Slacky diary: building up the system

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This is already my fourth day spending time with Slackware 12.2 and after a lot of asking around, downloading stuffs, running scripts, installing things, I’ve had quite a decent OS now. For a newbie as I am to make it this far, Linux has proved to be making considerable progress in the computing world, though Slackware is by no means for casual desktop users who just want things to work without getting their hands dirty.

Noticeably, I managed to get XFCE, OpenBox, Enlightenment, the three lightweight desktop environments up and running. XFCE4 is by far my favorite desktop in terms of simplicity and functionality. What I like about XFCE is that it doesn’t pre-create non-existent menu items like XMMS, it loads very fast and is very responsive. However, it stops working if I switch too much between console mode and gui mode, which is a minus (i doubt other desktops will have this same problem). OpenBox is better than Blackbox but doesn’t appeal much to me. Enlightenment has the most eye-catching one with all the shining effects and polished graphics.

Additional plugins for XFCE4, such as a task manager, dictionary, screenshot taker, etc. can be downloaded and installed from here: http://slackbuilds.org/result/?search=xfce4&sv=12.2 Unlike other Linux distros, Slackware doesn’t have a complex package management system. You will have to manually install individual packages and its dependencies, though you don’t need every dependency as software is configured and built for your particular system. Installing software is much easier than expected with the help of the folks from Slackbuild.org. You can check out the “How-to” here: http://slackbuilds.org/howto/ It’s not as easy as Synaptics but that’s the point of Slackware. Enlightenment can be built in the same way (search for Enlightenment in the Search box of Slackbuilds) but you will need to get 5 or 6 libraries before that. Fortunately SlackE17 (http://slacke17.sourceforge.net/) makes life easier: you jjust need to download one package and run one script and that’s it. I opted for the first method because I wanted to get used to the command line. :)

For music, I chose Audacious, a xmms-like audio player which supports a lot of audio codecs, including mp3 and wma. It’s on Slackbuilds too. For video, VLC has been my favorite. I used the unofficial package from AlienBob here: http://www.slackware.com/~alien/slackbuilds/vlctest/pkg/12.1/ As you may know (or possibly not), the latest version of VLC is based on Qt4, and AlienBob’s included Qt4 support in his, which is nice.

I wanted to build the native Broadcom STA wireless driver instead of the default b43 module but it’s rather complicated. So far B43 is good enough at home and I’m looking into moving to the native driver soon, once I know how to do it, that is. Skype is good, with no speaking ability though. Pidgin, rtorrent, xchat, wicd, OO3, and a few other things are now working well. The funny thing I found out about OO3 was that the whole installation process from source took only 10 minutes! Wicd is in many ways better and easier to use than Network Manager IMHO.

Slackware has recently adopted HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer), which allows plug-and-play devices such as memory sticks to be automounted. However, there’s one problem with HAL: users have to be added to the “plugdev” group in order to enjoy this feature. It’s quite easy to do though: edit “/etc/group” and add the user to plugdev. Example: plugdev:x:83:root,fresco20. It is advisable that you should add yourself to other groups such as audio, cdrom, video, power too. I should have done it when creating “fresco20″ but anyway it is OK.

In the coming days I will digg (ok, it should be dig, but well, who cares) try to work on SCIM for Vietnamese typing. In Ubuntu that would be one click away. Apart from that, I’ll just fool around Slackbuilds and pick up interesting stuffs. I think Slackbuilds has all the bleeding edge software just like Ubuntu or openSUSE, it just requires you to do manual jobs with commands. Maybe I should also try Compiz too :)

Again, the folks at ##slackware has been extremely helpful (and tolerant with my silly questions). If you want to try out Slackware the easy way, do a full install and you won’t even care about anything. Or maybe you will complain about how things just work and you don’t have anything to do like this guy: http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/slackware-14/complaint-about-slackware-12.2-690400/

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2 Responses to Slacky diary: building up the system

  1. Hi there;
    Not so long ago I had an absolute winning combination of Slackware + Enlightenment DR16 over the standard KDE stack (konqueror, kdepim and such). DR16 is very different, much faster and complies better with other tools (got a systray, for a start, and requires only imlib2). Slackware was the only distro I ever met where you can compile code out of the box without having to download more GCC and Make stuff. My most funky achievement in E DR 16 is to set different terminals as backgrounds, so I don’t switch back and forth like you! Nerdy & classy! When you get bored, try Gentoo, but only with some aspirin at hand. Cheers.

  2. AnhHung says:

    Hi Jean,

    I wonder if I ever met you in Barcamp Phnom Penh :)

    The whole idea of getting Slacware is to try out new things, that’s why I prefer to switch back and forth to see what I like. I haven’t made a switch to E17 yet since I’m still busy building apps. Gentoo is way too time-consuming so I would second that.

    Enjoy Cambodia.

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