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Old 08-14-2011, 06:58 AM   #1
Harrod Lumar
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Why does Slackware seem to be the one and only ?


Good morning/afternoon/evening/night

My name is Harrod Lumar and i was undertaking a degree in Mathematics. On completing this, i am now currently undertaking a degree in Computer science, majoring in Internet Cryptography. And i have a couple of questions for the community. But first...

I had never even heard of this linux, well in fact the first thing i heard of was a thing called UNIX. After discovering a "distribution" called SUSE Linux enterprise (correct if im wrong im sure thats it) that was sitting in one of the mathematics labs surrounded by 3 big black box things (im guessing they are servers or something ?) i set out to discover this UNIX, before i dug too deep. (that means study )

Before the internet i thought id look for hard evidence first, i asked about this unix, linux and what the hell it had to do with mathematics and so forth. To be honest i was a little dumbfounded.... i thought id be writing on a wall rather than entering commands into a computer......... I bit my tongue and asked what the hell they were typing on, it didnt look like Windows, a black box with green writing almost made the room alienated.

They told me this "slackware box" was were they did all they're algorithms..... etc..... etc..... and proceeded to tell me that its the one system they can work on that doesn't crash.

The part that spun me out most was the fact that these gentlemen, in whom i am working with, are outstanding mathematicians and yet they say they trust one man, Patrick (i think from memory) to produce a stable operating system for them.


Id like to ask

Who is Patrick ?

Why are all computers in mathematics (my college anyways) running slackware ?

Is slackware expensive, is there an "enterprise" edition ?

What makes slackware so much different from suse that they wont run an algorithms on SUSE ?

How does this whole campus which has 40,000+ students that have computers that all run Windows, connect to a operating system that is completely open source ?!

But most of all, why do most complex computational mathematical computers run on UNIX system, i thought i was doing mathematics, not computer science.

I appreciate everyone's time for reading this oversized post, however i intend to be a entity on this forum as i guess ill be having alot of questions in the near future. And yes, my supervisor did recently through a whole lot of unix documentation on my desk, so i guess ill call back when im a little more educated. In the meantime i thank you for any assistance and guidance your willing to offer.

BTW - if you could point me in the right direction that would be even better, although i have a pile of UNIX docos on my desk right now a push in the right direction for good documentation would be great ( i like to read ) lol

Thanks a million.

Harrod Lumar
 
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Old 08-14-2011, 07:14 AM   #2
cascade9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
Who is Patrick ?
Patrick Volkerding. Head developer of slackware. See a bit more here-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Volkerding

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
Why are all computers in mathematics (my college anyways) running slackware ?
The sysadmin/depatment head wants it that way, most likely. You would have to ask the relevant person to know for sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
Is slackware expensive, is there an "enterprise" edition ?
Not at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
What makes slackware so much different from suse that they wont run an algorithms on SUSE ?
Complicated question, lots of possible answers. I will say that slackware has a very good rep for being stable. Its not the only distro with that rep, probably the reason why the department ended up with slackware is because someone was already using it. I would guess that in the past there has been issues with running the algorithms on other distros, slackware was tried, it worked, and the department just ran on slack from then on. If that same person had of been running debian, you could have been looking at an all debian enviroment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
How does this whole campus which has 40,000+ students that have computers that all run Windows, connect to a operating system that is completely open source ?!
A better question is 'how do people on the internet, most of who are usign windows, connect to all those linux servers?'.

A large number of webservers use linux, the software needed to connect windows to *nix boxes has been around for a long time now.
 
Old 08-14-2011, 07:24 AM   #3
sycamorex
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Pat is the main guy behind Slackware. He and a small team of also very trustworthy developers work on Slackware. AFAIK, ultimately he makes all the decisions regarding this distro.
Have a look at Slackware website:
http://slackware.com/
 
Old 08-14-2011, 07:41 AM   #4
psionl0
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
The part that spun me out most was the fact that these gentlemen, in whom i am working with, are outstanding mathematicians and yet they say they trust one man, Patrick (i think from memory) to produce a stable operating system for them.
Clever people these mathematicians!

While other distros have gone for the eye candy and bells and whistles, Patrick Volkerding has stuck with the tried and true methods for setting up a Linux system. The result is a stable operating system that is easy to configure to your tastes (once you have been through a learning curve). Although Slackware is Patrick's baby, in all fairness, he has an army of dedicated slackers around the world unofficially helping with testing and the like.

You might want to read the slackbook (http://www.slackbook.org/) instead of those old Unix papers that were dumped on your desk.

The best way to learn about Slackware is to grab an old laptop and the Slackware CDs (or DVD) and start installing.
 
Old 08-14-2011, 07:52 AM   #5
wigry
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Welcome to the diverse world of operating systems.

Let me give you something to think about that is totally unrelated to computers:

You probably have used trains to go somewhere, I hope? As long as the train follows the schedule and moves you to the place you like to go with the comfortable seating, do you think about, whether the train is electric or diesel, does it have 1 locomotive or 2 locomotives, are there 5 carrages or 10 carrages, are there locomotives only in one end or both ends, is the train driver male or female, is the train produced in France or in US?

Now fast forward to the computer world. As long as one computer is able to talk to another computer, it really doesn't matter what OS they both are running. If computers have a common language to speak to, then Windows can speak with Linux.

Each time you browse the internet, each and every click you make is served by countless different devices, Cisco routers, Linux Firewalls, Apache webservers, Micrsoft IIS application servers and there are infinite other devices/platforms/solutions. Computers are connected to one big network and they are commmunicating with eachother. As long as everybody are talking the same language, the details do not matter. There are countless forums like the LQ.org in the internet. Each and everyone have different platform. Do you think abut that platform if you are posting a new message to the forum? Do you care, if it is written in Java or in PHP or in C#. Do you care if that system is running on Linux, Windows, MacOS, Solaris or even AIX?

But one I can tell you - learn any distro but Slackware, and you will learn that distro. Learn Slackware and you learn linux.

Last edited by wigry; 08-14-2011 at 07:56 AM.
 
Old 08-14-2011, 09:01 AM   #6
tronayne
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Something that may be worth understanding is that Unix or Linux -- what makes it Unix or Linux -- is the kernel; i.e., the actual operating system itself. The two are similar -- Unix was developed at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the 1970's and was discovered by a Finnish student, Linux Torvalds, who then sat down and wrote a look- work-alike that he named, well, Linux. Of particular interest may be the Wikipedia article about Torvalds at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Torvalds.

In these system the kernel is the actual operating system which you, as a user, interact with via a shell program (visualize a nut where the kernel is surrounded by the shell) in which you can write shell programs, enter commands, edit files, whatever. The shell program sits between you and the kernel. The essential design element of both systems is that everything (the hardware) is treated as and interfaced with as a file (that is, not as hardware but as a file that you can open, read from, write to and close as if it were a text file). Makes life easy, that. That's the kernel's main job, managing and interfacing with the hardware and making it easy for you to do whatever it is that you need to do.

Unix and Linux systems, from the users' point of view, are not significantly different -- the commands and utilities that you use constantly have, essentially, the same names, work in a similar fashion and are, for all practical purposes, identical (the ls utility on a Unix server, for example, looks and work just like the same utility on Linux server). The editors are the same, all sorts of things look, feel, and work similarly. The differences will show up in the eye candy -- the graphic interface that is more typically used than simply a console screen. This is not to say that there are no differences -- there certainly are -- but most of those are subtle and typically do not stand in your way.

How all this happens is that both the Unix system and Linux system follow a simple rule first described by M. Douglas McIlroy, a scientist at Bell Labs that invented the Unix pipe, who developed the Unix Philosophy simply and elegantly
Quote:
Write programs that do one thing and do it well. Write programs to work together. Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface.
Thus, in Unix and Linux systems we have a set of utilities that, in fact, do just that. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix_philosophy for a more complete discussion.

Now, Slackware.

Slackware's (well earned) reputation is that it is the most Unix-like (yup, it is) and that is is rock-solid, stable, and un-fooled-around-with (yup, that too); I have Slackware serves that have run continuously for months (in one case over a year) without problems, without rebooting, just sitting there mumbling to themselves and doing what they're supposed to do. I think that pretty much says all that needs saying about Slackware; i.e., it works.

Software developers have, probably embedded in their DNA, a propensity for "improving" things. Some of us have learned the hard lesson that if it ain't broke, don't fool with it but it can be difficult to leave well enough alone and in my opinion that's what makes Slackware stand out is a sea of fiddled-with distributions -- Slackware doesn't, others do, just can't leave things alone.

One example may be the essential text editor. The vi editor has been around since forever. Works fine (does one thing and does it well?). Along comes vim (vi improved) that, as far as I can tell, is basically eye-candy. Doesn't really edit better, isn't faster, doesn't really do too much of anything that makes life easier. A lot of people swear by it but, so far, I've not found a good reason to switch -- I'm still using the same visual editor (that's what vi is) that I've used since the 1970's and it still works just fine which is what I value the most in computer software (it works and it's stable). And, yeah, I do know that vi on Linux systems is actually elvis, a clone of vi, but I keep a copy of the AT&T ex editor source (which is what vi actually is; it's ex in visual mode) and use that simply because I prefer it.

In your mathematics work or engineering work or whatever mathematics-based work you may do probably the most critical thing you need is a solid, dependable platform upon which to do your work. You need the tools and you want those tools to be predictable and dependable (and, hey, accuracy might be a good thing, too). That you get with Linux and particularly with Slackware -- which might explain whey the department head chose and sticks with Slackware.

Hope this helps some.
 
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Old 08-14-2011, 09:19 AM   #7
H_TeXMeX_H
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
Why are all computers in mathematics (my college anyways) running slackware ?
Probably because they found out by running it that it is good and stable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
Is slackware expensive, is there an "enterprise" edition ?
It is free, and there is no enterprise edition. But, if you want to support slackware, buy it or something from the slackware store.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
What makes slackware so much different from suse that they wont run an algorithms on SUSE ?
Because SUSE isn't Slackware. I've found it to be bloated and unstable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
But most of all, why do most complex computational mathematical computers run on UNIX system, i thought i was doing mathematics, not computer science.
Because I don't think any Window$ version could handle it and remain stable and usable for very long.

If you haven't tried Slackware already do try it and it should be self-explanatory. Do read the slackbook, the install part, before installing.

Last edited by H_TeXMeX_H; 08-14-2011 at 09:20 AM.
 
Old 08-14-2011, 03:56 PM   #8
Ilgar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harrod Lumar View Post
But most of all, why do most complex computational mathematical computers run on UNIX system, i thought i was doing mathematics, not computer science.
Hi, I'm also a mathematician (I was introduced to the Unix world when I was an undergraduate: Our lab had Solaris servers, then in my 3rd year the undergrad students were given their own lab which had Red Hat computers). Regarding your question: Keep in mind that Unix was *the* OS for a very long time, that is, the only mature and reliable system you could find around. 40 years ago you wouldn't find too many computers outside the labs of universities and institutions/corporations. These would be running Unix and used for scientific/engineering research. So, as in many other fields, most of the earliest math software was written for Unix. As you probably know, mathematicians are a bit conservative , so the tradition carries on.

Another reason is that, years ago PCs were expensive and not everyone could afford a separate computer on every desk. They would rather have a strong central server computer and then the others would connect to this server via "terminal"s (a terminal is just a screen and keyboard/mouse, everything you do is actually done on the server). For many years this kind of setup was best handled by Unix, making it the most popular choice.
 
Old 08-14-2011, 04:25 PM   #9
volkerdi
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Good hello Harrod,

What a wonderful first post! First of all, I'm humbled by your kind words. I try, and I'm pleased that I've been able to indirectly assist your research. If there's anything I can help you with directly, please let me know and I'll do what I can. Meanwhile, it looks like you're getting some answers here. Welcome.

All the best,

Pat

---

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know
what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.
-- Bertrand Russell
 
1 members found this post helpful.
Old 08-14-2011, 04:54 PM   #10
sycamorex
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LOL, Harrod, you didn't expect a reply from Pat himself, did you?
 
Old 08-14-2011, 05:31 PM   #11
ramkatral
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Dude I am so jealous! First post and you get a response from THE MAN himself! What a lucky guy...
 
Old 08-14-2011, 06:36 PM   #12
el_jauzaa
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LOL, woa...he got an answer from mr pat...lucky you
 
Old 08-14-2011, 06:53 PM   #13
Harrod Lumar
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Wow.....

Thank you very much for everyone's response's and actually taking the time to read my long post. Your time and consideration is a tribute to the open source community and Linux.

the Kindest Regards, and talk again soon.

Harrod.
I got a response from pat himself!!!
 
Old 08-14-2011, 07:55 PM   #14
bgeddy
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Quote:
Harrod.
I got a response from pat himself!!!
Yes you did - wow indeed - just goes to show the openness, accessibility and interaction of Linux and in particular of Slackware itself. Your reply from Pat is almost like, in the Windows world, Bill Gates messaging you back to say "Hi - thanks for using Windows - any problems let me know" - never going to happen - no disrespect to Windows or Mr. Gates.

I appreciate you are perhaps not overawed by what's happening in your thread, I certainly am.There's a great community here who are always helpful and obviously "The Man" himself contributes here. Welcome to Slackware and good luck with your studies.
 
Old 08-14-2011, 08:07 PM   #15
ramkatral
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He just doesn't understand what just happened is all. If he uses Slackware for long, he will look back on this moment and go OMFG! As stated earlier, I'm jealous.........
 
  


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