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

Damnthing on Slackware: Computer Like Rock. Rock Is Solid, Like Computer

A friend of mine suggested I try Slackware. I knew nothing of Slackware at the time, so I figured “what the hell”, and installed Slackware 9.1 on Damnthing.

And I was amazed.

Gone was the flakiness. Gone were the constant reboots. Gone were the re-installs. Gone were the constant questions of “what exactly does this tool do?” and “where is my desktop environment?” and “why do I keep feeling like William Shatner?”.

Instead, I had a solid system that appeared to be perfectly content to run for LITERALLY MONTHS AT A TIME.

I’m not kidding. Before Slackware 9.1, the longest (and I had paid scrupulous attention to this) uptime it had ever experienced was literally 3 days. This was on Mandrake 9.

On Slackware the uptime extended to six MONTHS. Then seven months. Then I had a power outage. And then Damnthing stayed up for three MORE months. Then I moved it to a different spot. And then Damnthing stayed running for six MORE months.

You get the picture.

I honestly have no idea what the flying hell is wrong with Damnthing. I don’t use it anymore, but a part of me is reluctant to get rid of it. I eventually replaced the hard drive with a larger model and Damnthing continued to chug along just great as a Slackware system. I eventually ended up with Slackware 11-point-something on it and it still worked great. It was a bit slow, and started to really show its age, but it never gave up as long as it had its Slack.

I contemplated several times changing Damnthing’s name… under Slackware there was significantly less swearing at it. I thought of changing it to “Darnthing”, or maybe even “Dangthing”, but it didn’t have the same ring to it. So it retired under its infamous moniker, and is sleeping quietly in its cabinet at home, having gone out as a rock solid machine, name be… well, damned.

The Moral Of The Story

Everyone encounters their Damnthing if they spend enough time with computers. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, nothing you can do will get a particular computer to work, no matter what kind of troubleshooting you do or what kind of replacement hardware you throw at it.

In my own Damnthing’s case, apparently all it needed was the right operating system. Hell, not even the right operating system… the right distribution of that operating system.

Slackware, as a result, has been my main Linux distro ever since those days of Damnthing frustration. When I look back on it, I realize that I learned almost nothing about Linux using Red Hat or Mandrake, even though I spent several months using them as my main desktop OS. It wasn’t until I started using Slackware that I felt like I was getting a handle on how things really worked in Linux.

There’s a saying in the Linux world about that.

“If you use Red Hat, you learn Red Hat. If you use SuSE, you learn SuSE. If you use Ubuntu, you learn Ubuntu. But if you use Slackware, you learn Linux.”

Truer words were never spoken.

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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