Slackware 15 — 9

Walking away from updating to Slackware 15.0 was a healthy decision. The absence provided time to contemplate the various hiccups encountered.

A positive note is with each major distro release there are always nuances and differences with how the operating system functions. These changes require adjusting shell scripts to function correctly in a mixed environment of differing release versions. There is a comforting return on that effort with learning a little more about anticipating the future and about thinking more globally. Backwards and cross-distro compatibility is an area where Linux distro maintainers tend to stutter and stumble. The development tendency is relentlessly march forward, abandon the past, and ignore what anybody else is doing. Adjusting provides a good feeling that scripts are reasonably robust, backwards compatible, and adaptable.

A challenging note with updating to the next major release of a distro is extensive testing will not discover everything that breaks. Something always escapes notice. Some scripts and software are not used regularly. Some scripts and cron jobs are time dependent. Foreseeing that breakage is challenging. Often the only way to discover those pitfalls is using the system.

Part of the procedure with updating Slackware releases here is merging and back porting certain differences between releases. During this time away from testing Slackware 15.0, 14.2 has been tweaked to reduce some future update issues:

  • Compiled and installed the newer midnight commander (mc) and disabled SMB support. This avoids issues when toggling between 14.2 and 15.0 and when there is no DNS server.
  • Installed the newer ethtool package. This package did not directly cause problems, but the update keeps everything consistent.
  • Created a 15.0 package for the r8168 driver for the office desktop to avoid runlevel 1 problems with ethtool. A caveat with this approach is every time there is a kernel update a new r8168 package is required, but that is already needed with VirtualBox. The alternative is accepting that ethtool is broken in runlevel 1.
  • In the local house network system update script added a reminder with kernel updates to update the r8168 driver.
  • With Xfce usage, configured user accounts to use the workspace switcher applet in Button mode. The name of this mode is not explicitly defined in the older version of Xfce, but the configuration is the same.
  • Created a populated /etc/environment file. This file is used only with PAM, which 14.2 does not support. Creating the file helps avoid forgetting what should be configured.
  • Revised a NetworkManager dispatcher script to avoid a race condition.
  • Tinkered with different GTK desktop and icons themes to reduce issues in both Xfce and MATE when booting between 14.2 and 15.0. A common challenge with themes is the GNOME developers seem Hell bent with forever breaking themes.

In 14.2 the changes require package blacklisting in the slackpkg configuration.

These token efforts do not alleviate breakage such as the loss of console scrollback or the broken Alt+F1 keyboard shortcut in Xfce.

Not yet tried is installing 15.0 fresh rather than updating from 14.2. If updating to 15.0 continues to frustrate then that option might become important. This avenue is potentially messy with restoring all customized config files.

On the agenda is breaking away from GTK as much as practical. More on that later.

Likely 14.2 should be supported for some time yet, but predicting the future is always Sisyphean. One way or another the proverbial handwriting is on the wall. Always is with free/libre software.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Slackware

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