3.2 System Requirements

An easy Slackware installation requires, at minimum, the following:

Table 3-2. System Requirements

Hardware Requirement
Processor 586
Disk Space 1GB
Media Drive 4x CD-ROM

If you have the bootable CD, you will probably not need a floppy drive. Of course, it stands to reason that if you don't possess a CD-ROM drive, you will need a floppy drive to do a network install. A network card is required for an NFS install. See the section called NFS for more information.

The disk space requirement is somewhat tricky. The 1GB recommendation is usually safe for a minimal install, but if you do a full install, you will need around two gigabytes of available hard disk space plus additional space for personal files.. Most users don't do a full install. In fact, many run Slackware on as little as 100MB of hard disk space.

Slackware can be installed to systems with less RAM, smaller hard drives, and weaker CPUs, but doing so will require a little elbow grease. If you're up for a little work, take a look at the LOWMEM.TXT file in the distribution tree for a few helpful hints.

3.2.1 The Software Series

For reasons of simplicity, Slackware has historically been divided into software series. Once called “disk sets” because they were designed for floppy-based installation, the software series are now used primarily to categorize the packages included in Slackware. Today, floppy installation is no longer possible.

The following is a brief description of each software series.

Table 3-3. Software Series

Series Contents
A The base system. Contains enough software to get up and running and have a text editor and basic communication program.
AP Various applications that do not require the X Window System.
D Program development tools. Compilers, debuggers, interpreters, and man pages are all here.
E GNU Emacs.
F FAQs, HOWTOs, and other miscellaneous documentation.
GNOME The GNOME desktop environment.
K The source code for the Linux kernel.
KDE The K Desktop Environment. An X environment which shares a lot of look-and-feel features with MacOS and Windows. The Qt library, which KDE requires, is also in this series.
KDEI Internationalization packages for the KDE desktop.
L Libraries. Dynamically linked libraries required by many other programs.
N Networking programs. Daemons, mail programs, telnet, news readers, and so on.
T teTeX document formatting system.
TCL The Tool Command Language. Tk, TclX, and TkDesk.
X The base X Window System.
XAP X Applications that are not part of a major desktop environment (for example, Ghostscript and Netscape).
Y BSD Console games

3.2.2 Installation Methods Floppy

While it was once possible to install all of Slackware Linux from floppy disks, the increasing size of software packages (indeed, of some individual programs) has forced the abandonment of the floppy install. As late as Slackware version 7.1 a partial install was possible using floppy disks. The A and N series could be nearly entirely installed, providing a base system from which to install the rest of the distribution. If you are considering a floppy install (typically on older hardware), it is typically recommended to find another way, or use an older release. Slackware 4.0 is still very popular for this reason, as is 7.0.

Please note that floppy disks are still required for a CD-ROM install if you do not have a bootable CD, as well as for an NFS install. CD-ROM

If you have the bootable CD, available in the official disc set published by Slackware Linux, Inc. (see the section called Getting Slackware), a CD-based installation will be a bit simpler for you. If not, you will need to boot from floppies. Also, if you have special hardware that makes usage of the kernel on the bootable CD problematic, you may need to use specialized floppies.

As of Slackware version 8.1, a new method is used for creating the bootable CDs, which does not work as well with certain flaky BIOS chips (it is worth noting that most all Linux CDs suffer from this these days). If that is the case, we recommend booting from a floppy disk.

Section 3.2.3 and Section 3.2.5 provide information on choosing and creating floppies from which to boot, should this be necessary. NFS

NFS (the Network File System) is a way of making filesystems available to remote machines. An NFS install allows you to install Slackware from another computer on your network. The machine from which you are installing needs to be configured to export the Slackware distribution tree to the machine to which you're installing. This, of course, involves some knowledge of NFS, which is covered in Section 5.6.

It is possible to perform an NFS install via such methods as PLIP (over a parallel port), SLIP, and PPP (though not over a modem connection). However, we recommend the use of a network card if available. After all, installing an operating system through your printer port is going to be a very, very slow process.

3.2.3 Boot Disk

The boot disk is the floppy you actually boot from to begin the installation. It contains a compressed kernel image which is used to control the hardware during installation. Therefore, it is very much required (unless you're booting from CD, as is discussed in the section called CD-ROM). The boot disks are located in the bootdisks/ directory in the distribution tree.

There are more Slackware boot disks than you can shake a stick at (which is to say about 16). A complete list of boot disks, with a description of each, is available in the Slackware distribution tree in the file bootdisks/README.TXT. However, most people are able to use the bare.i (for IDE devices) or scsi.s (for SCSI devices) boot disk image.

See Section 3.2.6 for instructions on making a disk from an image.

After booting, you will be prompted to insert the root disk. We recommend that you just humor the boot disk and play along.

3.2.4 Root Disk

The root disks contain the setup program and a filesystem which is used during installation. They are also required. The root disk images are located in the directory rootdisks in the distribution tree. You'll have to make two root disks from the install.1 and install.2 images. Here you can also find the network.dsk, pcmcia.dsk, rescue.dsk, and sbootmgr.dsk disks.

3.2.5 Supplemental Disk

A supplemental disk is needed if you are performing an NFS install or installing to a system with PCMCIA devices. Supplemental disks are in the rootdsks directory in the distribution tree, with the filenames network.dsk and pcmcia.dsk. Recently other supplemental disks such as rescue.dsk and sbootmgr.dsk have been added. The rescue disk is a small floppy root image that runs in a 4MB RAM drive. It includes some basic networking utilities and the vi editor for quick fixes on busted machines. The sbootmgr.dsk disk is used to boot other devices. Boot off this disk if your bootable CD-ROM drive doesn't want to boot the Slackware CDs. It will prompt you for different things to boot and may offer a convenient way to work around a buggy BIOS.

The root disk will instruct you on the use of supplemental disks when it is loaded.

3.2.6 Making the Disks

Once you've selected a boot disk image, you need to put it on a floppy. The process is slightly different depending on which operating system you're using to make the disks. If you're running Linux (or pretty much any Unix-like OS) you'll need to use the dd(1) command. Assuming bare.i is your disk image file and your floppy drive is /dev/fd0, the command to make a bare.i floppy is:

% dd if=bare.i of=/dev/fd0

If you're running a Microsoft OS, you'll need to use the RAWRITE.EXE program, which is included in the distribution tree in the same directories as the floppy images. Again assuming that bare.i is your disk image file and your floppy drive is A:, open a DOS prompt and type the following:

C:\ rawrite a: bare.i