Why Slackware?

Why Slackware is my favorite Linux distribution
Created: 2019-05-27
Tagged: slackware linux subgenius

I was recently asked, "why Slackware?" I started to respond in an email and my answer kept getting longer and longer. So I figured I might as well go all the way and turn this into a page. :-)

Why I chose Slackware in the first place

I know exactly why I chose Slackware when I decided to go full-time Linux desktop two years ago. Two reasons:

Familiarity

Slackware was the first Linux distro I ever installed back in the 1990s (from floppy disk!) and I’d continued to install and experiment with it off and on (along with a half dozen other distros) ever since.

So it was already familiar to me and laced with a certain amount of nostalgic good feelings.

To Learn

I finally came "home" to Linux for the utility. (I was tired of doing Unix development in a Windows world!)

But I also wanted to go "full native" and deeply learn the system.

I’d love to know the origin of this quote, but it’s very old and it goes something like this:

"Learn Red Hat and you’ll know Red Hat; learn SUSE and you’ll know SUSE; but learn Slackware and you’ll know Linux."

I think the reason for that quote has a lot to do with the age (read: maturity) of Slackware, the hands-on nature of configuring it, and the fact that it generally uses unmodified upstream packages (meaning that Slackware comes with a collection of software that has not been altered to make it "fit" Slackware).

For example, I’ve found that if I’m reading about an application and it mentions a default location for its configuration file, chances are if I look in that location, sure enough, there it is!

Why I stay with Slackware

I’ve enjoyed a lot of other distributions (honestly, I think I’ve tried just about every major Linux distro over the years and quite a few obscure ones; I’ve also run the three major BSDs) and they all have their strengths.

So what is it that kept bringing me back to Slackware and why have I not been tempted to try any other distros after switching from Windows to Slackware full time?

From most to least tangible:

General purpose

One thing I don’t see mentioned a lot when the topic of Slackware comes up is that it is intended as a general purpose operating system. It is completely appropriate to use a Slackware install as:

  • A webserver

  • A desktop for word processing, browsing, email, etc.

  • A professional development machine

  • Hobbyist tinkering

  • All of the above at once!

Batteries included

The second really important thing to understand about Slackware is that it comes with a ton of software as part of the standard installation. You are expected to perform a full installation.

The idea is that you can accomplish pretty much all common (and not-so-common) computing tasks with just the software that comes with Slackware and never having to install another thing.

Also, the software that comes with Slackware has been tested to work together, so a full installation should "just work" out of the box. You already have all of the libraries and tools you need.

There are typically multiple options for every type of application.

Under my control

There is very little automation built into Slackware. If you don’t tell it to do something, it won’t.

My Slackware installations typically have ridiculously high up-times because there’s no reason to ever reboot. Every time I sit down at the computer, it’s exactly as I left it. I love that.

Slackware is great for people who have actual work to do.

Stable/mature

Slackware has been around "forever" and much of the software it ships with has also been around forever (or longer).

Packages are built using conventions that have hardly changed a bit in decades. The end result is that there aren’t a lot of surprises. Again, you end up with an operating system that is extremely stable and stays that way.

Also, you can learn something about Slackware and that knowledge will likely remain valid for years and years.

Having said that, Slackware is not outdated or neglected in any way.

You can even run a system based on the development branch, Current to run really up-to-date versions of stuff.

The community

The community around Slackware is large enough to get things done, but small enough that you can contribute and make a difference.

The "semi-official" package repository, slackbuilds.org has tons of packages maintained by active, dedicated volunteers. Tools such as sbopkg make it easy to install slackbuilds.org packages.

It’s cool

Hey, it’s just fun to say you run Slackware, one of the oldest Linux distributions.

Amaze your friends! Preserve your precious bodily fluids! Praise "Bob"! Increase the "Slack" in your life! Hack the planet.

the sacred ikon of j.r. "bob" dobbs