Business Internet and Telephony, since 1985

Melee of Madness and Mayhem Ensues in the Aftermath of Slackware 13.37 Release

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend by emailSend by email Share this

Overcoming inertia is paramount before the movement of a given object can occur. An object at rest would rather stay at rest, while an object in motion exhibits a tendency to remain that way.

Self confessed deadhead Patrick Volkerding's Slackware Linux distribution is no exception to that rule, and mere moments following the release of his latest stable release of the oldest extant Linux distribution on the planet, ISPs were complaining, gearheads were leeching, and Slackware zealots the world over were intimately re-acquainted with the term, "melt down" - popularized in the movie "China Syndrome", so many years ago.

Slackware Linux was one of the first popular free software projects to champion and encourage the use of BitTorrent technology as a method of sharing and distributing itself, yet we haven't seen anything like this since Tommy Lee and Pamela's missing video tape was found - on the net...

To measure the success and popularity of in terms of revenue alone could be extremely misleading, Just look at Oracle's Unbreakable Linux, which brings in a tidy sum - albeit mostly from disgruntled bean counters who must adhere to a mandate of commercial vendor support, and find that they can shave a considerable sum by adopting a Redhat clone for significantly less.

The popularity of Slackware is legendary considering its remarkably cult-like following of fans and industry who realize that no matter where you go... there you are - wait! what I meant to say was no matter where you find yourself, it's on you, not some call center flunky who works for a vendor charging you thousands of dollars for the privilege of making you wait while some bonehead thumbs through his three ring tech support binder, and then asks you if you plugged in your server.

Apologies to Peter Weller and the Buckaroo Banzai cast and crew for the Freudian slip in that last paragraph. Really.

Those familiar with BitTorrent technology understand that overcoming inertia while the swarm forms is a standard part of firing up the protocol's engine and downloading (leeching) a file from several simultaneous repositories (seeders). When you start a .torrent download you leech the file from seeders, and later, you in turn offer a small portion of your bandwidth as you begin to seed the file.

Unlike other software projects that set target dates, often publishing deadlines for the future release of what they *hope* will be a stable release of their product (not to mention the practice of announcing vaporware products), Slackware Linux takes two paths along the road to versioning it's offering.

1.) -current: The evasive term rolling release comes close to pigeonholing the nature of this remarkably stable tree of Slackware, historically. Slackware -current is a moving target, and you simply hop aboard at some point and ride that never ending wave of bleeding edge technology.

2.) Stable, versioned, releases: There's nothing not to understand here folks, stable is stable, and stable is safe. When you pick up a copy of a versioned stable release of Slackware Linux you simply apply upcoming security packages for third party software when those occurrences manifest.

In running the versioned, stable releases of Slackware one might alleviate concerns that they or those they are subordinate to may have regarding stability, and further, culpability in the event of catastrophic failure. With -current, however, the prevailing attitude in the Slackware community is more like: Don't run it because it might break on you, and now that we've said that, just run -current and forget about problems with stability.

For the most part that's true, especially on server hardware, while on contemporary workstation hardware there may be hiccups here and there since we're dealing with support for new and untried hardware with new and unperfected software.

Again, this usually isn't a Slackware issue per se` when third party vendor software breaks your particular video display capabilities until you roll back for a day or so, and the Slackware team is more than just proactive in correcting and moving beyond such occasional, and minor, occurrences (and even then, a cautious admin watches the LQ forums for reports related to new packages before proceeding).

But people like to point to tangible things, and when you tell someone at Starbucks that you're running Slackware -current and they say, "Yes I understand, but what version?", You know you're probably talking to either a wYNd0z3 user, or one of those Redhat tools.

It's quite common for the uninitiated adopters of Slackware Linux to ask, "When is version X going to be released?", to which they invariably receive the boilerplate slacker's jibe, "When it's ready". And that's not a joke or even a slight - it's the plain truth.

Slackware's maintainer, Patrick Volkerding and the rest of the Slackware team are continuously at work advancing the utilty of Slackware Linux, as evidenced by the erratic changelog entries at all hours of the day and night.

This time, however, the speculation was extremely expectant on the part of those who only want to run the stable branch of Slackware, some almost begging that they 'needed' to install the next release.

Well, during this past month, and especially during the past week, Patrick's tongue-in-cheek changelog comments became more evidential of the impending BitTorrent isnanity that is running unchecked and rampant as this article is penned.

People are not sure whether to cry, or laugh, as thousands upon thousands of leeches continue to come online and draw the latest and greatest of "Slacks", down onto their hard drives in preparation for what they know will be sheer bliss. CPUs of seeders are running into the 90% marks, fans are burning up their bearings and seizing, and ISP routers are flapping as the traffic on the net consumes everything in its wake; in order to make way for Slackware 13.37

It's ready when it's ready, and it's ready. But if you want it now, you have to download it - either from a Slackware mirror or via BitTorrent, because it will literally be a couple of weeks before the shrink wrapped packages of Slackware 13.37 actually begins to ship.

This is another hallmark of Slackware - the extreme lag between the release of a stable version, and the date when it actually ships. Slackware was born on the net, just like the Linux kernel itself, and for a long time it was only available from Moorehead University and other various mirror sites via ftp.

That tradition continues to stand today, yet the actual practice of obtaining Slackware has been, um... diversified, by peer to peer technologies such as BitTorrent. As a result of the "It's ready, GetSlack! now" paradigm, we have the madness occurring that one might expect if you were to wander the halls of a mall on Christmas eve.

Inertia is steadily being overcome, but this time the anticipation has resulted in a frenzy that we haven't witnessed here at NorthTech in quite some time - and that's a good thing!

Don't worry, we'll be reaching Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium sometime in the next week, and you can have your Slackware just as fast as your pipe can bring it down.

And now you're asking the rhetorical question, "Okay that's Fantastic! Right?"

Well, yes, but none of this would be possible unless Patrick was either the red-headed step child of Bill Gates, Charlie Sheen, or Donald Trump, and he's not. So a simple show of your support by following up your downloads with a purchase of Slackware from The Slackware Linux Store HERE helps to ensure that his full time devotion to the project can continue - Slackware Linux is Patrick's full-time job. He doesn't moonlight for IBM, or Rockwell, and doesn't even usually rent a booth at Computer shows or conventions.

Your dedication to the Slackware Teams commitment to bring you the very best that UNIX has to offer (used to be second best but Oracle killed Sun) is of paramount importance.

Once again, please visit the Slackware Store and pick up a pretty package (or a 1337 T-Shirt) that's suitable for displaying on your bookshelf, or charging your clients fifty bucks for when you install Slack on 20 of their machines.

You won't be sorry - One more time, here's the link: The Slackware Linux Store

So what's new in Slackware 13.37 that everyone is getting so ravenous about? Let's take a look and see...

First, Slackware 13.37 ships with Linux kernel 2.6.37.6 and also includes the 2.6.38.4 (both SMP and non-SMP versions are available); The Brand and shiny new Firefox 4, Konqueror 4.5.5, SeaMonkey 2.1b3, Thunderbird 3.1.9; support for btrfs, a PXE installer that runs off the DVD (Thanks alienBOB!), KDE 4.5.5 and Xfce 4.6.2, PolicyKit, ConsoleKit, glibc 2.13, gcc 4.5.2, Apache 2.2.17 w/DSO support, SSL, and PHP 5.3.6 Perl 5.12.3, Python 2.6.6, Ruby 1.9.1-p431, Subversion 1.6.16, git-1.7.4.4, mercurial-1.8.2; HAL and udev, which automagically discovers and configures PCMCIA, CardBus, USB, and FireWire devices - when they are plugged into the system, so you can have a smokin' hot chick... I mean, latptop, so you can impress hot chicks; Amarok, K3b, Koffice suite (LibreOffice is just an 'installpkg' away), pidgin-2.7.11, gimp-2.6.11, gkrellm-2.3.5, xchat-2.8.8, xsane-0.998, and pan-0.134, mplayer browser plugin; and the Java SDK SE.

Okay I'm going to stop here. The list litterally just goes on and on, but if that isn't enough, you can venture down NorthTech's Gopherhole and pick up assorted packages from our SuperSlack Desktop Collection or purchase a DVD and install hundreds of libraries and applications in one fell swoop for an expanded and tested app-candy experience suitable for just about every type of multi-media production, conversion, editing, producing, and publishing need you may have - not only that, but our SuperSlack Desktop Collection includes extra systems administration utilities, dyndns daemons, monitoring utilities.... Well, nuff said.

If you need more convincing, you can get it from the Slackware64 -current changelog: HERE, and scroll down to 25 April 2011 @ 13:37hrs UTC.

Slackware Rocks. Thanks Pat. And thanks to Robby, Eric, the Rest of the Slackware Team, the SlackBuild Team, the sbopkg team, The LQ Slackware Support Volunteers, and most of all, everyone who helps to make Slackware possible by visiting the Slackware Store.

Now you can haz cheezburgerz!