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-   -   Would like to hearWould love to hear some input from Slackware and Debian users (

PingFloyd 08-11-2006 06:24 PM

Would like to hearWould love to hear some input from Slackware and Debian users
I'm having some hard times making up my mind. I've been Running with Debian, but I'm seriously contemplating putting Slackware on my system. I have pretty limited storage so it will probably mean inevadibly wiping out the system to install Slackware. I may be able to squeeze my Debian onto another smaller HD I got handy though. At least temporarily.

First off, I do like Debian. It seems to have some nice things going for it, but there are of course a few things I don't like about it. Like I find it hard to follow where things are located on it. Maybe it's just me, but how it lays out the filesystem and configuration related files seems a bit confusing for me. I like it's packaging system, but I'm starting to find that I prefer more direct control over managing the packages on my system. The ease of use is nice, but sometimes doing things in a more involved manner helps me in that it helps me have a better grasp over what's going on with depencies and where things are ending up on the filesystem etc. Since I've been getting the hang of compiling source, I find that I'm starting to prefer that. It also helps me learn alot.

I've messed a little bit with Slackware way way back. I thought it was pretty good. In fact, I was also messing around with Debian back then also. And there again, I had troubles making up my mind.

Another factor for me is that my system is pretty old so having something streamlined is pretty important since my resources are pretty limited.

Anyway, I don't want to start any distro religion wars. Instead, I'm hoping to get some feedback from both Distro users about what they think are the strengths of either distro. The best feedback would be from users that have used both extensively and can tell me what their impressions are. To me, they both seem like excellent distros. Hence why I'm having a hard time making up my mind.

I guess my goals are to find the distro that is best for learning Linux inside and out and that has good performance (I don't mind things being a bit challenging as long as they follow a good logic). Of course, in a way, I guess that's where customization comes in. But one thing I liked about Slackware was that it seems like it sticks to the standards tightly. I really like the idea of that. Is that an accurate assessment?

I'd love to hear any objective thoughts from anyone.

rickh 08-11-2006 06:29 PM

PatrickMay16 08-11-2006 07:26 PM

Yo, Pingfloyd. Sorry to say that don't really know much on the subject, but I'm interested; what is the specification of your machine? I'm interested in people using Linux with limited resources.

AAnarchYY 08-11-2006 07:53 PM

Using slackware will make you teh 1337

Nah just kidding, anyway...

Ive used both. more slack than deb. I was just never fond of how debian did some things. Vector Linux is a slackware based distrobution specificaly geared towards older hardware, you may want to check it out.

carlosinfl 08-11-2006 08:24 PM

I am a Debian user and must say I love it and would not switch but would like to try Slackware once - I tried 10.1 when it was new and the install was very hard - I struggled with the partitioner but would like to try again.

IBall 08-11-2006 10:21 PM

If you can, I would recommend getting another hard drive. Then you can have both.

I have used both Slackware and Debian, and I much prefer Debian. Slackware is nice for playing with, but Debian is better to get some work done.


PingFloyd 08-11-2006 11:39 PM


Originally Posted by PatrickMay16
Yo, Pingfloyd. Sorry to say that don't really know much on the subject, but I'm interested; what is the specification of your machine? I'm interested in people using Linux with limited resources.

I'm almost embarrased to say lol. I'm running...
  1. Asus P2L97 motherboard with the version 1010.4 Award beta BIOS (LM78 support version)
  2. PII 300 Mhz Klamath 512K L2 cache
  3. Matrox Mystique video card
  4. Sound Blaster AWE32 PnP with a Roland SCD-15 wavetable midi daughter card
  5. 128MB SDRAM
  6. Quantum Fireball ST 6.4
  7. Western Digital WDC AC32500H
  8. Western Digital WDC AC32500H
  9. Some CD-ROM I can't remember the make and model LOL
  10. Some Linksys 10/100 full duplex NIC I can't remember the exact model off hand

Seems to run Debian pretty good. Been nice and stable so far even when I run a ton of resource hungy apps simultaneously in Gnome. Of course due to my anemic amount of memory it can sometimes get a little sluggish under those circumstances since it has to do alot of paging, but I don't really expect miracles lol. I'm actually rather surprised it runs as good as it does for being as old it is. I kid you not that the hard drives are around 10+ years old. I've had some incredible luck with this system *knock on wood* in terms of stability and life. I'm sure I'm way past the MTBF for all of it's hardware. Gotta love Linux.

BTW: thanks for all the input so far.

carlosinfl 08-12-2006 09:06 AM

Wow - that is a classic.

AAnarchYY 08-12-2006 05:48 PM

vector linux should run beautifuly on that machine.

J.W. 08-12-2006 07:06 PM

I think you might be better with Slackware, given your specs and your desire to exercise maximum control over the installation. Debian's a fine distro, and I played around with it for a while, but I can't avoid coming back to my first love, Slack.

Relative to your situation, Upgradeability: Debian's apt-get utility makes it virtually painless to stay current, and Slackware lacks a native equivalent tool. (Yes, I'm aware of slapt-get, etc, but it's not officially part of Slackware) Advantage: Debian. Stability: Debian prides itself on stability (note the incredibly long interval between releases) but Slack likewise avoids including any "so-new-that-they-are-not-really-tested" packages (note that Slack 10.2 uses the 2.4.x kernel) Advantage: Tie score. Legacy Support: Both Slack and Debian support older machines, but I believe the Slack installation process allows you greater control over the packages that ultimately get installed on your box. Advantage: Slackware. Community: Slack's official form is LQ. Advantage: Slack

Overall: Slackware

Just my two cents

Mara 08-13-2006 06:21 AM

Moved to Linux-Distributions, as it's a technical, Linux-related question.

truthfatal 08-13-2006 06:55 AM

I'll have to agree with J.W. on this one.

I'm sure Debian is great, but I've never used it so I can't comment on it.

Slackware Doesn't hold your hand, especially when it comes to Package management. It does have package management tools "installpkg" "removepkg" and "upgradepkg". They are used by "pkgtool" but it does no depedancy checking, nor does it have the ability to download your .tgz'z for you. That's a good thing as far as I am concerned.
The config files are very well commented, so configuring things via text editor is beautifully simple.
As for upgradeability - I find rsync and upgradepkg just as easy as any 'package manager' - just sync with /patches/ and upgrade (after reading the Changelog)

vharishankar 08-14-2006 01:42 AM


While Slackware does allow you to have a *cleaner* system by default than Debian, but the price is more user involvement and doing nearly every task manually. Both systems get out of the way and allow the users to take control.

Both are extremely conservative distributions (in their "stable" branches) which you'll find that they don't ship the latest and greatest packages, thus making them ideal for mission-critical servers or workstations.

Both require a good grasp of the command line since neither provides GUIs for deeper level configurations (unlike YaST2 in SUSE).

Debian and Slackware are also nearly unbreakable unless you do funny things with it.


In terms of the philosophy of Free Software versus Open Source, you'll find Debian closer to the Free Software/GNU roots (no coincidence that it's officially called Debian GNU/Linux) while Slackware is closer to the BSD roots. If you read up the history of the GNU movement, you'll find the reason for my observation

Slackware is also technically a commercial distribution (the maintainer makes money through official sales of Slackware CDs but the OS is still Free for download and use) while Debian is a purely community project.

The Debian Project's main goal is to create a GNU operating system across several platforms, while Slackware is focussed on Linux for the x86 architecture. Debian is a huge community project, while Slackware is more or less a focussed distro with a small group of core developers.

In short, Debian is meant to be an OS that uses the Linux kernel (and a few others as well), while Slackware is pure Linux tailored to be as close as possible to its UNIX roots. This might not sound very important, but many design philosophies of these OSes arise from this primary difference.

Another more practical difference which I believe is important for many users:

the Debian software repository is *huge*, probably the single biggest collection of Free Software put together in one distribution, while the official Slackware distribution is much smaller. So if you software needs are exotic you might find Debian more to your taste. Sometimes, compiling and getting certain exotic packages in Slackware may be more painful that getting your tooth extracted without local anaesthetic. While many Slackers swear by the source-compile technique, but there are certain software which will refuse to compile on your system for a variety of reasons. I find the success-failure ratio for compiling from source to be roughly 70:30. For every ten packages you compile from source, 7 will work perfectly, 2 will have minor issues while 1 will be near impossible to compile and install.

The way the two distros lay out their configuration files and the way the default kernels are configured is also very different in the two distros. The Debian official kernel is very modular while Slackware's is more "stock".

There are other interesting and subtle differences too numerous to mention but more of academic interest than any practical ones.

Very interesting that two of the oldest distros should evolve along such completely different philosophies while still having a lot in common...

My Choice:

I find both distributions attractive in their own ways. I am ideologically closer to GNU so I am a fan of Debian, but I am also fascinated by Slackware's approach to system configuration which makes the user take full control of every detail thus making it rock-solid and stable.


I've got flamed in newsgroups for my perceived anti-Slackware attitude, but in reality I'm not anti-anything but pro-Linux. And yes, I am biased if you will, but at least I try and bring out all the points in favour of both sides.

PingFloyd 08-23-2006 10:45 PM

I went ahead and installed Arch about a week after starting my original post here.

I'm really liking it. To me, it feels like it shares some of the strengths that Slackware and Debian have individually. Seems to have that KISS philosophy of Slackware that makes it great for learning Linux and being open-ended for total customization while at the same time having a great packing management systems and repos like Debian is famous for thereby making it a breeze to manage the software on it.

I guess to sum it up, so far it feels like having the best of both worlds and seems to have really good performance on my ancient system. I think the good performance may be due to Arch's mandate that all packages are compiled for i686 optimization, and that I also started off leaner and built up with only what I need and want. On my Debian installation I had gnome installed. However, my arch installation has quite a few GTK2 apps installed. So I think that I probably do have some of the same overhead as I had on the Debian system, but probably not quite as much since I don't have full blown gnome installed. For instance, this time I'm using mozilla firefox for my web browser instead of mozilla gecko and seem to get better performance when browsing most of the time (I assume that firefox tends to be more demanding that gecko in of itself). This leads me to believe that difference in performance might be due to less background processes going on by default than with Debian (probably main difference is that I'm not running with a full blown Desktop environment. I'm using fluxbox this time out).

So if anyone is interested in getting a low-end system up and running with Linux, you might try out Arch. It's been pretty good for my classic setup so far.

J.W. 08-23-2006 11:17 PM

Cool - thanks for the followup and for posting back with your feedback. Have fun with Linux!

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