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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Adventures with SLAX on a USB Stick

My work-and-play OS is Windows XP, but I find myself just as comfortable around Linux. Linux is oh-so-good for programming, servers, and yes - hacking - but it simply isn't noob-friendly. But it makes for some good tinkering, especially when you think of the possibilities of running Linux off a portable USB device. I recently stumbled across SLAX, a live-optimized Slackware-based distro:

dmesg output on Konsole in SLAX 6.0.5

This distro is really polished and runs real fast even though it's on a measly USB flash drive. As I only have a 1GB drive, the fact that it takes up <200MB installed is the epiphany of economy. SLAX uses it own kind of package, LZM, but converting regular Slackware TGZ packages is a snap, as well as creating your own modules. The modularity is extremely handy as I can customize it just as I want. Most importantly, it auto-magically detects if the host disk is writable and will save your changes.

SLAX is bleeding edge, with the latest version running a kernel and KDE 3.5 (KDE4 is still a WIP).
The amount of preinstalled apps is sort of on the light side - I had to install Firefox on my own, though that was a snap thanks to the Slackware package repository. On the bright side, Adobe Flash 9.0.115 is preinstalled, as were the iwl3945 drivers for my Intel wireless card.

I'm experimenting with various packages at the moment...the possibilities are endless!

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