I usually prefer VirtualBox for my non-commercial virtualization needs, but since I already had VMware Player 6.0.2 installed on a Windows 8.1 64-bit host I decided go with it for my Slackware Linux 64-bit guest.
To get any kind of performance and functionality on the guest system, it’s necessary to install VMware Tools. This should in theory be as easy as navigating to “Manage” => “Install VMware Tools…” from the Player menu, but in my case this got me nowhere. The expected result was having the guest operating system mounting the VMware Tools installation CD, but that just didn’t work.
After reading through the vmware.log the problem became pretty obvious.
For some reason my VMware Player installation was missing the linux.iso which contains the actual VMware Tools. I have no idea if this is a bug or just a calculated oversight on VMware’s behalf, but either way it’s rather annoying.
After some digging around I found the packages I needed at vmware.com. Be aware that the packages are organized by Player version and build number, so make sure you pick whatever matches your installation.
Download the file named tools-linux-9.6.2.exe.tar and extract the archive. Subsequently run the tools-linux-9.6.2.exe file. This will create the linux.iso containing the VMware tools in your VMware Player installation folder.
With the linux.iso image in place, the “Install VMware Tools” procedure will now work as expected by auto mounting the CD image.
The following commands are for installing VMware Tools on Slackware Linux 14.1 64-bit. The installation require a working build environment, which you’ll have with a full Slackware installation.
cd /media/VMware\ Tools/
tar zxf VMwareTools-9.6.2-1688356.tar.gz -C /tmp/
# change to root, create the expected pam directory and execute the installer
With a Slackware guest you’ll do fine with the default options as suggested by the installer. When the installation completes, log out and restart X and you’re done.
The screenshots below show Slackware booting with VMware tools installed, and using the unity mode which allow guest applications on the host system desktop.
I did a review of Slackware Linux 14.0 a year ago and I was unsure as to whether I should make another one or not. There is rarely much change from a user point of view between different Slackware releases, and I expected to end up ripping off most of my previous review. Speaking of which, for a more well rounded assessment of Slackware Linux, please check out the Slackware 14.0 review.
Anyhow, since I don’t expect to see an abundance of Slackware 14.1 reviews around the interwebs, I have chosen to give it another go. In an effort to add something new to this review I’ll revisit an old nemesis, namely the K Desktop Environment (KDE). This review is based on Slackware Linux 14.1 RC.2 towards the final 14.1 release.
Slackware Linux 14.1 x86_64 has been installed and reviewed on the following system:
Intel Core i7 2630QM
8 GB RAM
Geforce GTX 460M 1.5GB GDDR5 VRAM
HD 500GB 7200rpm
Display 17.3″ Full HD (1920×1080)
What’s new with Slackware Linux 14.1
Slackware 14.1 brings a collection of fresh desktop environments including KDE 4.10.5, Xfce 4.10.1 and Fluxbox 1.3.5. The Linux kernel version is 3.10.17 from the 3.10.x branch, which will be getting long-term support. As stated in the release notes, the biggest change with the 14.1 release is probably the added support for systems running UEFI firmware (x86_64 release only). Please refer to the official release notes for details.
Me, a slacker?
You might have heard that Slackware is predominantly a distribution for developers and IT-professionals due to its alleged complexity and lack of graphical configuration tools. An opinion often attributed to people who have never used Slackware, as you would be hard pressed to find a less complex and effortless operating system to maintain. There is really only one requirement to be a Slacker, and that is the willingness to spend the needed hours to learn the basics.
Installation is done with a user friendly ncurses based installer. The visuals might look a bit intimidating to new users but it’s actually very simple to understand and follow. In comparison, I’ve used graphical installers where I had to google for instructions as the absence of logic was complete.
Pkgtool is a menu-driven package maintenance tool provided with the Slackware Linux distribution. It allows the user to install, remove, or view software packages through an interactive system. Pkgtool can also be used to re-run the menu-driven scripts normally executed at the end of a Slackware installation.
Source: man pkgtool
Slackpkg is a tool for those who want to easily install or upgrade packages via the network. With slackpkg, you can have a minimal installation of Slackware Linux and install/upgrade only those packages you need the most.
Source: man slackpkg
KDE 4.10.5 – An unexpected journey
In the past, my experience with KDE 4.x has been one of disappointment. Frequent crashes, an indexing service that terrorized all available system resources, and an overall sluggish performance made me favor the always-reliable Xfce desktop.
My initial run of KDE 4.10.5 made me realize that this project is getting back on track as far as I’m concerned. There was an unfamiliar eerie sound of silence upon loading the desktop environment. No fans hitting the roof, nor cpu’s heating up to critical levels burning my lap. Everything was running so smoothly that I had to check if Akonadi was actually running. Furthermore, the Nepomuk indexing service seems to be able to do its file indexing while the user is idle, thus no longer competing for the same resources at the same time. I was also quite impressed with how well Nepomuk integrates and works with the Dolphin file manager. My only issue with Nepomuk is the lack of support for everyone’s favourite proprietary formats as this creates a need to install another full text indexing engine.
Still, I’m almost tempted to get onboard with the whole idea of a semantic desktop which seems to a key factor in the long term vision of the KDE developers. A stable Akonadi framework is essential for the KDE desktop experience as multiple applications depend on it. For instance, you cannot run KMail, KAddressBook or KOrganizer without having Akonadi enabled.
In the past I’ve been advised to just disable all the semantic desktop services, but I don’t really see the point of running KDE without them. In my opinion you should either use the desktop as the developers intended, or you should find yourself a better alternative.
My biggest concern with embracing this framework though is the overall complexity. When something does break, you might have a hard time identifying the cause of the problem.
By a cruel trick of faith, Akonadi did crash on me after three weeks of smooth sailing. In my case it was due to a mysqlcheck zombie process (owned by the Akonadiserver) which prevented Akonadi from starting up. I thought initially that it might be caused due to a corrupt table that mysqlcheck could not restore but alas, that was not the case. The error log pointed at the Aria database engine as the root of the problem, but I was unable to find the cause after further investigating.
I could easily enough kill the akonadi_control and akonadiserver processes respectively to get Akonadi going again, but the same issue returned on every boot. After getting none the wiser from reading through similar issues on the KDE forums, I decided to surrender and delete my Akonadi folder to start with a blank sheet. Since then, everything has worked flawlessly but it makes me a bit hesitant to commit to KDE at this point.
Still, if you’ve been using Slackware and avoided KDE since the 3.x series, this might be the right time to give KDE 4.x another go. Even though I experienced some unfortunate errors, I will definitely spend more time with KDE, and that is something I would never have considered a couple of years ago.
Slackware supports most media formats out of the box with few exceptions. However, if you want to enjoy your dvd collection you will have to install some additional codecs. You may pick up what you need in that regard at the slackbuilds.org site.
When it comes to Adobe Flash, your best option is to install Google Chrome from the official extra repository, which has the Adobe Flash Player integrated.
Look and feel
There is no theming or other distro specific customization with Slackware Linux. Everything is as close to the vanilla sources as possible. Below are screenshots of the different desktop environments included.
I’ll keep this short as my word count warning is flashing red. Slackware Linux 14.1 is what the constant Slacker expects: stable, reliable and true to its KISS policy.
Slackware might not be the most forgiving distribution for the Linux novice, but unless your goal is to remain a novice I can’t find any reason as to why you shouldn’t give it a spin.
Once upon a time Slackware Linux was the distribution everybody was using. Those days are long gone but the fact that Slackware is still plodding on speaks volumes of the project’s durability and quality.
A big thanks goes to Patrick Volkerding and the Slackware development team for keeping this project alive.
Pentium(R) 4 CPU 2.40GHz
80GB Maxtor HDD
nVidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 GPU
Turtle Beach Santa Cruz sound card
Year manufactured: 2002
During the easter holiday my Dell Studio 1735 died suddenly without hope of resurrection.
This left me with my Windows 7 based gaming rig for all computer related endeavors.
Windows 7 might be one of the better operating systems to ever come out of Redmond, but after a few days of consistent usage it was clear to me that my days as a Windows user was numbered.
The only viable option apart from setting up a dual boot environment on my gaming station was to drag down an old Dell Dimension from the attic. This particular workstation was over a decade old and I was curios as to wether an installation of the latest Slackware Linux 14.0 was even possible. I am aware that there are distributions who specializes on revitalizing older hardware, but I’ve yet to experience hardware that Slackware couldn’t handle.
I performed the default installation but skipped the KDE package series as my aim was to configure a lightweight desktop. There were no problems during the installation as far as I can remember and hardware detection was never an issue. It went pretty much like any other installation I’ve performed albeit a bit slower.
I decided to pick Fluxbox as my default window manager as speed and responsiveness was of an essence. This decision came somewhat reluctantly as I’ve always considered Fluxbox to a bit underwhelming and feature lacking. After doing some reasearch and reading through the Fluxbox wiki, I soon realized I was wrong on all accounts when judging Fluxbox as stale and feature lacking. Actually, you might customize, tweak and style Fluxbox to any length, and best of all, it’s dead simple.
The desktop experience was above expectations. This Dimension 8200 workstation has never been more responsive and the system fired on all cylinders. As for hardware issues, I did not notice any problems. Even some exotic components like the Santa Cruz sound card worked out of the box.
I installed the Midori web browser and PCManFM file manager to have some lightweight applications for common tasks in addition to the default selection of software. After installing the flash plugin I was also able to enjoy YouTube videos without issues, although 720p and above resulted in choppy video as expected. The same holds true for viewing media files in high definition, but the system was never designed with those resolutions in mind. The only time old hardware really became an issue was when compiling software from source as that process would go on for quite a few hours.
Anyhow, I am pleased to see that there is still a decent life to be had for an aging Dell Dimension 8200 when powered by a modern Linux based operating system. It also speak of the quality of the old Dell Dimension series that I was even able to turn it on after all these years. Those old timers were really built to last.