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

Damnthing: The Days Of Wearing The Hat Of Red

I spent time in the United States Navy while I was younger, and I have been working in IT since around 1996 or so, and words fail me when I try to come up with the profanity needed to accurately describe the ordeal involved with just getting this goddamned computer to work correctly under ANY operating system.

Red Hat 7.2 was an unmitigated disaster. Bizarre, random, flaky displays of unreliability I had not seen since Windows 95(A) showed themselves on Damnthing in the Red Hat days.

Me: Good morning, Damnthing.

Damnthing: Good morning, Trent. It is good to see you.

Me: Will we be booting this morning?

Damnthing: Ah. No, sir. I am afraid not. C*$@S$CKER! BARFBAG! I think we’re– BEACHBALLS! TEQUILA! HAMSTERS!

Me: ….

Me: Uh. Excuse me?

Damnthing: Oh my. Pardon that. Yes, we’ll boot. Oops there, you didn’t say the correct incantation. And there is no more pig’s blood. Shutting down for no apparent reason now. Goodbye.


Damnthing: And wait until you see what’s missing the next time you turn me back on!

Me: Wait… what?

Damnthing: Ah ah ah… let’s not ruin the surprise. Buh-bye! *powers off*

This kind of thing went on all the time. KDE would work. Then KDE wouldn’t. GNOME would work. GNOME won’t work. KDE now does. Now X-windows doesn’t work at all. Whoops, you don’t have ANY fonts installed. Reboot. Oh my, there they are. But now X isn’t working again. And those shortcuts on your KDE desktop? Those are gone. I mean they’re back. Your video card isn’t supported. I know it worked yesterday, but today it doesn’t work.

Damnthing was so flaky under Red Hat I simply couldn’t find it in my heart to bother Red Hat’s support team. It was a constantly moving target and I couldn’t even BEGIN to know how to troubleshoot this illogical pile of crap.

I decided that a fresh install of Red Hat 7.2 was in order. I blew the old installation away and completely reinstalled from scratch, reformated and did badblocks and everything.

The result was… well, nothing. Red Hat 7.2 refused to function on Damnthing forevermore. To this day I have no idea why it “worked” (and I use that term loosely) the first time I installed it, but the second fresh installation of it wouldn’t even boot. Not a clue. So I moved on.

Next Page: Damnthing: The Coming Of Mandrake

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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