This is me tinkering with Linux again. Be sure not to overlook the UPDATE at the end of this post.
Yesterday and today I’m testing SalixOS 14.0 on an identical computer to my own desktop computer, a Dell Dimension with an old Celeron processor and 512 of RAM.
SalixOS 14.0 is not available as a LiveCD yet. You can get the previous version, 13.7 as a LiveCD to “test drive” without making changes to your hard drive, but it has an older version of Xfce on it. The new version (4.10) has a bunch of changes and it’s not like the Ubuntu-style metapackages I’m used to. It’s designed so you can install components in a non-Xfce environment, which is kinda cool. I suppose if you want LXDE but with an Xfce panel and the Xfce goodies you can do that now. At the time of this posting the only way to “test” SalixOS 14.0 is to install it to a hard drive or use it in a virtual environment (which I’ve never done). But the installer is effortless, fast, and easy to follow. It even offers recommendations and information to help you decide how to proceed at each step.
If I were to reduce my review down to a single sentence, I would say that what Ubuntu has done for Debian, SalixOS is trying to do for Slackware. Except that Salix is still fully compatible with it’s parent distro, and Ubuntu is definitely not.
SalixOS is easy, simple, and fast. But it “feels” older even though all the software seems to be up-to-date. That’s prob’ly just the default configuration, easily changed in Xfce as always. I’ll offer some screenshots in later posts, probably.
Salix doesn’t “do it all for you” the way Xubuntu always did. You need to manually set up the little conveniences like “print to pdf” and such, but newbie-friendly instructions are available on the Wiki. Some big differences between Salix and Xubuntu are: Lilo as the default boot manager (but you can choose Grub on installation if you prefer it), LibreOffice instead of Abiword and Gnumeric, the newest version of the ultralight Midori web browser instead of Firefox version Twelve Zillion.0, Claws-Mail instead of Thunderbird, good ol’ reliable ALSA instead of PulseAudio, etc. Another nice feature is Salix’s “keep it simple” approach. One application per task. That’s why it all still fits on a CD instead of a big ol’ DVD. Even Xubuntu has seen the last of it’s releases that will still fit on a CD.
Adding and removing software is as easy in Salix as it is in Xubuntu’s Synaptic Package Manager (I never cared for the Ubuntu Software Center anyway – I always delete that resource-hogging eye candy from a new install of Xubuntu), using the GSlapt package manager for Slackware stuff, and Sourcery, a Synaptic-like compiler with supposedly good dependency support. Dependency support is one of the strong points of Debian/Ubuntu’s apt-get package management, but it can also get “messy” and pull in other who-knows-what stuff along with it. I don’t know if any of that accounts for some slow-downs in Xubuntu or not, or if it’s just the fact that it updates so often and sometimes a software update in one bit of software hinders or cripples another bit of software.
Speaking of updates: Kernel upgrades are still fast and furious in Xubuntu 12.04 LTS (I even got two kernel updates in a single week!) and they tend to scare me. I reboot after one of those updates and pray that it still works! Updates only rarely break Slackware.
The only surprise is the size of the software repositories. Perhaps I was a little spoiled using Debian and Ubuntu repositories which are vast, huge storehouses of amazing software. The Salix/Slackware repos are much smaller. I guess the saying is true: “Choose a distro and you choose a repository too.” But about that: I’d much rather have a smaller repository of absolutely rock-stable software that will not conflict with other software or be broken by frequent updates than to have a huge, vast, confusing library to wade through. Besides, the Sourcery compiler (unique to Salix) should allow me to safely add a few other favorite applications, and having a favorite one added is is easy as asking for it. Win/win.
I’m a busy sidekick and haven’t got a lot of time for playing around and tinkering with Linux distros the way I used to. I’ll just use my Salix computer as I normally use my Xubuntu one and if it continues to impress me as it has so far, I’ll likely not bother to look any further.
I give SalixOS 14.0 seven Penguins out of ten for simplicity, reliability, stability, beauty, configurability, and versatility.
The Sourcery app looks pretty cool and attempts to address dependency issues, but it has proved to be unreliable. It has failed me at least half the time. Applications began freezing or locking up after a few weeks. Thunderbird, Firefox, Midori, Opera, and then Seamonkey all worked for the first few days of use, then either froze up or lost all my settings and passwords and bookmarks and such and refused to let me restore them. I ran Bleachbit to clean up and start over, but the same results repeated themselves. Updates were buggy, sometimes coming within a few minutes of each other and sometimes conflicting with prior updates. That completely floored me because of Slackware’s wonderful reputation for not having update issues. Saturday unintentionally became my last day as a Salix user when it refused to boot at all and balked at every attempt to fix it.
I could re-install, but geez, what the heck for? I had a pretty good thing going there with Xubuntu LTS, so it’s time to go “running back home” to my faithful, comfortable, reliable default.