Getting SLAX

We are about to slip into embarrassing geek territory, but here goes nothing. Last night while watching The Screen Savers (G4TechTV) they had a segment on SLAX, a “live” Linux distribution. By live (I am not sure what the “official” term is) I mean that this distribution of Linux will boot the Linux kernel (or OS) off of a CD or some other device besides your hard disk drive.

A live install is perfect for many users that want to sample Linux without having to worry about setups, disk partitions, etc. No muss, no fuss. Several years ago I ran Red Hat via System Commander, but these days I am not running Linux, which made the Screen Savers show fairly useful. A live Linux distribution would be helpful to me since I am not running Linux at home any more, and because I deal with Solaris daily at work.

Back to the geek thing. So off I went to get SLAX Linux Live; downloaded the ISO CD image from the site. Next I downloaded a few modules such as Foxfire, and then created my SLAX CD. I threw the disk in my old Dell P600 system, rebooted, and a few minutes later I was running a live distribution of Linux. Very nice.

I did not get too deep since it was around a quarter till 5 (as in AM … ouch, got up much too early), but my sound card did not work properly – maybe it is too old for this distribution. There were other things that probably did not work, but most importantly for me, or I should say luckily, Opera fired up right away and a surfing I did go. Very cool!

Next up was my IBM Thinkpad R40 that I use for work; this laptop was the reason the Screen Savers segment caught my attention in the first place. Damn CD would not boot. XP, after XP boot-up sequence, which was really raining on my parade. After much searching on the Internet (have to love this bastion of knowledge) I saw a suggestion that I should try to reduce the write speed when I burn the ISO CD image. I figured that was pretty stupid since my CD-ROM burner was old and topped out at 16x. With nothing to lose, I did another burn at the slowest possible speed – 4x.

This time I was running SLAX on my R40 in no time flat. I am not sure why the ISO CD burn speed mattered, but there you have it – if your ISO CD image works on one machine, but not another, try burning again on a slower speed. The problem probably had something to do with the cheap IBM DVD player crap in my Thinkpad.

OK, so I am now running SLAX on my Thinkpad, which is cool, but the real fun or rather the real problems are just beginning. I cannot get SLAX to recognize my built in wireless adaptor (a Cisco Aironet Wirless 802.11b if you can help me out), so no internet connection for me. That is obviously a major bump in the live Linux road. I also could not figure out how to map my hard disk drive, which I bet is Linux admin ignorance on my part, but definitely another strike against this distribution.

If Linux is to become more mainstream, live distributions are certainly the way to go. The no mess thing should be appealing to almost everyone. With that said, these Linux distributions need to do a much better job of recognizing devices, hard disks, etc. Hey, not having an internet connection will pretty much rule out using this distribution. I feel sure from searching the SLAX forum that I am not the only one in this boat wireless connectivity (or lack of) seems to be a fairly common problem. This is not so good. Once again, all of this may be user error – will certainly update if I get this junk working.

On the positive side, the KDE interface was simple, easy to use, and seemed fair solid. Not that I have not used KDE and Gnome before, but never via a live distribution. There are plenty of built in applications, including the all too important game category. Doom, available via a free downloadable module! Woo-hoo! The media darling lives on! The SLAX site also has plenty of other useful and very free modules that are ready to plug in and go, which is another nice bonus.

If I can get my wireless connection going, I think I will be pretty pleased with SLAX, but as it stands I need to find a live distribution that will allow me to connect wirelessly to the Internet.


6 thoughts on “Getting SLAX”

  1. I’ve used Knoppix in the past which is also a bootable version of Linux. Back in May, I had just moved into my new house and my hard drive died on the weekend. All my other PC’s were somewhere buried in boxes and I had to wait until Monday to "borrow" a hard drive from work so I ran Knoppix on my now hard drive-less PC all weekend so that I had access to the Internet. I’ll have to check out Slax.

  2. LOL Ted. It is not that bad …

    I bet you would love to have some Linux running. Hopefully I can figure out an easy way to do this and let everyone know the results.

  3. Jason – I have CDs setup for Slax and Knoppix, but no luck getting my wireless card to work. I know my way around UNIX boxes, but I am not an admin so trying to get kernels to compile is just not my thing.

    At this point I am pretty much defeated.

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