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Slackware-Live CD

Slackware-Live CD (see Figure 2) is a customized version of the venerable Slackware Linux distribution, offering a way to test drive Slackware without installing it. Slackware-Live CD is by far the smallest of the distributions I tested, weighing in at a mere 190MB. This means one-third the download time, which is a big plus if you're on a slow connection. It also means that the distribution will fit on a three-inch mini-CDR, making it the most portable of the distributions I reviewed.

Figure 2Figure 2 The Slackware desktop.

Unlike the other distributions I tried, Slackware boots to a command prompt rather than a GUI. However, there are some onscreen instructions for logging in, starting the GUI, and performing basic operations from the command line. This could be nice for UNIX experts coming from a Solaris background, but a little scary for folks weaned on Windows. After I typed gui, the KDE window manager started right up. Although it detected my sound card, it wouldn't play any sounds. The problem turned out to be the default mixer settings, and after some volume adjustments the sound worked fine.

The tradeoff for Slackware's small size is fewer applications. Most of the other distributions provide two or three applications for each task, but Slackware tends to provide just one that does the job well. Konqueror is the only web browser included, also doubling as the file manager. KOffice is the only office suite. There are audio and video players, and NTFS drives are automatically mounted as read-only.

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