The Perfect Desktop - Slackware 12

Version 1.1
Author: Brian Z.
Last edited: 2014-06-30

This tutorial shows how you can set up a Slackware 12 GNU/Linux desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop, i.e. that has all the software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktop (please note the current version is Slackware 14.1 released on November 07, 2013).

Unlike some other Linux distributions, Slackware users find themselves at the command line quite often. One Slacker who maintained an online guide wrote the "pros and cons of Slackware could be summarized in one word: minimalism." He went on to discuss the duality of minimalism by noting that although "Minimalism certainly means stability" it also means that Slackware "can be exasperating for some people because the end-user must configure many features with manual editing rather than the more familiar point-and-click."

You may be asking yourself if Slackware is the right distribution for you. When it comes to Linux you have a huge selection of distributions to choose from. Some like Zenwalk Linux and VectorLinux are based on Slackware but provide a more user friendly point-and-click environment for the new Linux user.   HowtoForge has a series of "Perfect Desktop" tutorials including one for a nice distribution named PCLinuxOS. Read that tutorial here. There's also a website that tries to match people with a Linux distribution suitable for them at Linux Distribution Chooser.

To follow this tutorial you should be familiar with navigating the file system with a file manager. And, willing to type commands at the prompt. If you're not already familiar with using the command line please click here to read a simple introduction to it.

Before you begin please join the Slackware mailing lists. The mailing lists will keep you updated on new versions, major updates, software updates, and announcements relating to security issues.

When installing an Operating System it's sometimes necessary to know what hardware is installed on the PC. Before beginning this tutorial spend a few minutes and get the name of the hardware installed on your system including the network card, sound card, video card, monitor, and the monitor's horizontal scan range (HorizSync) and vertical scan range (VertRefresh). If you're running Windows you may want to audit your systems hardware with Belarc Advisor or the Device Manger. If you're running Linux you may want to use HardInfo.

Please note that I won't be going through every software installation step by step. For more information please refer to section 6, Installing Additional Software. 

This tutorial comes with no guarantees that it will work for you. These are simply the steps I take to setup Slackware 12 on my desktop computer.

Please backup ALL of your personal data before starting.

1 Preliminary Note

To fully replace a Windows desktop, I would like the Slackware 12 desktop to have the following software installed:


  • The GIMP - free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • Google Picasa - application for organizing and editing digital photos


  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird
  • Java Runtime Environment (JRE) - includes the Java Plug-in which enables applets to run in popular browsers
  • Flash
  • RealPlayer
  • aKregator - RSS Reader
  • Pidgin - multi-platform instant messaging client (formerly known as Gaim)
  • Xchat IRC - IRC Client
  • gFTP - multithreaded FTP client
  • BitTorrent - command line client that integrates with Firefox
  • Guarddog - firewall
  • Google Earth
  • Skype - a P2P Voice Over IP program


  • - replacement for Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Microsoft Access
  • Adobe Acrobat reader
  • Kontact - personal information management (PIM)
  • Scribus- open source desktop publishing (DTP) application
  • kmymoney2 - personal finance manager

Sound & Video:

  • Audacious - Winamp style audio player
  • K3B- CD/DVD burning program
  • Noatun- out of the box plays mpg, mpeg, avi, wmv, asf, and mp3 on your new Slackware 12 system
  • VLC Media Player- plays DVD,flash, mov, and other various audio and video formats


  • Quanta Plus - web development environment, including a WYSIWYG editor
  • Kate - an editor for text (includes Spell Check) and programming
  • The Java 2 SDK - a development environment for building applications, applets, and components

System Utilities:

  • htop - a command line, interactive process viewer friendlier than top
  • iptraf - a command line tool, Interactive Colorful IP LAN Monitor
  • netstat - a command line tool, print network connections, routing tables, interface statistics, masquerade connections, and multicast memberships
  • Filelight- a KDE graphical disk-space analyzer
  • KDE Info Center - a central place to find information about your computer system
  • Konqueror - file manager, web browser, picture viewer, rip Audio CDs, read archive files such as zip, tar, gz, SSH, SFTP


  • VMware Server - lets you run another OS as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop
  • NTFS-3G driver - Read/Write support for NTFS partitions.
  • FUSE

Slackware 12 lets you choose between multiple desktop environments (KDE, Xfce, Fluxbox, Blackbox, Window Maker, fvwm2 Fvwm, twm). For this tutorial we will use KDE.

I will use the username brian in this tutorial, and I will download all necessary files to various directories on brian's desktop which is equivalent to the directory /home/brian/Desktop. If you use another username (which you most probably do ;-)), please replace brian with your own username. So when I use a command like

cd /home/brian/Desktop

you must replace brian.


2 Installing The Base System

Download Slackware 12 and burn it onto a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM.

For this tutorial I downloaded the Slackware 12.0 DVD ISO (everything).

Use the CD-ROM or DVD-ROM you created and boot your computer from it. From here on I will use the term DVD to refer to both the CD-ROM and DVD-ROM.

At the boot prompt press Enter:

If you're using a US keyboard press Enter. If not type 1 and press Enter:

Select your keyboard map using the UP and DOWN arrow keys.

The OK and Cancel buttons can be selected with the LEFT and RIGHT arrow keys.

Highlight a keyboard map. Select OK and press Enter:

Test your new keyboard layout.

If it works, enter 1 on a line by itself and press Enter:

Welcome to the Slackware Linux installation disk:

During setup root does not have a password. Type root and press Enter:

Once you login you will be at the Linux command line:

Before setup begins the hard disk needs to be partitioned. For simplicity's sake I will create two partitions. One big partition that will be our root partition. The root partition is also known as /. We will also create a 512 megabyte swap partition. Of course, the partitioning scheme is completely up to you - if you like, you can create more than just one big partition. For example, you might want a swap partition, a root partition and a home partition. By partitioning like that you can reinstall the OS without losing your home directory.

Just so you know I'm writing this tutorial on more than one computer so some screenshots may show IDE and others may show SATA. At the moment I am installing on an IBM compatible PC. I have an IDE hard disk and will create a partion on /dev/hda. IDE drives are given names /dev/hda to /dev/hdd. For example, if you have one IDE drive attached to the first IDE controller then it will be named /dev/hda. If you have a second IDE drive on the same drive controller it will be named /dev/hdb. If you have a third drive it will be attached to the second controller and be named /dev/hdc. As you can guess the fourth drive on the second controller is /dev/hdd :)

After the drive is partitioned it will have a number appended to its name. For example, the second partition on the first drive will be /dev/hda2.

SATA and SCSI drives follow a similar pattern but are represented by sd instead of hd. The second partition of the first SATA drive is named /dev/sda2.

You can partition your disk with either fdisk or cfdisk. For this tutorial I used fdisk.

If you have an IDE drive type

fdisk /dev/hda

and press Enter:

If you have a SATA drive type

fdisk /dev/sda

and press Enter:

Type m to see what commands are available:

To see your current partion table type p

As you can see there are no partitions on my IDE hard disk:


Create the swap partition. Type n and press Enter:

Type p to create a primary partition and press Enter:

Type 1 to create partition number 1 on /dev/hda and press Enter:

The default is fine so press Enter:

Type +512M and press Enter:

To make this partion a swap partion type t and press Enter:

Type L or l (usually case is important in Linux...but not in this case) to see the available codes:

The code for Linux swap is 82:

Type 82 and press Enter:

The setup program indicates it's a swap partion:

To create the root partition type n and press Enter:

Type p to create another primary partition:

Type 2 to create partition number two:

Press Enter to accept the default value for the First cylinder.

Then, press Enter again to accept the Last cylinders default value:

Type p and press Enter to view the newly created partition table. You can see that the swap partition is named /dev/hda1 and the root partition is named /dev/hda2:

Make the root (/dev/hda2) partition bootable by typing a and pressing Enter.

Then type 2 to select the root partition and press Enter:

To confirm that partion 2 is now bootable type p and press Enter.

The * indicates that /dev/hda2 is a bootable partition:

To save the changes type w and fdisk exits:

At the root prompt type setup and press Enter:

Select 'ADDSWAP' and press Enter:

Options with a [*] are turned on and off with the SPACEBAR.

Press Enter to setup up the swap partition:

Select No to check for bad blocks.

After the swap space has been configured press Enter:

Press Enter to set up the root partition:

Press Enter to do a Quick format:

Press Enter to select ext3:

Press Enter when done:

If you have any FAT or NTFS partitions the setup routine will give you the opportunity to add those partitions to /etc/fstab. You can add them now or later.

If you don't have any FAT or NTFS partitions you will not see the two screenshots below:

Press Enter to install from your DVD:

Press Enter to scan for your media:

Accept the defaults shown below. If you want to add International language support for KDE use the DOWN arrow key and press the SPACEBAR to select KDEI.

Press Enter:

Accept the default for a full installation and press Enter:

The software installation begins:

Creating a USB boot stick has never worked on my PC. You can try though. I select Skip and then press Enter:

Select a modem and press Enter:

Press Enter to install LILO automatically:

Press Enter unless you need to append extra parameters to the kernel. I've never had to add extra parameters:

Press Enter to install LILO to the Master Boot Record.

Select your mouse and press Enter:

Select Yes and press Enter:

You can reconfigure your network at anytime by running the netconfig program at the command line.

The following describes how to set up your computer to use DHCP. You may have a different network configuration. To setup your network now press Enter.

Enter a hostname (it can be anything you want) and press Enter:

Type a domain name and press Enter:

I use a DHCP server and select it and press Enter:

Press Enter or add a DHCP hostname if necessary:

If the settings are correct press Enter:

Press Enter:

I selected No and pressed Enter:

Select the correct setting for your hardware clock and press Enter:

Select your Timezone and press Enter:

For this tutorial we're using KDE. You can always select a another window manager after the tutorial with the command, xwmconfig.

Select KDE and press Enter.

All new Linux passwords are confirmed by typing them twice.

Press Enter to set a root password:

Press Enter to complete setup:

Using the DOWN arrow select EXIT and press Enter:

Reboot your computer:

After rebooting press Enter at the boot prompt:

At the login prompt type root and press Enter. Then type the password you created for the root account and press Enter:

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