Salix OS Live 13.1.1 LXDE

Salix OS is a distro based on Slackware. Slackware, as you probably already know, has not had a reputation as being the easiest distro to use. Salix OS makes Slackware accessible to more users by making it easier to install, configure and manage. You can get Salix OS with the Xfce or LXDE desktop environments. For this review, I decided to use the LXDE version of Salix OS.

Before I get into the review, here’s a brief bit of background on Slackware and Salix OS from Wikipedia so you understand the differences between the two:

Slackware
Slackware is a free and open source operating system. It was one of the earliest operating systems to be built on top of the Linux kernel and is the oldest currently being maintained.[1] Slackware was created by Patrick Volkerding of Slackware Linux, Inc. in 1993. The current stable version is 13.1, released on May 24, 2010.
Slackware aims for design stability and simplicity, and to be the most “Unix-like” Linux distribution, using plain text files for configuration and making as few modifications to software packages as possible from upstream.[2]

Slackware was originally descended from the Softlanding Linux System, the most popular of the original Linux distributions. SLS dominated the market until the developers made a decision to change the executable format from a.out to ELF. This was not a popular decision among SLS’s user base at the time. Patrick Volkerding released a modified version of SLS, which he named Slackware.[5] The first Slackware release, 1.00, was on July 16, 1993.[6] It was supplied as 3½” floppy disk images that were available via anonymous FTP.

Salix OS
Salix OS retains full backwards compatibility with Slackware. This enables Slackware users to benefit from Salix repositories, which they can use as an “extra” source of software for their distribution. However, while in the KISS  principle that Slackware adheres to, “Simple” refers to the system design, Salix OS applies it to daily use as well. It aims to be simple, fast and easy to use.[2]

To paraphrase the words of a journalist: the target audience for Salix OS might well be described as “lazy Slackers”, users familiar with Linux in general and Slackware in particular who don’t mind having additional tools to reduce their workload, while maintaining the maximum compatibility with Slackware possible. Salix OS adds automated dependency resolution, enhanced internationalization and localization, a larger repository of applications, and a well equipped suite of native administration and configuration tools for both the GUI and the command line. In so doing it is making the system more user friendly than vanilla Slackware to newcomers as well.[3]

What’s New In This Release
This release is actually a maintenance release. The last major update for the LXDE version was Salix OS 13.1, which was released back in July. Here is the announcement text for that release.

Salix LXDE edition 13.1 has been released! Based on Slackware 13.1, it features the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment, “an extremely fast-performing and energy-saving desktop environment”, with a clean look and feel. The main applications that complete the LXDE experience are the lightweight and fast PCManFM file manager and the popular Openbox window manager.

As with the standard, XFCE edition, this iso allows installation to be performed in three different modes, core, basic and full. The core mode installation is identical to the one you get from the XFCE edition. Basic will only install a minimal LXDE desktop with only midori and gslapt installed as extra and full will install everything that is included in the iso. That includes the lightweight Midori web browser, that uses the powerful webkit engine and the Claws-mail e-mail client, along with the Transmission torrent client and the Pidgin instant messaging client. Also included are the Abiword word processor, the Gnumeric spreadsheet and the epdfview pdf reader. The Whaawmp! Media Player is used as the main media application and is accompanied by the powerful Exaile music player/manager and the Brasero disc burning application. Viewnior is the default image file viewer and mtpaint can be used for editing them. The full set of the Salix system tools are of course included in this release.

Users are able to use the Gslapt package manager, or the command line equivalent slapt-get, to install extra software in their systems from Slackware and Salix repositories, with complete support for dependency resolution.

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Comments

  1. David says

    On the question of hardware requirements, Salix with Xfce uses about the same amount of memory as Fedora using Fluxbox! I have a note (I can't remember where from) that it will run with 256MB and 600MHz.

    The "one application per task" applies to the disk and not, of course, to the repository. If you need more facilities than Abiword they have OpenOffice, and if you don't like Whaa I recommend Parole.

    Gslapt may not have the fancy features one finds in the Fedora or Ubuntu equivalents, but it's very much faster.

    To my mind, Salix competes with CentOS and Debian Stable, although offering fewer packages: a stable distro with a reasonably friendly set of housekeeping tools. Of the 30 distros I've tried, only 10 presented no problems at all, and Salix was one.

  2. Brian Masinick says

    Gareth wrote:

    Thanks Brian, I don’t have slow hardware it’s pretty run of the mill – an acer laptop with an AMD turion 64 X2 / ATI HD3200 and 4G of ram but the reason I like the light weight stuff is I like things to be fast and snappy, I still prefer to run a 64bit OS and with a minimal debian xfce with the liquorix kernel it is very fast and snappy, I was just a bit curious about slackware as I have never really given it a decent try before but if you say they run more or less the same then I will just stay with debian for its number of packages and it’s package manager.

    Cheers

    We seem to run some of the same stuff – the liquorix kernel – run that with antiX and aptosid myself quite a bit. Don't have any 64 bit hardware; the last 64 bit hardware I had was in the nineties: a Digital AlphaStation 200 running Digital UNIX. My 32 bit laptop can run circles around that today, but if Digital still had a workstation today it'd probably be doing Petaflop performance – or some big number anyway.

    If you are curious, do try Slackware or a derivative. The packaging is simplistic, but it does run very well; you may actually like it.

  3. Gareth says

    Thanks Brian, I don't have slow hardware it's pretty run of the mill – an acer laptop with an AMD turion 64 X2 / ATI HD3200 and 4G of ram but the reason I like the light weight stuff is I like things to be fast and snappy, I still prefer to run a 64bit OS and with a minimal debian xfce with the liquorix kernel it is very fast and snappy, I was just a bit curious about slackware as I have never really given it a decent try before but if you say they run more or less the same then I will just stay with debian for its number of packages and it's package manager.

    Cheers

  4. Brian Masinick says

    Gareth wrote:

    Brian Masinick How do you find the light weight slackware distro’s such as Absolute Linux and Salix compare to their debian cousins such as Aptosid and Antix or just a pure minimal debian xfce or lxde install in terms of speed/light weight etc…

    Thanks

    Hi Gareth, I am a Debian fan, through and through, so I prefer the Debian systems over the Slackware alternatives. For performance, they are quite comparable, and among the fastest, looking at the entire landscape. At least on my systems, I consistently find the Debian and Slackware options to run the best. You'd have to break down how many daemons and total number of processes are running on any given system if performance is an issue, but if small size and performance is an issue, I'd put my antiX customized core system up against anything. For more capable systems, if you are running, for example, LXDE, it runs at comparable speeds on Salix, aptosid, and antiX. If you are running IceWM, it also runs at comparable speeds on Absolute, aptosid, and antiX. The question becomes "What happens if I want to add something else?" Then I find it easier to use aptosid or antiX, no question about it, because the repositories available to both of them are right there and contain more software.

  5. Gareth says

    Brian Masinick How do you find the light weight slackware distro's such as Absolute Linux and Salix compare to their debian cousins such as Aptosid and Antix or just a pure minimal debian xfce or lxde install in terms of speed/light weight etc…

    Thanks

  6. Brian Masinick says

    I know that users who are used to – and maybe "spoiled" by visually appealing package managers may feel like they are going backward when coming to Salix and the Slackware-like Gslapt and slapt-get tools, but that is one of the trade-offs to getting a really light, fast system. Functionally, if there are any differences between this approach and the Software Manager and Update Manager used in the Ubuntu derivatives, they are insignificant from the standpoint of functionality.

    I therefore submit, then, that the reason that you choose one distribution over another is what you are looking for. Do you want appearance and convenience over anything else? If that's the case, then it is hard to beat the Ubuntu derivatives, though I'd argue that Ubuntu is definitely not the top candidate in terms of art work, though a few of its derivatives may fill that void. But if it is speed and simplicity that you want, then Slackware or one of its descendants or derivatives is a good place to look.

    Slackware is really not that difficult to install or configure these days, but Salix definitely has something to offer in terms of convenience and simplicity over Slackware, if that is what you are looking for. Absolute Linux is another great alternative to consider; both Salix and Absolute Linux offer faster, lighter software configurations than Slackware, which comes with KDE if you enable the graphical user environment.

    Judging Salix by the criteria of other more familiar distributions may cause some to find this or that lacking. To me, that's like trying to compare a Linux distribution to a Windows desktop if you are first coming to Linux. The tendency is to compare it to what you know. I would encourage would-be Salix users to judge this distribution on its own merits alone. Does it do what you want it to do or are you looking for something else?

    What I think you will get with Salix is a system that can be installed extremely quickly, has enough of the core applications to get you going right away, so if you are mostly an online browser, this one can suit your needs and suit them well. If you are looking for a full feature desktop system, you may or may not find what you are looking for, and you may or may not be able to get whatever that is straight from the Salix repositories. In that case, the question becomes how important is that tool or application you are looking for? Is it worth taking the time to learn how to add official Slackware repositories, then find the software you are looking for there, or is that too much of a bother? Are you content with what is available? Are you a "tweaker" and experimenter, or are you just looking for something that's plug in and go?

    I would assert that this is a fast, but basic distribution. If you want something feature rich, you can actually get it here, but only if you are willing to do some configuration, adding repositories, doing some research, packaging additions, and general system management. It can work just fine as is, but only if your requirements are fairly modest.

    I think if we evaluate this distribution against the most popular full featured distributions, we find that this one is smaller, lighter, faster to install, just as nice looking, but as installed lacks some of the applications that you may be used to having installed on your system. If you are content with the list of applications, though, this one is probably in the top ten percent of distributions in terms of speed of installation and light resource usage once installed, and thus good performance. Make the trade offs and decide what makes the most sense for you.

    My interests led me more toward Absolute Linux than Salix, but a side by side performance comparison shows these two Slackware distributions very comparable in many ways. Your interests may draw you to Salix, and as a long time distro hopper, I recommend giving it a closer look. Start with the review. Does it answer your questions or generate some interest? Then give it a try. Are you looking for a Mint-like experience? Then this is the wrong one for you.

    My own take? This is definitely one to track and try out regularly in a Virtualbox setting. It is good enough to follow, not quite what I am looking for in an every day system, but again, each of us has specific interests, so check it out and come to your own conclusions.

  7. Mike says

    The gimp and openoffice.org might not be available by default because lxde has a focus on older hardware. The gimp and openoffice may be a bit too heavy for these machines….

  8. Brian Masinick says

    Looking forward to giving this review a good look tomorrow. Meanwhile, thanks for writing about this one. Should be a good one!

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