back to slackware

I’ve been running Archlinux on two machines here for quite some time now. As per my previous posts, I was starting to get tired of the relentless updates that Arch has. One of my Arch machines is my Thinkpad T42. The other is my old Thinkpad 600X. The 600X is quite old and Arch has been a good base to show off how useable this machine still is with are responsive distro.

Anyway, I went to do a pacman update on the 600X the other day and first it told me I’d need to upgrade pacman, so I tried to upgrade pacman but got all these errors and it never completed. I had a look at the Archlinux site and it seems they’re going through yet more enormous change. For some reason the base repository has been renamed and there’s a new version of pacman to go with that. The errors I was seeing were supposedly to do with mirrors resyncing around the world and the suggestion was simply to wait a few days.

Rather than wait, I thought I’d switch the 600X back to slackware. Slackware 12.0 to be exact. I don’t have a great need on the 600X to install a lot of different packages so the reduced amount of packages available for Slackware should not be too much of a problem.

So I installed slackware 12.0 from CD. It’s two CDs now. The install is much the same as its been for quite a while now. No flashy GUI but it does the job. I kept my arch install on another partition, so I fresh installed into a spare 5GB.

I chose not to use KDE on the 600X. Even under Arch, I just used icewm which ‘does the job’. Once it was all up and running I downloaded swaret. You kind of get used to being able to easily update using other distro’s and swaret is the closest thing that Slackware has. Most updates to slackware are purely security related. I subscribe to the slackware security mailing list to check what’s going on, but swaret kind of automates that. Its not particularly quick, but it does the job. So after installing, I ran swaret and noted that it updated firefox, qt and a few other things.

So I played around with firefox , checking how it ran. Its not super great on a 500MHz P3, but it does work. I installed the flash plugin and added the flashblock add-on for firefox. Anyhow, some time after this firefox really locked up on the machine. The whole machine was very unresponsive and when I could get to a prompt and run top, firefox was at 99% CPU. Once I could get enough CPU cycles to kill firefox (a kill -9 mind you) the machine was OK again. At that point, I thought maybe firefox is too much for my 600X, so downloaded Opera 9.23. I set it up for flash also and surfed a few sites and then wandered off. I came back a few hours later to find that Opera had now locked up much like firefox. Very odd.

I trawled through google, and there was someone having problems with firefox on slackware 12.0 but with no resolution.

So I had a look at what’s different and noted that I think it had tried to set up ACPI on the machine. I’ve tried to get ACPI power mgmt to work on the 600X, but it just doesn’t work. It had ‘very early’ partial ACPI support when the 600X came out years ago … and suffice to say I’ve been running it with APM instead. The default 2.6.21-5 slackware kernel didn’t seem to have APM support, so I ended up doing a kernel recompile to add it in. On a 600X (even with 576MB of ram) a kernel compile takes the better part of a day (I should have compiled it on another machine). Then when I rebooted, it didn’t work as the default .config with slackware has ext2 and ext3 support as a module rather than compiled in. I changed that and rebooted and it was all good. I had to modprobe for apm, but now apmd works.

So far so good. It’s been running fine for a day or so now with no lockups and I have both opera and firefox up. I’ll see how it goes.

As for switching my T42 to slackware. I’m not so sure. I do really need a decent package repository for that machine.