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This section on Linux Slackware was written by Sean Dreilinger.

Slackware is not for you. (Or maybe it is.)

Welcome to the Slackware distribution of Linux! This section aims to help the new Linux user or administrator evaluate Slackware, plan a Slackware system, and install Slackware Linux. The emphasis here is on careful planning rather than rushing into an impetuous installation. A special worksheet is included to help you `get it right the first time.'

Selecting Slackware (or any other Linux distribution) is a serious consideration. Which `flavor' of Linux to use may seem like a trivial decision now, but Linux boxes have a way of taking on more and more responsibility in organizational computing environments. Plenty of Linux experiments have evolved into mission-critical machines serving many more users and purposes than originally intended within a very short time--and once someone is depending on your Linux box for something, it will not be an easy matter to shut down the machine and try a different distribution of Linux.

Slackware is the oldest and one of the most widely-used Linux distributions. When it comes to finding the easiest, or most carefully-planned, or cutting-edge distribution of Linux, Slackware may be ``none of the above.'' Some background on the life and times of Slackware may help put things into perspective...

A quick history

In 1993, SLS1created one of the first organized distributions of Linux. Although it was a great start, the SLS distribution had many shortcomings (it didn't exactly work, for starters). Slackware, a godsend from Patrick Volkerding, solved most of these issues, was mirrored via FTP and pressed onto CD-ROMs worldwide, and quickly became the most widely used flavor of Linux. For a while, Slackware was the only full featured Linux ``solution.'' Other Linux distributions, both commercial and nonprofit, have since emerged and are well worth your consideration.

According to statistics maintained by the Linux Counter Project, Slackware inhabits about 38% of all machines that run Linux today. Slackware is typically obtained via FTP or CD-ROM and installed on a 80586-class computer with anywhere from 16MB to 128MB of memory and somewhere between 300MB and 9,000MB of storage. Statistical information about Linux use is available from the Linux Counter Project:

By January 1994, Slackware had achieved such widespread use that it earned a popular notoriety normally reserved for rock stars and cult leaders. Fueled by rumors in the Usenet, gossip spread suggesting that the entire Slackware project was the work of witches and devil-worshipers!

Jokes alluding to ``RFC 666,'' demonic daemons, and speculation that Slackware author Pat Volkerding was actually L. Ron Hubbard in disguise were rampant in the threads that followed. The whole amusing incident probably helped Slackware gain some market share:

All folklore and kidding aside, Slackware is a wise and powerful choice for your adventures in Linux, whether you are a hobbyist, student, hacker, or system administrator in the making.

Why Slackware, then?

If you are a system administrator, you may already be responsible for the care and feeding of one or more key servers that have been running Slackware for several years. Unless you have time and hardware to experiment with at work, sticking to Slackware as the tried-and-true distribution may be the way to go in such situations. If you expect to get help from UNIX-literate friends and colleagues, you had better make sure they're running something compatible--ideally the same distribution of Linux. Slackware is mature--its shortcomings are widely acknowledged, for the most part discovered, documented, and patched whenever possible. You can put together a Slackware box, close the known security holes, and install some complementary tools from the other Linux distributions to create an excellent UNIX server or desktop workstation, all in about half a day.

Slackware Pros and Cons

Slackware is NOT for You Or perhaps it Is
Slackware is old It's mature, easily available, and the most widely installed Linux distribution
Slackware lacks sexy administrative tools ala RedHat You're free to install and use tools such as linuxconf and rpm (redhat package manager) with Slackware
Slackware includes bundled security holes We know what some of the vulnerabilities are and volunteers have posted fixes
Donald Knuth complained about the fonts Patrick Volkerding fixed the fonts
Linus Torvalds uses a different distribution Oh well
Slackware is assembled by Devil Worshipers Satanist crackers (not SATAN itself) will avoid your box
Slackware is no longer developed This is a myth, Slackware is actively maintained, sans marketing hype
Slackware is not supported by a commercial vendor or sanctioned user group Linux support is available from a wide range of consultants, explained further in the section on Commercial Support
Slackware is not created by a committee or development team Good. A system designed by one accountable individual is cohesive
If you are still undecided whether Slackware is the tastiest flavor of Linux for you, have a look also at the Buyer's Guide published in the Linux Journal, which gives a thorough comparison and evaluation of each major distribution. For a straightforward listing of Linux flavors, have a look at the Linux Distribution HOWTO (see Appendix [*]).


Nine tenths of wisdom is timing. The right time to set up Slackware is after you have carefully planned the installation and alternatives in the unfortunate event of a problem. A well-planned installation of Slackware will repay itself many times over in the future, when the natural process of Linux evolution leads you to add disk space, install a newer Slackware release, or jettison any old, inferior operating systems that may linger on your drives.

Like UNIX, Slackware Linux tends to grow like a virus. If you succeed in getting one Slackware box up and running, you're likely to start infecting other computers that belong to your friends, family, and coworkers. When this happens, you'll be grateful that you at least took the time to think through this first setup--and so will they! This section will help you decide...

Literacy required

Linux is a powerful operating system, and with power comes responsibility. Like Linux, the Slackware release treats you with the respect you deserve as an intelligent human being. If you elect to wipe out a few hard drives with a misplaced punctuation mark, so be it. There are graceful and intelligent front-ends to Linux that allow the average end-user to get lots of productive work done without ever delving into the cryptic subtleties of UNIX setup and administration. But there's no such luck for you, the appointed installation guru. If you're going to install Slackware, be forewarned that you should know your IRQs from your RS232s and your SCSIs from your IDEs.

Hardware compatibility

This is an essential element for planning any Linux installation, and is well-covered in Chapter [*]. The only Slackware-specific hardware issue is this: you must confirm that the particular release of Slackware you are installing includes a kernel and drivers that support your hardware. You are in great shape with just about any IBM-compatible personal computer with an Intel CPU older than the date on your Slackware distribution but younger than 1992 (built after 1992). If you have a bleeding-edge machine, you may need to download a newer boot disk that includes an updated kernel and drivers. For the latest information on general Linux hardware compatibility, check the Linux Hardware Compatibility HOWTO document (see Appendix [*]).

To check for up-to-the minute Slackware news, including new distributions and boot kernels available for your hardware, check the Slackware homepage: and the ChangeLog file on the Slackware FTP site:

Thinking through storage and filesystems

Careful planning of filesystems and the storage media upon which they reside can spare you hours of painful juggling at a later date. Of particular importance when installing Slackware is the decision to put all of your custom administration files, user homes, and local software onto dedicated partitions or disks. Doing this may allow you to upgrade Slackware on the root partition with minimal disruption to your local system improvements. For a general discussion of storage planning, filesystems, partitioning and disks in Linux installation, see Section [*].

Upgrade? Think twice!

One thing we don't hear too often with Slackware is the U-word. Slackware's setup program is designed to put a fresh operating system onto empty hard disks or empty disk partitions. Installing on top of a previous Slackware installation can erase your custom applications and cause compatibility problems between updated applications and older files on the same system. When Slackware was first put together, everyone was a first-time Linux user, and the system was always experimental--reinstalling the entire operating system and its major applications was the norm in a developmental system. Today, many institutions and businesses run mission-critical applications on Slackware Linux. In such environment, a simple reboot is a planned activity and taking down the system and overwriting all the user files or custom applications is absolutely unacceptable.

Teaching you how to finagle a Slackware upgrade is beyond the scope of this chapter, but it is workable if you are an experienced UNIX administrator and you've taken precautions to preserve your local modifications and user files. Learn from the upgrade expertise of Greg Louis in his mini HOWTO document: Upgrading Your Linux Distribution available on the Slackware CD-ROM and wherever finer LDP publications are mirrored:

Select an installation method

Slackware can be installed from a variety of media and network sources to fit your needs and budget. Every installation method requires you to have at least three floppy diskettes available to get started.


Installation from CD-ROM is fast, popular, and convenient. Although someone has to break down and pay for the initial purchase of a CD-ROM, sharing Linux distribution CD's is encouraged. Because Linux and the Slackware distribution are copylefted, you may make as many copies as you like. CD-ROM installation is also a bit better practice in terms of netiquette, since you're not hogging bandwidth for an all-day FTP transfer. Finally, you may be grateful for the extra utilities and documentation that accompany the CD-ROM, especially if you run into installation hassles or need to add components in the future.


If you're a hobbyist (or want to watch a few dozen Slackware installs before taking on the task at work), see if there is a Linux user group in your area that sponsors installation parties. Imagine a roomful of generous and knowledgeable hackers uniting to share CD-ROMs and expertise with other enthusiasts.


You may transfer Slackware from the closest possible FTP mirror to an extra hard disk partition, and use the extra disk/partition during the Slackware installation. Note this is not the same thing as installing directly from an FTP site to your computer--you need to have an extra hard disk or disk partition with room for the Slackware installation files (about 627MB for everything).


In a networked environment, it is possible to copy the Slackware distribution archive onto a shared filesystem and allow everyone on the local net to install Slackware via a central installation server. If you have the technical know-how or a geeked-out system administrator who is Linux-literate, this is a great way to go. The initial distribution of Slackware can be added to the network via CD-ROM, FTP, loading floppies, tape, or even via a remote NFS share across the Internet! Several Slackware archive sites support remote NFS access for the public or special guests. For details, see:,, and


It's time consuming, but it works--you can create the pile of floppies needed to install Slackware and then feed them into your box one-by-one when prompted. Slackware ``disk sets'' are actually designed and arranged to fit floppy diskettes. If you happen to have a huge stack of recycled, high-density floppy diskettes at your disposal, this can be the most economical way to go.

Hard disk

This is the way to do it if you've transferred the Slackware distribution across the Internet via FTP--you'll escape the floppy trap by merely creating boot, root, and rescue diskettes. It requires you to have an extra disk or disk partition with space to hold the Slackware files during installation (you can erase them afterwards). Installation from the hard drive is also a common workaround if you bought the Slackware CD but your CD-ROM drive is not supported by any of the Linux kernels that come with the Slackware CD. You can use your present operating system to transfer the Slackware files onto spare hard disk space, then boot into the Slackware installation.

Boot disks: always a good thing

Even if you are gifted with a direct T-3 Internet connection that allows you to suck up a new distribution of Slackware right off the wire, you are wise to begin by building the two Slackware setup disks (boot and root) before proceeding. In the event of an unfortunate accident (power outage, feline friends traversing the keyboard, or even human error), these two little disks--in the hands of an experienced UNIX hacker--may be essential to help revive your system or at least rescue your personal files.

Prepare to be questioned (there will be a quiz...)

During the installation, you must choose which disk sets (Slackware lingo for collections of software) and individual programs to install. You can usually just accept the default recommendation of whether or not a package is worth having. A few setup decisions are crucial. Mid-installation is no time to decide you want to boot back into OS/2 and look up what kind of graphics chip your video card uses, which network card you've got in there, or whether you will be needing a SCSI or an IDE kernel to get started.

Contingency plan: food for thought

Everyone succumbs to enthusiasm once in a while and exclaims those famous last words: ``Oh sure, I can have it up and running in a few hours!'' If anybody else has a stake in the health of your Slackware computer, you owe it to them (and yourself) to pause and think through how you will handle any less-than-perfect Linux installation attempt:
What is your plan in the unfortunate event that Slackware Linux doesn't run perfectly on your system?
Do you have the necessary tools and know-how to revert to your previous operating system?
Do you have a backup of your old system on-hand, and do you have experience restoring entire systems?
Is this a shared computer? Will people be coming into work on Monday expecting to log on to the system you just toasted out of existence?
Where is the closest UNIX expert with Slackware Linux expertise? Can you call on them to help you in the event of a problem setting up or upgrading a critical Slackware system?

Slackware setup worksheet

After the files are all copied, Slackware can go on to do most of the system and network configuration, if you are ready. To help you plan your setup decisions, this section consists of a worksheet based on the text-based Slackware installation program. You can use this worksheet to walk through the main steps of a Slackware installation and record your decisions in advance (while your computer is still working!), so you will be ready with the necessary details--partition names, IP addresses, modem and mouse IRQs, host and domain names, and other details that you are required to provide during Slackware setup.


Slackware setup will want to know if you need to remap your keyboard to something other than a standard USA 101 key layout?


swap configuration

Setup will list any partitions marked as type 82 (Linux Swap) and ask you to confirm you would like to use them.

Do you wish to install this partition as your swap space?

Do you want setup to use mkswap on your swap partitions? Most likely yes, unless you have less than 4MB of RAM and have already done this to help setup work better.


prepare main linux partition

Setup will list any partitions marked as type 83 (Linux Native) and ask which one to use for the root (/) partition of the Linux filesystem. Type your response, using a format such as: /dev/hda3 or whatever the desired device name is.

partition name
Slackware setup will offer to format the appropriate hard drive partition: Would you like to format this partition?

[c]heck sectors too
Ext2fs defaults to one inode per 4096 bytes of drive space. If you're going to have many small files on your drive, you may need more inodes (one is used for each file entry). You can change the density to one inode per 2048 bytes, or even per 1024 bytes. Enter '2048' or '1024', or just hit enter to accept the default of 4096.

4096 (default)

prepare additional linux partitions

If there are additional hard drives or partitions in your system that are tagged for Linux use, Slackware setup will ask: ``Would you like to use some of the other Linux partitions to mount some of your directories?''

You might want to mount large directories such as /usr or /usr/X11R6 on separate partitions. You should not try to mount /etc or /bin on their own partitions since they contain utilities needed to bring the system up and mount partitions.

These are your Linux partitions: (partition list displayed) These partitions are already in use: (partition list displayed) Please enter the partition you would like to use, or type <q> to quit adding new partitions. Use a format such as: /dev/hda3 or whatever the device name is.

Partition name
Would you like to format this partition?

[c]heck sectors too
Now this new partition must be mounted somewhere in your new directory tree. For example, if you want to put it under /usr/X11R6, then respond: /usr/X11R6 Where would you like to mount this new partition?

Mount point
Would you like to mount some more additional partitions?


dos and os/2 partition setup

If there are additional hard drives or partitions in your system that are tagged for use by other operating systems, Slackware setup will offer to arrange easy access to these partitions from Linux.

The following DOS FAT or OS/2 HPFS partitions were found: (partition list displayed) Would you like to set up some of these partitions to be visible from Linux?

Please enter the partition you would like to access from Linux, or type <q> to quit adding new partitions. Use a format such as: /dev/hda3 or whatever the device name is.

Partition name
Now this new partition must be mounted somewhere in your directory tree. Please enter the directory under which you would like to put it. for instance, you might want to reply /dosc, /dosd, or something like that. Where would you like to mount this partition?

Mount point

source media selection

1 - Install from a hard drive partition.
2 - Install from floppy disks.
3 - Install via NFS.
4 - Install from a pre-mounted directory.
5 - Install from CD-ROM.

1,2,3,4 or 5

install from a hard drive partition

To install directly from the hard disk you must have a partition with a directory containing the Slackware distribution such that each disk other than the boot disk is contained in a subdirectory. For example, if the distribution is in /stuff/slack, then you need to have directories named /stuff/slack/a1, /stuff/slack/a2, and so on, each containing the files that would be on that disk. You may install from DOS, HPFS, or Linux partitions. Please enter the partition where the Slackware sources can be found, or [p] to see a partition list.

Partition name
[p]artition list
Where are the Slackware installation sources? In the example above, this would be: /stuff/slack. NOTE: You must give the directory name relative to the top of the partition. So, for example, if you're going to mount this partition under /usr, don't include the /usr at the beginning of the pathname. What directory are the Slackware sources in?

Directory name
What type of filesystem does your Slackware source partition contain?
2. Linux Second Extended Filesystem
3. Linux Xiafs
4. Linux MINIX
5. OS/2 HPFS

1,2,3,4 or 5

install from a pre-mounted directory

OK, we will install from a directory that is currently mounted. This can be mounted normally or through NFS. You need to specify the name of the directory that contains the subdirectories for each source disk. Which directory would you like to install from?

Directory name

install from floppy disks

The base Slackware series (A) can be installed from 1.2M or 1.44M media. Most of the other disks will not fit on 1.2M media, but can be downloaded to your hard drive and installed from there later.
1. /dev/fd0u1440 (1.44M drive a:)
2. /dev/fd1u1440 (1.44M drive b:)
3. /dev/fd0h1200 (1.2M drive a:)
4. /dev/fd1h1200 (1.2M drive b:)
Which drive would you like to install from (1/2/3/4)?

1,2,3 or 4

install via nfs

You're running off the hard drive filesystem. Is this machine currently running on the network you plan to install from? If so, we won't try to reconfigure your ethernet card. Are you up-and-running on the network?

You will need to enter the IP address you wish to assign to this machine. Example: What is your IP address?

IP address
Now we need to know your netmask. Typically this will be What is your netmask?

IP address
Do you have a gateway (y/n)?

What is your gateway address?

IP address
Good! We're all set on the local end, but now we need to know where to find the software packages to install. First, we need the IP address of the machine where the Slackware sources are stored. Since you're already running on the network, you should be able to use the hostname instead of an IP address if you wish. What is the IP address of your NFS server?

IP address
There must be a directory on the server with the Slackware sources for each disk in subdirectories beneath it. The installation script needs to know the name of the directory on your server that contains the disk subdirectories. For example, if your A3 disk is found at /slackware/a3, then you would respond: /slackware What is the Slackware source directory?

Directory name

install from the slackware cd-rom

What type of CD-ROM drive do you have?
1 - Works with most ATAPI/IDE CD drives (/dev/hd*)
2 - SCSI (/dev/scd0 or /dev/scd1)
3 - Sony CDU31A/CDU33A (/dev/sonycd)
4 - Sony 531/535 (/dev/cdu535)
5 - Mitsumi (proprietary interface, not IDE) (/dev/mcd)
6 - New Mitsumi (also not IDE) (/dev/mcdx0)
7 - Sound Blaster Pro/Panasonic (/dev/sbpcd)
8 - Aztech/Orchid/Okano/Wearnes (/dev/aztcd)
9 - Phillips and some ProAudioSpectrum16 (/dev/cm206cd)
10 - Goldstar R420 (/dev/gscd)
11 - Optics Storage 8000 (/dev/optcd)
12 - Sanyo CDR-H94 + ISP16 soundcard (/dev/sjcd)
13 - Try to scan for your CD drive

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 or 13
IDE CD-ROM: Enter the device name that represents your IDE CD-ROM drive. This will probably be one of these (in the order of most to least likely): /dev/hdb /dev/hdc /dev/hdd /dev/hde /dev/hdf /dev/hdg /dev/hdh /dev/hda Enter device name:

Device name
SCSI CD-ROM: Which SCSI CD-ROM are you using? If you're not sure, select scd0.

1. /dev/scd0
2. /dev/scd1
INSTALLATION METHOD: With the Slackware CD, you can run most of the system from the CD if you're short of drive space or if you just want to test Linux without going through a complete installation. Which type of installation do you want (slakware or slaktest)?

slakware Normal installation to hard drive
slaktest Link /usr->/cdrom/live/usr to run mostly from CD-ROM


series selection

These disk sets (and possibly more) are available:
A The base Slackware system. 25 MB.
AP Linux applications. 20 MB.
D Program development. 48 MB.
E GNU Emacs. 35 MB.
F Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Linux. 11 MB.
K Linux kernel source. 27 MB.
N Networking. 23 MB.
T The teTeX TeX distribution. 42 MB.
TCL Tcl/Tk/TclX scripting languages. 7 MB.
X The X Window System. 70 MB.
XAP Applications for the X Window System. 65 MB.
XD Tools to recompile X servers. 14 MB.
XV XView (Open Look window manager and applications). 11 MB.
Y Games. 8 MB.

You may specify any combination of disk sets at the prompt which follows. For example--to install the base system, the base X window system, and the Tcl toolkit, you would enter: a x tcl Which disk sets do you want to install?

Any combination of: a ap d e f k n q t tcl x xap xd xv y (and other disk sets offered) separated by blank spaces

software installation

Next, software packages are going to be transfered on to your hard drive. If this is your first time installing Linux, you should probably use PROMPT mode. This will follow a defaults file on the first disk of each series you install that will ensure that required packages are installed automatically. You will be prompted for the installation of other packages. If you don't use PROMPT mode, the install program will just go ahead and install everything from the disk sets you have selected. Do you want to use PROMPT mode (y/n)?

These defaults are user definable--you may set any package to be added or skipped automatically by editing your choices into a file called TAGFILE that will be found on the first disk of each series. There will also be a copy of the original tagfile called TAGFILE.ORG available in case you want to restore the default settings. The tagfile contains all the instructions needed to completely automate your installation. Would you like to use a special tagfile extension? You can specify an extension consisting of a `.' followed by any combination of 3 characters other than `tgz'. For instance, I specify `.pat', and then whenever any tagfiles called `filetagfile.pat' are found during the installation they are used instead of the default `tagfile' files. If the install program does not find tagfiles with the custom extension, it will use the default tagfiles.

Enter your custom tagfile extension (including the leading `.'), or just press ENTER to continue without a custom extension. ==>

Tagfile extension

extra configuration

First time Slackware installations should now configure hardware, make a bootdisk, and install LILO. If you've installed a new kernel image, you should go through these steps again. Otherwise, it's up to you. Reconfigure?


boot disk creation

It is recommended that you make a boot disk. Would you like to do this?

Now put a formatted floppy in your boot drive. This will be made into your Linux boot disk. Use this to boot Linux until LILO has been configured to boot from the hard drive. Any data on the target disk will be destroyed. Insert the disk and press [return], or [s] if you want to skip this step:


modem setup

A link in /dev will be created from your callout device (cua0, cua1, cua2, cua3) to /dev/modem. You can change this link later if you put your modem on a different port. Would you like to set up your modem?

These are the standard serial I/O devices:
0 - /dev/ttyS0 (or com1: under DOS)
1 - /dev/ttyS1 (or com2: under DOS)
2 - /dev/ttyS2 (or com3: under DOS)
3 - /dev/ttyS3 (or com4: under DOS)
Which device is your modem attached to?

0,1,2 or 3

mouse setup

A link will be created in /dev from your mouse device to /dev/mouse. You can change this link later if you switch to a different type of mouse. Would you like to set up your mouse?

These types are supported.

1 - Microsoft compatible serial mouse.
2 - QuickPort or PS/2 style mouse. (Auxiliary port).
3 - Logitech Bus Mouse
4 - ATI XL Bus Mouse
5 - Microsoft Bus Mouse
6 - Mouse Systems serial mouse
7 - Logitech (MouseMan) serial mouse

Which type of mouse do you have?

1,2,3,4,5,6 or 7
These are the standard serial I/O devices.
0 - /dev/ttyS0 (or com1: under DOS)
1 - /dev/ttyS1 (or com2: under DOS)
2 - /dev/ttyS2 (or com3: under DOS)
3 - /dev/ttyS3 (or com4: under DOS)
Which device is your mouse attached to?

0,1,2 or 3

network configuration

Now we will attempt to configure your mail and TCP/IP. This process probably won't work on all possible network configurations, but should give you a good start. You will be able to reconfigure your system at any time by typing: netconfig. First, we'll need the name you'd like to give your host. Only the base hostname is needed right now. (not the domain) Enter hostname:

Now, we need the domain name. Do not supply a leading `.'  Enter domain name:

Domain name
If you only plan to use TCP/IP through loopback, then your IP address will be and we can skip a lot of the following questions. Do you plan to ONLY use loopback?

Enter your IP address for the local machine. Example: Enter IP address for this machine (aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd):

IP address
Enter your gateway address, such as If you don't have a gateway, just hit ENTER to continue. Enter gateway address (aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd):

IP address
Enter your netmask. This will generally look something like this: Enter netmask (aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd):

IP address
Will you be accessing a name server?

Please give the IP address of the name server to use. You can add more Domain Name Servers by editing /etc/resolv.conf. Name Server for your machine (aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd):

IP address

You may now reboot your computer by pressing control+alt+delete. If you installed LILO, remove the boot disk from your computer before rebooting. Don't forget to create your /etc/fstab if you don't have one!

Making Slackware happen

If you've taken the time to plot and plan as recommended in the preceding sections, then the actual installation will be a piece of cake. There isn't much writing needed to explain the actual process of loading Slackware on your computer(s). Follow the steps to build boot and root diskettes, then answer a long series of questions asked by the menu-driven Slackware installation program. If you have completed the Slackware Installation Worksheet (in Section 1.3), these questions will be familiar and everything will run smoothly.

Build some boot disks

When installing Slackware Linux, you must create a boot diskette with a Linux kernel that is specially prepared to recognize your system hardware. For example, to install Slackware from an IDE CD-ROM drive onto a SCSI hard drive, the kernel that you put onto the boot diskette will need to have drivers for your SCSI card and your IDE CD-ROM drive.

The Slackware Linux kernels are stored as compressed binary image files that you can access from most any operating system to create a Slackware boot diskette. On the Slackware FTP site, CD-ROM, or NFS mount, you'll find a subdirectory called bootdsks.144, containing 1.44MB kernel images for creating boot diskettes on 1.44MB high density 3.5'' floppy diskettes. If you're working from a 5.25'' floppy diskette drive, look in a directory called bootdsks.12 for kernel images that will fit the smaller 1.2MB diskette format.

The tables beginning on page [*] provide a quick reference to Slackware kernel images and the built-in hardware drivers that were available as we went to press. Information and up-to-date information on Slackware boot diskette images is available from:

Boot into action

Here's the big anticlimax. After all of this planning, preparation, and partitioning, you're in the home stretch. Make sure that the boot floppy is in the diskette drive, and restart your computer. Now is a good time to go get some coffee (or whatever you like to keep you company) and return to the machine ready to play the part of a button-pushing drone, answering yes-no questions for an hour or so.

Log in as root (no password) and type setup or setup.tty.

The Slackware setup program

Slackware comes with two versions of an excellent setup program. One is a colorful, dialog-based, menu-driven version. An alternative, setup.tty, is a text-only version that you may actually prefer, because detailed diagnostics and error messages stay on the screen and are not covered up by the next dialog box. If you're attempting a Slackware installation on sketchy hardware, I strongly recommend the less colorful setup.tty routine. If you don't know much about UNIX and would feel more comfortable with an attractive, ``clean'' interface to the same process, then by all means run the beautiful setup Slackware installation program.

Transferring Slackware onto your system should involve little more than selecting what you want from the menus. By filling the Slackware Installation Worksheet (Section 1.3) in advance, you should be able advance quickly through each menu until you reach the INSTALL option, at which point things may s l o w down: you are advised to select the PROMPT feature and read about each software package, deciding which ones you would like to have available on your Slackware system. The last part of a regular setup is the CONFIGURE section on the setup menu, and the questions you must answer bear a striking resemblance to the second half of the Section 1.3 worksheet.

Is that all?

Definitely not! At this point, you either have some annoying obstacle that is preventing the setup from completing, or more likely, you are facing the root prompt:

and wondering ``What Next?''

Well, if you're plagued by problems, you'll want to proceed directly to the next section on troubleshooting. If things appear to be in working order, you've still got some details to attend to. It's sort of like purchasing a new automobile--after you select and pay for a car, there are still some things that you need before you can drive it with confidence--insurance, a steering wheel club, and perhaps some luxuries that make the driving experience closer to Fahrvergnügen than FAQ!

Troubleshooting difficult deliveries

Not every Slackware installation is born on cue to expecting system administrators. I've pulled a few all-nighters, sitting down after work one evening to upgrade a Slackware box and still there struggling to get the damn thing back online at dawn, before people start bitching about their missing mail and news. This section will look at a few common Slackware setup problems, solutions, and where to look for additional assistance.

Slackware installation FAQs
Patrick Volkerding, the father of Slackware, has dealt with many questions of new users by listening, answering, and anticipating repeat queries. To catch the new Slackware users before they ask the same question for the 5,000th time, Patrick has kindly created documentation that is included with the Slackware distribution. Three files from the Slackware CD-ROM that you may find very helpful in solving setup situations are FAQ.TXT, INSTALL.TXT, and BOOTING.TXT.

Web Support For Slackware
The Slackware web site ( is the first place beyond your CD-ROM to turn for Slackware-specific information. You may find the FAQ and Forum areas of the Slackware web site especially useful in solving installation hassles. The Linux Documentation Project (introduced on page [*]) offers a variety of HOWTO documents that address special hardware and other Linux configuration issues that may arise during Linux installation.

Usenet Groups For Slackware
The comp.os.linux.* hierarchy of the Usenet is a treasure trove of Linux information, not necessarily Slackware-specific. Linux forums handle a high volume of discussion, which is described on page [*].

Mailing lists for Slackware
Slacksite, one of several Slackware-oriented web sites, offers an email discussion and alert service for Slackware users. To subscribe to the list, send email to with the word subscribe in the body of the message.

You get what you pay for (commercial support)
Commercial support for Linux is available from some of the CD-ROM vendors and a long list of Linux Consultants, who can be contacted through the Linux Commercial and Consultants HOWTO documents:

Basking in the afterglow

Don't rest on your laurels quite yet, especially if your Slackware machine is a shared computer or lives in a networked environment. Grooming a computer for community and network use is a bit more demanding than just running the setup program and then forgetting about it. We'll leave you with a few pointers to securing and sharing your new Slackware system...

Consider reinstalling

You may have endured a long and perplexing installation session and be ready to log out and take a nap. But before you ``move in'' to the house you just built, consider tearing it down and starting over again. To paraphrase Nietzsche:
You learn what you need to know about building your house only after you have finished.
If, in the process of installing the system, you had some thoughts about how you might do it differently, now is the time. If your Slackware Linux box will be a multiuser machine or a network server, there may never be such a convenient opportunity to reinstall or reconfigure the system in radical ways.

Configure everything

The Slackware web page has a special Configuration area that may be of interest immediately after bringing up a new Slackware box.

Secure the system

Get off the LAN at once
Out of the box, most Linux distributions are insecure--you could also call this an open system, designed for easy access and use in an environment where security is not a top priority. Although Patrick Volkerding does his best to create a secure Slackware distribution, a few inevitable holes become known, and patches or workarounds are made available in the system administration (and cracker) communities. If you installed Slackware from a network source like a NFS-mounted drive, you should temporarily disconnect your box from the LAN after a successful installation, while you plug a few holes.

Give root a password
By default, a new Slackware box will not require a password for the root user. When you are comfortable that your new Slackware system is stable (after a few hours, not days or weeks), add a password to protect the root account. Login as root and type:

Give yourself an account
On large, shared systems, the superuser (root) account is not directly logged-in to by any individual. If you are interested in system administration or are running a networked machine, this is a good precedent to follow. Use the /sbin/adduser program and make yourself a regular user account, rather than working out of the root account. I always smile when students and hobbyists proudly post to the Usenet as root@mymachine.mydomain. Be humble and safe: create another user account for your daily work and use su (rather than a direct login) to enter the root account sparingly. Read Chapter [*] for a discussion of what you should do with the root account (or shouldn't).

Deny root logins
Not only is it uncommon to work as the root user, it is not considered secure to login as root across the network. Administrative users usually connect to a UNIX box as their regular username, then su to root as needed. To prevent crackers, hackers, and ignorant users from logging in directly as root, edit the file /etc/securetty and comment out (prepend a pound (#) sign before) all but the local terminals:

After this fix, users who attempt to login in as root across the network will be denied:

Monitor Slackware patches and security alerts
As an actively maintained Linux distribution, Slackware updates and patches are available from:
In addition to the official Slackware homepage (, Nic Avery ( hosts an excellent web site for Slackware administrators called Slacksite. Of particular interest to staying current with Slackware security and other interesting developments is the Updates feature of Slacksite:

You might also like to subscribe to one or more electronic mailing lists that alert users to general security issues in Linux administration, such as:
To add yourself to either list, send the single word subscribe in an email message to the desired address above.

Security HOWTO
The Linux Security HOWTO provides additional information you will need to know if your Slackware system will be connected to a network:

Back up

Like how things are running? Save it for a rainy day by backing up. There are now a wide variety of open-source and commercial backup packages that run well with Linux, there is no excuse not to back up your Linux systems up along with every other valued machine on your network. Recommended Linux backup applications include afbackup, amanda, burt and the traditional dump/restore. For access to these and other backup applications for Linux, see:

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