Slackware Impressions

Where it all started

My journey with Slackware dates back to around 2018 and 2019. At the time I was still fresh to Linux and wasn’t so comfortable with tweaking things on the command-line, so I hoped to find a distribution, or distro, that suits me best out-of-the-box.

Slackware popped into my radar after randomly roaming the website Distrowatch. The latest stable release was version 14.2, released in 2016, showing its age with the old versions of included software. There was (and still is) no apparent way to download the latest development (-current) snapshots form the main site, so I went with the stable one.

The out-of-the-box experience, if I recall it correctly, was horrendous. My laptop was running hot after idling for a short period of time, Wi-Fi wasn’t working, and KDE 4, with all of its animations and fluff, felt a bit clunky to use. To make things worse, I found out that it wouldn’t suspend correctly when closing the lid. I ditched it fairly quick.

The next encounter went a lot better. It was late 2020, I’ve got myself a 2014 used Macbook Pro (still an upgrade from my previous 2013 model), and wiped MacOS after struggling with Big Sur’s new design paradigm. I was then past my distro-hopping days, and hoped to settle on a stable environment in order to build my personal desktop experience. First I tried Fedora. The installation was smooth, and everything works as expected.

Nevertheless, after some months of usage, I noticed the rolling updates. First of all, it needs a couple hundred megs of bandwidth every week or so. Moreover, those updates sometimes break stuff — such as my Wi-Fi connection, which is completely gone after an update (though in retrospective, the reason may be that there was a kernel update and the Wi-Fi module wasn’t rebuilt.) One day after another update, I rebooted and it stuck at the Fedora logo and the spinning wheel. I thought, maybe it’s time to leave.

(By the way I haven’t tried Fedora since version 33, maybe I should give it another shot…)

Rediscover and installation

It was by happenstance I rediscovered Slackware, and found ISOs for snapshots of the -current development branch, maintained by Slackware contributor Alienbob. He also builds “liveslak” or Slackware Live Edition builds that come in various flavors. I picked the install-only version (for no real reason, both are great).

The version I downloaded is probably a snapshot from around the first half of 2021. The KDE version was 5.18 (5.20?), and the default look and feel gives off a clean, neutral feeling. There are a whole lot of included apps, including the whole set of KDE applications, such as the Calligra Office suite, Kdenlive, Digikam, Krita, Falkon, etc., and even lesser-known apps like Kile (TeX editor) and Kamoso (Camera viewer).

Other apps include two browsers, Firefox and Seamonkey; Qt5 Designer and GTK app designer Glade; a number of GUI and command-line audio/video players, a screen recorder, an assortment of X apps such as xsnow, xfig, and xpdf; and a bunch of other stuff, including terminal programs such as mc (Midnight Commander). The full install also comes with numerous compilers, language interpreters and libraries.

Overall while the full install assures that every dependency is met, there are a lot of cases where multiple programs do the same job, or are simply unneeded. (Seriously who needs the scientific period table as a standalone program?)

As an independent Linux distro with no upstream (its origin SLS died before Ubuntu was even released), Slackware has its own set of jargon and quirks. The default installation boots to the command-line TTY interface, and requires changing a config file to boot to a GUI login manager.

To install software outside the default selection, we either install slackpkg+ and enable 3rd-party repos, or compile source code to packages with the help of “SlackBuilds”, which are bash scripts that automates package building, then install those packages. We also decide our own method of dependency resolution; either we track our own dependencies, rely on sbopkg queues, or use SlackBuild managers that comes with dependency resolution enabled by default, such as sbotools or sboui.


Configuration wasn’t a breeze, but was surely predictable. There are several places in the default install that needed tweaking to fit my needs:

Update 2022-12-27: I uploaded my SlackBuilds onto SBo, and they were accepted. So as of now they are on, and only several commands away from installation.

The list goes on. There are also bash configs, vim configs, etc., which most people customize regardless of Linux distros. The only compromise I have to make is to replace suspend with hibernate across the KDE power settings, since suspend doesn’t work properly with the default kernel on my machine.

General Usage

According to tune2fs -l /dev/sda3 (the command failed on sda1 and sda2, but all the filesystems were created on the same day), my current Slackware installation dates back to:

Filesystem created:       Wed Jan 19 18:48:14 2022

That means at the time of writing, I’ve used my current Slackware installation for over 6 months.

These 6 months sees some of my most hectic weeks in university. That includes 3 design projects for different associations, one of which I designed over 30 pieces of artwork for social media posts. I’ve done them in GIMP 2.10 and 2.99.10. It’s not a good experience, but most of the blame falls on the fundamental concepts of GIMP. I’ve also done several final exam projects and presentations, which I made with a combination of Vim + Pandoc, LibreOffice and Microsoft Office in a virtual machine.

After doing all these work on Slackware, I must say the experience is rock-solid. With the exception of GIMP 2.99, which was an alpha release anyways, Slackware has never crashed or lost any files. What should work works: software I depend on the most, such as Firefox, KMail, Konsole, Dolphin, among other stuff, has always worked expectedly. Plasma Shell sometimes crashes or fails to perform actions on certain keyboard shortcuts, but recent updates made it better and better; I believe Plasma 5.26 would be the turning point where I actually start recommending KDE. It surely matured a lot during the past year.

In addition, Slackware does development work fairly good. After setting up quick-run Python 3 keybindings in Vim, I’ve finished 2 medium-sized final-semester projects with Python on this install. I’ve also installed Cargo and the Rust compiler in order to get a taste of Rust development. Recently I also delved into C/C++, which Slackware (and Linux in general) are made for, so writing and compiling them is a breeze.


Slackware does have some major drawbacks. Notable drawbacks include:


Nonetheless, these are what makes me keep using Slackware:

Overall, in the fast-paced technology world where web apps change layouts multipe times over months, Slackware feels like home. It’s not the tech but the feeling of coziness that makes me stay on Slackware.

Created: 2022-11-15
Last updated: 2022-12-27