Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review
Long time fans of this space will be aware that I’m a Slacker.Â However, when something wasn’t working as easily as it could, I installed Kubuntu to see what the latest version (Hardy Heron) was like and whether it could tempt me to switch permanently.
Firstly, even though all Linux distros are pretty identical at heart (largely the same commands, file structures and so on) there are a number of differences that can make one set of users argue incessantly with another set.Â Firstly, Slackware is now the oldest distro still in use – Slackware first began in 1993, followed by Debian, followed by Red Hat.Â You will notice that I have left off Suse, that’s because it started life using a Slackware base and then used a Red Hat base. So in terms of “pure” distros, Slackware was first, followed closely by Debian, followed closely by Red Hat.Â In fact, almost all Linux distros use one of those three as their base, as shown on the graphical timeline.Â And to wind this paragraph up, Kubuntu is the KDE variant of Ubuntu, which is based on Debian.Â There may be a large number of available distributions out there, but there are very few distros to base them off.
In terms of approach and use, Kubuntu and Slackware are very different.Â The Slackware methodology is that almost everything should be done by hand: installing programs, configuring programs and so on.Â Kubuntu focuses on ease of use: installation of programs is via the Adept Package Manager and using the apt command.Â There are also wizards and you know when updates are available by the icon in your system tray.Â It is also notable that Slackware come with plain vanilla KDE whereas Kubuntu has a very attractive configuration of KDE installed.
The biggest difference, for me, has been in the sheer amount of hand holding Kubuntu does for you – you are told when a package has a new update and are prompted to install it, the wireless network configuring is largely done for you, if a kernel update is available the update is installed and configured along the lines of the existing kernel.Â As well, when you first go to your home folder, you are given a number of pre-created directories – for Documents, Pictures, Templates and Music, for example – and really you could quite happily start using it without having to make any sort of major change yourself.Â And that is not a bad thing.Â Most Linux users were, or are, Windows users and having something familiar is a great way to ease them into using an entirely different operating system.
Slackware users, on the other hand, are largely left to their own devices.Â Slackware, on install, drops you directly into a command prompt.Â There are no obvious instructions and you are left to figure it out on your own.Â This is entirely by design – if you are expecting to be shown a graphical desktop on first boot and don’t get it, many users would be very stuck and unable to continue.Â Slackers know how to get from command line to GUI and so are not stuck.Â In Slackware, if you want something to run you have to install it and hand configure it.Â If you want a new kernel, you can either download a new one from the mirrors or go to http://www.kernel.org and get it yourself.Â The only pre-created directories available are the ones KDE creates by default.
In a lot of ways, comparing the two distros is like comparing apples and oranges.Â Both have a different target audience, both do things differently by design.Â However, that is not to say that one can’t go from one to the other. The desktop environment in both is KDE and so a lot of things are done the same.Â If you spend enough time using Kubuntu, you will be able to use Slackware – the directories available are similar and many of the commands available are distro-agnostic.
But with all that said, I am a Slacker.Â Kubuntu is an excellent distribution of Linux and there are many reviews of it on the internet to give you an idea of what it can do.Â I will say that it’s very stable and has a great range of default programs available.Â However, I am constantly finding myself hitting the same barrier I always hit when I use a distro like this: I am reluctant to hand configure or install things for fear of breaking the install.Â This is a problem that I have hit when using Fedora and Debian (to an extent) and any other distribution with a package manager or that uses wizards to do anything.Â At the finish, I like hand configuring and I like to install programs from scratch.Â Finally, the old saying applies: once you go Slack, you’ll never go back.