Archive for the ‘Slackware’ Category

Slackware 13

I decided to give Slackware 13 a try on the new Thinkpad X31. Since there is no cd/dvd drive, I had to resort to unetbootin to get things going. I downloaded the dvd iso image and, through unetbootin, stuffed it on my trusty 4bg usb thumb drive. For some reason, this took 4 tries to be bootable, but did eventually work…mostly.

Slackware’s installer hasn’t changed since I started using it years ago, that I can remember. That being said, it’s a fairly straight forward and simple text interface menu system that you go through step by step. Since I was using a USB drive to install from I picked the “install from a mounted directory” option, hit alt-f2, made a directory and mounted my usb there (mkdir /linc ; mount /dev/sda1 /linc) and used the /linc/slackware directory as my source directory. Sounds a lot more complicated that it really is. The problem with that was that I apparently had a corrupt package on my usb stick and halfway through the install everything stopped. This was remedied by starting the install again and picking “ftp or http install”. I stuffed a copy of the slackware directory of the iso I had downloaded onto a spare webserver for a few minutes and pointed the installer there. That worked like a top. I selected to do a full install of everything.

Booting to Slackware was a lot tougher. Still having learning curve issues with Grub 2, I turned to the web for some help and after a few searches and trials came up with this:

exec tail -n +3 $0
menuentry “Slackware 13″ {
set root=(hd0,6)
linux /boot/vmlinuz-huge-smp- ro root=/dev/hda6

Once everything was booted (Slackware seems to boot quite fast btw), I was dropped at the familiar login prompt (no fancy gui’s here folks – at least not by default). I logged in as root and set up my regular user account.

useradd -m linc
passwd linc
* add your user to wheel
* add your user to disk
* add your user to plugdev
* add your user to power

To be honest, I have no idea if I really needed to add myself to the disk and power groups but, hey, while I was there…

From there, I logged out of root and logged in as my user and then issued a “startx” which started my fancy KDE session. To be honest, I am not all that sure I like the KDE 4 series yet. It’s a little cartoonish to me and I definitely do not like the default menu system. I haven’t used it enough to really comment on it yet though – I may just end up liking it the more familiar I become with it. The familiarity will have to wait ’till I finally get wireless working though :-)

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Call for Slackers

I had a little trouble on the last TechShow with my audio. You see, I use a CyberAudio USB headset on the show, and I recently upgraded my Ubuntu 8.04 to Ubuntu 9.04 and pulse audio makes a nice hum the entire time now with my headset. Obviously this irritates me and I decided to fix it by swapping distributions until this problem gets straightened out.

I decided I would try Fedora 11. It sure looked sweet at the South East Linux Fest I was recently at. I had heard that there was some issue with the installer and it’s handling of ext4 in the partitioner and I *thought* I heard it was better to install from dvd as opposed to the live cd. I grabbed them both to be sure. Well, neither of them worked and bombed during the install. I have heard many people going through the fixes for this and a host of apologetics, however, let me just say that this is really bad form for Fedora to issue media that you cannot install from. I can tell you for certain that I was not going to try and beat this on my laptop especially with so many other options out there. I suspect the same can be said for many many other people. Fedora folks, you’ll really have to get it together for your next release!

Next I decided to go for Slackware. 2 opposite ends of the same coin. I have run Slackware for a long long time, but mostly use it as a server. I haven’t used it in a desktop setting for quite a while and the thought of it sounded like fun. I even recently did a vm install and was thrilled with the results, giving sbopkg a whirl and really enjoying it! Well, as expected, the install went flawlessly. You just can’t beat Slackware’s text installer. The problems I had were after the install, but I’ll get to those later.

Since I actually had some work I needed to do that day, I decided to reach for a quick install that I knew would just do the right thing right away. That was Linux Mint 7. I popped in the cd (yes, you can still get a great linux OS on a CD – not DVD) and in a minute I was using the live cd. About 20 minutes later I was completely installed and working. There is definitely something to be said for that! I am still using it now, in fact, that’s what I am writing this post from, and I will probably continue to do so until something better seems to come along. As I have said before, if you haven’t tried Mint yet, you probably should.

All that being said, this post is really about Slackware. I said I had some problems with Slackware on my laptop, and probably, some of them are just related to using Slackware on a laptop. Things like wireless and widescreen displays are issues that I would expect to see, mostly… By this time, I figured Slackware could do a decent job of autodetecting your X configuration and making my laptop display work. Nope. I just put that on the mental “I need to address this” list and plod on. I add my user and startx, and find that I have no wireless. Now, it’s been a while since I have used KDE, but I was sure there was some program like networkmanager to get my wireless going. What I find out is that my Atheros is not even detected. Strike two for the laptop install. It was after that that I remembered the biggest barrier to using Slackware as a Desktop solution. There is no useful codec support in there. Can’t play any of my media files, watch flash video, etc., etc., etc..

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Slackware. It’s a fantastic distribution and I have long held that if you want to learn RedHat, you install RedHat, if you want to learn Ubuntu, you install Ubuntu and if you want to learn Linux, you install Slackware. Some of my problems, as I said before, I will just chalk up to the oddities of laptop installs, even though I think, at this point, that’s making excuses. I would, however, still like to get my main workstation at home running the Slack again. That being the case, I am going to want some things on there to make my life easier. After all, that’s the name of the game right? You have a computer to help make things easier for you and not more complicated.


Now, years ago there used to be a program called Automatix that did just this sort of thing for Ubuntu. Later it was replaced by Ultamatix, and recently, you can just pretty much install VLC and be done with it. What I would like to see is something similar for Slackware. I see that you can, fairly easily, get some of this done by using sbopkg and weeding through the menus and selecting the appropriate things, if you can find them, from the menus. I, personally, think this is still too cumbersome, How about an sbopkg like system, or even a simple script that does what automatix used to do, but does it for a modern Slackware? Anyone willing to bite? How about it Chess?Dann?Anyone?

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Linux training

I am sure some of you have been wondering why I recently dropped off the face of the earth. Well, my company sent me to RedHat training last week.

Now most of you know I have been “doing” Linux for a very long time. Some of you may recall that I used RedHt early on, however, I was disenchanted with them around the RedHat 6.0 (pre Enterprise) when they started messing with their compiler, etc. I switched to Slackware at that time and haven’t really used RH until a year ago when I was hired as a Linux admin in a primarily RH shop.

All that being said, I went to some intensive RedHat training last week and I have to say that not only did I learn an enormous amount, but after working that hard with RHEL, my opinions have definitely changed. RedHat has come a long way baby!

The primary problem with RedHat that I used to see was rpm. I absolutely hated to be stuck in rpm dependency hell, where you would try and install an rpm only to have it tell you that you needed to fill a dependency first, and then have that one tell you the same thing until you were just fed up with the whole process. Well, this has been addressed with RedHat’s adoption of YUM. Yum now takes care of dependency tracking and fulfillment similarly to apt-get.

Once I realized that hurdle was past, I started to appreciate the huge strides that they have put into getting their Linux product enterprise ready. There really is a lot of spit and polish that has gone into things since the last time I really looked under the RedHat hood. If you haven’t looked in a while, I encourage you to do so.

The thing I was particularly impressed with is the uniformity and ease of service installs. Now I know that many of you are used to installing things like bind and dhcp and apache and sendmail/postfix, etc., what have you, on lots of other linux platforms, but there really seemed to be a uniformity to all this under RedHat, and the initial configurations or supplied config files seemed to be saner somehow. Most notably to me was the difference in ease of install for bind or sendmail between RHEL5x and any recent Ubuntu release. It could be that I had the training manual in hand, but it just seemed more ready to go and easier to change the config if you had to.

The other thing I have really come to appreciate recently, partly because of my job, is the enterprise attention to securing the server. RHEL does a good job at this with asking you for information during the install to help you start out with a working firewall and SELinux set up and running. Now, while I still see SELinux as a huge pain in the behind, the fact is that it does do it’s job if you let it, and does it well.

And, since I had spent a week doing RHEL and deciding it really is a good distribution choice for servers, I wanted to see what I could do for home use. Now RHEL costs some money, and if you are a business, and maybe even personally, the price may be right for support and the use of the RHN (RedHat Network), but for me, I want something a bit more inexpensive. Yeah, I am cheap ;-)

Basically, there are 2 well known RedHat derivatives. The first is Fedora, which is a community distribution that RHEL is actually based on. Fedora is a lot more bleeding edge than the current RHEL, though, so in some instances, things just don’t match between the two. My personal criteria, however, is to be able to use something at home that is as similar as possible to what I use at work. For that, I turned to CentOS, which is a distribution that is compiled directly from the RHEL sources and rebadged.

I have done a couple installs, a lot of poking around, some direct comparisons with the RedHat manual in hand, and I can state that this certainly seems to be the case. Everything I have done over the past week has direct application to my CentOS server with the exception being the logos and color scheme (and I actually like CentOS’s better).

Now, I probably won’t be using CentOS for a desktop or workstation anytime soon. And I probably won’t be using it as the ONLY type of Linux server either, after all, I really still love Slackware, but chances are very good that I will be running CentOS at home somewhere and surely RedHat at work. If you’re looking for an enterprise level Linux server environment, you really owe it to yourself than to give one of them a try.

Verdict = It’s good stuff!

Saturday, June 7th, 2008