RT Cunningham


Slax Linux - Your Pocket Operating System (Just a Little Presumptuous)

Slax I’ve known about Slax for years. I just never bothered to examine it until today. The website is fairly new (or at least the revised version of it is).

Okay, I’m not going to give up on Linux Mint anytime soon. I just want to experiment with portable operating systems and Linux anything on a USB flash drive counts. My goal is to have a portable backup for the data I consider important, with a simple way to access it on the same drive.

The History of Slax

I’m not going to get into any real details here. I followed a link from a Wikipedia reference to a review written in 2005. The article mentioned version 5.05 of the software. I didn’t read the whole article but I gathered that it was originally based on Slackware. It’s now at version 9.7.0 and based on Debian.

Slax version 9.3 was the first version based on Debian and it was released in December 2017. The changelog didn’t mention Debian. I found that out by reading somewhere else.

Slax isn’t perfect yet and I doubt it ever will be. I don’t think the developer can keep up with all the changes in Linux or changes in hardware and firmware. Of course, I could be wrong, as I often am.

My Thoughts About Slax

Slax does what it was intended to do: Run Linux from an external drive of some kind, without requiring it to be installed on anything else.

Linux Mint uses under 700 megabytes of memory on boot-up but Slax uses less than 300. Windows 10, even with most startup options disabled, still uses more than a gigabyte.

There are instructions at the website for creating a bootable USB drive. I just used the Universal USB Installer from Windows because I didn’t feel like messing around too long with it.

Slax doesn’t support UEFI yet. I suppose it will, eventually. In the meantime, I had to enable legacy boot, which automatically disables secure boot. After I did that, it appeared in the BIOS boot menu (on an HP laptop) accessible with the F9 function key while booting up. Actually, my SanDisk Cruzer Edge USB flash drive appeared in the BIOS boot menu as a USB hard drive (weird).

Installing applications was easy. Just click on the menu, type “apt install package” from the desktop screen. It drops to the terminal, executes and returns at the tap of a key. The only thing I couldn’t do was install a “.deb” package from elsewhere. I wanted to see if I could use Google Chrome instead of Chromium but I couldn’t install it. Chromium is fine, by the way.

I installed Geany, PuTTY and FileZilla and that’s as far as I went with it.

Will I Use Slax or Something Else?

I can’t say. At least, not yet. I want to experiment with a few other options. I’m currently using an older SanDisk Cruzer Glide (8 gigabytes) with Linux Mint on it as a Live CD version. It’s slower than Slax, even just booting up.

I like Slax but I may hold off until some of the features work better. But then again, all I really need are extra USB flash drives.

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By RT Cunningham
February 5, 2019