In the summer of 2013, the Slackware Linux distribution celebrated its twentieth birthday. Patrick Volkerding’s official release announcement for Slackware 1.0 on July 16th 1993 is still online. Read it here.
Here’s a list of ten reasons why Slackware is still the perfect choice on servers, desktops and workstations.
- Experience. Slackware is the oldest surviving Linux distribution, it’s been around even before Debian and Red Hat. There’s a famous Nutella ad in France: Twenty years of experience make all the difference. The same thing applies to Slackware. The odd critic may have been pointing out the fact that Patrick Volkerding’s favourite hobby is blindfolded jogging in front of buses. In the meantime, he’s managed to avoid them all, and Slackware is here to last.
- Perennity. The Slackware installer and the collection of basic administration tools remain the same proven tools that have been shipping over the years. Which means that if you’re a system administrator, you won’t have to relearn your basic skills from scratch every time a distributor decides on a whim to switch init systems like he would change his underwear. Changes to the distribution only happen in small incremental steps and without drama, like the addition of
slackpkgto Slackware 12.2. Some folks like to complain that Slackware tools like the installer or the package management tools are bone-headed dinosaurs. Remind them curtly that it still takes a meteor strike to wipe them.
- Stability. Only proven and tested software gets added to a release. One thing you’ll never find in Slackware is the unholy collection of half-assed “technology previews” sported by the more popular distributions, which tend to make your admin’s life a misery.
- Flexibility. As an admin, I have a pretty good idea of what I want on a LAN server, on a public server or on a desktop. Unfortunately, no canned distribution ships these configurations out of the box. But Slackware is pretty much the only distribution that doesn’t make me jump through burning loops to simply configure things like I want to configure them.
- Flexibility (continued). If a package is not included in the distribution, I can be pretty sure SlackBuilds.org has a build script for it. Otherwise, I’ll just write one myself. Right now I have a collection of a few hundred extra packages, and every single one built just fine. No distribution makes building stuff from source so easy. According to Patrick Volkerding’s own definition, Slackware “is intended to be Linux for anyone that appreciates the traditional Unix-like ways of doing things, isn’t afraid of the command line, wants supplied packages to be as unmodified as possible, and likes to be able to expand the system through source code without tossing a wrench into the package manager.”
- Simplicity. I often install desktops and workstations on old and/or exotic hardware, and Slackware lets me configure the more problematic stuff where the usual suspects among the installers just choke on it. The KISS principle reveals its full strength here, the more so since you won’t find any
DO NOT EDIT THIS BY HANDnonsense in Slackware.
- Humanity. I know, this is a word the Ubuntu folks claim for themselves, but one of the things I like about Slackware is its human size. Small distro, not too many packages, but carefully tendered. Folks in the Slackware forum at LinuxQuestions.org are a nice and competent crowd, and I like the general tone and no-bullshit attitude. Plus, the average Slackware user doesn’t have the “GNU/Linux taliban” touch to it, which you see all too often here in France. Last but not least, Ubuntu is an old african word meaning “I can’t configure Slackware” :o)
- Transparency. This one’s obvious, but one less obvious factor is that it makes Slackware a great tool for actually learning Linux. I’m regularly teaching Linux System Administration, and my 101 courses are mostly based on Slackware.
- Efficiency. My Xfce-based desktop runs great on twelve year old hardware, and that’s something I could only achieve with Debian or a handful of lightweight distros like Puppy or Slitaz, but not with the mainstream stuff like Ubuntu or openSUSE.
- Release policy. Slackware Linux pushes out a new release roughly once every two years, “when it’s ready”. Every release gets security updates for five years. Which makes Slackware perfectly fit for your business.