Slackware to Debian switch, final?

September 17, 2007 – 11:37 am by Adnan Hodzic

This is going to be a rather long post, so I suggest you go get yourself a cup of coffee/beer/cigarette’s or whatever your fix is.

Last year, since I got this new notebook, I pretty much became a real distro slut. It was pretty much all because of the bleeding edge hardware you had and bleeding edge software that was around, Fedora … Mandriva. Don’t get me wrong, Slackware (any distro) can do those things too, but it’s just … to much pain in the ass.

Long story short, I always returned home, to Slackware that is. Now I think that may not be the case, since I’m already on Debian for a month now, and it’s not annoying me at all. My previous Debian experiences were mostly server based, whole philosophy was something close to reading Nietzsche, but once you got it figured … you like it, a lot Smile

Of course, this was all caused by “domino effect” that was generated for almost a year, then plus DebConf experience … plus Slackware and Debian development differences … and lot more.

Debian and Slackware differences, installation

Well, I remember in Edinburgh, that I just got stuck in KDE – Gnome relationship. No offense to Gnome users, but I just can’t stand Gnome. Back in the day when I was a RedHat, I swore in name of RedHat and in name of Gnome. From those times, a lot has changed.

First, I was pissed that I couldn’t choose which Desktop Environment I’d like to use, I don’t want Gnome at all. Day after or something like that, “sapphire” told me I could do what I wanted in “expert install”, I didn’t find what I was looking for. What I would basically need to do is, intall KDE on my Gnome environment.

This would be fine … partially, for one reason, when I wanna do something my way I want it my way, so first thing I install Debian and boot it, Gnome is the last thing I wanna see. But I knew there had to be some kind of workaround. Another reason that pisses me off is when I see KDE DE in its unnatural environment. What I mean by that is when I see KDE, and there’s only “Trash” icon on the desktop. Even tho this … is yea call it stupid, but I from that point you know that something has been altered.

Second thing I noticed is that time would always be wrong, even tho I would set it to use ntp, time would be correct, but once you “pull the plug” time would be wrong again. Gotta give credit to both “gomez” and “sapphire” since they partially helped solving the issues, “sapphire” for telling me that KDE could be done in “expert” and “gomez” for telling me time could be fixed by setting right time in BIOS.

And yes, before I forget, we spent our first AM hours since we got there doing what? Upgrading and Downgrading Debian on my machine, and vice versa in all possible ways. In the end I was left with “Sid” (Read: “unstable development version of Debian”) of course, which in relation with Slackware latest stable, hell even Slackware current was really unstable!

Back to Slackware

There was a lot of those minor things that just annoyed the hell out of me. Mostly because things are done bit differently on Slackware. But during my stay on DebConf, I stayed on Debian the whole time, wishing I brought Slackware .iso with me. But first thing I did when I got home is went back on Slackware. What made things worse is that Slackware 12.0 is the greatest Slackware too me, so going back to Debian wasn’t so simple.

But DebConf7 Debian usage left its mark on me. First sign, I was already too tired of compiling 20 libs in order to get my final application working. What to do? Well apply everything you saw on Debian “culture” to Slackware. Get into Slackware development the most you can or whatever. Which I did, but there’s always a but. I’d like to compare this whole “transition” with my Opera to Firefox switch.

I used Opera for years, it was just good for me, tried Firefox, saw it was good … but Opera was way better, Firefox only gave me headache. Until, I tried coming to development border to closes I could. After reading that Opera wouldn’t benefit from releasing it’s source under GPL, and when Opera development went to hell, that is selling their asses for money, I quit.


Same happened with Slackware – Debian. Slackware was so fine, but there was just something left to discover with Debian. In those few days, I would literally switch from Slackware to Debian, and from Debian to Slackware in just few hours. And it would go on like that, until I was left without bandwidth (now I’m on flat, much slower connection speed, but it’s flat), stuck on Debian Etch DVD’s if I needed any additional software or anything. Job opportunity jumped in the meantime, no time to think what you’re on, just do your part of work.

Once I was done with the work, I realized this Debian isn’t that bad at all. Nothing crashed or anything. After I got my bandwidth, I even though of staying on Etch, but I moved to Lenny, only app. so far crashing is Ktorrent. And there were times when I actually needed to compile my kernel, until I figured some “Debian way” tricks. Because I’d feel much better compiling my kernel on Slackware rather then Debian.

Final switch

I’ll just end this post here, because I could go on and on. After each problem solved, there would be another problem, and I’d find a Debian way of handling it. And here’s a hint for all of you KDE users who want just KDE without Gnome at all.

How to get just KDE? During the installation process, do not install “Desktop Environment” at all! Once your install is completed, you’ll be left with good old console. Being a Slacker it wont eat you. You’ll need to install xorg-server. If it helps here’s how I did my X situation.

apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-i810 xfonts-100dpi xfonts-75dpi xfonts-scalable msttcorefonts mesa-utils ttf-bitstream-vera

And I got my X, then I needed my KDE, again if it helps, just do what I did below.

apt-get install kde kde-core

OR, just go along with Debian KDE iso (

And that was it, you had xorg, with KDE on the spot. Yea of course, KDE was nothing compared to other problems I had, ah yes, from cpu overheating to 10 others that were serious problems.

I still didn’t make a final switch, but so far I’m sticking to Lenny, there are still notebooks in this same house that are still under Slackware, but my default machine is under Debian for good for now. Only problem could be getting close to Debian development border (and I seriously think about coming near it in future), but since I saw Debian development model, I like it … so I think this was it for me.

In case any of you Slackers or whoever, got problems getting on Debian (but you wanna), I’d appreciate if you don’t email me, but just post your question/problem in the comments below this post, so others can see a solution to it too.

21.09.2007 Update

How ironic, just few days after my switch, I’m a reiserfs fanboy, so I went with reiserfs on Debian too, and here 2-3 days after this post, my root reiserfs partition get’s ruined, unrecoverable. How did this happen? Last night my system wouldn’t wake up back from hibernate, so while it was trying to boot it for 10mins, I just hard rebooted. Once it booted back, Grub Error 16, figured my root partition has issues, fsck, reiserfsck couldn’t do anything.

This is second issue with Debian and reiserfs, at last the ones I exerienced. And I remember on DebConf during my first install, when I said I want reiserfs, to just stick to ext3. This may sound absurd, but same as I read (not heard) that ext3 is much slower on Ubuntu that it really is, all thanks to Ubuntu itself. Filesystem is a filesystem I know, but I think I’m going for ext3 this time. I just can’t allow myself to have this same very episode.

Also this was my first chance to use “installgui –tasks=standard, kde-desktop” … thanks “ted” but I had no luck with it. Instead of going through my usual routine of not installing DE at all and then installing KDE afterwards, I just went with getting a Debian KDE ISO cd.

Heh, yes when this first happened of course I thought of Slackware, but … Debian and APT have crawled under my skin already … so … I’ve been through worse scenarios to have this one put me down.

If we can count all this to one, it’s not that bad, actually it’s good this happened. Mostly because I’ll just simply use Debian KDE iso, second it was only my root fs that died, my home (all the data) partition is safe. But in case I switch to ext3, I’m moving my home partition to it too.

  • miksuh

    You can tell Debian Etch installer which desktop you want to use. You can select Gnome, KDE, XFCE or no desktop at all. Here is how you can select desktop:

    1) Boot from install media (Netinst CD, CD, DVD, USB-stick etc)

    2) When you see the first installer screen with black background and Debian logo write this line to prompt in screen:

    installgui –tasks=standard, kde-desktop

    3) press enter

    Debian installer will now start in the graphical mode and it will install KDE-desktop instead of Gnome-destop.

    If you install from CD (not netinst-cd) you can also download CD1 which installs KDE. There is CD1 for XFCE too.

  • AbsintheSyringe

    This I didn’t know and this absolutely kicks ass, thanks!

  • El Cerrajero

    One of the best places to look for Debian Etch images is

  • Ted

    I’ve been using Debian for a long time. I do wish their KDE install was a little more straight forward.
    It’s gotten to the point where I prefer to not have the installer install anything but the base debian system, and then I just aptitude everything I want. The procedure I use for installing a new Debian system can be found here.

  • AbsintheSyringe


    You know what I find most disturbing? Most disturbing thing is that a lot of influenced Debian users/developers think of KDE as a Windows DE clone … they thing it’s waste of time and waste of memory, that is that it’s bloated and stuff. Which is definitely not true.

    If we’re gonna start with accusations I can do a lot of those with Gnome, but … let’s stay out of it.

    So yea, getting to KDE as default DE on Debian could be a whole lot less complicated.

  • miksuh


    “So yea, getting to KDE as default DE on Debian could be a whole lot less complicated.”

    Did you even bother to read my comment? Installing KDE is not complicated at all. Just write that line in my previous comment to Debian installer and KDE will be installed instead of Gnome. Alternatively you can download KDE-version of Debian installation CD #1. Then you can install Debian with KDE as easily as you can install gnome.

  • AbsintheSyringe


    Yes, I even bothered to pass it into my post. Because that’s how I’m going to install my Debian machines from now on Smile

    And by less complicated, I meant something else, perhaps a dialog (which is not even present in the expert install mode either)

    Which simply states if you want to use KDE, Gnome, Other, that’s what I meant by simple. But this is simple enough for now, definitely simple.

  • rickh

    apt-get install kde kde-core

    That will get you the full KDE install with all it’s fat and flatulence.

    The correct “Debian way” is “apt-get install kde-core”, then install only the pieces you need.

    The real Debian way uses aptitude instead of apt-get, but that’s another story.

  • BrencelJ

    OMG Abs didnt know you will leave your favorite distro but you did I know I cant leave my gentoo even for debian or any other good distro just ove my emerge Grin he he

    Good for you that you chose debian I kinda like debian Razz but not gona swich from gentoo Grin

  • AbsintheSyringe

    @Brencel, well it in my plan for awhile now. Also I knew other few slackers that are trying to make it with Debian.

    Debian is a premium distro, top notch quality. APT … “has supercow powers” Smile

  • BrencelJ

    I know that apt is great i used it in kubuntu but I dont know I prefere emerge because I’m more us to it.

    So cool that you are happy whit debian and you have finaly start bloging again was missing your little bloging posts Grin he he he