Tag Archives: distributions

Get Slack!

The oldest Linux distribution in existence is Slackware. It’s about time that I actually posted something about my favorite Linux distribution on this blog.

Like most X-MS Windows users, I did not come to Slackware directly. I took a round-about route through a few other distributions first. The very first distribution of Linux that I installed on my machine was Ubuntu 6.06 “Dapper Drake”, an impressive offering from Mark Shuttleworth and the Canonical folks. I still have a copy of it on CD. It was impressive to this frustrated MS Windows user. It was also like having a lifeline thrown to me as I was drowning in frigid North Atlantic waters.

Once I began to expand my Linux horizons, I found out there were other Linux’s out there. How cool is that? I was used to only a few MS Windows… 3.1, 98, ME, XP, etc. Here I find that there are many… and I do mean MANY different Linux variations out there in the wild. I wanted to try ’em all. I was searching for “my” Linux. I think it’s something most geeks do when they first come to Linux. It’s a right of passage, maybe?

Linux tends, like all things from brands of catsup to the cars we drive, to develop loyal followers. While Slackware may be my favorite Linux distribution for my own reasons, that doesn’t by any means rule out my like for other distributions. I think ALL things Linux are COOL! I don’t care what distribution you run. If it works for you, it’s the best one out there. Slack works for me… so does Debian or Arch or… you get the idea. I do love Slackware the best, though. It has an attitude that appeals to a biker, I think… simplicity, strength, stability.

Richard Hillesley in his excellent article at ITPro entitled Slackware Linux – Less Is More writes:

Slackware isn’t for everyone, and will never win the race for the Linux desktop, where fancy gizmos, music players, office suites and games are at a premium, but works for users who want “a system that makes a good server – where you aren’t even required to install X if you don’t want it – or a good desktop workstation if you do a full installation with KDE” or Xfce or Fvwm or Windowmaker or Fluxbox.

Much truth in that statement, folks. Slackware is definitely not for everyone. If you’re GUI dependent, Slackware can be difficult. Many customizations and setups that you would normally do in a graphic environment in say MS Windows or Ubuntu, you’ll need to learn to do by editing a text configuration file using a command line editor in Slackware. It’s not that it’s difficult. It’s just that a lot of folks don’t like non-graphic computing. I can understand their feelings. It’s a personal preferential choice, for sure. I’ve gotten so that I can do things much faster at the command line than I used to be able to in the graphic environment. Of course, I’m a relatively fast touch typist, too. That helps. Hunt & pecking on the command line is SLOWWWW!

Hillesley continues:

The asset most valued by the Slack user, and most often claimed for Slackware Linux, is system stability. If you install Slackware on a backroom server you expect it to stay there, and be unnoticed.

And this is no baloney, friends. I’ve had Slackware crash due to an application caused issue, but NEVER because Slack itself destabilized. It is the proverbial ROCK. I use it on a personal work station, but it’s uniquely suited to server duties because of that legendary stability.

Hillesley covers a bit of Slackware history in his article:

Slackware took its name from the mythical J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, the charismatic leader and figurehead of the Church of the Subgenius, whose message to the peoples of America was to “Get Slack”.

I’ve read a lot of stuff about Slackware over the years. Richard Hillesley’s article is one of the best I’ve ever read. If you have a few minutes and a hot cup of coffee next to you, give it a read.

I’m running Firefox in Slackware right now to write this article. I’ve been a Slacker for nearly four years now. I have other Linux distributions on my systems, but Slackware is my Linux now. Ubuntu was that cute girl at the bowling alley that I had the fling with way back when. Debian is an X who I keep in touch with. Arch is a sweetheart from the office. Sidux, CentOS, and those others are occasional flings, but Slackware is the girl I always come home to.

Have FUN with it!

~Eric

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Linux Distros Are Like Lays® Potato Chips…

… you can’t have just one.

Multi-booting – My Way

I’ve been multi-booting since I first came to Linux. Originally, it was due to my transition from MS Windows to GNU/Linux. Later, it was because I wanted to try more distributions. I was still hunting for the one that fit me best. I’ve since found that distro (Slackware). However, I still have multiple operating systems on my computer for varying reasons.

My current hard drive partition and usage map looks like this:

SATA 1 – Main/Secondary OS + Linux Archive

Primary – 25Gig: /(root) Slackware on /dev/sda1 (ext3)

Primary – 50Gig: /home Slackware on /dev/sda2 (ext3)

Extended – 175Gig: /dev/sda3
Partition – 25Gig: /(root) Debian on /dev/sda5 (ext3)

Partition – 50Gig: /home Debian on /dev/sda6 (ext3)

Partition – 2Gig: /swap (common) on /dev/sda7 (swap)

Partition – 98Gig: Linux Archive on /dev/sda8 (ext2)


SATA 2 – MS Windows + Experimental Operating Systems

Primary – 25Gig: MS Windows Main on /dev/sdb1 (ntfs)

Primary – 25Gig: MS Windows Programs on /dev/sdb2 (ntfs)

Extended – 200Gig: /dev/sdb3
Partition – 2Gig: /swap (common) on /dev/sdb5 (swap)

Partition – 15Gig: /(root) CentOS on /dev/sdb6 (ext3)
Partition – 25Gig: /home CentOS on
/dev/sdb7 (ext3)

Partition – 15Gig: /(root) Arch Linux on /dev/sdb8 (ext3)
Partition – 25Gig: /home Arch Linux on /dev/sdb9 (ext3)

Partition – 15Gig: /(root)  PCLOS on /dev/sdb10 (ext3)
Partition – 25Gig: /home PCLOS on /dev/sdb11 (ext3)

Partition – 15Gig: /(root) Sidux on /dev/sdb12 (ext3)
Partition – 25Gig: /home Sidux on /dev/sdb13 (ext3)

Partition – 15Gig: /(root) Mandriva on /dev/sdb14 (ext3)
Partition – 23Gig: /home Mandriva on /dev/sdb15 (ext3)


EIDE 1 – Backups

Primary – 50Gig: Slackware Backups on /dev/hda1 (ext2)

Primary – 50Gig: Debian Backups on /dev/hda2 (ext2)

Extended – 150Gig: /dev/hda3
Partition – 50Gig: MS Windows Backups on /dev/hda5 (FAT32)

Partition – 50Gig: Other OS Backups on /dev/hda6 (ext2)

Partition – 50Gig: OS Common Storage on /dev/hda7 (FAT32)

These three drives add up to three quarters of a Terabyte of space… way more than I actually need. However, space is cheap these days. I still remember paying $100 for a 10Gig drive less than ten years ago. Previously, SATA 1 and 2 were in RAID 1 (mirrored) configuration with MS Win XP Pro on them. What a waste. I rarely ever boot that OS these days (games only), so I broke the RAID down and repartitioned/reinstalled everything on my system.

The ten partitions you see on the SATA 2 drive are my experimental Linux slots. When this partition map was made, I intended to put CentOS, Arch, and Ark back on them, with the last two saved for Gentoo and maybe FreeBSD. It didn’t work out quite that way, as you can see. What is installed on those experimental partitions tends to change often.

A few things to take note of when partitioning and multi-booting in this fashion:

1) Remember the SATA 15 partition limit. Many newer distros use the libATA kernel drivers which force drive recognition as SATA regardless of whether the drive is EIDE or SATA, so for this reason remember to place your /common partitions and /swap partitions on the lower numbered ones. A libATA distro installed anywhere else on the lower 15 partitions (or another drive) will still be able to “see” and mount them this way.

2) MS Windows is like the “Borg” when it comes to being installed on a computer with other operating systems. It seeks out and destroys other operating systems. Be sure to install MS Windows first. It needs to be on the first partition of whatever drive you’re installing it on. After which, you can install your GNU/Linux distros safely.

3) Install your MBR controlling distribution last, time-wise, regardless of which partition/drive you’re installing on. This will allow it, especially in the case of Debian’s excellent GRUB, to “see” all the other installations and write them into your menu.lst for you. Even though Slackware is my primary operating system, and since I don’t use LILO, I allow Debian to control the MBR and boot my system with its GRUB.

4) Lastly, as in the case above, if your MS Windows installation is on a different drive than your MBR controlling OS, then your BIOS may have troubles booting the correct drive. No matter what you choose in BIOS as the first device, the Windows drive will boot. The reason for this is that Windows installs a bootable flag on its own drive. This flag gets priority from the BIOS. To set a bootable flag on the drive that you want to boot will require a bit of manipulation using a Live Linux CD* and the fdisk command.

Boot your Live CD and start it. From a terminal session within the CD do the following:

# fdisk /dev/

fdisk> a (option to toggle bootable flag on drive

–partition number? 1 (first partition on the drive)

fdisk> w (command to write the new info to disk and exit fdisk)

–bootable flag reset for this drive

This will set the bootable flag to the drive you choose. Reboot, go into BIOS setup and choose your first boot drive. It should boot fine now.

*Another option to use is the way I actually did it on my own system… I used SLAX on a flash drive to perform the fdisk above. Worked like a champ!

Anyway, that’s the way my system is set up. Whenever I add or change operating systems, I just edit the Debian /boot/grub/menu.lst to reflect those changes.

Have fun with it!

Until next time…

~Eric

^This is an updated version of a previously written post on my Linux.com blog. All written material is my original output.