There are a number of things I catch myself going back to, such as Movies - “The thing”, “Alien”, “LOTR”; Books - “Tolkien” and software - “Slackware” (to say the least). No matter how far I wander off in the Linux scene, I somehow end up back to the same old up-to-date, reliable and ever lasting Slackware. There is just something odd in using this specific Linux distribution that I find contentment in. Regardless how complicated it might seem (not!), the stability it provides is just invaluable.
I went back and forth with using Slackware throughout the years. A stretch with version 10.0, and some time again with the version 14.0. Around 2014, I had a customized home server running Slackware. It almost became boring as it was working just fine and I almost forgot about it’s existence (uptime of over a year). That’s something to brag about with Slackware, it just keeps on running, nearly forever.
The long-term goal I’m aiming for is to create a mini series of posts, in order to “rediscover” the distribution again. Starting from installing the -current (development and most up to date) branch up to checking some specific software I find of interest. Writing about it makes me reassess and grasp some specific areas, furthermore, I can present a fairly detailed overview of the distro to the keen reader.
The latest stable release is Slackware 14.2, from June 2016. This doesn’t mean the project is abandoned. You need to realise that the team in charge of development is fairly small and all major decisions are made by the BDFL Patrick Volkerding. If compared to a beast like Red Hat, the current release process reflects the manpower capacity accurately.
Nevertheless, Slackware is as securely updated as many other Linux distributions. Even the latest kernel updates are promptly available for install. Most recent changes can be found in the -current branch of the project. This is where all new features are pushed and some removed, if needed.
As a note -current is also a potentially unstable branch to run on a production based server, but feel free to start from 14.2 if running with no prior experience.
All right, the main question; how does one get Slacware current up and running? What are the steps involved?
Going forward, you’ll find a fairly rough list consisting of several key steps.
- Getting hold of -current:
- Booting and installing
- before installing the system, /boot - /root - /home - /swap partitions should be created using fdisk or cfdisk utility programs (refer to this detailed documentation wiki).
- a recommended way of keeping stuff private and secure, LUKS encrypted systems. Take a look at the steps here on how to do it properly.
- Choosing packages
- it is better to do a full install of all packages in order to get a system with most dependencies (perhaps skip KDE if it’s not going to be used). This will ease installing newer programs and decrease the search of dependent libraries.
After a successful installation you get to a black screen and blinking cursor… What now? This is where you log in as root and continue tweaking the system to your needs.
Create a user
$ adduser slackuser
Update the system database
You can then use the locate utiliy
Slackpkg is the main package management utility. In order to configure it correctly, edit the /etc/slackpkg/mirrors and uncomment the desired mirror. The next step is to blacklist the kernel updates, you don’t want to update the kernel every time you want to update installed software. That should be done in a controlled manner. Edit /etc/slackpkg/blacklist and uncomment the kernel entries. After this setup, run the first update of the system.
$ slackpkg update $ slackpkg upgrade-all
Tired of always running X manually?
- edit the runlevels in /etc/inittab. Set it to Level 4
Startup daemons or programs?
- configure /etc/rc.d/
Installing new packages?
On everyday usage
You probably don’t want to be logged in as root all the time, setup sudo and required permissions.
- Using visudo you can control which user can do elevated commands
- add the new user config: username ALL=(ALL) ALL
- make sure that the user is part of the wheel group
Slackware is a do-it-yourself-all type of distribution. Most of the tweaking and installing will require the user to search over forums and documentation (and you’ll get to know your Linux very well).
What you get in return is a system you understand and know what software is running with - no black box magic here! The posts will follow the same Slackware thinking, so I will avoid writing fully detailed guides.
Progress of this series will probably continue with setting up mail, sboinstall and alike.