Salix 15 — 1

GTK has become a proverbial thorn in the side. The current quest is to break away from GTK as much as practical. Xfce is a solid desktop environment (DE) but is dependent on GTK3. After a couple of decades tweaking Slackware to taste in the house network there is no desire to distro hop. Nonetheless, looking at Salix 15.0 Xfce seems due because the distro depends on GTK.

While never adopting Salix in the house network, the skills and savvy of the Salix team are admirable. They maintain full Slackware compatibility yet prune the default package set. They created several helpful desktop admin tools. They provide a graphical package manager. The coup de grâce for many users is supporting package dependency checking. These folks have half a clue.

Refreshingly, rather than rush over the cliff like a proverbial lemming to gain massive click-bait headlines, after Slackware 15.0 was released the Salix folks took about six months to release Salix 15.0. They took another two months to release their Live edition. That hints at patience, which hints at quality. In a way nothing less should be expected because that is the way the parent Slackware is developed. In the Slackware world the word stable is rooted deep in tradition.

One reason to look at Salix is personal frustration with GTK3 while testing Slackware 15.0. Perhaps the Salix folks have subdued some of those issues within their desktop design. A little reading hints that part of their effort preparing for release was managing GTK3 issues:

"Unfortunately GTK+3 has diverged even further from GTK+2 in terms of looks and functionality, so even if one is using the same theme across the two versions, there are going to be significant differences between how applications look and work. Not much we can do about it, other than picking a default theme that looks as similar as possible across the two versions. I have several issues with how GTK+3 has changed, but perhaps these are for another blog post."

Ah. Perhaps a kindred spirit with GTK3 discontent. The same results are seen here locally in that with the same desktop and icon themes there are differences when booting between Slackware 14.2 and 15.0.

Testing began with a virtual machine and the 32-bit Live ISO image.

The ISO boots with an option to select the language. Some of the choices in the selection list seem to be native language and some do not. For example, Deutsch or Russian. The boot screen indicates a minimum of Pentium II with PAE is required — no i586 support in 32-bit. The second screen to edit boot options is all English even after selecting a different language.

Salix targets “lazy Slackers.” That probably means people who are presumed to be a tad tech inclined. The desktop shows the usual geek default four workspace buttons. The panel text editor button links to l3afpad, a fork of the original leafpad. While the target audience might be tech inclined users, the name of the text editor seems to be — silly. Curious that mousepad is not the default in the panel, which is part of the Xfce package collection. The geany text editor is included in the Live ISO.

The panel uses the Whisker menu. The Whisker menu probably is a sane choice for many people and the simple menu remains available.

Launching geany and opening several blank documents exposes some irritable effects of GTK3. The active tab is identified by a blue “underscore” line rather than a different color or different shade of color. The toolbar icons are flat with little to no colors and difficult to distinguish. The Salix icon set is named Qogir. Possibly these observations are theme issues, possibly this only affects the Live ISO, but quirks like this is part of the reason to investigate how the Salix developers might have wrangled with GTK3.

That was the quick-and-dirty tour.

Salix is designed to support three types of installs:

  • Core
  • Basic
  • Full

Considering the project design of one application per task, what packages define a Core install?

After booting the install disk, the screen instructions inform the user that pressing the keyboard Up arrow suffices in lieu of typing setup.

Unlike the parent Slackware installer, the Salix installer helps the user partition the disk. This still requires understanding cfdisk, but the coaching is a nice touch. The installer verified the intention not to create a swap partition. Formatting the partition defaults to xfs but easily changed to ext4. At this point the user selects the type of install.

Selecting the Core install finds LILO being installed for the boot loader. LILO is the long-standing default boot loader in Slackware.

The installer prompted to configure the network. With the Core install none of the X or desktop related packages are installed. To be useful a traditional Slackware network configuration is needed. Unknown yet is whether this is different with a Full install, which would seem to default to NetworkManager.

Unlike the parent Slackware, the installer requires creating a user account. The user is informed that the root account is disabled. This design decision seems off-center even for “lazy Slackers,” but is not a hill worth dying on. Enabling the root account is straightforward, but perhaps a compromise could be after creating the user account the user is asked whether to enable the root account.

The first attempt to set a user account password in Salix failed “dictionary” checks. The cause is from PAM in the parent Slackware. The /etc/pam.d/system-auth file explains the fix: commenting out two lines and uncommenting a third. That remedy is unavailable during the installation.

The install only took a few minutes. Very fast. The one application per task approach is pleasant in that respect.

The green and black LILO splash image boldly declares that Salix is for lazy Slackers. The boot timeout period is 5 seconds rather than the miserable two minutes of the parent Slackware. As expected with the Core install the system booted to the command line.

The system uses the Slackware “huge” kernel.

Browsing the package list of a Core install showed 290 packages. Not a minimal install but according to the Salix web site, the idea of a Core install is to create a foundation for experienced users.

Surprising is that both /etc/slackware-version and /etc/os-release are unchanged from the parent Slackware. Seems the latter would be different or there would be a /etc/salix-version file. There is an /etc/salix-edition file that contains the text Core. There are other nominal clues in /etc of being “Salix,” but there seems no intent or desire to identify as a unique distro. Perhaps the Full install is different.

More to follow.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Salix, Slackware

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