Zenwalk: Slackware's Moment of Zen
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Zenwalk: Slackware's Moment of Zen
by Kristin Shoemaker - Oct. 16, 2008Comments (16)
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Periodically, Linux media outlets go on list frenzies -- Ten Linux Distros for New Users, Five Great Distributions You've Never Heard Of. These are interesting lists but always seem to feature the same distributions.   Some distributions are consistently left off these lists, seemingly regardless of whether they are a better fit than the usual candidates. I always read these lists, and wonder why Zenwalk is rarely mentioned. Perhaps it isn't for brand new users, but it's a great distribution that is overlooked far too often. Zenwalk (formerly known as Minislack) is a Slackware based distribution. Don't let its previous name fool you: Zenwalk is more like Slackware than some of the Slackware-driven pendrive distributions, such as SLAX. In the right circumstances, there are major advantages to using Zenwalk over Slackware (or SLAX). A rule of thumb I'd recommend for those interested in trying out a Slackwaresque distribution: If you're looking for a distribution for server related tasks, go with Slackware. It's not particularly modern feeling, but it's stable, solid, and manages the heavy lifting of server applications with ease. If you are looking for a more desktop oriented distribution with a wider variety of recent packages, that is lightweight yet still able to do server related tasks, think Zenwalk. (Vector Linux is another Slackware based distribution that covers this area quite nicely, but with more release iterations, it can be less straightforward to get an overview of the system.) SLAX is a great choice for those wanting a portable Linux reminiscent of Slackware, but daily use could get bothersome rather quickly. Installation Feels Like Slackware -- Management Doesn't Zenwalk's installation disk features a text based installer. It looks similar to (and functions exactly like) Slackware's installer. This means that a certain familiarity with disk partitioning (Zenwalk uses cfdisk to this end) is required. There is an autopartitioning module, which makes the process easier (but it requires that the entire disk is reformatted and used for installation). Installations are fast, and I am always appreciative of the ability to choose services to start automatically at boot. Previously, Zenwalk would ask whether it should start in a graphical mode, or with a terminal. This is no longer the case and both "versions" of Zenwalk (Zenwalk traditionally features the XFCE desktop environment, but an alternative GNOME version was recently released) boot to the GDM login screen. A downside to Slackware, for desktop purposes in particular, is the package management system (or, some would say, lack thereof). There is a package install/remove function, and there are front ends to it (utilities like swaret and slaptget). These make life easier, but dependency checking has historically been spotty, when available. Zenwalk uses Netpkg for package management. It's not as flashy as APT frontends, such as Synaptic or Adept. It is different from RPM frontends, such as YUM or YaST. In past versions, though, Netpkg worked reasonably well, and made installing, updating, and maintaining packages on this Slack-like system fairly painless. As of Zenwalk 5.2, Netpkg has gotten a facelift, and some feature enhancements. Choosing mirrors and repositories (and updating them quickly) requires less hunting and clicking. Netpkg's window pane layouts and collapsible tree structure make spotting desired packages (and package groups) faster. The dependency issues? It's now as easy to install required dependencies on Zenwalk as it is the better known alternatives. Part of the beauty of Zenwalk is that though there are Zenwalk-specific repositories, it is compatible with Slackware .tgz packages, as well. A Simple Desktop, and Functional from the Beginning Zenwalk offers some strong applications from the start. The standard XFCE desktop has the usual suspects, of course -- media players, GIMP, email client and browser (in this case, Icedove and Iceweasel, which are the free (as in speech), unbranded versions of Thunderbird and Firefox), and the Thunar file manager. There are a wide variety of up-to-date packages in the mirrors, however. OpenOffice.org's 3.0 release, out less than a week, is available for installation. Zenwalk, though sometimes overlooked, has an active, dedicated community and user base. It's a great distribution for people looking for Slackware's stability and framework, but desiring something with a stronger emphasis on the desktop.
linux GNOME distributions Zenwalk XFCE Slackware Netpkg
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16 Comments
 
by an anonymous user on Oct. 16, 2008Thanks for the nice review. I was looking for a distro with bundled desktop apps and will certainly give this a try.
0 Votes
by Huan Ning on Oct. 16, 2008I prefer Debian/Ubuntu Than all
0 Votes
by 1369ic on Oct. 16, 2008Nice to see Zenwalk mentioned. I usually have it installed on my laptop along with Slackware on my desktop. Right now I'm trying out Arch, which is great too, but Zenwalk is calling my name again. It is, as you say, light, tight, solid and pretty. What more could you want?
One measure of how much I like it is that I don't use another under-appreciated distro, AntiX. That uses Fluxbox and Rox-Filer, my two mainstays, but I always end up going with Zenwalk and adding Rox and so forth on top of it. But if you're looking for another distro to write about, check it out. It offers IceWM and other nice features, it's based on Mepis, so it has nice tools and can be latched onto the Debian repositories. It's also pretty fast.
One difference I feel between Vector and Zenwalk is that Zenwalk and its community seems to stay a bit closer to Slackware's low-key way. The Vector guys put out a great distro and the community is great, but it's got a kind of Ubuntu zeal that I find off-putting. With Slackware it's pretty much "you're on your own" even though there are plenty of third-party support sites. With Zenwalk you get a nice community and don't have to drink any Kool-Aid. Of course, that could just be my perception. But I like the restraint.
0 Votes
by Duncan_Idaho on Oct. 17, 2008As a zenwalk user I appreciate the nice review you make, is true that zenwalk is overlooked far too often but is a nice distro, one reason I made the switch to zenwalk is that is far faster than xubuntu, both at boot time and is generaly more responsive.
Also the community friendly and ready to help you with problems you may encounter, it won't give you the answers in a silver plate, but if you're willing to learn a thing or two they'll gladly help you out :P
0 Votes
by an anonymous user on Oct. 17, 2008The worst part of it is the name!
Almost as bad as "Frugalware" or "GoblinX".
Zen Linux has a nice ring to it - but Zenwalk?
I know there was a Zen Linux, but it seems to have disappeared. Maybe the domain is available...
0 Votes
by Scott on Oct. 17, 2008Nice review, I've been using Zenwalk since around 4.0 maybe (it's been so long now I've forgotten). It was my first Linux OS and the one I tend to compare every other OS to; and keep coming back to. It's simple, fast, and it works.
0 Votes
by C>Lemon on Oct. 17, 2008The name might not be great for everybody (I like it) but you can't argue with the artwork we get. Fantastic stuff.
Zenwalkers (yes, that's really what we're called) are a very nice bunch, I've always found. The support forum is active, and as I like to say:
Zenwalk Support: We Prevail.
0 Votes
by tony on Oct. 18, 2008Nice review! I love Zenwalk. I have a Slackware box server and my laptop running Zenwalk and they all work beatiful.
Zenwalk is simple and rock solid. It can handle everything I throw at it. I used Xubuntu, Fedora and Mandrake in the past and nothing compares to Zenwalk.
Sometimes, since I started with Slackware in the 1990's, I think that I am using Slackware but then I realize that I am using a mini version of it.
Zenwalk is just perfect.
0 Votes
by kazuya on Oct. 20, 2008excellent review. I too am a zenwalker. I distro hop quite often, but have my zenwalk 5.2 install still going. This distro is incredibly functional and great to work with. Currently I use gnome on it. But run kde apps on it.
Great work on review and especially on the OS.
0 Votes
by thenktor on Oct. 20, 2008Thanks for your fine review about Zenwalk!
0 Votes
by an anonymous user on Oct. 21, 2008I found vector linux to be faster and more responsive than zenwalk on a P2 machine with 128 Mb Ram.
0 Votes
by j.k.l. on Oct. 27, 2008Good review. One point: Zenwalk's not a "distro", but a "GNU/Linux operating system".
I love Zenwalk. Would use all day long if there weren't work-related reasons (apps) to run some OSX, some XP. I tried half-dozen distros & OS's but Zenwalk's closest to my taste: non-bloatware, snappy & fast, beautiful. Reliable. Never got an immediate grasp of *buntus. I don't get why to use anything else with Zenwalk that XFCE (my needs are so modest). For me, KDE looks like desktop for children (KDE is on Slax that I'm sometimes like now running from USB). Gnome's pretty, though.
"I found vector linux to be faster and more responsive than zenwalk on a P2 machine with 128 Mb Ram."
Really?
0 Votes
by Sonic20 on Nov. 13, 2008I was able to intall on hard hard drive, but was never able to go to the log screen. Every single option of video resolution would come up "out of range". Finally gave up.
0 Votes
by Beekeeper on Nov. 20, 2008After half year of WinXP and Mac OS X and no Linux I started installing and testing all kinds of distribution. Ugly and pretty. Popular and less popular. No matter what I did it seems that none of those big ones comes to me as Zenwalk does.
0 Votes
by khair on Mar. 30, 2009I have only one thing to say Zenwalk rocks people don't belive but i have tested more then 60 Linux version's and found Zenwalk is the best
try it coz its worth.. zenwalking.
0 Votes
by an anonymous user on Apr. 14, 2009I put Zenwalk on an older Dell Optiplex 800Mhz PIII system with 256MB of ram and two small (root 2.4GB and and extra 1.5+GB for a bit of storage) drives. I put the whole thing together from used parts and it cost me only $20. Zenwalk is a very easy Distro. to install and configure. It comes with all the apps. you are likely to want and just plain works (and looks) wonderful(ly). Its a great choice for building an inexpensive Linux desktop even on older systems. A newbie could have it up and running in half an hour. I love it.
0 Votes
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