Slax – linux on a key

Posted: June 1st, 2009 | By | Filed under: Technology | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

A few days ago I had to take out my main hard disk to be replaced. I was terrified with the thought of being left out without an operable computer. I wanted to find something that will leave me with some web access and help me prepare to computer set up the operating systems of choice when i get back a replacement hard drive.
After some googling, and through the live cd list I got myself introduced to Slax – a linux you can install as a live cd, or on a USB stick, and to do almost anything with.
I’ll begin this short review with the conclusion – It’s good! I recommend anyone making himself a ready to use copy of Slax to be used in the time of need.

I’ll go through with how I installed and ran Slax. Of course it might be different in your environment. I wanted to install Slax on a USB stick, as I always have bad expirience with fucked up CD medias, and I hate moving parts in my computer. I leave the to my bicycle.

My installation process began from Windows XP. I downloaded slax as a tar file from The tar file (which is something like a zip archive file) is completely identical in its contents to the ISO image, which is simply easier to to be write to a CD.
I connected a small 500Mb usb stick which Justin left here a year ago, muahaha slax basic installation is about 250mb., and formatted it. Then i simply untarred the tar file using 7zip (which is btw ugly as hell but works like the devil) to the root of the fresh usb.
The Usb drive was then formatted by running /slax/boot/bootinst.bat on the disk. Why not every distribution provides it? So much better than CDs.
Slax supports what it calls Modules, which are small packages of software, which can be added to the Slax version you make and be part of it when it loads, or be downloaded and added when slax runs. I chose to add “Firefox 3.0.10 + Flash 10 + JRE 6u13″, and “Transmission” – a bit torrent client. To add packages to be loaded as part of Slax you simply copy them to /slax/modules on your disk. Beautifully simple, and that’s it.

I never tried to but from a Usb drive in my computer, but i knew the BIOS was suppose to support it (Award bios of such and such version). It has a nice feature to open a “Boot from…” menu when it loads by hitting F12. I did it, and then tried all the options – “USB-FDD”, “USB-HD”, “USB-CD”. Nada, Zilch. I entered the Bios setup and started poking at things. Then I stumble upon something like “Generic Usb flash drive” as part of the hard disks list! WTF? I also disabled USB keyboard as some post said it might help.
Well, booted again and chose “Hard disk” on the boot menu, and viola! there it is! listed with my other non-too-solid-state disks!
Later on i discovered that i can boot to it with USB keyboard enabled, but only sometimes. First time i can’t boot to usb as described, and then on the boot menu i ctrl-alt-del, and on the second time it’s there. Strangeness, but one that doesn’t bother me too much. It will if i ever wanted to permenently booth to a usb disk.
Anyway, then Slax starts to boot, printing out all kind of nice kernels and daemons message, and opens KDE, its window manager. And i think that calls for another header:

Well, Slax started, automatically detected my hardware: Network, sound card, dvd drive. Sweet. It also recognized all my hard disks (i did it before disconnected on of them), and automatically mounted them so i can access them (you can see them under “Storage Media” in Konqueror – the File manager/ default web browser).
Later on i managed to browse the interweb, burn a cd*, rsize the hard disks partitions with the installed GParted. Keep in mind that if you activate a module, it won’t be loaded at the next start up, unless you copy it to /slax/modules .
It feels really fast and stable compared to windows and Ubuntu (which i later installed, and so far i have a less positive experience with), and the modules are simple to use and install. Makes me think of installing it for a more permenent use, or trying out Slackware which it is based on.

So, get some slax today.

*CD burning using k3b – It gives an error message when trying to burn a cd image on a DVD media. For it to work (for example, buring Ubuntu iso image on a dvd instead of on a cd), choose from the menu “Tools/Burn DVD Iso Image…” and then it will treat the image right. Thank god i had a web browser working to find that out.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Leave a Reply