Leaving Slackware
#14 Henry, Wednesday, 02 December 2009 4:04 PM (Category: Linux)
(Tags: slackware linux)

After my recent run-ins trying to get Audacity running on Slackware, I've been thinking about abandoning Slackware for my home and work desktops and moving to something newer and fresher. I will continue to use Slackware for my servers, as it is superb in that role.

I have two real choices - make the final switch to Mac for my desktop, or change to a different Linux distribution.

I occasionally do think about abandoning Linux on the desktop and going over to Mac. I use my Macs for the fancy stuff that Linux does not do well. Video. Handling my iPod Touch. FM radio. Digitising LPs. I love my Macs for a lot of things, but I don't know if I could ever make them my sole desktop. The Macs are very much a visual experience and I use them and love them for it. But my day to day computer use is not at the GUI, it's at the command line. And I have customised my command line environment to be very effective and efficient. I don't know if I could achieve the same level of customisation on the Mac. The Mac has a limited version of the X-Windows pager, but I use a 4x3 pager arrangement, giving me 12 screens, and scripts that fire up standard stuff in standard pages, and the Mac just doesn't go that far. I'm not prepared to lose functionality for prettiness. So I think that I will stick a Linux of some variety for my grunt work.

I asked the local Unix Users Group about what distributions I should experiment with. My needs are simple. I don't care about graphical vs text installation, I don't care about speed of installation. Installation takes half an hour to a few hours and then it's done for a year or more. I spend my time using my computer not installing it, so installation details are pretty irrelevant. As long as it installs, it's good.

The rest of my needs are peculiar to me. I do not use a computer like most people use a computer. I program a lot. I work on the command line most of the time. I write a lot of scripts to automate a lot of work. I want to be able to use Vim and the original Dickey xterm. I have to interact with a lot of older Unixes and tunnel around the Internet to them, and I want an xterm that handles the special keystrokes, and works correctly with them. I've also configured a lot of xterm and shell shortcuts and I don't want to lose them. I want a lot of shells available, a lot of languages available and a lot of fairly standard software already installed and ready to go. I prefer to use fvwm as my window manager and I want to keep it that way.

So I got a lot of feedback and I have started installing distributions on one of my laptops and working with it to see how things go. So far I have tried Kubuntu and Ubuntu. I discovered that I very much dislike KDE and Gnome. It's just a personal thing, I just don't like them. I find both distributions to be opaque. They feel like they have been designed to keep things from me, to guide me in the one holy path.

I'm not trying to start wars over this. I just don't like them, probably because my needs are different to most people. After Slackware finishes installing and I am greeted with a black screen and a command line login, I am exhilarated, it's like "Here we go!!!!!" and the adventure starts. When the others finish installing and I am faced with a blue looking screen that reminds me uncomfortably of Windows, I struggle to understand the weird metaphors in use. Obviously, in the modern world, this makes me a freak. So be it.

I will continue to experiment with distributions. Gentoo, Debian and Mandriva are next. Maybe even Fedora.