The Ultimate Portable Distribution
Slax Linux is a distribution of Linux which is created and maintained by Tomas Matejicek. I’ve posted about it before. At the moment, it is my favorite distribution of Linux and have virtually nothing, but positive things to say about it. The concept behind it is to be an extremely streamlined, but fully function Linux distribution that is meant to be run from a USB drive. It succeeds in every way. At 200+/- MB, it is one of the smallest Linux distributions out there. Sure, such distributions as Puppy Dog Linux and Slitaz are smaller in size, but they compromise a great deal in the user experience. Slax comes pre-installed with essentials such as a full KDE 4 desktop, Firefox web browser, music and media players, and modules which can be sideloaded or installed on the fly in order to provide users with extensibility. For example, you can install the ever popular Wine module in order to be able to run Windows programs. With the ability to install Microsoft Office or your favorite streaming music service, such as Spotify, Slax is an extremely compelling distribution. This is all looking past the fact that it runs from USB drive, which means that you can take your OS with you everywhere. It takes your portable files to a whole new level. Why simply take your files with you, when you can take your favorite Linux OS with you anywhere.
As if Slax needed anymore praise, it deserves more just because the ease of the installation and this is really a testament to Tomas’ coding. Slax’s modular design makes the barrier to entry for current Linux users nil and low for Mac and Windows users. You simply have to go to Slax.org and download the zip file for your particular language installation. Slax is also available in both 32 bit and 64 bit, as well as, virtually every language from A-Z.1 The download should take only a few minutes. Once your down you’ll have a zip file. Extract the files and inside you find your Slax installation folder as well as a Text file, created by Tomas, detailing how to move the files onto your thumbdrive and, of course, make Slax (The USB drive) bootable. You simply have to take a an empty USB drive (make sure it’s formatted FAT or FAT 32) and move the Slax installation onto it. For the next step, you either have to be on Windows or Linux. You have to navigate to the bootinstall.bat file in the boot folder of your Slax installation and this will either launch the command line on Windows or the terminal in Linux and run a script that will make your USB drive bootable. That’s pretty much it. Reboot your computer and make sure to alter your BIOS in order for you to boot from the USB drive. Click through and your Slax OS will boot. With a little luck you’ll find yourself at your Slax desktop. It’s really that easy. You can install software from the Software Center which is limited right now to Linux Firmware, Chrome, Abiword, Gnumeric, and Printer Support. Updates in the future will make all modules available on Slax.org available through the Software Center. For now you just have to download a module and move it to the modules folder on your Slax USB drive. From there, it will be installed and available on your Slax desktop. I installed Wine, in order to run such applications as Microsoft Office and Spotify, and Libreoffice.
I’ve already talked about the elegance of the coding and size of Slax, as well as, it’s portability and extensibility, but something also has to be for its adaptability. By default, Slax comes with most of KDE’s desktop effects enabled, but with a simple combination of Shift-Alt-F12 you can turn them off. Aside from this, you can go into desktop settings in order to make Slax run smoothly on whatever system your using. Depending on your CPU, ram, and video card, Slax’s performance can vary, but the fact is that it’s meant to run virtually on any system and it does. The one exception is the Mac. It’s not impossible, but needless to say, don’t expect your Slax OS to boot from the Mac OS X bootloader. All of that aside, Slax is a visually appealing OS with a small footprint, that still performs in every way. If you want to further support the Slax project, you can purchase a Kingston USB drive directly from Slax.org for $25 or more. It comes with Slax pre-installed. Slax is freely available though directly from Slax.org for download.
1 It’s important to note that depending on the language, the size of the Slax zip install varies.