SLAX, the Shrunken Slackware

Posted by jun auza On 11/14/2007
SLAX, the Shrunken Slackware: SLAX is a minuscule version of the well-known Slackware Linux distribution. It is a LiveCD operating system that does not need to be installed on a computer’s hard drive as it can boot and run from either a USB or a CD drive. There is also an option to run SLAX from RAM. So now it's time to take a microscopic look at this tiny distro. But first, some SLAX facts:

SLAX was originated from the Czech Republic, developed by Tomas Matejicek. It is currently ranked #27 in Distrowatch. There are five official versions of SLAX. “SLAX Standard” is the standard distribution for normal personal use. There are two specialized versions; “SLAX KillBill” includes Wine and Qemu to run Microsoft Windows applications. “SLAX Server” supplies additional Internet functionality and comes with pre-configured server applications. In addition, there are two more minimalistic versions – “SLAX Popcorn” and “SLAX Frodo”. SLAX Popcorn uses Mozilla Firefox as the default web browser and the lightweight Xfce as a desktop environment instead of KDE. SLAX Frodo is designed for users with a low amount of RAM and does not contain the X Window System.

For this review, I got the latest "Standard" development release version which is SLAX 6 rc7. I downloaded the 184MB LiveCD directly from here.

I used VMware to test SLAX using only 128 MB of VM RAM at first. After I loaded the LiveCD, I was taken directly to the traditional boot menu where I was given several boot choices. I opted to start using the default KDE option, and then without delay, I was taken to SLAX’s desktop. The desktop was running sluggish as applications were slow to open. 128MB of RAM just can’t handle a KDE desktop well, or perhaps it's just because I'm running SLAX in a VM environment. But, when I increased the RAM to 256MB, it now ran efficiently.

I started with a screen resolution of 800x600, but I successfully changed it to my desired resolution size. SLAX has a good looking and polished artworks, and I love the default desktop theme and wallpaper. Its KDE desktop is ideal for users who want to try out Linux for the first time because it is very user-friendly.

SLAX was excellent in detecting my VM hardware, everything worked from my USB, audio, and Ethernet. I can instantly browse the web without having to configure anything.

SLAX is loaded with valuable and functional out-of-the-box software applications: for office tasks, there is KOffice; for multimedia, there is Kplayer; for web surfing and file browsing, there’s Konqueror; for developers, there’s KWrite advanced text editor. Perl scripting language was included but sad to say Python is not. SLAX is also loaded with networking tools, plus some added games for recreation. I also found out that Flash is already installed by default, so playing videos on YouTube is just a few clicks away. You can also use the “SLAX module manager”, described as a package management beyond your dreams for adding and removing software modules.

The applications were running smooth and steady in SLAX. The responsiveness and the quickness of Slax reminded me of using the even smaller-sized NimbleX distro. Users with older computer machines can indeed benefit from using SLAX.

All things considered, SLAX is without doubt, a distro to beat in terms of speed, functionality, and stability. It is filled with handy applications ideal for productive use. SLAX LiveCD can also be reliably utilized to rescue a broken system or as a backup software, and it can be fully customized if you want to create your own CD or even a SLAX based distribution. Certainly, SLAX fits this tongue twisting description: "SLAX is a shrunken Slackware."

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