24 Aug 2011

SalixOS: older brother of SLAX

My second advent into world of Linux happened somewhere in September 2010. It was so much unusual experience for me that I decided to put my thoughts and feeling into this blog. What was in the beginning? No, it was not Word. It was SLAX.
SLAX OS is pocket oriented Linux distribution based on Slackware. That's why my first post in this blog is named "How to put a system in a pocket". SLAX itself is very user-friendly and easy for beginners. I must admit, I was lucky enough to start from SLAX.
But today I will not talk about SLAX. And I will not talk about Slackware. I will talk about older brother of SLAX - Salix OS.
Salix OS is not intended to be "pocket size" OS. But, as I  will tell you in next few paragraphs, it can be put into the pocket.
But first of all, let me introduce Salix OS. It is Linux distribution based on Slackware and intended to be "simple, fast and easy to use". It is released in 4 options: KDE, XFCE, LXDE and Fluxbox. I am great fan of KDE, but because I am currently interested in replacement for Linux Mint XFCE, my choice this time was for XFCE edition.
Unfortunately, Live version of Salix XFCE is only available for version 13.1.2 (released in November 2010), whereas installation version has been already upgraded to 13.37 (released in May 2011). Did this stop me? Of course not! So, ISO image of Salix OS 13.1.2 XFCE is downloaded and ready to use.
What is surprisingly interesting, process of creation of Live USB is described in Salix Startup Guide. All you need to do is to copy files from ISO into USB root folder and run a script. Where have I seen similar before? Yes, it is the same approach as SLAX uses. Unfortunately, this process did not work for me, because Live USB creator script requires 63 sectors for MBR and my USB stick only had 62.
No problem, Live CD is still an option and CD-RW was burnt using same ISO image.
CD-RW is in the optical drive of my Compaq C300 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from CD. Let's go!

First screen during the boot process allows user to select the language. Selection of languages is very good. And, nice surprise again, Russian is in the list. But my choice was for English (GB).
Second question which user sees is about keyboard layout. Logically enough, UK layout is default for English (GB) language selection.
Finally, system starts booting. Time for boot is more than average, honestly it could be better.
Once booted, user gets to usual XFCE environment. Desktop has about a dozen icons on it, mostly dedicated to different Salix OS-oriented resources and operations, like installer or IRC channel. Single panel at the lower edge of the screen has menu, few quick start buttons (Firefox, Terminal, Mousepad), taskbar, virtual desktop switch and usual icons about network, clocks and poweroff.
XFCE itself in Salix OS has version 4.6.1. It is not the latest version. Looking slightly ahead, I'd like to mention that Salix users have to stick to this version, unless they stick to default repositories - newer versions of XFCE are not offered for upgrade. That might be not an issue since Salix is compatible with Slackware packages.
Default wallpaper is OK, but not very impressive. To compensate this, Salix OS offers you good selection of wallpapers with Tux as main hero... I won't describe them. Just try it yourself, I can guarantee you'll enjoy them. Also, there are several wallpapers around XFCE theme. Penguin and mouse... good combination.
Not surprisingly, WiFi connection is not active for Salix OS. That is strange because FOSS driver for Broadcom 4311 was already released at the time of Salix OS XFCE 13.1.2 release. Is it fault of Salix or Slackware?
Anyway, Salix OS is freindly enough. First Google search for terms "salix b43" returns link to detailed guide on Salix forum. This guide works like a charm. Installation script activates the WiFi card and at the same time creates ready-to-use module which can be reused later. In order to do this, I saved the file on HDD. After reboot you need to run installpgk <packagename> from the folder where script is saved... and job's done! Where have I seen similar approach before? Yes, in SLAX. The difference though that SLAX allows user to save additional packages right on Live USB in special folder, and then packages are activated automatically during reboot.
Actually, Salix OS is not very different in this area too, because allows to create Persistence file on hard disk where all the changes can be saved. I honestly did not try that option. But I believe it'll work, like almost everything else I have seen in Salix.
Installation of firmware, like many other operations I tried in Salix OS, requires superuser rights. Salix OS boots under normal user one, which by default even is not in sudoers file. That's why you need to know password for root. Live session runs with root password live. Normal user (one as I have already mentioned) has no password.
While I was saving my WiFi firmware module for Salix OS, I noticed that NTFS partition on my hard disk was mounted automatically and placed along all other in /mnt directory. Of course, no issues happened with mounting of Ext2 and Ext3 partitions either. And of course, all the Russian characters in filenames on NTFS partition were recognised and shown correctly.
What is about network drive I have? Salix OS includes wonderful tool called Gigolo. Name of this package is not the most popular, is it? What is actually Gigolo for? It is a graphical tool for mounting of network partitions. I used it to mount my network drive. Result? It just works! Type in "server" name, refresh list of available shares on it, select the one you need, and job's done. All the Russian characters on network paritions were recognised by file manager without any issue.
And now it is time to talk about packages included into the Salix OS.
I have already mentioned couple of them: command line installer installpkg and graphical accessory Gigolo. And I mentioned file manager. What is file manager? Thunar is, like it is usual for XFCE distributions.
Package Manager in Salix OS is Gslapt. This is graphical tool on top of slapt, which in its turn is Slackware adaptation of apt. If you look at Gslapt, you'll find it very similar to Synaptic package manager from Debian-based distributions. Why did I start from package manager this time? I usually mention it at the end of the list. Because package manager offered me quite a big list of upgrade packages for my Salix OS 13.1.2. That's quite logical, because 13.37 version was released later. I'll mention some upgrades below.
So, what is included in Salix OS 13.1.2 XFCE? Let's see.
There are lots of Accessories. Purpose of some of those I don't know. I have already mentioned is Gigolo. Another accesory worth mentioning is Mousepad which is simple text editor. From my perspective, name "mousepad" is too long. I like to have it short, to simplify start of it under superuser. Compare "sudo kate" and "sudo mousepad".
Geany (another text editor) is placed in Development section of menu, next to Meld Diff viewer.
Graphics section of Salix OS menu has GIMP editor (version 2.6.8, and no upgrade). It also includes scanning tool, Document Viewer and image viewer Viewnior. Funny enough, Document Viewer was not able to open Salix Startup Guide included in the distribution. There is no screenshot tool in Graphics, but you can find Snapshot in Accessories.
Unfortunately, Snapshot tool is not linked to PrtScr button on keyboard by default. But this shortcut can be configured easily in menu Settings - Keyboard. You need to know that application name is xfce4-screenshooter. GIMP also has screenshot feature, as you probably know. Sometimes it's easier to start GIMP, make screenshot from there and process it immediately, rather than use 2 different tools for taking and processing screenshot.
Multimedia tools in Salix OS include both well-known applications like PiTiVi video editor and Brasero disk burner, and also less known but still functional applications like Parole media player, Exaile (analogue of Amarok or Banshee) and Asunder CD ripper. I had a small issue with Exaile: it stopped playing music from my playlist after first track. Parole did not have this issue though. That is minor problem for me since I prefer simple players like Parole anyway. I have not checked for presence of VLC in default repositories, but for sure Slackware version is listed on official VLC page.
Salix OS running Firefox 6.0,
Gslapt and Parole Media Player
When we are talking about multimedia, there is always a question of multimedia codecs... Are they included into the default package? Yes and no. No, because they are not in the Salix OS iso. Yes, because they can be installed in few clicks: there is special menu item in Multimedia menu section. Couple of minutes for downloading and installation, and right after that I was able to listen to music in my MP3 files.
I am not sure if Flash was included in the default package, but after installation of multimedia codecs I was definitely able to watch videos from Youtube and other sites. What is amazing and worth mentioning here: Flash movies worked almost perfectly without any lags or delays even in full-screen mode. I have never seen this before on my laptop in Linux. Usually movies are working quite slow even in small window.  I am not sure what is the reason, but result in Salix OS is truly amazing!
In other words, Salix uses very user-friendly and still puristic approach to restricted multimedia codecs. They are not installed by default, but there are no difficulties with installation when they are needed.
Coming back to included packages... Network tools include Firefox as default browser. It has version 3.6. Quite outdated version now, isn't it? But that's not an issue because version 6 is already in proposed upgrades for Salix OS! Only few days after official release.
Also you can find there Pidgin, Transmission, gFTP, WiCD and Claws Mail. Pretty much full list of applications you would need for Internet purposes. You may argue that there is no IRC client. Yes, but... There is a link to Salix IRC channel on the desktop which opens IRC channel in browser. And also... Pidgin had IRC functionality right out of the box. Why would you need more?
Office applications in Salix OS are represented by OpenOffice.org 3.2. This is full version of OO.o, including Impress, Math and Base. There is also Orage calendar planner, if you like tools like this. Unfortunately, neither LibreOffice nor fresher version of OO.o is available in Gslapt Package Manager.
You can notice that Salix OS includes well-known packages and not very famous ones. It does not stick to "KDE-only" of "XFCE-only" strategy (for example, XFCE-native Leafpad is replaced with Mousepad, but Thunar is still a default file manager). I think the purpose was to give users less resourse-hungry but still convenient and functional tools.
As usual, I'll tell you about multilingual options of this operating system. Does Salix OS XFCE support people like me who need to have several different keyboard layouts? Yes, it does. Keyboard configuration is similar to SalineOS and other XFCE-based distributions. As usual for XFCE, you need to start from logical end here. First of all, add Keyboard Layout indicator on the panel. And then right click on it to add layouts into the list. Third, configure switching rules and displaying options (flag or text). Works like a charm actually.
So, you can see, Salix OS is very-very user friendly system. Statement from their front page is true 100% percent: "simple, fast and easy to use".
Have I noticed any issues in Salix OS? I should admit, yes, there are some. For example, scrolling on touchpad edges was not working for me. It is the same issue as I have in Mint XFCE. And I am also aware that one of my subscribers has same issue in Fedora XFCE. Is it a generic issue of XFCE-based distributions, or it can be fixed some way? Maybe my readers can advise here?
Another issue, which is half-critical for me is that neither Chrome nor Chromium is available in default repositories. Slackware version of Chrome is also not available from Google. Yes, there are 3rd party repositories where I can look for it. Quick search gave me Chrome 5 installation package for Slackware 13 from Slacky.eu site. I tried to install it on my Live run of Salix OS 13.1.2. Result? It did not start after installation.
I have also mentioned several issues in the text above... But are they significant? I think they are not. My first acquittance with Salix OS left very good impression on me. As I wrote above, I was looking for the replacement for my Linux Mint XFCE system when I change my laptop to another one. Did I make my choice today? Most likely - yes!
Are you interested in trying Salix yourself? Then why not get CD with this distribution from Buy Linux CDs site?

In my previous post I promised to give special prize to my reader who names distribution I clued there. It's time to announce now that Paul Schuster is the winner of the mini-competition. I would like ask him to write me an e-mail from address listed in my Feedburner subscribers' list. We'll discuss prize and delivery.


  1. For chrome you might want to try the slackbuild from slackware in the extra directory. You will just have to update it to the new version as google does not keep the old versions available for download. Or you could try the slackbuild of chromium, from slackbuilds.org. Salix is compatable with slackware so that should give you more options.

  2. @Paul Schuster:
    Thanks! That's what I thought... As I wrote, I inly had a quick search for the options, did not explore all of them.

  3. I would be very interested to know how you get on if you do decide to do an HD install.

  4. Anything based on Slackware should be a good thing :)

  5. @Guillermo Garron:
    See you point, you old Slacker...

  6. My experiment with the LXDE version was amazing. On the LiveCD it was really quick! But once installed it was much slower, which makes no sense at all. I didn't care for LXDE on Salix, so using galapt I installed Xfce and removed the LXDE stuff. That's when things got really interesting and made even less sense:

    It won't let me multi-task for some strange reason. When I had the Startup Guide open and then opened a terminal to copy-and-paste commands into, the terminal would lock up until I closed any other open applications. Very strange.

    Perhaps I messed something up when I removed LXDE and loaded Xfce, or in my attempt at upgrading from 13.1 to 13.37. I'll try SalixOS again when the 13.37 Xfce LiveCD is ready. But my first experience with it was strange and disappointing.

  7. @Barnaby:
    It's not the age. It's more about the system size and functionality.
    Not to hurt SLAX, it is wonderful system. But it is intended to be in a pocket on a USB or CD. Plug&play.
    As opposite, Salix is intended for installation. Hence, it has different approach in many places.
    But still they feel like brothers. So many in common!

  8. @robinsrantsandraves:
    Oh, very interesting and weird experience.
    Let's see if it happens to me too... Anyway, even if I feel it uncomfortable, I always have fall-back solution... not to use it. That's better than single-sided Windows solution. Linux gives you better choice.

  9. I am writing this reply from a Salix LXDE Live CD. At first, I noticed the touchpad scrolling doesn't work. As a matter of facts, I found your blog searching Google for "Salix LXDE touchpad scroll". Then, while reading your blog post, I accidentally discovered how the scroll works. You can use all the surface of the trackpad, not just the edge. The trick is to use two fingers, dragging them down and up for scrolling.
    Otherwise I agree with you, Salix is great .
    My laptop: HP Compaq nx7400

    1. Thanks for sharing.
      I checked two-finger scrolling in another Linux distribution with LXDE, and it works there too.