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Slackware Linux Installation Methods

As any reader of this blog will know, I am a big fan of installing from source. My OS of choice, Slackware, makes this very easy and doesn’t break anything if you do this. I am, though, well aware that this isn’t for everyone – in fact, I break my own rule if it’s convenient.

Slackware packages end in .tgz, which can be confusing since that is also the way that normal tar balls can end. The usual way to install these is to type (as root) installpkg <packagename>.tgz and let the dialogue run. This then expands the archived install files into the correct places on your system. Removing or upgrading packages is equally as easy, simply exchange the installpkg for removepkg or upgradepkg. This method is inbuilt to Slackware and is the most basic way of installing Slackware packages. You could also use pkgtool which gives an ncurses frontend to a number of Slackware commands.

If you like automated downloads, you could use Swaret, Slapt-Get or Slackpkg, each of which will download the install files to your system and install them for you. These three methods are very much automated, though, and this can mean that things will break and you won’t immediately know why. Use them at your own risk, though I have only ever broken my system through my own stupidity.

Building your own packages is pretty much the best way to go. There will be no dependency checking, which could be a downside, but on the other hand you know what is in the package because you put it there. There are 3 basic ways to do this which require more or less technical ability. Slackbuilds.org is a site which is a mix of a how to and downloads. Slackbuilds are created in clean environments and are available either as a plain package download or as a set of scripts for you to run to create your own. Rworkman and Alien Bob are both active there and have been known to be extremely helpful over on the official Slackware forum.

Checkinstall substitutes itself for the make install step in a normal source build. It creates a Slackware package as the final step which can then be installed using installpkg as normal. The downside of this method is that it creates an extra step in the install process. The last update on the homepage is from August 2007, this could mean that no changes have been required or that the project is discontinued – I don’t know and don’t wish to speculate further!

Finally, src2pkg is created and maintained by Gilbert Ashley, who posts on LQ as Gnashley. Gnashley posts updates to the program on LQ and is available to answer questions and give support on the tool (as well as anything else Slack and Linux related). This tool, to me, is the easiest to use. All you need to do, once you’ve installed it, is run src2pkg <packagename.tar.gz/bz> and let it do it’s thing. At the end of the run you are presented with a .tgz file in your /tmp directory. /usr/doc/src2pkg-x.x has more information on the tool and ways you can use it.

Now to answer the question that has probably been on your mind: why do this at all since Slackware is so good at using source installs? Good question. Well, for starters, Slackware tends to have relatively very few 3rd party applications prepackaged and sometimes it is far more convenient to not install from source. Additionally, you may have a core of apps that you want to install immediately after you install Slackware and this makes life easier for you. Alternatively, you may want to enable someone else to install an app and this will make it easier.

Please note, none of the above 3 methods have any dependency checking. You will still need to make sure you have all that you need before installing.  Aside from that, though, installation of 3rd party programs is that bit easier.

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23 Comments

  1. hari says:

    The thing I hate about Slackware is that it needs too much maintenance – too much care. With Debian, I sometimes even forget that I’m running a Linux distribution.

    Maybe I didn’t give Slackware a chance, but then I constantly try and use new software and for that Slackware is not ideal. How many times do I find myself unable to compile a certain library because the version is all wrong?

    Slackware is good if you’re not going to install too many applications.

  2. hari says:

    And I forgot: another reason I hate Slackware is the rabid fanboy community.

    Except a few like you, Ray and Drew, who show tolerance, I’ve found that a lot of Slackware fan(atics) love to decry other distributions.

  3. Ray says:

    Fanboyism of any kind is off putting. I think it’s a holdover from the infancy of package management when it was seen as early Windowsisation of Linux. Personally, I tend to just ignore it :)

  4. hari says:

    Yes, it’s annoying the way some Slackware users make it out as though other distribution users must either be stupid or lazy… :p

  5. Ray says:

    Hopefully that attitude is on the way out.

  6. MrCorey says:

    That’s not a Slack based trait, necessarily. I noticed that a lot with Gentoo, as well, when I used it. I never got the whole reasoniong they thought they had. I used it back then because it was stable. But, that’s changed…

  7. hari says:

    Still using IE 6, MrCorey? :o

  8. Ray says:

    Let’s all gang up on Mr Corey for not using a proper browser :)

    I think that any of the “purer” distros – Slack, Gentoo and even Debian – do have a certain cachet, even though they are very easy to install. It’s partly a historical view from when you really needed to be an expert to get them up and running.

  9. MrCorey says:

    Ha! You caught me commenting from work! I don’t have the patience to either get IE working through WINE or install the IEs for Linux package, so you’ll never see me post from home with that security holeer browser. However, at work, my employer (which has extremely close ties to the Redmond giant) chooses not to roll out IE 7, due to incompatibilities with the in-house software. They’re rolling out Vista in the next year, so I will assume that there will be changes then. If they hadn’t rolled out a new security policy, which disabled access to the USB ports, I’d have posted with the PortableApps version of FF. :p

  10. MrCorey says:

    I’ll try not to let it happen again, though. :D

  11. hari says:

    Are we guilty of browser elitism? :D

  12. Ray says:

    We are, but that’s ok because instead of fighting about open source stuff, we’re dissing a proprietary giant. So we can be easily forgiven.

  13. drew says:

    But but.. Slackware is the best and if you’re not using it, well then, you should not be allowed to use a computer. ;)

    I hate fan boys myself. Gentoo from my experience had the biggest following for a while but now since Gentoo is falling off the charts, Ubuntu seems to have the most fan boys now.

    I stick with Slackware mostly cause I don’t want to continue upgrading and adding new software daily. I literally never have to touch my servers running it, only when security updates come about and or if they have any type of impact. And to me, maintaining a Slackware server and desktop/laptop is just as easy as any other. I have my gripes about all of them but the least in regards to maintaining a Slackware box.

  14. Ray says:

    I find Slackware is only a pain if you do want to keep trying things out, then the lack of dependency checking can become annoying and maybe Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, etc would be the best way. My desktop takes me a little time to get to the point where I am happy with the apps and then I just use slackpkg to keep up with patches and security updates.

  15. hari says:

    Ray, that’s exactly it. I love Free Software and Debian packages the maximum number of them in any distribution in an easily usable format. I don’t use Linux because of Linux, I use Linux because of the availability of software on it and that, I guess is what is different.

    Debian is also excellent for a developer who needs to get things done quickly, because one can install so many developer tools in such a short time.

  16. drew says:

    I like to install and be done with it. I’m a lazy sysadmin, it makes my job easier. Do it once, script it so I never have to manually do it again is how I learned.

  17. hari says:

    The difference is that in Debian, the scripts are already written by the package maintainers, thus making your job easier.

    It’s just a different approach.

  18. drew says:

    Well, I’m talking in general, not just package management. Any task, if it’s scriptable and you have to do it once and anticipate doing it again, script it. That makes a good sysadmin.. ;)

  19. od says:

    Ok, this has nothing to do with the posting, but I really like your blog. Especially the ‘About’ section. It’s one of the best that I’ve ever read. I’ve had few blogs back in 2000, but I have stopped blogging because I was so unfocused. Since the past few months I feel like blogging again, but am having problem with direction, and till now I have yet to decide whether I should blog, or not to blog. Your ‘About’ section was very well described. Btw I stumbled on your blog while googling.

  20. Ray says:

    od, welcome to the site and thanks for the comments. The “about” bit has been right off my radar for ages, one day I may update it…

  21. drew says:

    Hmmm.. I don’t think I ever read your About page til now Ray. And I forgot all about your clockwatching.net site, seem it hasn’t gone far but I love most of the pictures you have on it. I turned my clockwatching.net into my tech blog, actually more like some of the things I’ve done at work to use for reference, to share, etc.

  22. Ray says:

    I haven’t looked at the site for over a year now. It never really went anywhere, so I’m leaving it for history now :)