Since the late 90s I’ve enjoyed using the Linux distros and learning how it all works and for many years before using MacOS, I daily drove Linux at home. My move from Linux to Mac was nothing short of caused by an aggressive ad campaign by Apple touting all the Unix-like features in MacOS-X. For many years I was content with what Apple offered. I do love the classic iPod devices and have consistently bought Macs since the early 2000s, around the 10.2 era.
That said, I’ve used Slackware Linux even longer, and after trying a few distros before it, nothing felt right like Slackware did. I stuck with it and learned all I could about Linux and even now, this server runs the latest release.
At some point in Slackware’s past, the singular developer, Pat Volkerding, removed the GNOME desktop. Citing constant changes in API and libraries and just a general unstable flux in development of it as the reason for removal. I had always used GNOME until this point. Now, without it, I was forced onto KDE for a desktop but I mostly just used XFCE since my machine couldn’t handle KDE gracefully.
Recently, I had given Ubuntu a try, as I wanted to see how GNOME had changed over all these years and I really liked what I saw. A nice clean desktop with a great interface and polished apps is refreshing after so many years of seeing apps that all start with a “K” in the name (which to me, is a terrible choice, and just overly ugly). Now ubuntu isn’t a top tier choice for a distro for many reasons (can you say snaps?), but Debian as a base is a solid choice for them. I’ve never really ran Debian but I do appreciate it’s package management and stability. I played with GNOME for a few weeks in this environment but ultimately decided I wasn’t happy. This didn’t feel like home. Home is Slackware.
I started looking into the idea of possibly running GNOME on Slackware. There used to be a project called Dropline and it exists at least. The website exists and has updates as of last year for an older GNOME desktop, nothing recent, nothing bleeding edge. This wouldn’t do. I found another project called “GNOME from Scratch”, being a Slackware based GNOME 40 desktop. This had scripts for a ton of software but still was out of date and apparently dropped by the dev. So I began updating and upgrading it myself, determined to get a fancy GNOME desktop on my Slackware.
I got 42 running and was happy, only I had made an absolute mess with software on my machine. I kept building more and more and refining things and then I stumbled on another project that was attempting to cleanly create a GNOME desktop on top of the Slackware base. I scrapped it all and started over. Using this as the base and keeping much better tabs on what I’ve done. Before long, I had patches to submit to them for small bugs or new software to include, and the work continues and I’m having a blast really getting into Linux again. Contributing to a project makes it much better than just doing it for me. I appreciate the work others have done on this and hope with all our work combined, we can create and maintain the definitive GNOME experience on Slackware in time.
As a group, we have quite a few separate projects, and one that we all contribute to. https://github.com/0xBOBF/gnome-42-slackbuilds is the spot where we’ve put together a set of the stable GNOME 42.x build scripts where we have a complete desktop and some of the other GNOME apps. Progress here has slowed of late, not because we’ve moved on, but because we’re working on the next “new-stable” GNOME release coming in September. GNOME 43 has a ton of new features and many, many improvements to the user experience. So naturally, we want to be able to provide that when it officially drops. I’ve personally been building up this desktop, partially available in my own repo here: https://github.com/mac-a-r0ni/gnome_core-slackbuilds. It’s been about a week since I’ve touched it because I wanted to get back to the stable desktop and another project that was started by a fellow porter, rizitis.
“GNOME liveslak” is exactly what it sounds like. It’s Slackware (in this case, x86_64) for live booting. It can be burned to dvd or converted to run on a usb stick (best option) and even used with the popular Ventoy. Liveslak is a project by Slackware-guru AlienBOB, which is honestly one of the coolest uses I’ve ever seen for a usb stick, and it runs just like an installed system. If you have a fast read/write usb stick, it’s well worth the effort to try one of his isos for yourself, it’s really good stuff.
Now, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning that without a reason. Reason being, is we’ve taken the base set of “core” GNOME 42 desktop apps, built the packages, worked out dependencies, and packaged it all up in our very own liveslak iso to showcase the amazing work our team of individuals has put together!
But wait– there’s more! That’s right, I can’t pass up the opportunity to sound like a game show host 😉 We’ve taken the full Slackware (latest development version) and removed KDE and XFCE… why?!? Because we’re shipping it with GNOME instead! With the gnome-software client powered by the magic of flatpak, you can add any (well, almost any) Linux app you want right to your desktop. You want Discord? You got it! The excellent Bottles app (for virtualizing your favorite Windows games)? That’s there too! Dolphin? Yuzu? It’s all there! Just download it and go.
I think that’s really cool. Sure, we can package stuff and make official packages for plenty of software, but why wait for us? You can have it all now. The iso even has a script (in the live user ~/Desktop folder) to install it directly on your HDD. Totally awesome. It’s like a contest with no purchase necessary and only winners.
We’re still evolving the packages and the iso will evolve as well. I’ve set up a package repository so once you have the usb stick you can directly update any packages with new ones just by simply running Slackware’s “slackpkg” update tool. It’ll pull any updates right from the server and install them, not only from Slackware-official repos, but from our GNOME repo as well. You can even setup and use an alternate repo if you like, thanks to the included slackpkg+. The oldest Linux distro now has what I feel is the only major contender for being a Linux Desktop, that isn’t trying to be something it isn’t. GNOME offers a great set of tools, on top of the solid as a rock foundation of Slackware, you get a powerful environment, that like-minded individuals has refined for decades.
Don’t listen to my babbling any longer– go check it out yourself, if you dare.
P.S. I started writing this in June, just as summer began and never finished it then, and came back three months later as the sun sets on summer and forced myself through writing a blog post, so you better download it and check it out!