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LinuxQuestions Interviews Slackware Founder Patrick Volkerding 58

An anonymous reader writes "In this in-depth interview with LinuxQuestions.org, Patrick Volkerding discusses how he got involved with Linux and Open Source, the succession plan for Slackware, the Slackware development model, his opinion on the current trends in desktop environments, potentially disruptive changes to Linux such as systemd, his favorite beer and much more."
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LinuxQuestions Interviews Slackware Founder Patrick Volkerding

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  • by pegasustonans ( 589396 ) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @04:21PM (#40248939)

    Well, economically speaking the past few years have been pretty thin. If I hadn't made the strategic decision to head back to Minnesota several years ago there's no way I could have stayed afloat living in the bay area. California is not at all a cheap place to live, and I was always cutting it close out there. Lately I've been cutting it pretty close here, too. I don't even have insurance any more... knock on wood. Personally, absolutely. I've made friends all over the world. I hear from people every day who love Slackware and depend on it for critical tasks, and who don't want to run something else. Working on the project is exciting and fun, and the folks on the team are some of my best friends. It's just not possible to put a dollar value on that.

    It's too bad the Bay Area is unaffordable for many of those who want to devote a significant amount of productivity towards open source projects.

    I'd like to believe these projects could make much more money if only the right people knew about them, but we all know that's not the point in the first place.

    Similar to social workers and others who do the noble work in our society, communities should devote resources to provide nice affordable housing for these people.

    The problem, of course, is convincing local governments.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Skapare ( 16644 )

      Social worker, teachers, and others doing the "noble work" are always underpaid. That's just the way it is. As long as people are willing to do that work for cheap, it will be done for cheap. Local governments don't care because they have to balance the budget, unlike the Feds.

      • Social worker, teachers, and others doing the "noble work" are always underpaid. That's just the way it is. As long as people are willing to do that work for cheap, it will be done for cheap. Local governments don't care because they have to balance the budget, unlike the Feds.

        I don't think anyone is disputing that.

        Nevertheless, something other than material gain is usually driving those who pursue such careers. In a theoretical world where valuation is solely capitalistic, these individuals are consequently severely undervalued based on their importance to social development.

        Even though our world isn't solely capitalistic, these individuals are still undervalued and should therefore have recompense to bring greater balance into social valuation.

        • by Threni ( 635302 )

          They're valued perfectly. You're just incorrect about the world not being solely capitalistic. You get paid what it makes sense to pay you - enough to satisfy minimum wage (this helps prevent riots/race wars etc) if you do something which doesn't require much in the way of training, and enough to stop you leaving and working elsewhere if you are higher skilled.

          Someone who does morally good things doesn't tend to get the rewards a just society would bestow on them because it doesn't benefit the people who'

          • They're valued perfectly.


            To be honest, what with the population explosion, global warming, governments being too busy working with the banks to screw everyone over and billions of illiterate people all wanting nice cars and air conditioning means we're all pretty much fucked anyway so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

            If my concern is teachers/social workers/open source engineers aren't justly compensated, and your concern is a general lack of awareness or apathy about global warming, overpopulation and wealth disparity, you'd think there'd be a way we could meet in the middle here....

          • by Anonymous Coward

            You sir are 100% correct. I recently committed some code to a large open source project and my wifes first response was "So are you getting paid for it?". She couldn't understand why I'd want to do something like that for free and she was a little upset, because she felt I should be doing something to better our family. It didn't matter how I tried to explain I do make money off of the project, because she doesn't understand something of value being offered for free. I have a feeling she's like 99% of the p

      • by Bogtha ( 906264 )

        Social worker, teachers, and others doing the "noble work" are always underpaid.

        Doctors aren't underpaid, and that's one of the most noble professions there is.

        • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 )

          It's also incredibly highly skilled, and most people are priced out of the education required to become doctors, even if they have the natural talent and desire to do the job. In the US there's even an open conspiracy to allow only a slow trickle of new doctors to be licensed so that prices for their services can be kept artificially high. A non-free education system is always going to misuse/squander some human talent.

          Then there's the massive amount of man hours and intelligent people who go into law, a pr

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Nice try. Too bad you totally ignore what it takes for a primary care physician to make his or her income. Surgeons are another story.

          As a physician (posting anonymously for obvious reasons), I work an average of well over 85 hours per week. At this very moment I am in the middle of my 1-week-out-of-3 call, which means that I am working 168 hours straight (no call pay either) this week, and will then do the next 2 weeks mostly in the office. Rinse and repeat.

          I make the annual equivalent of 85K before ta

    • Social workers do nothing noble, they are maggots feeding on sores.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2012 @05:09PM (#40249695)

    In 1993, I started using Slack exclusively (except school, where Sun owned the place).

    Thanks for all your hard work. Your efforts launched several careers, and many more hobbyists.

    So, Thanks!

  • by rastos1 ( 601318 )
    Oh come on! The most interesting question did not make it to the list?!
    What does the "J" stand for in "Patrick J. Volkerding"? [linuxquestions.org]
  • Fond memories (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fat_mike ( 71855 ) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @06:00PM (#40250369)
    I still have my 60+ 3.5" floppies of Slackware with kernel 0.94 I believe. Took over a month to download on a 28.8 modem. The first time I typed startx after hand configuring X (yes XFConfig was available back then but my video card required hand coding) and the grey screen came up I went "Whoa!"
    Patrick is the best. He doesn't release a new Slackware unless its been tested tested tested.
    Anytime MythTV releases a new version I'll slap together a machine, put Slackware on it and give it a whirl. If you're a Ubuntu user and want to learn more about *nix but don't want to mess with Gentoo or a BSD, I totally recommend Slackware.
    • If you're a Ubuntu user and want to learn more about *nix but don't want to mess with Gentoo or a BSD, I totally recommend Slackware.

      LOL. I was the opposite progression -- I started on Slack 7.1 (through 9 dot...something), got hired as a sys admin in a Solaris/BSD shop (although Slack was the desktop of choice there), then got a job in a shop that used Gentoo but now uses Ubuntu (the PHB's like that you can buy support from Canonical, even though we've never had to do it).

      Slack was cool, and I probably wouldn't have gotten my break as a sys admin if I hadn't been a Slackware user (the Linux guy during the interview was a hard-core S

    • by mvdw ( 613057 )
      Somewhat perversely, my linux experience goes something like red hat -> mandrake (big mistake!) -> slackware -> gentoo (another mistake) -> slackware -> ubuntu. Thinking about going back to slackware; loved the init scripts and the way I could hold (most of) the system in my head at once. Still use slackware whenever I have to build a 'small' system, mostly because it's easy to remove what I don't want.
    • by Noryungi ( 70322 )

      60+ floppies (check), X hand-made configuration,... Ah yes, those were the days, been there, done that as well.

      Slackware is simply, as far as I am concerned, the first, the best and the only Linux I truly care about. All the rest are either boring, uninteresting, buggy or way over-the-top. Slackware always gave me this rock-solid, work-of-love, geeky feeling of goodness. And yes, with Slackware, everything works out of the box.

      Keep your Ubuntu, your OpenSUSE or your Gentoo - as long as I got my Slackware CD

  • by Cito ( 1725214 ) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @06:58PM (#40250971)

    I started using Slackware since it came with the 2.0.30 kernel

    I have used Slackware ever since. For my webservers I run Debian. But my home pc is Slackware. Long ago when I first got into linux as it was told to me the best way to learn is start on Slackware. You compile everything yourself unlike redhat or debian based systems with their package downloaders that did it all for you and put everything where it supposed to go, etc. :)

    Slackware "put hair on your chest" hehe, you want a specific program you downloaded the source and compiled it, if it required other libraries, then you downloaded those library sources and compiled them then go back and compile the other.

    It was a "flavor" of linux I always recommend for learning, as I tell people once you know Slackware, all other flavors are easymode.

    Course it's just my opinion and I've always loved Slackware for my personal machines, and yes I do see use for other "flavors" as I always run Debian on webservers and such for the simple package downloaders can just apt-get whatever needed. Course it won't be compiled specifically for you but it runs.

    My top 2 linux distros are #1 Slackware, #2 Debian and that's all I use, I've played with SUSE, and such. But everyone jumped on the Ubuntu fad, and to me it's good that it's noob friendly, but it's way too noobish imo, I consider Ubuntu to be linux-light :) But again that's just my opinion.

    Each has their purpose.

    Slackware fanboi though.

    • I agree and I have the same experiences with slackware. I've been using it since the early 90s and learned on it as well. Even to this day I recommend it to people wanting to learn Linux, but there's always that idiot that goes on about Ubuntu is better for learning. Sadly a lot of people will listen to that person.

    • I visited Slackware's website [slackware.com], and things there seem really dated. Kernel Seriously, if they are updating it now, what's wrong w/ going w/ 3.4, or 3.3 if they don't think it's stable? Also, the new $SLACKWARE_VERSION.$KERNEL_VERSION naming system doesn't make sense - if that's how they're doing it, why not call it Slackware 13.2.6 or something like that, so that users can, from the numbers after the first decimal point, figure that that's the Linux kernel version that it's based on. (Incidenta

      • by zoward ( 188110 )

        Odd ... the Firefox version on my Slackware desktop comes up as 12. As far as "datedness" goes, Slackware aims for stability, not bleeding edge, which is why it remains popular as a server distro. Not sure if you were trolling here but the naming version was tongue-in-check - the latest kernel version available at release time was 2.6.37, and since Slackware was at version 13, they named it 13.37 ("leet"). Aw, never mind ...

        • No, I wasn't trolling, I apparently didn't get that joke, partly b'cos I thought that numbering the version as something like 13.2.6 was actually neat, in that one would detect the distro version as the first, and the kernel version after. I understand that they didn't go for bleeding edge, but there have been 3 releases of the kernel, and 3.0 wasn't a quantum jump from 2.6 the way software is usually numbered: the difference b/w 2.6 and 3.0 was the same as that of 3.0 to 3.2. Therefore one would have exp

          • If you want something newer, go with -current instead of the stable release. You may encounter issues, but it is a lot more up to date system.

            The Slackware stable releases almost never get version upgrades, only upstream security patches. Versions might get upgraded if certain version of a package is declared unmaintained by the upstream developers and a security issue is found, but is not the norm. By the way, the packages on releases as old as 8.1 (released on 2001) are still receiving updates (last for 8

      • That is the -stable version, released more than one year ago... check the -current version instead:

        http://www.slackware.com/changelog/current.php?cpu=x86_64 [slackware.com]

        usually there is a -stable release once a year, but this time the 13.37 version is taking longer to be replaced. many people use the -current directly, it's almost just as stable, as long you read the changelog before updating things

        the -current is using firefox 12 (and the new firefox 13 should go out in a few days) and kernel is 3.2.13 and the kde is 4

  • My home machines have had Slackware Linux as their primary OS since around 1995, and I still maintain that Slack is the most Unix-like of all the Linuxes. This classic, verging on historic, distro has always been rock solid, dependable, and reliable, and has always accepted that I'm the one in charge of my hardware, not Patrick.

    But thanks to a new job, I've been forcibly immersed in a bunch of "modern" Linux distros lately, and have finally been seduced by the dark side. Yes, after Slacking for something li

  • I`m currently using Slackware on every server i have at home. And i used it since version 7.0. All old school console... no X, no GUIs... i manually pick every driver for every server and recompile the kernel to be lightning fast.
    The best thing about this distro is... u actually know what happens with your system and once configured... ohhh it never fails. Never. I can forget that machine for years, still doing its job quietly and it just works.
    My oldest machine is still alive and kicking.. i`m using it
  • "Is it a point of pride that your distro is considered difficult to install/use and expert level, or do you view that negatively because it keeps new users from wanting to try Slack?"

    Huh, Slackware was the first Linux disto I managed to successfully install, and it's still the one I turn to for Linux.

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta