PCLinuxOS and Slackware: The Odd Couple

Patrick G Horneker


This past month, I had serious issues with my Internet connection, namely of the "cutting out in the middle of a PCLinuxOS update" kind. It was such an event that caused me to reconfigure my Toshiba laptop. During a regular update of PCLinuxOS, my connection was interrupted, causing the installation to be trashed to the point where KDE4 was removed from the Synaptic repository! As a result, I must go to public wi-fi spots to update PCLinuxOS as I can trust that connection.

Fortunately, I regularly backup my data, so at least that was not lost. Also, this gave me a chance to try something new.

Also, there are plenty of places to get Wi-Fi in Porter and LaPorte Counties (in Indiana). While I like PCLinuxOS for its simplicity, there is an issue with some public Wi-Fi spots.

Barnes and Noble (now with Free AT&T Wi-Fi), McDonald's (Boingo) and Panera Bread all serve up capture pages that are supposed to load when I launch Firefox, allowing for login to the wi-fi network. Unfortunately, Firefox 3.5 does not automatically load the capture pages after launch. I had to launch Seamonkey to be able to login to the public wi-fi spots.

The Reconfiguration

As long as I was going to have to reconfigure my laptop, I reassessed what should go on the laptop. While I may like PCLinuxOS, and it is a great system, I also like Slackware. Slackware is one of the oldest distributions (if not the oldest) in the Linux world.

What would be a better idea than to run PCLinuxOS in VirtualBox with 768MB of memory allocated and 32GB of disk space. This way, I get the best of both worlds, and will also be able to support other distributions (if I need to) through virtual machines.

Why Slackware?

You can learn about Linux by using PCLinuxOS. It is among the easiest to configure. However, to truly learn about Linux and UNIX in general, you learn Linux by working with Slackware. Here, most everything is manually configured so you get a real feel for how Linux really works.

Both PCLinuxOS and Slackware allow you to compile software from source code. Package management in Slackware is different from PCLinuxOS.

Slackware packages contain not only the binaries, libraries and their configuration files, but also the development headers used when compiling software from source code. To have the equivalent in PCLinuxOS means you not only have to download the packages you want, but also separate RPM packages that contain the development headers. (These are the packages that are suffixed with -devel in the package name.)

While PCLinuxOS may handle WiFi connections through drakroam and drakconnect, Slackware uses wicd for WiFi connectivity. wicd is (in my opinion) a cross between Network Manager and drakroam, and is a bit faster than PCLinuxOS when it comes to connecting to the Internet.

This could have resulted in a dilemma, but then it occurred to me, why choose between PCLinuxOS and Slackware, when I can have both on the same laptop, and running at the same time.

PCLinuxOS does have its strong points, such as the simplicity of administration, and the ability to configure multiple network connections, and a fast startup time, and out of the box support for more printers and wi-fi adapters than some distributions. These points are all the more reason to use PCLinuxOS.

Slackware has a strong point of being able to run on older machines, some of which may or may not be able to run PCLinuxOS. Also, on newer laptops such as my Toshiba L305, Slackware is very fast!!!

How It Works

VirtualBox allows for sharing of the network connection between the guest and host OS. This allows me to worry about getting Wi-Fi to work on Slackware, and once the connection is made (and after logging in), that connection is made available to PCLinuxOS without having to configure the Wi-Fi connection there.

After having installed Guest Additions to PCLinuxOS, I am able to share my home directory between PCLinuxOS and Slackware.

Virtualbox is not a part of Slackware, and that is a good thing, as I was able to download the latest version, and be able to share the WiFi connection and USB devices.