I was planning to write a longer review of Salix OS, which is a derivative of Slackware Linux – a distribution I highly respect but really haven’t used at all. Unfortunately, circumstances forced me to cut my use of it short, and so this post is more of a “first impressions”. I hope to return to it in a couple of months, because I think it’s a great little distro with a lot of potential.
Salix offers CDs in 5 flavors – although I chose the KDE version, there are 3 others that are lighter, plus an esoteric one I’ve never seen offered as a default install (Ratpoison). Ratpoison is for the experienced only – if you haven’t heard of it, choose LXDE or Xfce, or Fluxbox if you want to be more UNIX-y. All are available in both 32 and 64 bit versions. Installation took less than 15 minutes and used a text based install. Salix uses the LiLo boot loader instead of GRUB. I chose a full and automatic installation. There is no DVD version of Salix. It is intended as a slim version from which you add packages as you see fit, rather than trying to provide everything in one fully packed installation.
There is also a Startup Guide, which is well worth your time to download and read (it is a PDF file). One of the many features in it is a list of which applications are found in each edition.
Once installed, the default desktop for the KDE edition looks like this:
The great majority of the applications you will get are KDE based, with the exception of Firefox. Unlike some KDE-based systems, the GIMP photo and image editor is not installed. In fact, although you can grab them later, no GNOME applications are installed – just like Slackware, Salix doesn’t officially support GNOME.
LibreOffice programs are also not installed. The KOffice suite, with Krita (for graphics) and Kopete (instant messaging), is the default. If you prefer LibreOffice, you’ll easily find it in the small but adequate repository that is accessed using GSlapt.
The default music player was not Amarok to my surprise, but Clementine, a player based on the original version of Amarok used with KDE 3.5.
No games are installed, however there are a fair number of good ones you can get. In the repositories were several puzzle games, a few platformers, one solitaire (PySolFC), but not really any board games or FPS shooters. Also available were OpenTTD, Hexahop, LBreakout2, Wesnoth, Chromium BSU (shoot-em-up), LTris, Frozen Bubble, and Sokoban.
Salix does have a pretty good selection of console emulators – including ones for Atari 2600, Commodore 64, SNES, Playstation, Nintendo 64, arcades (MAME), Sega Genesis, and one called Mednafen, an emulator which lets you play games from 4 different well known consoles and 3 obscure ones. This version of Mednafen had a graphical front-end that is missing in the Mint/Ubuntu version.
Updates are done in the same way you install or remove applications:
Wine, VirtualBox, and DOSBox are available as well, and I had no trouble playing a well-regarded indie game:
- Salix has two big weaknesses for me – I wasn’t able to set up my wireless printer, and installing extra packages is not very easy. I’m spoiled by Fedora and Ubuntu/Debian, where you simply double-click a prepackaged rpm or deb file and the system puts it in. Salix allows you to use Slackbuilds, unofficial packages that involve source code and a build file. I think you can also add whole repositories to the main one (which is fairly small in size), but I didn’t have a chance to figure out how. As far as printing, the main method for Salix seems to be a web-based CUPS interface. I will have to check both the Salix wiki documentation and the Slackware manual to figure out what to do. It’s probably easier than it seems.
- I also did not install the proprietary graphics driver during the time I used it, but the wiki documentation does provide a guide for both Nvidia and ATI drivers.
- Basically, Salix is a stable, quite attractive small distro that is not intended for people new to the Linux way of doing things. There are some games and applications that I count on using which aren’t nearly as easy to install as they are with others, but a few that I haven’t found in the more mainstream versions of Linux. Although I’ll be using my preferred Linux Mint 11 until Fedora 16 is released, I do plan to look at Salix again, along with Zenwalk and Absolute Linux, to see how distributions based upon the well-respected Slackware distribution compare to the ones that I have become familiar with.