Home > linux > Vector Linux 5.9 Review – Desktop Emphasis (in VMware)

Vector Linux 5.9 Review – Desktop Emphasis (in VMware)


My readers will know that I had been experimenting quite a bit recently with VMware virtualization.

Recently, I ran across reviews pointing out that Slackware based distros are the ultimate word in speed.

Truth is, I hate configure-it-all-yourself distros. I want things to be easy, and smooth. What about those who don’t know how to?

Then I read that there was Vector Linux, a Slackware distro with auto-configuration and all that. And so I downloaded.


I am using the Vector Linux 5.9 Free Standard Edition. The install proved to be tricky.

I had set up my VMware to simulate 512MB of RAM and 8GB of disk space.

Loading the ISO into VMware, the CD boot script failed to start. It claimed that no hard-disk was found, or had an unknown format. It then threw me into a text mode troubleshooter, where I played around with fdisk and cfdisk, with neither even detecting the disk.

This was rather interesting – I had previously installed SUSE, Ubuntu and others on VMware too.

Finally, I realized the source of problems: the absolutely blank hard disk that VMware creates. I loaded up a Gparted LiveCD, created a partition table, applied the ext3 format, and rebooted. This time, the VL boot script worked. It was fairly simple for whoever has used an ncurses based installer.

Still, the whole thing was not very convenient for an average user or newcomer to Linux.

First Impressions

Booting up for the first time after an eventless install, I had two primary impressions.

Vector Linux 5

1. It was blazingly fast. In fact, it was the fastest Linux distro that I have run on my VMware installation. It was so fast that I didn’t even bother to install the boosting VMware tools.

2. It was the most unpolished desktop distro I had seen. Ranging from the bootloader to the loading screens to the main desktop itself, Vector Linux needs to learn plenty of lessons in aesthetics. The default wallpaper (Vector Linux engraved into a mountain) is the most average piece of art I have seen in a long time.

Vector Linux 5

Deeper In

Ugly as it may be, and hard to install as it was, there is no doubting the core of the distro.

It is extremely stable. I tried everything on it – heavy graphics use, multiple videos running simultaneously in different formats, application overload – and I never even managed to crash the X server. There is something to be said for this – the Slackware ancestry shows in a really positive manner.

Vector Linux 5

Like I have said, it was fast too. The XFCE environment is partly to applaud – and partly the slimming procedures that VL has put into place (for eg. Vector Linux uses something known VLHot to detect hardware, rather than the resource hungry HAL daemon).

What was even more pleasing was the most codecs were pre-installed. I tested a few WMV files and MP3 files and they ran beautifully in the MPlayer.

I have, however, a few gripes with the software selection. GIMP is missing, as is OpenOffice.org. OOo has been replaced by the AbiWord and Gnumeric combo. Not very nice.


It was not a unique experience. But it was positive. It was all you can expect a non-major distribution to be.

If only it looked better, and installed more easily. And had better software to go by.

Rating: 7/10

Categories: linux Tags: ,
  1. 3 February 2009 at 11:02 PM


    thank you for this nice review.
    vectorlinux is a nice distro. i use vectorlinux 5.9, vectorlinux 5.9.1 Soho DELUXE and vectorlinux 6.0 RC4. i wait the final version of vectorlinux 6.0.
    openoffice and gimp are available on mirrors !

    @+ petitbob

  2. 4 February 2009 at 8:29 AM

    @ petitbob: Yes, they are indeed available. But the default selection counts for something.
    I’m waiting for 6.0 too!

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