PoetGrant's Press

Inside the Mind of PoetGrant

Getting Slack, thank 'Bob'

November 04, 2019 — Grant Ford

It all began in 2005 when my cousin's boyfriend called me back to his room. He had a laptop open on the bed with some ancient looking text screen opened up. Until this point I only remembered looking at a text screen like that when my parents bought a computer with Windows 3.0/3.1 when I was much too young to really know what I was doing. I don't know much about DOS, but my memories inform me that I learned to navigate and open up games on their computer. Eventually I figured out how to navigate through the DOS system and do all sorts of things. Then they bought a new computer with Windows 95 and I was lost again. Let's skip ahead.


I bought my first computer when I was 12 with money I had saved up all year. My family wasn't rich, but I saved money somehow. I think from birthdays and such, and my dad knew a guy who was making his fortune on this new-fangled website called eBay. That man bought all the parts for a Pentium II machine and assembled it for me at cost. So $75 USD later I had a computer with Windows Millenium edition on it. I ran that until XP came out, then that bring us back to sitting on the bed with that laptop with some weird text interface on it.

My cousin's boyfriend looked at the screen with wonder in his eyes and pronounced, "Isn't it beautiful?"

I asked, "What is it? Is that DOS?"

He recoiled at the mention of the lecherous system known as DOS.

"No! It's Slackware!"

I laughed. Yes, I remember chuckling.

"What is _Slackware_?" I said, skeptically.

Then we sat in silence and my innocence was stolen away by the beautiful Unix-like system known as Slackware Linux. I left the room with a sense of wonder. I am not overstating that; I truly wondered at how fast and easy this _Slackware_ was to use. I did not, however, go home and download it. I had no idea how to get Slackware. I just remember fond thoughts of that evening in that bedroom with Slackware Linux.

Skip Forward

I was in college. It was circa 2008/09 as the pinks measure time. I discovered this website called ubuntu.com. They didn't advertise anything really about being similar to the magical Slackware Linux world, but it appeared to be something similar. This was in the days that they had some sort of executable that installed Ubuntu on a Windows system without having to boot into the BIOS and all that. I don't know what it was, but when I rebooted, I had Ubuntu instead of Windows on my machine. The WiFi didn't work. The mouse only barely worked. The keyboard definitely didn't work. This was before smartphones were in every pocket. I had to go to the library to look up how to fix my computer. This was when I learned about the Linux Kernel and kernel mods and fixing my machine.

I ran Ubuntu for a few years, then discovered that it was in fact in the same vein of computing as Slackware. I became a junky so separate and apart from that first experience on Slackware that it was unrecognizable. I hopped from distro to distro like a man running through cheap whores. They didn't care and neither did I, I just needed my installation fix. I needed to find a new interface and configure it. I needed to inject the source in my veins.

After a few years, I hit rock bottom. I reached out to Google and applied to be a tester for the Cr-48, an experimental laptop based on Gentoo Linux, but with a unified and beautiful interface called ChromeOS. It was the final destination in my mind. Pure integration with the mothership known as Google. I plugged in and thought that I would never disconnect from the majesty of Google in all her glory and in her great mission; that being "Don't be Evil." My life integrated with the online. I ascended to a state that only existed truly online. My whoring and cheap thrills led me to this and I accepted it as fate.

Things went wrong after this point. I had a couple of short years living in the facade of Google's glory until they began to cut their products and destroy their long-lived motto. My ChromeBook transformed from a pure OS that was simple and stable, to a computer whose life was coming to an end and whose purpose was to sell me Software As A Service (SAAS). I was disgusted and immediately left the ascension of Google to begin a rampage of distro whoring once again, but nothing could satisfy me. My experience with Google birthed a great need in me. I needed stability. I needed a computer and OS that did not promise one thing and then leave me in the morning with disgust and self-loathing. I whored about for about a year before settling on Debian.

Debian was wonderful. SysVinit and stable packages. I converted everything to Debian and their fantastic system. That lasted a few months before the update that switched them to systemd. The betrayal cut deep. Would no OS leave me alone and let me have a pure experience? I switched to elementaryOS. I loved elementary. It was simple. I ran beautifully, but lurking in the background was the memory of Debian's betrayal, systemd. I had/have no real grudge against systemd, except that it seems to steal away my power over my own system for minor optimization and hugely complexifying my own system needlessly. Okay, perhaps I hate them, but that is not why elementaryOS didn't have the staying power that I wanted. I stayed with elementary for three years. Then I found a podcast that was interesting.

GNU World Order enters the scene of my life. My first episode was like going to church for the first time. I'm not a religious man, but I imagine that it must be similar. Klaatu was talking about packages. It was honestly a little boring at first because I had no idea what the heck was going on. Then it clicked. He was using Slackware. That first glimpse into the world of freedom that I had had as a young man. He was going through the packages and explaining each one. I was hesitant to turn away from elementaryOS since I had been using it for so long. I didn't want to be a whore again. I didn't want to go on a distro binge. I just wanted my system to work and stop changing so massively. The only changes I wanted were objective improvements to the system itself.

Then I tried Slackware. I went to their page. Clicked 'Get Slack' and took a moment to download it. I used the 'dd' command, which was an old friend, an enabler of my bad behavior. Then I began setting up Slackware. Partition. Install. Configure. The old habit that felt so new on the menu-based text installer. Installation was complete.

Thus began my journey into stability and the enlightenment of Slacking. Praise J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs.

I now use DWM as my Window Manager. st as my terminal emulator. surf as my web browser. Joe is my text editor. Mutt is my email client. Slacking has become a relaxing artform to me. I have found the peace that I glimpsed when I was young. I have embraced that peace and here I sit, typing this out in my car before work on my Eee PC.