and simple once you get it. No problems with wine if you're running 32 bit.

Security: Slackware is designed to be very stable and very secure. I think they do a great job living up to this.

Community/Help: Someone above noted that slackware has a great community. I'll second that. Also Arch has an awesome wiki, they have detailed instructions on how to do most everything I've tried.

Eva said...

I think you are right. Slackware and generally Linux is too difficult for you and really not worth it given your lack of skill and knowledge. I believe you should install Vista and play Counterstrike. They also both have a CLI... Also you wouldn't be fooling us that you want to be productive. In fact you just want to muck about and frequently screw up and then feel obliged to whine about it and pollute the internet with your fails.

Why on earth do you people even run Linux in the first place? It's obvious from your petty posts (like Aaron there who doesn't understand why one would compile from source - amazing really. Or Jared there yonder who is amazed that Linux doesn't just yank away the proprietary Ms Word .doc format and use it - dude, linux was meant to use latex, don't use it though, you'll sprain a neuron), that you have absolutely no clue what you're doing? Just install Vista - if you really want to persist in lieing to yourself about "productivity", you can install gcc just as well on Vista!

Then again, both you and I know that you're not referring to gcc or opensource when you're talking about "productivity". You're rather taking productivity in the sense of torrent downloads, playing games, browsing porn, impressing your friends and, in the best case, using a word processor for your school homework.

You don't like Vista? You want a server? Leaving aside the fact that I don't believe you - nor would I want to be in your network given the things you complain about, you can get w2k3 or w2k8 instead.

As for, "oh but Vista or w2k3/w2k8 are not free", please... If you want to delude yourself that you are installing rtorrent to download opensource software, that's perfectly fine. However, that's one lie I wouldn't believe (and nobody else will, except if they want to take an argumentation standpoint and offer a different perspective just for the sake of argument).

Don't you sometimes sit back and think at your paradox? Somewhere along the lines "damn, I installed this Linux shit to muck about and now I realise I don't want to get my hands dirty".

I'm seriously concerned. I've seen an increasing, as well as scary, number of posts by clueless people like you which show up in search engines and mislead serious people into thinking there might be something in the least bit informative here.

Jared said...

Thanks for your comments.