Re: [dev] [9buntu] first attempt -bashing needed

From: Donald Allen <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2010 14:47:45 -0400

On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 2:04 PM, Kris Maglione <> wrote:
> On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 01:17:49PM -0400, Donald Allen wrote:
>> On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 12:04 PM, Kris Maglione <>
>> wrote:
>>> No. Slackware may be relatively simple, but it's no simpler than Arch or
>>> GoboLinux, and it has, by far, a weaker packaging system which leads to
>>> nothing but headaches.
>> I'm sorry, but this is simply not true. I have run Slackware for some
>> time now on 5 systems and it's rock-solid and very easy to administer.
>> The package system is simpler, not weaker (I'm a bit surprised at your
>> statement, given that it was made on, where
>> simplicity is considered such a virtue; yes, things can be *too*
>> simple, but this is not an example of that; read on). Most of what you
>> need is present by virtue of the core install and just about anything
>> else is available from, a very high-quality bit of
>> work. Installing packages from there is simple. The only thing not
>> done for you, apt-style, is making sure everything an app depends on
>> is loaded. But the fact is that, by virtue of the core install, in
>> most cases everything *is* loaded, so missing dependencies are
>> relatively rare. Where something is not part of the core install, it
>> is carefully spelled out on the page for the
>> application you are after. You load the dependency, build the
>> slackware package once, and then you can load it on all your systems.
>> It's easy and the underlying package management stuff is very solid. I
>> ran Gentoo, with all its fancy package stuff, some years ago, and it
>> was a nightmare to administer, e.g., dangling pointers to shared
>> libraries needing to be fixed with revdep-rebuild and such. I spend
>> *far* less time tending to my Slackware systems than I did with
>> Gentoo.
>> Another such example of a system that will give you headaches is Arch,
>> with its rolling releases. Arch is *continuously* releasing new stuff,
>> which means it's impossible to test the entire system every time
>> something new appears on the Bleeding Edge. Most of the time this
>> works, but occasionally you will do an update and find your system
>> completely wedged. At that point, you get to learn about booting from
>> the install disk, chroot, and figuring out how to put your system back
>> together, at which you may or may not be successful. I've had this
>> happen three times during the time I ran Arch (maybe six months?) and
>> got sick of it. Read the Arch discussion groups. It's not hard to find
>> messages from people who are in the kind of trouble I just described.
>> This is the reason why systems that are renowned for reliability, like
>> OpenBSD and Slackware, release with a frequency that allows thorough
>> testing of the whole thing. Theo de Raadt and Patrick Volkerding have
>> a lot to teach the world about software QA and release engineering.
> I never said ‘weaker’ meant simpler.

That's true and I didn't say you did. You said it was 'weaker' and I
said it's 'simpler' (but not *too* simple).

 My problem with the Slackware packaging
> system is its lack of dependency management.

My point is that that's a much smaller issue than one might think,
because, again, core Slackware installs just about everything you
need. So there's hardly any dependency management to be done. And what
needs to be done is simple to do.

I was as skeptical as you are, until I finally (in desperation,
because I couldn't find a simple, unbloated distribution that was
reliable) gave it a try. In actual use, it's a simple system to
administer. If dwm (WHAT?? No config files? I have to edit C code? Mon
dieu!) were a Linux distribution, it could easily look like Slackware.

 I'll agree, though, that the
> Arch people are not entirely sane.

I love it. Thanks for a good laugh.

The aggressively rolling nature of the
> package repo is certainly irritating, but that doesn't have much bearing on
> the utter simplicity of the packaging system which rivals every other distro
> I've come across (except perhaps GoboLinux).

I agree that the actual mechanism is excellent. No question about
that. It's how they use it that's the problem.

The same goes for the base
> system. Most of the configuration is done in one BSD-like file,
> /etc/rc.conf. /etc/rcN.d are not used. There are no fancy network
> configuration scripts. The base system is small and, though irritatingly
> bash-entangled, fairly clean. Beyond that, it's trivial to setup a package
> repo. One script, repo-add, one directory of packages, and one tarball
> containing the plain-text, filesystem-based package database.

No argument with all that.

> As for upgrades wedging the system... well, it may happen to others, but
> I've got a lot of tricks up my sleeve, and if I ever have to boot from a CD,
> something is seriously wrong.

Most do not have those "tricks up their sleeve" and they get screwed.
The only reason I can see for using Arch is if you make a conscious
risk-benefit decision that always having the latest and (presumably)
greatest easily available to you is worth the risk of occasionally
having to glue your system back together or restore it from a backup.

 But I do often wish that Linuxes would provide
> something akin to FreeBSD's statically linked /rescue.

I will avoid wasting network bandwidth by going on a FreeBSD rant.
Suffice to say that I've tried 7.* and 8.* and I don't think that
system is fit for the desktop. Its reputation for solidity was made on
servers and I'm sure it's fine there. But, for example, the usb layer
was totally broken in 7.*, they re-wrote it for 8.* and it still
doesn't work correctly. There were other problems, too.

OpenBSD is a different story. It is a very high quality system. But --
it's noticeably slower than Linux, it doesn't have real SMP support
(just one Giant Lock around the kernel), it doesn't have unified
buffer cache support, and its hardware-support repertoire is not
nearly as big as that of Linux. But it's perfectly usable as a desktop
system, if it supports your hardware (and you don't care about Flash,
which many do not), very secure, very well documented and very
bug-free. It's also simple to administer, because the config setup is
sensible and everything is clearly documented. The big down-side, for
me, is that the developer community has taken on Theo de Raadt's
personality. A friend of mine said to me recently "the only reason for
running OpenBSD is if you like being insulted". Perhaps an
over-statement, but there's some truth to it. I just don't like the
way they treat people and so I won't use their stuff (because I like
to give financial support to people who donate their time to making
software that I use, and I just didn't want to send these guys any
more money). Too bad, because in the right setting, it's a great piece
of work.


> --
> Kris Maglione
> Correctness is clearly the prime quality.  If a system does not do
> what it is supposed to do, then everything else about it matters
> little.
>        --Bertrand Meyer
Received on Fri Jul 30 2010 - 20:47:45 CEST

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