Absolute Linux

On the check list to break away from GTK is looking at window managers. Rather than beginning from scratch, seems the Absolute Linux Slackware derivative might be a pragmatic way to test. Absolute is designed with IceWM and some home grown admin tools.

One of the pleasures of browsing the Absolute web site is the maintainer admitting to logging into the root account much of the time as a convenient way to develop and work. Nice to see a free spirit who is not a card-carrying member of the anti-root brigade.

The distro is version-compatible with Slackware. Unlike the parent Slackware or Salix, there is no 32-bit version.

The web site download page contains a link to the latest snapshot. That version would not install in a virtual machine (VM) with the ISO image. The installer insists on installing from USB rather than the CD image and stopped. That idea seems reasonable with physical machines, but an optical disk ISO image is standard procedure and convenient with a VM.

Some nominal hunting found a fixed stable 15.0 ISO issued in February 2022. The installer is a modified Slackware installer stripped of the traditional background color and streamlined with more automation. Users are asked to relax while the system is assimilated. Resistance is futile?

Like the parent Slackware, Absolute is not designed to force creating a user account. The installer recommends setting a root password. Setting the password requires passing the annoying default PAM dictionary test.

After selecting autosetup the system failed to boot. Try again but this time use the traditional Slackware installer options.

This method failed too when the installer quit with a message that the 16 GB virtual disk was full. Try again with a 40 GB disk. This finally succeeded.

The final stock system uses about 16 GB of disk space with 1274 installed packages. Not quite the same as the Salix “one application per task” design at about 846 packages and 6.7 GB of storage space.

The system boots with LILO but with no splash image or time out. The boot spew is not “quiet.” Attempting to edit /etc/lilo.conf in a terminal window surprisingly does not find mcedit or nano installed or in the Absolute repository. Such packages have to be installed from the parent Slackware.

Like Salix the default package managers are slapt-get and gslapt.

Updating the system indicates the distro might be a rolling release.

The system uses the Slackware “huge” kernel.

Attempting to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions experienced errors. Likely a limitation of IceWM, xrandr did not recognize a window size of 1680x928, which is the maximum window size used with the office desktop monitor without going full screen.

The stock Absolute is an oddball hodge-podge collection of software. Absolute feels like something out of a Ma and Pa Kettle movie or a dollar store.

The overall experience is a throwback to a different time. There are two bare bone GUI file managers, QtFM and a custom version of Rox-filer named AROX. The custom admin tools have a quaint feel but seem designed from long ago, probably because some are designed with tcl/tk. Everything seems to be functional, but for some people Absolute might be a cosmetic jolt, especially for people expecting “modern” and “shiny.”

Conversely, there is a somewhat artful pleasure with this throwback look-and-feel style. The notion might be the maintainer is having fun and doesn’t give a hoot what other people think about the distro. There is little doubt the maintainer is skilled, but the impression is this is a distro designed first and foremost for the maintainer.

Not directly related to IceWM, but the distro seems to depend too much on GTK apps.

Too bad Absolute no longer comes in a 32-bit version. These kinds of distros seem suited to sustain 32-bit hardware and computers with limited RAM. Likely Absolute could be massaged into 32-bit although that might require several sessions of sweat equity. Mostly start with Slackware 32-bit and download the Absolute package sources and recompile. At idle the Absolute 64-bit VM used about 206 MB of RAM. A 32-bit version should be able to reduce that consumption. Absolute could be used here in the house network on the 32-bit vintage systems although some hunting would be needed for non GTK tools.

The goal with looking at Absolute was to obtain an idea about using a window manager in the journey to break away from GTK. After some time with the distro this does not seem like a palatable choice.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Slackware

Next: Trinity Desktop Environment — 1

Previous: Salix 15 — 2