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?

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