I’ve written in a few places about how my initial impressions of Vector Linux, which were mildly favorable, have given way to a bit of contempt. Here are a few details to explain the change.
First, Vector is based on Slackware — and Slackware is good. I think one of the reasons I’ve liked Slackware so much is that it doesn’t throw “HEY $USER, THIS IS F***NG SLACKWARE!” in your face with all kinds of branding the way other distros do. I’m not totally opposed to that (after all, I helped do some of that for DSL), just in good measure and in good taste. Where Slackware is kind of plain, the Vector developers seemed to think it was a place needing eye candy and telling the user what distro is running. So from LILO through the whole process, the user is inundated with ugly blue crap that slows down the whole process. Yes, that can be reconfigured or even turned off. I edited lilo.conf to remove the line for the bitmap that slows down LILO — now I just have a pretty red and yellow ASCII interface from which to select my kernel. I installed without bootsplash (who the hell working in kernel development thinks it’s actually a good idea to cover up boot messages like Microsoft and Apple do and that the kernel is the place to put such bullshit?!). I removed the stupid ASCII penguin that reminded me at every login that I was stupid enough to install Vector instead of Slackware. I deleted a ton of icons, cursors, wallpapers, and other crud that slowed down my computer with stuff that said ‘Vector.’
Second, I didn’t catch this on my laptop install but on a later desktop install: if you choose to install the kernel headers, the headers are for a 2.6.21 kernel. The kernel you install in VL59 is 2.6.22. Double checked and it installed the same mismatched headers on laptop (tg I compiled my own kernel). Just a little thing, really… not.
Third, and speaking of kernels, someone decided to disable kernel and module sections in packaging. So if you need to install a patch for something like vmsplice, you’re SOL unless you know to enable the kernel/modules/patches sections.
Fourth, I don’t buy the line that Vector is “light” in any way, shape, or form. I was stunned to see the resource use in a fresh install with only Xfce running. A lot of that was due to having a big ugly wallpaper (that said Vector, of course) and lots of icons in the menu enabled. And all kinds of processes. And automounting, autorunning, etc. Way too much stuff running by default. Including CUPS. It would be nice to give users a choice to start or not start CUPS rather than presume installing it means it should be running all the time. Umm, no. But that’s an easy enough thing to fix. If only everything were so easy, which brings us to the next point.
Fifth, the packaging isn’t unbloated. That was why I decided to leave their “light” version alone — it uses the same bloated packages. All it does is leave out Xfce and switches a few apps around. Well, I also used their version of jwm and they managed to turn it into something that was nearly every bit as resource-demanding as Xfce was. That led me to enable Slackware-oriented repositories and try KDE. Guess what? I was using less RAM at boot with the Slackware KDE than with Vector Xfce. That should give you an indication of the “thought” that goes into how packages are set up and how distros can make them unusable by throwing in too much aesthetic nonsense.
Speaking of jwm, I ended up recompiling it so it didn’t have blurry fonts or any graphic library support. Yeah, yeah. I know, that means no icons. So what. I know what “gvim” means. I don’t need a picture to sort it out.
Then I went on a bent where I recompiled a lot of stuff because the packages (Vector and Slackware packages alike) weren’t really ideal for older hardware. Or for those who don’t need every single option. Like alsa support for GIMP. Or samba for mplayer. Or guile for elinks. Etc. I ended up removing all sound support on the laptop because I usually have an mp3 player with me. I also replaced some of the GNU bloatware like bash with mksh and trimmed down (ahem, and updated) all the different languages included with Vector — settle on one language if you need GUI tools instead of having one tool written in this language, one tool in that language, etc.
The end result is a computer that’s a lot more stable, more secure (hey Vector, where are your SSL/SSH updates?), uses a lot less RAM, doesn’t overheat except when compiling, and I have a lot more room on my hard drive for my own stuff instead of useless shit (wbar?!) I didn’t want and won’t use.
Oh, one more thing about installing it. Slackware gives you the option to set whatever mount points you want, including /usr/local. Vector has designated options — not user choice — and only will let you set /usr, not /usr/local. You have to set that manually after install if you want to protect anything you compile on your own system between updates.
My final verdict on Vector: it’s a bloated version of Slackware. It has very little to offer in the way of user-friendly tools that aren’t available in Slackware. The trade-off is a bunch of stuff that cruds up your RAM and hard drive — graphics screaming at you about which distro you’re using, too many and too big icons, smaller repository with little if any difference between Slackware packages, etc. You can live with that if you want. If not, you should just use Slackware — you really aren’t giving up too much in the way of ease because Slackware has excellent documentation.
I’m at a cross roads with this laptop. I’ve not yet decided if I’m leaving Vector on it, installing ‘core, or going back to BSD.