Slackware Linux 13.0 (32-bit) Review
Xfce 4.6.1 and GIMP 2.6.6
I recently upgraded all of my home computers to the latest Slackware
Linux 13.0 (32-bit). In this article, I present my impressions of the
newest version of Slackware.
As a long-time Unix user, I was first exposed to Unix v7, BSD 4.x, and
SunOS at U.C. Berkeley in the early 1980s. At work from the late 1980s
until around 2000, I used Xenix, System V, UTS, SunOS, AIX, and HP-UX.
From 2000 to the present, pretty much all of my work has been done using
On my home computers, I like Slackware Linux because it is extremely
Unix-like. Everything works as a Unix user would expect. I often joke
that Slackware Linux is more Unix-like than some genuine Unixes I have
used (1990s AIX and HP-UX had their personalities).
Slackware Linux 13.0 contains a large number of enhancements and bug
fixes, including a fix for a critical security bug in the Linux kernel.
It is worth upgrading for the latter reason alone. Slackware 13.0 is
also the first Slackware to offer a 64-bit version, which I plan to run
when I purchase my next computer.
I downloaded the Slackware 13.0 directory tree from the Oregon State
University Open Source Lab. A total of 3.6 GBytes of files required 13
hours to download over 768Kbit DSL. After verifying the md5sum, I
created a bootable DVD using the supplied instructions.
Slackware 13.0 installed and booted without difficulty on all three of
my home computers: a Dell XPS T750r desktop (2000), a Dell Dimension
8300 desktop (2003), and a Dell Inspiron E1505 laptop (2006). Because
the hardware is several years old, the device drivers are all quite
One of the benefits of Slackware is that it is extremely customizable.
I always apply my own customizations, but over the years, the number of
customizations needed has decreased.
In 2004, I compiled a custom kernel to obtain proper hardware support.
Today, the stock hugesmp.s kernel comes pre-configured with the correct
hardware support. In the future, I may build a custom kernel to reduce
the number of unneeded drivers and kernel options, but in this age of
gigabyte memories and terabyte disks, reducing the size of the kernel
hardly seems worthwhile.
X Window System
Xorg setup proceeded smoothly via xorgsetup. I made only three changes
to the default xorg.conf file:
- I disabled the use of HAL for the keyboard and mouse.
- I specified scanning rates for my old CRT monitors.
- I disabled the composite extension since it has caused slowness in
These were accomplished with the following:
Option "AllowEmptyInput" "false"
Option "AutoAddDevices" "false"
Option "AutoEnableDevices" "false"
ModelName "DELL M992"
HorizSync 30.0 - 96.0
VertRefresh 50.0 - 160.0
Option "Composite" "false"
2D support for the ATI Radeon X1300 graphics chip worked perfectly. As
in previous versions, 3D hardware does not appear to be supported by the
open-source radeon driver. But that is fine with me! I much
prefer a stable open-source driver over the closed-source and sometimes
problematic ATI fglrx driver.
Video playback was smooth and problem-free on all three computers.
Hardware Device Support
As I previously noted, Linux hardware support is quite good. Gone are
the days when one would expect only a fraction of the computer's
peripherals to work with Linux.
I am pleased to report that the iwl3945 wireless reliably connects
every time. Previous versions seemed to connect only most of the time.
Slackware 13.0 includes gphoto2 to support digital cameras. I no
longer needed to install this application separately.
It goes without saying that disk and wired network drivers have always
worked flawlessly. Sound cards worked right out-of-the-box (which was not
the case a few years ago).
Slackware 13.0 includes two modern desktop environments: Xfce 4.6.1 and
KDE 4.2.4. I prefer Xfce for its clean user interface, GTK+ widgets,
and minimum number of background tasks. Both desktop environments are
Slackware includes the popular Firefox 3.5.2 web browser and Thunderbird
188.8.131.52 email client. Slackware also includes a large suite of
software development tools. This is a great benefit to professional and
hobbyist programmers. In contrast, other operating systems usually do
not include any software development tools.
HAL and DBus
Slackware has for some time used HAL and DBus to auto-mount removable
media and facilitate hot-plug devices. HAL and DBus make the computer
more convenient to use, but introduce the possibility of bugs, security
holes, and small performance losses. HAL and DBus are optional.
I use removable media and hot-plug devices so infrequently that typing
mount, umount, or occasionally su is less
bothersome than living with HAL's side-effects.
HAL and DBus can be disabled with chmod gou-x /etc/rc.d/rc.hald
As with all new software, a few new bugs inevitably creep in. I noticed
two minor problems: the gcc 4.3.3 -O3 optimization level can produce
non-working code, and Xfce 4.6.1 does not remember the display resolution
between sessions on one of my three computers.
An easy workaround for the first problem is to use the -O2 optimization
level. Slackware is known for stability, and I must congratulate Pat
and the team for putting together an extremely reliable Linux
Today's Linux has become a very mature operating system. I have been
running Slackware Linux on my home computers for five years and have
been pleased with its productivity and stability.
If you are tired of battling another operating system just to keep your
computer running, you may want to try Slackware Linux.
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