The story of how I found Slackware Linux, or “Once You Go Slack, You Never Go Back”

I’ve told this story to a lot of people who have asked me why I use an old-and-crusty distro like Slackware. I do have some pretty good reasons, and most of them lie in this tale.

A long, long time ago — back in 1999 or so — I had a computer that gave me nothing but trouble. It was one which I had bought from a vendor that did business with my employer then, so I got it for cheap. It was a Pentium 3 450 MHz (slot CPU, not socket!) machine with 256 Mb of RAM and a 10 GB hard drive, in a nice coffee-stain beige tower. When I bought it I also bought a Windows 98se license (and they actually shipped it with the full install media!!!!! Remember back in the days when computer vendors still did that?), and that’s what I set up on it when I got it.

This computer sucked. Well, I should say, Windows 98 sucked. Those of you who remember 95/98/Me will know what I’m talking about. This f@#king thing would not stay running longer than 5 hours without bluescreening or just freezing solid.

Over time, I replaced the video card (twice), the RAM, added cooling fans (thinking that might be part of the problem, since P3s did run kind of hot), and reloaded Windows who-knows-how-many-fricking-times, to no avail.

When Windows 2000 Professional came out, I bought a copy of it for cheap (also through my employer, who got great deals on such things), and installed that instead.

While this was better, it still tended to be pretty flaky. Lots of reboots were necessary to run with any level of efficiency, and I got to know the guts of Windows 2000 as a result.

By about 2001 I had pretty much come to the end of my rope with Windows in general (and running it on a flaky machine was really just about intolerable), so I had begun looking to Linux as an alternative. The way I saw it, it appeared that Linux wasn’t going away any time soon, and I figured that the best way for me to become acquainted with it (in a way that might help me professionally, even, down the road) was to use it on one of my home computers as my every day OS.

I did some research and found that the field was pretty broad. The one getting the most attention at the time was Red Hat, and though I could have downloaded install ISOs for it, I figured “what the hell”, and just purchased a full copy of Red Hat 7.2, which, for the price of admission got you a bazillion disks, a copy of StarOffice, a fairly decent manual, and several months’ worth of support, which I figured I’d need, as a Linux newbie.

I partitioned out a dual-boot arrangement on this problematic computer of mine and installed Red Hat on the new space.

Since Red Hat was asking me what to name this machine, I was pondering a hostname and couldn’t come up with anything creative at all. Stumped, I asked my wife what she thought, and she instantly said “why don’t you just call it ‘Damnthing’? That’s what you call it all the time anyway…”

So Damnthing was born, in 2001, on Red Hat Linux 7.2. And that son of a bitch lived up to its name, I can tell you.

Next Page: Damnthing: The Days Of Wearing The Hat Of Red


10 thoughts on “The story of how I found Slackware Linux, or “Once You Go Slack, You Never Go Back”

  1. Pingback: Great Slackware writeup « The Linux Critic
  2. Pingback: Briefly: How to change from command line only at boot to a graphical login manager in Slackware « The Linux Critic
  3. This is a great story, very similar to my own. I went Mandrake>SuSE>Redhat>Slackware.

    The funny part? None of it had to do with the difficulty of running it, just the sporadic self destruction and buggyness of those earlier releases.

    I still love Slackware to this day and am often tempted to give it another go but moved on to something else with the bsd style init’s and a package manager. Just Zenwalk, nothing fancy.

  4. This story gave me the hicups due to too much laughing. I began with Redhat then Suse and then switched to Slackware at about 99 and have never turned back (managed to avoid the whole mandrake fiasco). I have tried some other distros like sybayon,ubuntu and others but have always returned to Slackware.

  5. I can confirm that even with my experience in setting up VPSes, for which Slackware is rarely given as a distro option, that I find myself needing to go back to Slack after having to wrestle with Centos or Ubuntu.

    Slackware is just far more flexible and absolutely does not get in your way when you want to tweak a certain aspect of your setup.

  6. Slackware is also the basis of some truly great smaller distros. Slackware’s straightforward simplicity seems to lend itself to truly creative reimagining. Vector Linux is fast, user-friendly, and beautifully polished. There are moments when its hardware detection will blow you away. Slax is the most versatile Linux I know. I recently spent a couple of months really getting to know Slax, and it keeps surprising me with a new wrinkle, a new trick. I think there may be as many ways of running Slax as there are of making love. There’s also Zenwalk, which I am not so intimate with, but it sure looks good. And nimblex, a nice live CD that uses compiz for some added desktop effects.

    Best of all, though, there’s some kind of magic that seems to take over when I’m running Slackware, or a close relative. I get things done! When I start using Slackware I start working on projects, and not just messing around with entertainment apps and desktop settings. Something about the architecture just seems to resonate with my brain somehow. I can’t explain it, but I absolutely believe in it.

    I still like to keep a Debian-based system installed on the hard drive, just to give me access to tons and tons of software. But I keep running Slackware over it, now in the form of my own custom live CD, based on Slax with packages ported from Slackware. I run it as a live root, which means I mount the hard drive as /home, and it runs just like an installed system. I’m planning on releasing it as my own distro… And THAT’s what you call getting things done!

  7. over 15 years of slack here,, I first installed in 99. I have been through all the other distros. Debian was the only thing close, but never matched the speed of the real deal. I still build apps from source, and it still flies. My latest laptop I tried three distros in a tri-boot scenario. Ubuntu, LMDE, and slack. Slack was the fastest, most stable, and most easiest to wrench on. Thanks Patrick!

  8. Hahah. I started using Slack in 1997 (Slackware 3.1 to be exact), and I never changed. To the is day, 5 machines later, I’m still using Slackware (Slackware64 14.1), and I have never been happier.

  9. My first distro was SuSE, (which i believe the original SuSE was based of Slackware, as a german replacement). I loved SuSe (started with SuSE 6.3 back then), and it was rock solid and had incredible hardware detection. At some point though, novell bought SuSE and literally screwed it. Non of the so called openSuse were reliable. I moved on to gentoo trying to think that i would learn more about linux. Gentoo was nice, i liked the fact the everything was compiled for your system, but at some point through the updates, it kept messing up versions of applications here and there. Note though, that i do not blame gentoo for this, but basicly im pretty sure it was my own fault.

    Then a friend told me to give slackware a shot. I installed slackware on my main box.. and upto this day have NEVER regreted it. Over the years, i have tried all kinds of stuff, (buntu, debian, opensuse, knoppix, mandrake, SuSE, Free/Net/OpenBSD, RH/Fedora/White-linux etc….) but NON of them offered me the experience I had and will always have with slackware.

    Don’t get me wrong, the BSDs i tried are all awesome, and highly recomendable, heck even Solaris was awesome, but in the end… i always booted back in to my slackware install which i use for literally everything (servers/home desktop/public netcafe usage/etc..).

    Once a slackware, ALWAYS a slacker.

    Btw, i loved your article. Made my day 🙂


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