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Slax 6.1.2 [Review]
Posted by
Kshitij Sobti
Posted on: Oct 06, 2010 12:29:36 IST


Slax is a popular Slackware-based Linux distro which excels as as Live OS to carry around on a pendrive or bootable disc. It rightly calls itself a "Pocket Operating System".

Slax has an extremely modular design which makes it incredibly easy to install applications, even before the OS is installed! The Slax website offers an online interface for customizing your distro before downloading it and burning it to a disc / putting it on a pendrive. Through the online interface you can customize your distro adding and removing software packages to get exactly the combination you want. Once you are done customizing, your custom build can be downloaded as a tar file or an iso file.

Thanks to this feature Slax does not suffer from the problem many live distros face, where you end up downloading a 700MB distribution which might not have the applications you are lookign for while including many that you don't use.

The modularity of Slax is thanks to the way it install applications. Applications, and libraries are available as lzm files which include all the files needed by the application inside a compressed image. When you "install" an application, Slax simply mounts the applications image over that of the OS. You can compare this to the concept of layers in an image-editing application such as Adobe Photoshop. Your background layer is your core Slax OS, and on top of that you have other application layers, one for your X server, one for KDE, one for Firefox etc. This way layer by layer your system of Slax is built.

The Slax Module Manager

What this also means is that Slax has no traditional package manager. Instead you can download Slax packages and simply double click them to active the application. Slax can even automatically manage the downloading and installation of modules using its custom "slik://" protocol which tells Slax to install the linked module. As such you can directly install modules from the Slax website by clicking on the activate link for the module. If you want any modules to be automatically loaded on startup, you can place them in the modules directory of your Slax installation.

Installing modules in Slax straight from the web

The module is now installing in the background

Slax is also a stateless system. Due to its layered nature, any changes that you make while running Slax, even those which modify core files do not affect the actual core system. Instead all your changes are captured in a separate file. Because of this, you can choose to start a fresh Slax instance at any point of time without affecting your saved changes. While booting from the pendrive or CD, you can choose between multiple modes; the default option will use a persistant image so that your changes to the system are retained at every boot, the "Slax Alays Fresh" option on the other hand will load Slax without reading any changes you have made to it, ensuring that your Slax is always bootable no matter what.

The Slax bootscreen


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