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Old 09-04-2005, 09:20 PM   #1
Registered: Feb 2005
Location: USA
Distribution: Gentoo
Posts: 72

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Switch from Debian

Of course I realize I'm asking a bunch of hardcore Slack fans if I should join them, but I'll hope for some good replies anyways, heh.

I'm pretty new to Linux, but am trying to get comfortable with it. My first (and current) distro is Debian 3.1, which is running on some older hardware I have. I've managed in a couple weeks to get X working as well as audio and printing. Basically everything I could want in a desktop I have, but I keep hearing "Once you Slack, you don't go back".

The Debian software selection is pretty crappy and I don't want to to think of how it will be a couple years from now (if it takes another 3 years for a stabke release). Does Slack keep it's stability while using more modern applications?

I've put quite a bit of time into getting things working with Debian, so I'd like some strong arguments for change before I get rid of them (until I get them set up again). What does Slack have that Debian doesn't? Why wouldn't I go back?
Old 09-04-2005, 10:01 PM   #2
Registered: Oct 2004
Location: Ottawa, ON
Distribution: Slackware
Posts: 662

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The Debian software selection is pretty crappy and I don't want to to think of how it will be a couple years from now (if it takes another 3 years for a stabke release). Does Slack keep it's stability while using more modern applications?
Slack's due for a new version, probably within the next couple of weeks. FWIW, -current has the current versions of almost all of the software in it. There are one or two apps that are a version or two behind current, but that's because of known bugs in the current versions.

What does Slack have that Debian doesn't? Why wouldn't I go back?
Slack has a big void where you're expecting apt-get. I know that's probably not the answer you were expecting, but I have to say in Debians favour that apt-get is a remarkably useful tool, and while I'm sure to draw flak by saying it, the analogues in Slack simply aren't nearly as good.

That said, Slack's package system is very simple. A Slack package is basically a tarball containing all the config files and compiled binaries. InstallPkg is basically a glorified version of tar -xzf, with support for running the install-sh script, and displaying the file descriptions (slack-desc). There is *no* dependancy checking, which is either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you see it. On the plus side, you can have several different versions of the same library or software installed and running concurrently, but it's not going to flash the idiot lights if you install something without having all the dependancies met.

As for why not to go back... I know lots of people who've gone back after using Slack. I also know a lot of people who have decided to stick wtih Slack after trying one or more other distros. I'm one of them. I use Slack specifically because of the package system, and the no-hand-holding attitude that it takes. Some other distros don't like you editing configuration files directly, and it's a real battle to use them if you intend to do anything that the maintainers didn't plan/expect. Slack, on the other hand, gives you a usable Linux system that doesn't argue when you try to do something that Pat didn't plan. The SlackPkg system makes it really easy to maintain a system, but it's also a fully capable development platform that will allow you to compile from source if you like. You even have the tools needed to make your own slack packages, if that's your bent.

Your call. I've used Debian, and prefer Slack. You might prefer Debian. That's what choice is about. If you're worried about the amount of work it took to get Deb working right, you may find that it's less work to get Slack working, but you may also find that it's even less work to leave your Deb system as is. I'd suggest making a backup in the form of a drive image, if you've got the hard drive space. That way, at least you can easily go back to your working system if you decide you don't like Slack. If you can't take that route, you can at least take comfort in the knowledge that, having done it once already, you know it's possible and can theoretically do it again quicker
Old 09-04-2005, 10:08 PM   #3
Registered: Mar 2002
Distribution: Slackware, OpenBSD, FreeBSD
Posts: 731

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hehe, I know exactly what you are saying.

I've been using Linux since 2002 but I am a relatively recent Slack convert -- I switched in the past year or so. And it's true -- I'll never go back to anything else, including Debian which I also used in the past.

To me, Slack is so easy to configure. Much, much easier than Debian, at least to me. There were several times I couldn't quite figure out how to do something "the Debian way." As a comparison, "the Slack way" would be "the UNIX way." Everything is where it's supposed to be. There are no strange locations of conf files or anything like that. Plus, everything really does work. Also, if you need to compile something, it will work. I used to be scared to compile stuff because I always got errors, but not with Slack. Ever. And hardly no dependencies since it includes virtually everything you need. Plus the BSD init script system is SO much easier and better than the SysV method used by most other distros including Debian.

Anyway, I never understood what people meant when they said Slack was simple until I actually tried it. Will it take you a while to get your system totally configured the way you want? Maybe, but once you do it, it's done and you've got one fast, stable, and well-supported distro (Pat is still releasing security updates for 8.1).

To answer your specific questions, yes Slack totally keeps up with current apps. Look at the -current tree which will soon become 10.2. It has virtually all the latest packages. The stock kernel will still be 2.4.x, but if you're going to be a Slacker you'll need to roll your own kernel - or use the 2.6.x one that Pat provides in /testing -

What does Slack have that Debian doesn't? For me, (a) regular stable releases (b) clean and straightforward BSD init system (c) updated packages (d) speed and (e) simplicity. And while Slack does not have the Debian-type repository, I've personally never found that to be a problem. If there is a package that I want that is not provided in the stock install, all I need to do, generally, is go to the project's homepage, download the source and compile it. Or, look at - a repository of third-party Slack packages.

Don't get me wrong -- Debian is great and if I didn't have Slack, I'd probably use Debian. But Slack totally rocks my world.

Last edited by chess; 09-04-2005 at 11:05 PM.
Old 09-05-2005, 12:57 AM   #4
Registered: Feb 2005
Location: USA
Distribution: Gentoo
Posts: 72

Original Poster
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Debian has had me edit a few config files already. It wasn't too difficult to find them; certainly easier than many other distros, I'm sure. But I certainly have seen some confusing differences, especially concerning X.

Apt-get is nice; that's for sure. You select your package and all the dependencies are downloaded automatically. But what's the point of a good package installation program when the packages themselves are lame? So many times there's cool software I want to try, but it's still marked unstable because Debian is slow with releases.

I like what I'm hearing. I can't afford the disk space to backup my existing setup, but I can backup notes about what I had to do to get everything working on Debian. I'm gonna throw some more memory in this box and wait for the next Slack (10.2?).

Speaking of installation, does Slack have a "network install" option where I can specify a mirror to download from? My CD-ROM is kinda screwy about detecting CD-Rs, so after using the boot floppy and the two root floppies, what are my options?
Old 09-05-2005, 01:36 AM   #5
LQ Newbie
Registered: Mar 2005
Distribution: Slackware 10.1
Posts: 25

Rep: Reputation: 15
Originally posted by Tylerious
where I can specify a mirror to download from?
If using slackpkg, you can specify the mirror in /etc/slackpkg/mirrors. Hope that helps...
Old 09-05-2005, 01:42 AM   #6
Registered: Feb 2005
Location: USA
Distribution: Gentoo
Posts: 72

Original Poster
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Okay, so if I setup my NIC in the installation, I can specify a mirror and download specific packages/sets from that mirror instead of using a CD? Alright! I'll give 10.1 a go before upgrading memory and by the time 10.2 is out, hopefully I'll have more memory and Slack knowledge for a new install.

Thanks for the motivation, ya'll!


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