Slax 9.6.4

written by Tomas M. 18 days ago

After a week of tweaking, I am happy to announce that a new Slax version has been released.
This new release contains many bug fixes and improvements.
List of changes include:


  • Implemented scrollbar indicator for xlunch, so user can see if there are more icons beyond current screen
  • X is now started on vt7 terminal as it is usually the case in all Linux distros (it was on vt2 before)
  • User can select text-mode boot by specifying 'text' boot parameter
  • Commands dir2sb and sb2dir were rewritten to act as conversion utilities (documentation)
  • Added b43 broadcom firmwares
  • Added genslaxiso command to create new ISO file, optionally adding new modules
  • Gateway address is now properly set on PXE clients when pxe server is started in Slax
  • xLunch launcher now starts GUI applications without unnecessary terminal window

I've also added a new documentation describing how to customize Slax

Enjoy! :-)


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Fixing persistent changes

written by Tomas M. 24 days ago

While I was repackaging ISO for 64bit version of Slax 9.6.1, I used midnight commander to extract the iso contents. Unfortunately I forgot that there is a bug in midnight commander and it does not see empty directories.

For that reason, Slax 9.6.2 ISO file did not contain /slax/changes directory, which is needed for storing persistent changes. You can fix that yourself easily by simply creating that directory. I've already pushed out version 9.6.3, which fixes this.

Lets hope I will avoidi such mistake next time. :)

You may notice that 32bit version 9.6.1 is the same as 9.6.2 and also the same as 9.6.3. Only 64bit version was affected and changed during these version bumps.



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Slax 9.6.2 bugfix release

written by Tomas M. 27 days ago

Maybe you noticed two version bumps yesterday, so I'd like to explain the reason behind them.

Slax 9.6.0 had two problems introduced in that version. Firstly, the advertised pxe script had a flaw, causing it to generate unbootable initramfs image. I am not sure how this happened since it was thoroughly tested before the release, perhaps it was not thorough enough :] Secondly, the newly installed dnsmasq daemon, which should be started only by the pxe script, was autostarted by systemd on every boot, even for users who never need pxe at all, that was not intentional. So I've fixed those two issues by releasing Slax version 9.6.1.

Unfortunately, while releasing that fix in a hurry, I forgot my custom build-module in 64bit version of 9.6.1, which made the ISO unusable. I am using this build-module to automate building of Slax, but it must never be included in the released ISO file. To fix that mistake, I've repackaged the 64bit ISO image and released it as Slax version 9.6.2.

To sum it up, you can consider 9.6.2 as a bugfix release fixing issues in 9.6.0. Next time, I should consider releasing -rc version first, to avoid such stupid mistakes :]


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Slax 9.6.0 released

written by Tomas M. 29 days ago

I am happy to announce that a new version of Slax Linux is available for download. It features updates for all included packages, and fixes PXE boot support, so it is now possible to boot Slax over network again. There is also a 'pxe' script included, which you can execute on a running Slax to start a pxe server (it will auto-assign a random IP address from range 10.0.0.x). In order to download Slax, visit the newly redesigned website at www.slax.org

Enjoy the new release! :)



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Slax 9.5.0 released

written by Tomas M. 144 days ago

I am happy to announce that a next version of Slax Linux has been released. Slax is a minimalistic, fully modular operating system. As usual, this version incorporates all upstream improvements from Debian stable, and fixes few small known bugs.

I am also happy to announce that it is now possible to purchase Slax preinstalled on an USB flash drive with hardware-based AES encryption. This device is universally usable because the encryption is performed directly by the drive itself, there is no software to install needed. Once disconnected, the USB drive automatically locks itself again. Payment is possible only with Bitcoin, because I truly wish to see PayPal and credit card companies to cease to exist soon.




You can download or purchase Slax from the project's home page.

Enjoy! :)





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Slax 9.4 final released

written by Tomas M. 263 days ago

After a short testing with no problems reported, I feel it is now the right time to release next version of Slax Linux - a minimalistic, fully modular operating system.

This version incorporates all upstream improvements from Debian stable, adds several default applications and fixes several known bugs. File manager now understands file types, so it is easier for users to open files like images, pdf documents, and so on.

On top of all that, Slax now includes one-click-to-install launchers, to offer additional software to users while keeping Slax size small. If the current approach proves useful, Slax could contain lots of icons for additional programs, which will be simply installed (automatically) when launched for the first time.

Check the full list of changes

You can download Slax from the project's home page.

Enjoy! :)


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Slax 9.4 rc1

written by Tomas M. 264 days ago

Hello everybody, you can download Slax 9.4 64bit rc1 here. For list of changes, see here. I do not expect any more changes in the final release, which should be available on 26th of March.

Most noticable change is addition of launchers for not-installed applications - the app will download and install on the first run. Feel free to suggest your preferred applications which you like to have included by default. You can see at the screenshot below icons for VLC (video player) and VoteCoin (anonymous crypto currency wallet), those apps are not included in Slax, but clicking the icons will auto-install them (before the first run).

By the way, VoteCoin is my other creation, if you are interested in getting more info, see https://www.votecoin.site





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Work in progress on next version

written by Tomas M. 268 days ago

I've started working on next version of Slax. You can track the roadmap here, and you can suggest changes for the next version here.

A few users requested a possibility to purchase Slax preinstalled on an USB drive, so I'll offer such possibility after the new version is released. If you like, you can support Slax by buying such USB device directly from this website. And if you don't like, you can simply download it for free as usual :)

More to come hopefully soon. I expect new release to be ready in few days.

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Slax 9.3 is here

written by Tomas M. 355 days ago

Most of you celebrate something today, so here is a little gift for you :) I've released Slax 9.3 just few minutes ago and I have to say that I am happy with the progress we are making.



Lets recap all the changes since previous stable version:

First of all, I've added lots of firmware drivers to support various WIFI devices. It is around 40MB compressed, so Slax is a bit bigger now due to this, but I fully understand that a computer without network connection is completely useless, so this had to happen. :)

I spent some time testing Slax to boot from many different filesystems and I was able to identify some problems, which are now fixed. Most importantly this includes NTFS and ext4 support, so Slax is now capable of booting from them as well.

If you boot from a writable media, the Persistent Changes feature is enabled by default now. Note that you may need to erase your changes.dat file if it was created by beta/beta2.

Other news include:


- added pcmanfm as file manager for GUI
- added wicd as wifi network manager
- xLunch now auto updates, to see newly installed apps
- hard drives are mounted on boot and bookmarks added to pcmanfm
- keyboard layout stays persistent
- screen resolution change is reimplemented to make it work better
- syslinux updated to newest version


Download Slax 9.3 here

And since it is 24th of December: Happy whatever holidays you celebrate, based on whatever irrational beliefs you may have! :-)



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Slax 9.3 beta 2

written by Tomas M. 362 days ago

Since there were some bugs in the initial beta release, I'm publishing beta2 now. Shouldn't it be gama? :)

  • Slax 9.3 beta2 64bit (256MB)
  • Slax 9.3 beta2 32bit (266MB)


  • There is nothing new, just few bugs fixed to make things actually work as advertised. Please read changelog on previous beta release for more.

    Enjoy! :]

    29 comments
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    Slax 9.3 beta 1 ready for download

    written by Tomas M. 363 days ago

    I am almost ready to release the next Slax version. But before I do so, I would like to get some feedback on the current progress. So I've prepared a beta release, you can download Slax 9.3 beta from here:

  • Slax 9.3 beta 64bit (256MB)
  • Slax 9.3 beta 32bit (266MB)


  • In order to better organize feedback from users, lets use google groups. It is a mailing list, everybody should be able to send a message to it, and if you join the group, you'll also get answers from other users.

    Get in touch here:

    slax-users@googlegroups.com



    You can of course post a comment in this blog as well, but using the mailing list should be more beneficial for everybody. Lets see how it goes :)

    This beta release includes the following changes:

  • Persistent changes is now default if you boot Slax from a writable media
  • Newly installed applications have their icons added to xLunch screen automatically
  • Added File Manager (pcmanfm), set to show drives in the left sidebar
  • Fixed Slax booting from NTFS and EXT4 filesystems.
  • Added lots of wifi-related firmware drivers and wicd as network manager.
  • Testing is needed, please test if you can. Thank you!


  • Enjoy the beta release!
    If everything goes smoothly, we should have next Slax in a week.


    18 comments
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    Next Slax soon

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    I noticed that Debian has updated to 9.3.0 so it's time to update Slax too. I plan to release update with each minor Debian release, if there are any bugfixes or changes (in Slax) at that moment. I will update this blog post as I progress through my todo list.

    Currently I've implemented these changes:


    - add nicer filesystem icons to pcmanfm
    - make xlunch refresh on start to see newly installed apps
    - mount hard drives on boot and add bookmarks to pcmanfm
    - add @ntfs-3g support, add ext4 support for bootable device
    - make persistent changes default when booting from writable media
    (and offer "fresh start" in boot menu instead)
    - make keyboard layout persistent
    - fb keys: OnDesktop Mouse1 :MacroCmd {WindowMenu} {HideMenus}
    - reimplement xrandr screen resolution change, use --mode somehow
    - add pcmanfm as file manager for GUI
    - add wicd as wifi configurator
    - update syslinux to newest version
    - added wireless tools
    - added firmware (free and nonfree)
    - added contrib and nonfree repositories
    - fixed apt-get alias parameters handling


    and this is the todo list for this release:


    - write documentation
    - inform users that there is a google group
    (mailing list) for slax at slax-users@googlegroups.com



    I should be able to release next Slax in few days, so this is your last change, if you desperately require something which is not yet on the TODO list then feel free to post comment :)


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    Survey

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago









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    Is there malware in Chromium in Slax?

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    Several people complained that I've added malware to chromium in Slax, and similar shit :) So, lets take a look at it.

    The chromium module in Slax is created using this method:
    1) boot fresh Slax
    2) apt install chromium
    3) savechanges /04-chromium.sb

    That is all. Well, the procedure is indeed a little bit more complicated since I want to remove some unneded files after apt install, and I need to provide a 'chromium' script which logins as guest user and starts the chromium binary, because chromium refuses to run as root, but other than that, I make no changes. Especially I add no chromium extensions etc. You can review the build script here

    If you start chromium in Slax and check out chrome://extensions URL, you will indeed see three extensions. Those cannot be disabled or uninstalled through the settings interface. What are those extensions? Well I have no idea what they do, but you can gues by their names:

    - bookmark manager
    - pdf viewer
    - cryptoTokenExtension

    To be honest, I didn't know that chromium installed with apt install has such extensions. I am not sure if all of them are really needed. But as I mentioned, I am not adding these, if you install fresh Debian and you install chromium the way I did, you'll get those extensions too. I believe that Debian developers know what they are doing, and I doubt those extensions would be any harmful.

    I can assure you that if I was to add malware to chromium in Slax, I would definitely add it in a way that you could never notice. Adding malware this way makes no sense :-)


    24 comments
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    vesamenu.c32 boot problem

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    Several people reported they have problem booting Slax from USB device, with the following error message displayed:

    failed to load com32 file /slax/boot/vesamenu.c32
    I am not able to replicate this error, so I need your help to find out what particular change fixes it. So, if you are experiencing these troubles, please try the following and let me know what helps:

    1) download latest syslinux
    2) unzip
    3) find file ./bios/com32/menu/vesamenu.c32
    4) copy the vesamenu.c32 to your USB disk with Slax and try to boot Slax again.

    If this helps to resolve your problem, please reply here that vesamenu.c32 is the only file which needs update. However, it is possible that some more files need to be added, so if only vesamenu.c32 won't help to fix your problem, try to copy also ./bios/com32/libutil/libutil.c32, ./bios/com32/libcom/libcom.c32, and maybe some others from the ./bios/com32 directory. I don't think that those are needed, but you can test.

    I cannot solve this alone, since it doesn't fail on my computer. Thank you very much for your time playing with this.



    25 comments
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    Some examples for Persistent Changes

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    In a reply to several questions about persistence, I'd like to put here few hints. Remember that this all works after reboot only if you select "Keep changes persistent" in the boot menu, and only if you are running Slax from a writable media such as USB disk.

    1) how to make sshd server start automatically?

    You can start ssh server manually by running service ssh start. If you run it the first time, it creates some keys in /etc/ssh/ directory, so the first start is a little bit longer. But even after the keys are created, sshd won't autostart on reboot. It's because I manually disabled it in Slax, because root's password is well known. So, make sure to change your root's password (and password of the guest user) to something new. When done, run systemctl enable ssh. It will basically create a symlink to ssh.service in multi-user.target.wants (which is in /etc/systemd/system directory). This ensures sshd will be started on boot.

    2) How to make keyboard layout persistent?

    I forgot to implement such functionality. So keyboard layout needs to be set from the fluxbox menu each time and there is no config file to change. You can make it persistent by editing /root/.fluxbox/startup ... add there a line such as setxkbmap fr for french keyboard layout, etc. Make sure it is somewhere on top of the file. I will probably fix the persistence of keyboard layout in next Slax release, so if you set it this way, you may need to remove it from the startup file again at some point later, when Slax fixes this.

    3) how to disable autostart of Xorg?

    Similarly like enabling ssh server, you may disable autostarting of X by the following command: systemctl disable xorg. This will remove display-manager.service symlink from /etc/systemd/system and you will get only text-mode console on next boot. You can still start X manually with the startx command after login, though.


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    Wifi in Slax

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    Apparently I forgot to include some wifi support in Slax. I don't have any device with wifi here at the moment, so I can't test, but there should be few things to consider. First of all, you will probably need some firmware for your wifi adapter. I'm not sure which packages to install, some of them may not be in official debian repository. Hopefully somebody in the comments will suggest something. Second, you will probably need some software to manage your wifi connections. Some people suggested wpa_supplicant, this can be installed with apt install wpasupplicant. This is a commandline utility, as far as I can tell. If you are looking for a GUI to configure your wifi network, you may try

    apt install network-manager-gnome
    nm-applet &


    Or better (half download, only 50MB):
    apt install wicd
    wicd-gtk -t &



    This will put an icon in system tray, which you can use to access network settings using GUI.

    Hope this helps a bit.


    25 comments
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    Proper release announcement

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    After several years of inactivity Slax project has been brought to life again in new version 9.2.1. For those who did not hear about it yet, Slax is a little distribution of GNU/Linux (in 200 MB), which runs on your computer without installing, and makes no changes to it (unless you tell it to do so).

    This time, Slax uses Debian stretch as its base, and thus it can offer all the wonders of the mighty 'apt' command. If you are missing any software in Slax, use 'apt install SOFTWARENAME' to get it in an instant. I've decided to go for Debian because it made my life much easier and I believe that it will make yours too.

    Graphical desktop uses FluxBox window manager and xLunch, which was written especially for Slax and with Slax needs in mind. Furthermore the development of xLunch continues independently.

    There are only few applications included, Chromium is used as a web browser and video player, and there is also leafpad and calculator, just for the sake of completeness :]

    You can consider Slax as a simple and minimalistic base Linux system, which you can carry in your pocket.


    60 comments
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    Slax 9 has been released

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    I am happy to announce that after a month of development, the next generation Slax Linux has been released. Proper release announcement will follow in few hours, I'm kinda busy at the moment :)



    31 comments
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    Tray icon for shutdown

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    FluxBox is somehow limited in the way how to customize its look. No icons on desktop, no shutdown buttons... So I hired a programmer who wrote the best application on the world - SysTray Icon Launcher. It is like 50 lines of code, and what it does is pretty simple. Put an icon to system tray and execute a command when it is clicked. Thanks to it, we now have an awesome power button in about 20KB or so :) Hell I love this wallpaper, all screenshots are so cool!



    3 comments
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    Applications included in Slax

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    I am finishing last few bits of the next gen Slax release. I think the biggest difference for the end user will be lack of applications. People were probably used to a rich collection of apps in Slax, including GUI file manager, video player, instant messaging program, card games, remote desktop app, more card games, ... :-) None of this will be included in the next Slax release. I may prepare, in the future, a bigger and more feature rich version, but for now, i am sticking with the only necessary software: xterm and web browser (chromium).

    There is also leafpad as text editor and qalculate as a calculator, those apps were like 200KB in total, so I added them. But other than that, only browser and terminal. I believe that everything (and I mean really EVERYTHING) is moving to the web. In most cases, web browser is the only software you need nowadays for various tasks. Spreadsheeds? online. Video player? Online. And thanks to apt-get (now included in Slax), most of the available software is online as well.

    So for now, four icons will be fully sufficient.



    7 comments
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    Slax screenshots

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    Here are some first Slax screenshots. The wallpaper was created specially for Slax.

    Empty desktop:



    Running some programs:



    Logout dialog:



    8 comments
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    Clean shutdown with systemd

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    Warning, technical post, for advanced users and developers only :) (and for me, because I will surely forget this soon)

    If you were used to access files in /mnt/live/* in Slax, then you will have to change your habits (and scripts) because that is now available in a different path: /run/initramfs/* ... Explanation why this change was necessary follows.

    When Slax was based on Slackware, I had to manually patch the rc scripts for shutdown, to return control back to initramfs which could safely unmount all devices and reboot. But after changing to Debian base, there are no such rc scripts (due to systemd). Systemd has some hardcoded logic on what it tries to unmount. I had to digg into systemd source codes to find out what it actually does during reboot, and I was happy to find a solution.

    Previous Slax puts the initramfs-root-filesystem in /mnt/live/ by calling pivot_root. But systemd has no idea this directory is special, and it tries to unmount it (including all submounts) on shutdown, making Debian report lots of red warnings. As it shows up, there is no possibility to exclude certain mountpoints from unmounting when the system is ending, however systemd has several exclude-paths hardcoded. It is / (root directory, obviously), /run/initramfs and /usr. So, instead of pivoting the root to /mnt/live, I had to modify linux-live-kit to pivot into /run/initramfs, in order for all systemd-based distros to ignore unmounting of initrd-based mounts, resulting in shutdown without errors. In order to unmount those properly, systemd executes /run/initramfs/shutdown.

    One problem appeared immediately - Debian overmounts /run on boot with tmpfs, which made the /run/initramfs inaccessible (even mount --bind /run /somewhere couldn't help). So I had to make a little change in the initial startup - mount the 'run/' directory first with tmpfs, then create run/initramfs/, and then pivot root. Debian recognizes that /run is areadly mounted and doesn't overmount it again, leaving /run/initramfs accessible. Bingo.


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    Slax and systemd

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    During the past days I've received lots of feedback for the upcoming release of Slax, by email, blog, and other channels. Some of the users welcome Debian, some of them hate it, some don't care :) I think I've explained my reasons why I choosed Debian in my previous post, so I won't repeat that here. But some users are concerned about systemd and would like to know my views of it. So I'd like to mention few things here.

    To understand it better, we need to look at how your computer starts. When your computer is turned on, it checks bootable disks or CDs and loads a 'bootloader' first. This is a little software, which is located on your hard drive's first sector, and once executed, its only purpose is to find Linux kernel, load it to memory and execute it (plus pass some parameters to it).

    Linux kernel is much bigger binary, it is the core of evey Linux system. After Linux kernel is loaded and executed, it takes over your computer, and provides functions for all of your software to interact with your computer's hardware.

    Once the kernel initializes everything and is ready to manage everything, it calls the init. In Slax, things are more complicated due to another added layer, but lets ignore this now. So kernel finds the 'init' file on your disk, usually in /sbin/init, and executes it. So, init is the first process which gets always executed, and which takes care of the rest of the boot procedure.

    This init may have different forms. It may be a simple statically compiled program, which does not require any other libraries, and which goes through /etc/rc.d/ directory and runs all scripts stored there sequentially, to perform some initial tasks (like mounting partitions, starting daemons, etc.) before you get your login prompt. The init may be also a more complicated program, which does something more advanced. Or, the init can do a hell a lot of complicated stuff, as like in the case of systemd, in order to provide some "advanced functionality", before the login prompt is displayed to the user. Systemd is not a single binary to execute, it depends on functionality provided by additional libraries such as dbus, pam, notify, and lots of others.

    From my point of view in Slax, I don't really need to know what kind of init is used at all. Slax adds a layer in between the kernel and the distribution (be it Debian or Slackware or anything else) to provide a way to run Linux from a read-only media as like as it was writable. After this layer is set up, then the init of the underlaying distro is executed and continues normally, and it doesn't matter for Slax what the init is or does.

    To sum it up, I don't really care if the init is systemd or something else. It does not affect me at all.

    I am not sure what is the most important concern of some users who do not like systemd. I believe that there are two factors. First may be the complexity of systemd, which surely makes it hard to maintain its code, and goes against the phylosophy of Linux in general (kiss = keep it simple, stupid). By the way, is this really the phylosophy of Linux? :) Anyway, the other factor may be that the adoption of systemd seemed like it was forced to the end users, because once your distro uses systemd, lots of things start depending on it and there is really big problem for package maintainers, they would have to release many packages twice - once for systemd-enabled systems, and once for non-systemd ones, so it is easier for them to stick just with systemd and ignore the rest, which leaves no possibility for the end users to switch to different init they like.

    I may agree with these arguments, but as long as somebody else prepares things up for me (by packaging it), and as long as it works and makes my life easier, I am not affected by that (as a developer of Slax!) in any negative way. And I believe that the end users of Slax are even less affected by systemd. I didn't notice any single place where systemd would affect the end user's experience (expect the fact that the system boots up faster). So after all, I don't mind using systemd in Slax. I am not pro- or against- it, my position is best described as neutral :-)

    If you have faced any issues as the end user, I welcome your comments. Thank you!


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    New Slax is comming

    written by Tomas M. 1 year ago

    It has been long time ago when I released latest Slax version. The time has come to ressurect the project again. Why? Just for the fun :)

    The main decision I had to make is to abandon Slackware. Yes it's true, next Slax is not going to be based on Slackware. Sorry Slack fans. The reason is simple: lazyness. I am too lazy, reall, really lazy. When I prepared Slax from Slackware, I had to patch kernel with aufs, configure, recompile, etc. etc. Then compile other software from sources, fight dependencies, and so on. I enjoyed doing that in the past, but now I'm not in the mood anymore. So, I've selected a different base for Slax. And it is, prepare youself, hold on, hold on, ... Debian.

    I had to learn few new things with Debian, but other than that, it is the same as Slackware. I mean, all Linux distros are the same anyway, ... it's all Linux. Debian has the advantage of 'apt-get install aufs-dkms'. This simple command helps me add aufs to the kernel in an instant, and it's the main reason why I selected Debian. Another good reason is the database of packages for Debian, there is hell a lot of them.

    So what is it going to look like? When is it going to be released? Well, I have it almost ready! :) I'm going to use fluxbox for window manager, compton for compositing (fading effects, transparency), xlunch as app launcher, xterm for terminal and chromium as web browser. That's it. All of this in a 800 KB download ISO image. Yes, you read it right, 800 KB, that's true, I'm not kidding :-) Standard ISO size is going to be like 210 MB, but there will be also a ~800 KB version which will simply boot everything over network. It will mount the big iso from web and download only the parts which are actually accessed. It can also work peer to peer, so all slax users who boot from network may connect to others to get Slax data (verified by checksum using official server).

    If I am in the mood, I will maybe prepare a 1 GB version with some software collection. But at the moment I don't feel that's necessary, you can simply add anything you want using 'apt-get install' (and make a permanent module using 'savechanges' script), and there is no need for many software applications nowadays, since everything is moving to the web.

    You'll probably want to see some amazing screenshots. Well, can't show you any yet, since I don't have the most important part for Slax - the right wallpaper ;-) As soon as I select one, I'll show you. Next Slax should be available in about a week or two.

    More news to come ... :) Stay tuned, and take care.


    33 comments
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    Application launcher for X under 25KB

    written by Tomas M. 2 years ago

    I've developed my first program for X. It's called xlunch, and it's a Graphical app launcher, using pure Xlib and Imlib2. It allows you to run a program by clicking its icon. Alternatively you can just type any command using your keyboard. UTF8 is supported. The Run commandline also works as a filter for the icons, as long as the title or command matches, icon is visible.

    Size after compiling is 25KB. This is the first step for the next minimalistic Slax, if that ever happens :)

    I will be happy if you try it and possibly let me know what you think about it, bug fixes or patches in general are very welcome. I have already few ideas how to improve it, which I have covered in github's issues. Feel free to submit your own issue, feature request, or comment.

    Project page: http://xlunch.org/

    Thank you!
    And here is a screenshot:



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    Virtual private servers at vpsFree

    written by Tomas M. 2 years ago

    I'm using vpsFree service to host Slax website and also for the build server, and I have to say that I'm quite happy with it. If you consider getting a virtual private server (VPS), be sure to check them out. Their name (vpsFree) may seem a bit misleading indeed, since the service itself is not free of charge. The word "free" means freedom here, they don't do it for money, they do it because they love the technology. Everything, that is going on, is discussed publicly on the mailing lists, you can see into it all and if you like, you can join in and participate too.

    For something around $10 per month each user gets 4GB of RAM, 120GB storage and 8 CPU cores. If you compare this with other commercial VPS providers, you will surely realize this is a pretty good deal.

    I got the service completely free of charge, since the guys behind vpsFree are supporting Slax this way, to keep the website live. So I decided to write a blog post about it here, to provide some advertisement in return, as a thank-you :)

    So, make sure to check them out! Thanks for your attention :)

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    Questionnaire results

    written by Tomas M. 2 years ago

    After getting over 1250 responses to the Questionnaire published month ago, I should be able to make some conclusions. I'll describe them here.

    1. Slax language translations

    More than 65% of users prefer to use Slax in English only. Some users reported they voted for non-english support only because of their need to use non-US keyboard layout, which seems reasonable. So as a conclusion, taking into consideration the fact that creating and distributing 40 language mutations is a headache, I've decided that if there is a new Slax release, it will support non-US keyboard layouts, but will not provide localized translations - those should be available only as modules.

    2. Slax base - keeping Slackware?

    Almost 84% of all respondents do not care if Slax is based on Slackware. This means that I can do practically anything when selecting the base for Slax. To be honest I didn't decide yet if I want to switch. The problem with Slackware is that there is no way to get extra software easily. I am considering Debian and Gentoo at the moment.

    3. Slax size

    Only 5% of users prefer Slax to keep <200MB size. And 63% of users can accept size over 500MB. So I think targetting to ~500MB or ~700MB (to fit a regular CD) may be the best decision. I think 700MB is not such a deal nowadays. If I can put more data on file, it will mean less work for me optimizing the size.

    4. Graphical desktop

    Only 4% of Slax users prefer console-only OS, so graphical desktop will remain included. Only 10% of users would appreciate Gnome3. The rest of users is divided almost equally to three groups, one requesting very lightweight desktop like OpenBox, another one liking KDE, and third one appreciating desktop like XFCE. This basically mean that whatever I do, I'll piss of most users :) and it also means I can do whatever I like :) I did not decide yet. So I think that I'll select something lightweight which looks like KDE :)

    5. Slax Architecture

    Keeping Slax in several architectures is lots of work. I suggested a solution in one of the previous blog posts, I was thinking about the possibility to include both 32bit and 64bit kernels (appropriate kernel would load automatically) while providing only 32bit userspace binaries. This looks to me like the easiest way to make Slax working on all x86 architectures without any drawbacks. So for now I like this idea.

    6. Applications in Slax and Download Format

    Those questions were mostly informative for me, so I could see what's most important for users.

    7. Modules

    Modules are core of Slax. Only 17% of users do not care about modules, other users need them, either to create their own stuff or to (at least) download stuff built by others. I think the number would decrease if Slax was built on, say, Debian, since people could apt-get instead of downloading modules from the repository. In all cases, I see I have to keep the modularity.

    48 comments
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    Combined architecture 32/64bit

    written by Tomas M. 2 years ago

    There appears to be a very interesting possibility, which I never considered before. It is actually possible to detect - during the boot time - if you are booting the OS on a 64bit system or not, and thanks to this, the boot loader can automatically choose the right Linux Kernel image - 32bit one on a 32bit computer, and 64bit one on a 64bit computer. Furthermore, as I tested already, a pure 32bit operating system (binaries and libraries) can run without any problem on a 64bit computer while even the running kernel is 64bit (!) too. (The 64bit kernel is necessary when you want to access more than 4GB of total RAM).

    To sum it up, it is actually possible to package a 32bit operating system, with two kernels (one 32bit and one 64bit) and then boot this OS in a way that it will automatically select appropriate kernel for the given machine it runs on, while all the userland processes (programs) will be 32bit (thus smaller, and loading faster, when running from CD or a flash drive).

    Smaller and faster. That sounds great. What are disadvantages?

    Disadvantage of having a 32bit-only system is that any process can not allocate more than a few gigabytes of RAM (if I understand this properly). For a Live OS such as Slax, we don't really need to allocate more than that for any particular process. If you do then you'll probably use some other OS anyway.

    Another disadvantage may be that when the software (programs) is compiled for 32bit processors, it will not use some newer (and probably more optimal) instructions, which were added only to the newer 64bit processors and are not available for, say, i486 instruction set, thus there can be some performance penalty. I assume this will not be any significant problem for a Live OS such as Slax again, since if user really needs to gain the extra few percentages of performance, he or she will probably be using some other OS anyway.

    Having only one Slax version (32bit OS, with extra 64bit kernel included, which adds only around 20MB to the total OS size), would save me around 40% of the development time needed to package and distribute two variants 32+64, so I'm definitely open to try this out. It also simplifies decision for users, who do not need to care about the architecture, and they can safely use single Slax on all their machines.

    Let me know please your thoughts on this. Thank you


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    Build server was down

    written by Tomas M. 2 years ago

    Build server machine (where slax modules are compiled) is down since I'm reducing costs. From now on, I will be running the module builds only locally in virtual machine, occasionally, manually, few times per week. If you feel you do not like to wait, or if I forget to run it for many days, drop me a message when you want me to run it at any particular moment. Thanks for your patience :)

    Update 9th May: Guys from vpsFree.cz offered a free server for Slax, and it works very well. So from now on, all buildscripts will be compiled automatically as usual. Thanks guys! :]

    3 comments
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