Between Philosophies: Salix OS

This is probably the best review of Salix OS that I’ve ever seen! It doesn’t just look at the esthetics, included software, package management, and performance, but it delves into the philosophy that motivated the development of the distro, and it’s history. Linux used to have one of those. Philosophies, I mean. Principles that mattered more than your distro’s popularity and placement on Distrowatch’s ranking.

“Between philosophies” describes the balance Salix successfully strikes and maintains between Slackware’s bare-bones, terminal-and-text approach to things in the name of simplicity, and a common sense point-and-click approach that saves time and keystrokes. The GUI (Graphical User Interface) doesn’t babysit newbies, nor prevent them from acting without reading the manual first. Being a responsible user is still required. Or to quote the article,

being a Lazy Slacker does not mean being an Ignorant one.

Have a look, see if the challenge doesn’t appeal to some geeky corner of your brain, even if you’re scared of technology like I am!

Slackware – Stable and Current

Just as Debian has it’s Stable branch and it’s Testing branch, Slackware has them too. Except in Slackware, the last official release is Stable,” and what you might call the “Testing” branch is called “Current.”

Wanna try the latest cool stuff on Slackware but you’re not very geeky? Try Slackel! It’s the sibling distro of Salix, only it’s based on Slackware “testing/unstable” instead of the stable branch like Salix is.

More good news! If you liked Crunchbang Linux and/or Bunsen Labs Linux, there’s a new Openbox Live version of Slackel now. Verrrrry geeky, yet a lot easier for us non-technically-inclined folk than straight Slackware Current. Here’s a screenshot:

Find Slackel Openbox here! It’s also available in both 32-bit and 64-bit isos.

Likely to Be my Permanent – and my Only – Linux OS

I have kept Linux Lite and MX-Linux around for a long while, mostly to help introduce new users to Linux. Many of them got started because the Microsoft OS they were used to is such a freakin’ resource-hog that you have to buy a new computer every three years or so just to keep up! Why let a perfectly good working machine go to the landfill because Micro$oft has decided not to support it anymore, right? So, Linux to the rescue, right?

Nope, not nearly as much as it ought to be. A trip to the Swap Shop finds a dozen or so vendors offering refurbished computers for $40 or so, but they still have Windows and they’re slower than snails. When I used to brag about how Linux could make them run better than new, and without any need for the dreaded terminal, I won a few “converts,” and a few more by cleaning up and donating old computers with a lightweight “newbie-friendly” distro pre-installed. Of allllllll those people I helped, guess how many are still using Linux?

One. Just one. As far as I know, anyway, we lost touch when I moved away. So maybe none! All of them – and we’re only talking a dozen or so – have since traded up to new computers and – one guess – they’re Windows or Mac.

So, my OS is gonna be for ME, not for anyone else. Not to “show off” to others in hopes of winning them over; not on my computer so I can walk others through the steps of configuring, fixing, tweaking, and installing software. Not for the coolest, awesomest, most thrilling visual effects and eye candy I used to care about. No more of that now… my ‘puter is my own, and it’s just for me, and it’s gonna be what I want: Blazing fast, graphical, simple, uncomplicated, and basic. No systemd. No bloat. Nothing I don’t need or want. One application per task, faithful to the old Unix ideal, quaint and outdated as that might seem to others who like the bleeding edge, eye candy, and super gaming capability. Does anyone know of a Linux distro that offers just that, without all the busy bovine excrement that has to be included in the OS just to make this-or-that other thing work that you actually want? One that is still supported and up-to-date without the instability of the Big Major desktop distros? I can think of one. It’s an old faithful standby that has kept my ancient spare 32-bit Dell out of the landfill for over a year now, with no issues. And it’s mind-bending fast on my higher-end 64-bit desktop and laptop.

I’m so disheartened by the fact that all my enthusiasm, “evangelism,” and newbie support for Linux hasn’t actually changed anyone’s mind for more than a temporary short period, that I think I’m pretty much done with all that now. I’ve got better things to use my computer for than just writing about computers, OSes, software, and why these things should matter to people. In fact they don’t matter to most people, and desktops and laptops have largely been replaced by smart phones and tablets now anyway. You like your Chromebook? Cool. Does it matter to most people that it’s Linux-based? Prob’ly not. Does it matter that it’s a Google gadget and it’s likely spying on you and reporting back to the Mother Ship for targeted ads and to predict what you’re likely to spend money on and where you go every day? Apparently not.

Well, it matters to me. And to maybe 2% of all desktop computer users on Earth. The other 98% are content to be carried along, captive to a single vendor and subject to it’s whims. Fine, fools.

I’m moving on.

Moving on from Diaspora the digital ghetto, moving on from trying to convert others to this truly better way of computing and managing applications, data, and workload. I’ll still advocate for Linux and Free Open Source Software (FOSS) when and if the subject ever comes up at school or work or church or hanging out, and here in this blog from time to time when I feel moved to do so and have something interesting to write about that might be of interest to others who appreciate it’s value.

A Great Review of SalixOS

Hi everyone! Here is a great review of SalixOS for responsible users. The reason I’m looking into this again is that my beloved MX-Linux, based on Debian Stable, may not be able to avoid systemd once Debian Buster is released (MX is based on Debian Stable). And there are plenty of good reasons to avoid systemd, even for us ordinary non-technical folks who just want a reliable OS that doesn’t spy on us and report back to the Mother Ship and stuff, as systemd does (didjya know it’s linked to Google!?!), journaling and logging everything!

It’s probably totally unrealistic of me to hope for, but just imagine if MX-Linux (which has been at the top of Distrowatch for awhile) got together with SalixOS (which is ranked even below server-only distros, unbelievably). Maybe the Salix devs could teach MX how to get around systemd in spite of Debian’s efforts to make it impossible, and MX could teach SalixOS about the supercool tool set that makes it so awesome. Both distros have the same mission: To make Linux manageable for us ordinary casual users, while avoiding the instability, unpredictability, and bloat of the popular “newbie” distros.

Yup, probably totally unrealistic of me to even wish for such a thing. But I suspect that SalixOS will be inheriting a lot of new users once MX-19 comes around, if they are unable to avoid systemd.

SalixOS: Marketing and Support

Salix OS has done some pretty amazing stuff to bring Slackware Linux down to us mere mortals, ordinary desktop users. They were doing for Slackware what Ubuntu once did for Debian. Except for the installer, perhaps, SalixOS is incredibly simple and intuitive. Maintaining 32-bit support, Salix OS is systemd-free, equipped with cool tools like Slapt-get, Sourcery, and a codecs-installer, and the one-application-per-task simplicity that makes light and fast. I say they WERE doing for Slackware what Ubuntu once did for Debian, because it looks like no one is doing it anymore.

In this thread, Salix forum users talk about “marketing” and targeting “a larger user base.” It’s right that they should. Suggestions include promoting Salix on social media, but no one is doing that, apparently. Others suggest blogging about it, but on WordPress almost every reference to Salix is about Japanese groundskeeping, and SalixOS brings up next to nothing. I wonder if they don’t really want a larger user base after all, since newbies would appear in their forums with questions and “silliness” that the old hands would rather not be troubled with. The forums have very few recent threads or posts, and many go unanswered for days, weeks, months, or longer.

Perhaps part of it is that Slackware doesn’t have or use any Gnome stuff. Fine with me, I hate Gnome, and I think Gnome hates a lot of Linux users too, judging by the stupid choices they have made in the past couple of years. The funny thing is, you can get and use Gnome stuff in SalixOS if you want, though few people even know that. It’s not that easy to do, but with Sourcery, Salix’s wicked-kewl slack-building-from-source tool, you can!

There are other other Slackware derivatives that are more popular and gaining ground, but the most popular of those is no longer compatible with Slackware anymore! SalixOS remains fully compatible with it’s parent, so all the treasure trove of software available to “Slackers” (Slackware Linux users) is also available to “Lazy Slackers” (SalixOS users). Salix is an Xfce desktop distro. Other Slackware-based distros use different desktop environments. Slax, Slackel, etc. But it’s not like different “flavors” of the same familiar base, as in Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Kubuntu, etc. These are entirely separate distros with entirely different developers, goals, communities, and users. It seems kinda fragmented to me, looking from the outside in, and I wonder if that isn’t part of the reason for the declining “market share.”

That, and the recent appeals for funding of Slackware, which for a time apparently was on the verge of going under. Slackware is the oldest surviving Linux distribution, but it’s still basically a one-man show. When he goes, so will Slackware and all her children. Unless there are others to pick it up and maintain it. This is a huge disadvantage as far as “market share” is concerned. By contrast, Debian is driven by a huge community and will never die. Red Hat and it’s family has a large, fat corporation backing it. Ubuntu is backed by a corporation as well, but not one that is profitable yet. All it’s derivatives are basically one-man-show distros, maybe with a few paid developers among the big ones like Mint.

The future of Linux may be in the hands of the Big Corporations after all, perhaps with a few exceptions like Debian, a truly community-driven project that forms a superb base for others to build on. Which others will continue to do as long as Debian needs to be “brought to the ordinary desktop user” instead of aimed at servers and technocrats.

What does the future hold for Linux? For your own favorite distribution? Feel free, comment below.

Ready for What, Exactly?

Why “Kiddie” Linux Distros are Awesome

In a Diaspora post, a user shared this Linux humor post, which I “liked” and am re-sharing – with a little twist:

There’s an assumption in the comic that the “kids” will “grow up” to become super-duper master geeky techno-wizards with “mad programming skillz” and create a master race of sentient androids or something.

I say, in reply to this assumption, “until you are ready:”

Ready for what? Some of us are just ordinary users who surf the ‘net, write letters and term papers, share e-mail, watch videos, and play games. It’s all we did on Windows or Mac, and it’s all we care to do on any OS. We run applications, not the operating system.

Ready? To do what, exactly, besides customize / personalize the desktop, and install peripherals like printers, speakers, joysticks and stuff? The most inexperienced novice can do all those and keep everything updated effortlessly in the “kiddie distros” as they have been called. And you can add Linux Lite to that list – and you see what all the “kiddie” distros have in common? They are Ubuntu-based. More than anyone else, Canonical (Ubuntu) has brought Linux to us ordinary, non-geeky mortals and kept thousands if not millions of computers out of landfills. Others are doing similar work! Salix, for example, is doing for Slackware what Ubuntu did for Debian. And it’s crazy simple to use even though Slackware is certainly not (I just wish Gnome stuff was available in Slackware!). Even Arch has a derivative or two that are made for simplicity and “friendliness.”

I have installed and used at least a dozen distros, from Debian and Ubuntu (and derivatives including Mint, ElementaryOS, LXLE, and Linux Lite) to Salix and even the newcomer, VoidLinux. I’m not a novice, but in the end I’m really “just a computer user” and I really only want to get my school work done, surf a little bit, blog a little bit, play a little bit, and listen to a little music. Why make it complicated?

The funny thing is, a whole lot of very gifted geeks worked very long and hard to make Linux available and usable by us “ordinary desktop users.” And many of us ordinary mortals are grateful, supporting our favorite projects with translation help, monetary donations, and getting the word out.

And a whole lot of very gifted geeks use the same “kiddie distros” as we mere mortals do, either to help develop them further or just because they want to run applications instead of the OS for ordinary tasks.

– An unashamed “kiddie distro” user

Oh My, Slackware Has No Gnome!

Gnome has been removed from Slackware, some months ago. It’s nothing against Gnome, I guess, but I was surprised when I went to try out a couple of Gnome applications because my favorite web browser (actually, Internet Suite) Seamonkey, has started acting up.

Not available in the repository, not available as a Slackbuild. Salix has a couple of Gnome things in their repository, but not the applications I wanted to try. Geary and maybe Evolution for e-mail and maybe some other browser (besides Firefox).

But I had to use another distro to try them out! Grrrr. Oh well, back to Xubuntu for this trial-and-error experiment. But not exactly full-on Xubuntu.

Xubuntu Core
is a nice little invention. Available as an .iso file from one of the Xubu developers, the official way to get it is to install the Ubuntu Mini iso, which installs only the base Ubuntu system and a terminal without any applications or desktop environment. Then do the

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-core

thing. This installs only the Xfce desktop with some of the wonderful Xubuntu settings that set Xubu apart from other Xfce distros for it’s elegance and classy looks. No bloat, just stripped-down, ultralight Xubuntu awesomeness. Next I installed Synaptic Package Manager and chose some very lightweight applications (Abiword and Gnumeric instead of LibreOffice, for example) and the applications I wanted to try out.

Oh, by the way, note to first-timers with that Ubuntu-mini iso: After it installs and asks you to reboot from the HDD, you must bring up the Grub menu the first time it boots from the hard drive. So that by holding down the Shift key during it’s boot-up. It works better than typing

start
run
begin
commence
engage
do something, dammit!

Trying them out on Xubuntu Core, Geary just plain sucked. Random crashes in the middle of composing an e-mail or even reading one. No wonder the Elementary team forked it (Pantheon Mail). And Evolution (a Novell product, I should have known, I hated it when I had to use their crap in the Fire Department) refused to connect to the Internet. Okay then, lesson learned. No wonder Slackware dropped them, I guess. Not just the Gnome 3 debacle, but these native apps suck.

The lightweight Midori browser no longer crashes randomly, however. It always did before, every time I have given it a try over the last couple of years. Now it’s working just fine! My long-beloved Seamonkey may be replaced by Thunderbird and Midori.

It’s always trial-and-error with Linux, ain’t it? Yeah, that’s really half the fun I guess.