Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

Long time fans of this space will be aware that I’m a Slacker.  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.Slackware & Kubuntu Logos

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.  Firstly, Slackware is now the oldest distro still in use – Slackware first began in 1993, followed by Debian, followed by Red Hat.  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.  In fact, almost all Linux distros use one of those three as their base, as shown on the graphical timeline.  And to wind this paragraph up, Kubuntu is the KDE variant of Ubuntu, which is based on Debian.  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.  The Slackware methodology is that almost everything should be done by hand: installing programs, configuring programs and so on.  Kubuntu focuses on ease of use: installation of programs is via the Adept Package Manager and using the apt command.  There are also wizards and you know when updates are available by the icon in your system tray.  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.  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.  And that is not a bad thing.  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.  Slackware, on install, drops you directly into a command prompt.  There are no obvious instructions and you are left to figure it out on your own.  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.  Slackers know how to get from command line to GUI and so are not stuck.  In Slackware, if you want something to run you have to install it and hand configure it.  If you want a new kernel, you can either download a new one from the mirrors or go to and get it yourself.  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.  Both have a different target audience, both do things differently by design.  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.  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.  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.  I will say that it’s very stable and has a great range of default programs available.  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.  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.  At the finish, I like hand configuring and I like to install programs from scratch.  Finally, the old saying applies: once you go Slack, you’ll never go back.


Posted on 22 June, 2008, in Distro Reviews, Idiot's Journey, Open Source and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.

  1. At the finish, I lie hand configuring and I like to install programs from scratch

    lie? hehehe.

    Nice review- has me itching to get back into linux.

    titaniums last blog post..paper blogged poetry

  2. Aarrgh! My K key intermittently fails. Thanks for spotting that, it’ll be fixed in a sec. 🙂

  3. I think your fear of “hand-configuring” in a distribution like Debian is unjustified.

    Debian (and some of its variants) allow you to install stuff you like without interference from the package manager. And largely Debian will ignore such installations and not mess with user-created or user-modified configuration files.

    In fact, if on the rare occasion you get a conflict, Debian’s package manager will usually ask you if you want to keep your own config file or replace it with the package maintainers’ configuration file.

    Of course, Debian does break on occasion, but mostly that’s due to a fault of the package maintainer or a rogue package, rather than a user-modified configuration setting.

    Debian (the plain Debian distribution – and not its derivatives) has a full set of development tools and compilers that can allow you to self-compile and install programs the same way you do it in Slackware.

    haris last blog post..Officially downgrading from Vista to XP

  4. I know Debian is that bit more solid than it’s derivatives, but i have a (largely irrational) holdover fear – I recall years ago that it did weird things to mix hand configuring and auto configuring and I try to stay away from it now. It may be a sign of my age…… 😉

    Rays last blog post..Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

  5. Well, I personally have done a few things in Debian using the traditional approach, and while it feels “unclean” to do it that way (mostly a psychological factor, I guess), it doesn’t really harm the system in any way except maybe a few extra kilobytes of disk space.

    For instance, I always install the NVIDIA drivers directly using the setup script and don’t rely on the Debian’s package manager. Luckily NVIDIA provide a way to uninstall the drivers cleanly as well. But Debian’s package manager would largely ignore such changes. But xorg is a totally different issue altogether and probably not the best example as most distributions tend to break Xorg after a kernel update, especially with third party drivers (and yes, even Slackware 😉 ).

    The only difference is that in Slackware you would both have to break and unbreak the system manually while in other distributions some of the intermediate processes are automated 😉

    haris last blog post..Officially downgrading from Vista to XP

  6. I am fully aware that I may be being ridiculous, but I prefer not to mix. Call it incipient paranoia if you like!

    Rays last blog post..Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

  7. I too dislike “mixing” approaches and I normally don’t, that’s why I stick to the Debian way, which I must say is very clean and very user-friendly.

    I’ve found that I use Linux to get work done these days, and not to do Linux configuration. That’s why Debian has suited me perfectly. Even my current work I’m doing on Debian.

    I have no issues with users of Slackware, but I get annoyed when certain people in the Slackware community (mostly not the mature users like you, but the new fanbois) say that doing everything manually is the only approach to using linux, otherwise we have no business to be using Linux at all.

    haris last blog post..Officially downgrading from Vista to XP

  8. As it goes, the attitude that everything has to be done by hand to be pure is the sort of attitude that was extant when the package managers were first coming to power. I remember all the mild flaming that went on if you said you used anything other than ./configure! The more things change, the more they stay the same 🙂

    Rays last blog post..Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

  9. I’ve not been on a Linux forum for a long time, but I’ll take your word for it.

    haris last blog post..Officially downgrading from Vista to XP

  10. Would this be why you decided to post on LQ today after all this time? 😀

  11. Hari posted to LQ? Gawrsh!

    And the flaming happened while you were active Hari, iirc. Not that any inference should be drawn from that mere coincidence 🙂

    ray@Place of Stuffs last blog post..Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

  12. I’ve risen like the Phoenix from the ashes, but I’ll soon disappear into the mists like Zorro. 😛

    haris last blog post..Officially downgrading from Vista to XP

  13. I don’t participate on LQ that often and for a week or two recently made a presence. Apparently my old style of moderating and participating on there made some very sensitive members cry and whine a little. So I think I’m done with LQ and other technical forums for now. I just have no desire to help the helpless anymore, it’s the same thing over and over, it’s tiresome. It won’t ever end and I hate expressing my opinion as any member is entitled to only then to get criticized for being insensitive to others who can’t take the honest truth for very silly things.

  14. It’s the shape of many older forums unfortunately. Whereas once upon a time flaming people (even mildly) was the correct thing to do, now the internet is a free for all and less tech-y people are around, we have to be a little more friendly and assume everyone to be breakable.

  15. But I don’t want to live in a world full of softies. 😉

    Some of it isn’t or wasn’t even technical when it came to the whining. The internet is just filled with a bunch of people that shouldn’t have access in the first place.

  16. I always liked your moderating.

  17. Drew is always been a good friend of mine, but back in the old days (four or five years back), I remember a huge fight with the moderating team I had myself – Ah! The good old flamewars! I remember Drew and I exchanging a few e-mails back and forth, but that was the start of our friendship. Thanks to I’ve met a lot of great people like you, Ray and Drew…

    Drew has always been honest and forthright about his opinions – and doesn’t try to please anybody though I feel he’s toned down these days. But there was a time when anytime Drew posted on the forum, there was always a whiny member willing to take offence at his words.

  18. Here’s a great example of how soft the internet has become – I haven’t received hate mail in ages!

    Rays last blog post..Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

  19. Wasn’t necessarily hate email but email from a member about a week or so ago telling me he was pretty much done with LQ. I pretty much said the same thing in email that I said on the forums but being a little more straight forward, I smoothed it slightly over where he’s not going to just dump LQ.

    Some people just can’t handle the blunt truth online or offline. To me, those type of people probably been pampered their whole lives with some sugar coating as well. I feel bad when something in life hits them hard, they won’t have an easy time dealing with a good reality check. I guess people just take things way to personally when they shouldn’t.

    And thanks MrCorey, I always tried to stick to the rules and treat everyone the same on LQ when moderating. I don’t treat one member like their on top of the world to win them over. I don’t feel it’s necessary sometimes to hold their hand, especially when they broke a rule that was almost common sense and they’d get all sensitive cause a moderator closed their thread or what not.

  20. It is a pity that everything is now so mainstream that we have to be polite, but it’s what happens when things get popular. There are times that I miss the days when you could let rip on someone and the majority would say “good job” instead of complaining. Maybe that’s why a blog is a good thing ™ – when it all gets too much you can just beat somebody or something up and no one can stop you.

    ray@place of stuffs last blog post..Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

  21. I consider myself polite though.. It’s called being “cold but polite.”

  22. From the way you describe it, it seems Kubuntu is the more “slackerish” program.

  23. Not really, most things are done for you in Kubuntu. Slack really does leave you on your own to do things exactly as you want them to be done.

    Rays last blog post..Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

  24. I can tell you two big similarities between Slackware and Kubuntu (although, I think that Slack wins here). They are both BLOATED with programs! Trying to pare down to only the things that you want installed without leaving out something important is really hard! Once done, though…

  25. Yes, I couldn’t agree more, though with Slackware I tend to just not choose them at install time – i don’t need 4 different IRC clients, IM clients, newsreaders, window managers, etc etc.

    Rays last blog post..Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

  26. From my little experience of Slackware, the biggest advantage (and disadvantage) is its lack of pre-packaged software in the official distribution.

    Sure, you can always build or download Slackbuilds or .tgz files from third party sites, but more often than not, this would lead to serious conflicts in library versions if you happened to upgrade it. Then you get the messy situation of the base-system libraries which are too new for the available version of the third-party package (which always lags behind the official packages in terms of development).

    I would never use Slackware if I wanted to use a lot of third-party software which is not found in its official CDs. Maintenance after upgrades can become quite unmanageable.

    haris last blog post..Boxi and Panjo – Farewell to Thee

  27. That’s why if I don’t create a package and compile by source, if I update other libs that it may rely on, I either then decide to recompile a newer version or recompile the existing version, keeping the source locally and not deleting it.

    But then again, Slackware works great for me, once I install it, it usually has everything already installed I’ll use which is very minimal anyways. I’m like Ray, I don’t need 4 IRC clients or 5 email clients, etc. I do custom installs, install what I want and need, creating a minimal fast, secure distribution for use.

  28. Neither do I need 4 IMs or 5 email clients, Drew.

    But there are many programs I love to use on Linux which are not included in Slackware. Debian’s repositories are huge and that’s one reason why I use it.

    I would use Slackware myself if they packaged a lot more applications in the official distribution.

    haris last blog post..Boxi and Panjo – Farewell to Thee

  29. I guess using Slackware since 1999, it’s been using a lot of the same packages without changing them around as much, ones I’m use to and have stuck with as well so there’s a lot of applications out there I haven’t used and probably don’t need to since I haven’t installed the latest and greatest. If there is something I want or need and it doesn’t come with Slackware, there’s always a 90% chance it’s on or another mirror where extras are added.

  30. The only 2 linux distros I have ever used are slackware, and now ubuntu. I love ubuntu. Just because I know how to use a command prompt, it doesn’t mean I want to use it. Having things doen for you is fantastic, you can still go back in and change things aswell. I am posting this from my windows machine, but Ubuntu is where it is at. I might try out this KDE varient, sound interesting.

    Simon@Free Vector Arts last blog post..Free Terminator Vector Image

  31. I think this Slackware vs. the rest debate will go on as long as Linux exists. 😉

    haris last blog post..Boxi and Panjo – Farewell to Thee

  32. The great thing about having a choice is that you can have X vs Y arguments ad infinitum 🙂

  33. Wow, I haven’t thought about the “Y” server for quite some time. I wonder how its development is going… 😀

  34. it sucks. Z is the new big thing. and anyone who thinks otherwise is not l33t enuff for the new internet. so there.

  35. How do you manage to keep such a thread going, Ray? I mean, you’ve got 30 odd comments on this article already 😀

    Share your magic with me…

    haris last blog post..Boxi and Panjo – Farewell to Thee

  36. I don’t know. Occasionally I post something and think “this’ll be popular” and then no one posts in it. I do a throwaway post and everyone gets in there.

    At some point I fully expect to post one smiley and find it’s been Dugg and /.ed.

  37. I’m gonna post just to make it comment number 37.. cause well, I can! 😉

  38. In regards to the above question about how does he get so many comments….the 2 plug-ins keywordluv and commentluv sure do help get comments up. They give people incentive to leave a comment…so after they have read what you have to say, then instead of just leaving they are more likely to drop a comment for a backlink…my thoughts anyway 🙂

    Mark@tool vinyls last blog post..Tool – Opiate Review

  39. Aren’t you going to get a pile of comments with a title like “Slackware vs. …”

  40. I am, aren’t I? 😉 To be honest, it wasn’t a conscious choice to use those emotive words – I just couldn’t think of anything else to title it. In line with every other posting, I suppose.

    Rays last blog post..Slackware vs Kubuntu: A Subjective Review

  41. Yes, I believe the comments out here are due to:

    1. Slackware vs…
    2. Sympathy factor towards Ray 😉

    haris last blog post..Combating inflation – the Papa Hari Way

  42. I probably agree!

  43. Are you sure? If you have no way of checking, you really won’t know in most cases.

    ilahilers last blog post..Standart Kimden Aldin Müslüman ?

  44. You could have included “Apple sucks” in the title and really driven the traffic! No Slackware for me, I’m Ubuntu all the way.

  45. I am a windows guy and haven’t used linux in years I am using SUSE right now going to give Kubuntu a try.

    not used to the command line stuff anymore used to know it 10 years ago

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