Slackware is Too Hard for the Novice User
Many Linux users have successfully installed Slackware Linux as their first Linux installation. Often, these users may try other installations, but find that the Slackware installation is a refreshing change from the confusing, resource-intensive installations of other distributions.
Users who have installed other Linux distributions have found that in addition to the simplicity of installation, Slackware is extremely flexible. The user can control which packages are installed–required packages are clearly noted so that critical packages will not be left off. It is also extremely easy to customize a Slackware installation for the more advanced user or system administrator.
An experienced Slackware user can install a new system from a CD-ROM in a matter of minutes. An author once made comments that after doing several Slackware installs, they can literally do an install without a monitor attached to the machine.
Slackware Has No Technical Support
Purchase of an ‘official’ slackware release from Walnut Creek entitles the user to technical support from Walnut Creek support staff. Walnut Creek is the distributor of Slackware Linux. (Note that Slackware is available for download from various sources for no charge. If you download Slackware you are not entitled to support from Walnut Creek). Slackware.com, the official Slackware site, (affiliated with Walnut Creek), maintains several good sources of information, including installation and configuration information.
Slackware.com has recently added a section to their site, entitled Technical Support Providers, which lists several third-party companies that provide technical support for Slackware.
In addition to the available third-party support options, all Linux users have the ability to utilize community resources such as news groups in the comp.os.linux and alt.os.linux hierarchies. Slackware has a dedicated Usenet newsgroup at alt.os.linux.slackware. The broad range of community support available for Linux is one of the primary advantages of the operating system. It is not uncommon to post a question in a Linux newsgroup and have several answers within an hour.
Slackware Has No Package Manager
Pkgtool and its related utilities (makepkg, explodepkg, installpkg, and removepkg) is the most flexible and generic package manager available for any Linux distribution. The pkgtool utility allows a user to install, remove, (or view, in the case of the color version) software packages through an interactive menu system.
The pkgtool utility is also used by the Slackware installation program so users will be familiar with it from the very start. It is available in a full color ncurses interface or a standard text terminal interface.
It is the most flexible and generic package manager because a user can use any tar ball (tar.gz archive) as a source for the pkgtool program. The tar ball archive can be installed into any location on the system.
In addition to the installation and removal of packages, a user can make new packages using the ‘makepkg’ utility. This utility creates a new Slackware compatible package. The package is constructed using the contents of the current directory and all sub directories. Symbolic links are noted and coded automatically into a package script which will recreate the links upon installation. The package creator can also write an install script to be run upon installation of the package. This script can do just about anything a standard shell script can do.
Finally, a new package utility, ‘upgradepkg’ can be used to replace an installed package with a newer version. This new utility became available in the Slackware 3.9 and 4.0 releases and was improved upon in the Slackware 7.0 release. Upgradepkg has now become an integral part of package management on Slackware.
One Cannot Run Glibc Programs With Slackware
Slackware has included the glibc2 runtime libraries since the beta release of Slackware 3.5 in May 1998 and has been an installation option since then. Installation of the the glibc runtime libraries allowed compilation and linking of nearly all programs that utilize the glibc2 libraries.
Slackware 7.0 became the first Slackware release to be fully built with glibc2.1 libraries as part of the ‘core’ operating system. It wasn’t until the 7.0 release that the Slackware developers felt that enough bugs were worked out of glibc2.1 to allow it to be used as part of the operating system. Remember that one of the core goals of the Slackware project is to have a stable system. Red Hat experienced many problems with its 5.0 series of releases due to the inclusion of an almost alpha stage glibc2.1 release.
Slackware Cannot Install From a CD-ROM
The ability to boot a new Slackware installation from a bootable CD-ROM drive has been available since the Slackware 3.5 release in 1998. In fact, Slackware supports several installation methods, some of which, such as floppy disk installation (useful for older systems) is not available in other distributions.
- Installation from bootable CD-ROM
- Installation from a hard disk drive partition
- Installation from floppy disks
- Installation from NFS (Network File System)
In addition, Slackware supports custom and minimal installations:
- Make Tags — an installation option which allows a user to make a tag file and use it for installation. A tag file can then be used to direct the installation program to install only the packages identified in the tag file. This is an easy way to install the same configuration on multiple systems.
- ZipSlack — An installation of Slackware that can be run from an Iomega Zip drive. Useful if you have limited disk space and do not wish to re-partition your hard drive.
Slackware is Out-Dated
Due to its status as one of the oldest Linux distributions, Slackware is often perceived as an ‘out-dated’ distribution. The pace of development of Slackware may appear to be slower than other distributions at times because Patrick Volkerding, the maintainer of Slackware, values system stability. Rather than inserting the latest unstable programs into the distribution, Patrick chooses to insert only stable, mature programs. The result is that Slackware is legendary for its system stability. Compared to other distributions, Slackware has fewer bug reports and security issues so Patrick’s emphasis on system stability is proven. With later releases, such as 4.0 and 7.0, Slackware development has actually out-paced that of other distributions.
In addition, Slackware continues to include important portions of a standard Linux distribution. For example, the ‘K’ desktop environment (KDE) is included with the Slackware 3.9 and 4.0 releases, while Gnome is also included in Slackware 7.0. The programs that most people associate with a ‘complete’ Linux distribution, such as Samba, Apache, and Netscape Communicator are all included as part of a Slackware Distribution.