Slackware 11.0 on 450Mhz K6-2, 256Mb

A couple of years ago, when I was just getting started with Linux, I tried Slackware and managed to get a chunky old laptop online with a wireless network card. In that case, Slack pulled off something I hadn’t had any luck making happen in other distros.

I wanted Slack to work this time too, but it didn’t happen that way. After three installations and a couple of hours spent, I decided I’d do better trying something else.

I know Slack has a strong following, and I respect that. It’s possible that this was just the wrong machine to be trying new things on. And like a lot of people, I had expectations that I didn’t take the time or didn’t want to unravel. That’s normal human behavior, I guess.

But I can’t mask my disappointment any more than that. I thought this would be a winner, and ultimately I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.

I picked Slack 11 because it defaults to the 2.4 kernel, which some people have suggested would be more appropriate for this hardware. I’m starting to think the opposite: Both Slack with the 2.4 and DSL with the 2.4 kernels cause strange lockups when accessing the Internet through this Xircom Realport card. Perhaps there’s a reason or a workaround for that, but I’m not going to chase a 2.4 kernel/module-level issue when 2.6 in three or four other distros works just fine.

I installed Slack using the bare.i boot option, and partitioned the drive with 96Mb as a /boot partition, 256Mb as a swap space and two 4Gb partitions apiece for root and /home. Installation started immediately and was just fine until I had to select packages. I managed to get a sparse system installed using the “menu” package option, but accidentally installed LILO to the superblock instead of the MBR, and the system wouldn’t boot. That was my fault.

The second time, not wanting to go through all the package selection again, I selected the groups I wanted and put it into “full” mode. In the end I got a lot of stuff I didn’t want, but it did trim down the installation time. Moving one-by-one through packages to be installed was mind-numbing.

However, my system was almost unworkable. I had to use twm to get a graphical environment, but even then it was little more than a few terminal emulators. I tried to get some packages in place — I downloaded several tgz files from, and installing them was easy — when I could download them at all. The system lockups were driving me nuts. And no matter what I downloaded, I always ended up with missing library files, which made the whole experience very distasteful.

So I gave Slack one more chance. I started once more from scratch, gave it as much space as I could and let it install the entire first CD. About an hour later it finished, asked me if I wanted XFCE, Fluxbox or Blackbox, and finally, I got a proper desktop working. It was quite satisfying.

Unfortunately, there was so much extra gunk installed — raid support, OpenSSH, you name it — that boot times were over 2:20, and the XFCE desktop behaved like Ubuntu’s Gnome. I could get online for a few minutes at a time, then those mysterious lockups would force me to hard-reboot. So using the machine for a few minutes, then spending another few minutes restarting … well, it wasn’t working out.

In the end, I didn’t even bother taking a screenshot.

The funny thing is, I would try it again, perhaps on a newer, faster machine (and not bother with the 2.4 kernels, thank you). I get the impression that if I were to take the time to really dig into it, I could get a lot of cool things done with Slackware. For now, it’s just not in my interest to relearn package management and so forth, just to get a slim, trim system installed.

Perhaps sometime in the future.

3 thoughts on “Slackware 11.0 on 450Mhz K6-2, 256Mb

  1. Zlatan Kadragić

    Just try Puppy. Puppy has 2.6.x kernel, it is small distro with light applications and should be the fastest.

  2. K.Mandla Post author

    I did. Puppy had a hard time communicating with the PCMCIA card, regardless of the module I used. I expected Puppy to be a big winner with a machine of this era, but it fell flat. It’s okay, I’m still a Puppy proponent.

  3. Dutra de Lacerda

    While the instalation is a bit like old linux, you might have good results from the real thing… BSD.
    However both easy to install new distros, are based in KDE and not on Xfce or even fluxbox… but they are available.

    The reality is that BSDs are more equilibrated than Linux. I say this as a linux user. So I may make the move soon. Linux with his monolite kernel should never had happened. It did because of the use of legal systems as crime weapons of treath and destruction.
    Remember Digital-Research GEM and DR-DOS ?!?

    BSD was a victim of it’s own success and today still offers an elegant and standard system. It should have the support that was deviated to Linux.

    Naturally there are other options: SLAX, the Xfce version, Zenwalk, and Xubuntu.

    I do have system just like your’s except it is a Desktop. So no Pcmcia problems. But BSD might have the drivers needed since it does not falls in the terrible choice of building it all in the kernel… so more space available.

    I would try Xubuntu because it is fast and MAY behave well with old pcmcia…. besides being all live distros from were to install. Something that should be done will all distros.

    Puppy really excels in old PCs, but it is not meant to all dirty cases the industry created… Wiseness, not capability, still resides on BSD… not on linux.

    BTW – I use Xubuntu, Zenwalk, and Puppy… And pray for a simple BSD since they always have straight (unlike linux) … with a Xfce or Lightning environments. It would be a dream come true.


    P.S. – Please no flame answers… these where just personal thoughts and judgements.


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