Installing Slackware

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Getting Slackware

You can download a Slackware bootable DVD from one of the mirrors on the GetSlack page, then boot from it. There are currently a 32-bits and a 64-bits version of Slackware. One on each side of the DVD. To make sure which one is which one, check the root directory. The 32-bits version has a directory named slackware, while the 64-bits version has a directory named slackware64.

Out of the box, the 64-bits version - the one documented here - is pure, only capable of compiling and running 64-bits binaries, but 32-compatibility can be added using the instructions on Eric Hameleers multilib page.

Setting up Partitions

Soon after booting you are presented with a login prompt. You may just press enter or login as root (the password is void). You can then setup the hard disk and install. You have to run the standard Linux fdisk program to setup your partitions.

Note : the functionnality of fdisk is limited so if you need to rearrange partitions as part of the installation process you might prefer using a gparted or SystemRescueCD live CD. Also refer to the Managing partitions page if needed.

Starting fdisk

When you start fdisk you need to specify the device to use. By default it will try to open /dev/sda, but in some cases this is not the correct device to use. Just specify the device name after typing fdisk on the command line. For example: fdisk /dev/sdb

An alternative to fdisk is cfdisk, which provides a menu-based setup program for the partition setup (DOS users comfortable with DOS's fdisk may find this program easier). Just run cfdisk at the prompt instead of fdisk.

Splitting space

Creating a separate swap partition is mandatory but for production systems you can also make separate partitions for /, /etc ,/home, /usr/local and /var. This affords later installing a new Linux version without impacting user, local software, server data.

  • /etc stores settings specific to the local installation
  • /home stores user space in case you have users defined
  • /usr/local stores software compiled locally
  • /var stores application space and logs

Slackware Setup

The Slackware Linux installation program is a text-based, menu-driven program. After you have defined your partitions, exit fdisk and start the setup program by typing setup at the prompt. The setup program is easy to use and provides help throughout. Here's an explanation of what the various main menu options do.

Displays the Slackware Setup HELP file. This option is recommended for new users and even experienced users. It offers the latest information about the Slackware Linux distribution.

Allows you to remap your keyboard if you need to.

Setup your swap partition(s).

Selects the target directory. Most of the time this is /, but sometimes it is something else. This option scans for partitions and allows you to format them as well.

Selects the source media for the Slackware Linux distribution. You can install from another hard disk partition, floppy disks, an NFS mount, a pre-mounted directory, or from CD-ROM.

This is where you pick which series you want to install. A checklist is displayed with a description for each series. You check the series that you want to install.

Slackware Linux was first released before CD-ROMs became a standard in systems and before fast Internet connections were cheap. Because of this, the distribution was broken down into software sets. Each set contains a different group of programs. This allowed for someone to get the Slackware Linux distribution quickly. For example, if you know you don't want the X Window System, just skip all of the X software set.

Group Explanation
A The base system. Contains enough software to get up and running and have a text editor and basic communications programs.
AP Various applications that do not require the X Window System.
D Program development tools. Compilers, debuggers, interpreters, and man pages.
E GNU Emacs. Yes, Emacs is so big it requires its own series.
F FAQs, HOWTOs, and other miscellaneous documentation.
K The source code for the Linux kernel.
KDE The K Desktop Environment. An X environment which shares a lot of look-and-feel features with the MacOS and Windows. The Qt widget library is also in this series, as KDE requires it to function.
KDEI Language support for the K Desktop Environment.
L System libraries.
N Networking programs. Daemons, mail programs, telnet, news readers, and so on.
T teTeX document formatting system.
TCL The Tool Command Language, Tk, TclX, and TkDesk.
X The base X Window System.
XAP X applications that are not part of a major desktop environment. For example Ghostscript and Netscape.
Y (the BSD games collection, Sasteroids, Koules, and Lizards).

Installs the selected series to the target directory. You are given several prompting options. Each is geared towards different levels of experience. Below is a listing of the different prompting options.

Group Explanation
Full Install everything (up to 6.5 Gb of software)
Newbie Use verbose prompting (and follow tagfiles)
Menu Choose groups of packages from interactive menus
Expert Choose individual packages from interactive menus
Custom Use custom tagfiles in the package directories
Tagpath Use tagfiles in the package directories

An option is also given to display the prompt mode help file, which may not be a bad idea if you don't understand the prompting modes.

This option takes you through the most important of the configuration process. That is, the root password, LILO configuration, network configuration (using netconfig), kernel installation, X setup, timezone, and a few other settings. You may want to take a look at the Configuration Page for some additional help.

Runs the Slackware Pkgtool program for managing packages. This is explained in more detail on the Package Management Page.

Exits the setup program. After installing Slackware Linux and exiting the setup program, you can issue the shutdown -r now command to reboot your new Slackware system.

Install what?

Slackware includes hundreds of software packages and reviewing them one by one is painful but will afford eliminating unused packages. A quick alternative is to install everything (#8.0 Gb in V14.2) but this will let a bit of unused software on your disk.

Of course, reviewing packages is also educational and anyway you need to do it on all distributions if you really want a clean install. The difference with a graphical-package-based distribution is that you will be able to do post installation maintenance work less comfortably.

Do not to omit to install ed, vim, OpenSSL and SQLite (required by KDE), the development packages including C++, Perl, Python, Git (but not exotic languages and version managers), all the libraries. Avoid emacs, faqs and howtos, and install only the international packages you need.

Once your set of packages is well targeted, you can use tagfiles to repeat the installation process reusing the list of packages from a previous install. More developed explanations can be found on the tagger site.

Post installation

Packages on your system can be modified at anytime after the initial installation. To add a package, go to the package directory (for example from the DVD) and launch pkgtool or installpkg XXXX.txz. To remove a package go to /var/log/packages and launch pkgtool or removepkg XXXX.

Slackware does not afford installing RPMs directly, however a package named rpm2tgz affords converting RPMs to the slackware txz system. This can be used to install software than comes only in the RPM format, such as

Note : After reboot and login, if you are using a Microsoft Natural Keyboard the system will start complaining about unknown keys pressed (these are characters sent by the keyboard to report its power status). To avoid these messages, enter the below commands in /etc/rc.local:

setkeycodes e001 121
setkeycodes e040 121
setkeycodes e059 121

Linux rescue

The Slackware Linux installation DVD is actually a live Linux DVD which as part of the boot sequence loads the drivers for all the devices on your computer then lets you login as root with no password. Installing the system is then just a matter of fdisk, cfdisk and setup, but you can instead mount local disks to do any maintenance work needed, for instance update fstab, inittab, lilo.conf, create a new boot sector using lilo, or update and create a copy of the boot sector :

# mount -t ext4 /dev/sda3 /mnt
# chroot /mnt
# cd /etc
# vi lilo.conf
# lilo
# mount -t ntfs /dev/sda1 /mnt/win7
# dd if=/dev/sda3 of=/mnt/win7/Boot/Linux.mbr bs=512 count=1
# sync
# reboot

Note : in the example above, chroot changes the root of the filesystem so that lilo takes as input /mnt/etc/lilo.conf, not /etc/lilo.conf, actually residing on the DVD. Another possibility would be to use with the lilo command the -C parameter to specify the input configuration file.

DVDless install Main Page Maintaining Slackware