Championing Slackware : No Lancelot, I.
by Lew Pitcher
Editor's note : Following Jon Biddell's praise for Libranet, two more people immediately came forward to champion their distro of choice, both carrying the Slackware banner and both for somewhat different reasons. Let's start with Lew Pitcher's answer to the call.
Well, Marcel, that's some gauntlet you threw down, asking for people to champion their distribution of choice. I'm no Lancelot, but I'll certainly carry the banner for Slackware. So let's get to it....
I've used Slackware on my desktop since 1997, and I've not found a better, more stable, more capable desktop. I've tried Knoppix and Yoper, and worked on Red Hat and SuSE, but I always come back to Slackware. The image below is a screenshot of my current Slackware desktop (click for a full sized image).
What's so special about Slackware, you ask? I can answer that in three words: "It Just Works". No muss, no fuss, no special hardware needs, Slackware gives me exactly the desktop flexibility I want on the hardware of my choice, with the stability you expect from the longest-running Linux distribution available.
Slackware Linux was introduced to the world in 1993, with the intent to be the most "Unix-like" Linux distribution available. To the world of 1993, "Unix-like" was the hallmark of a stable, durable, and professional platform. Slackware has met and maintained this intent time and again, with a Linux distribution noted for it's ability to run without fail on just about any Intel-compatible hardware.
The Slackware philosophy extends to the system components and applications provided with the distribution; only the most stable, most secure applications are included in the distribution. The system tools are likewise stable and secure, and intended for use in any sort of environment, from scripts running on unattended servers in the "glass house" to tools that the desktop user might need. No matter what the software, Pat Volkerding (the Slackware architect) doesn't force his user community onto the "bleeding edge". Consequently, everything "just works", no matter what you use.
Slackware does not depend on fragile GUI tools for it's system management. A Slackware system can be configured and maintained entirely from the command line, making maintenance a simple task. That's not to say that there are no GUI tools; the real news is that Slackware doesn't need them. Slackware's "pkgtool" set of utilities makes package installation, upgrading, and removal easy, and tools like "swaret" and "slack-get" take the pain out of manual package management. Now, since Slackware is LSB-compliant, it also supports RPM packages through the RedHat Package Manager, and through "pkgtools" migration processes like "rpm2tgz".
So, what does Slackware give to the desktop Linux user? Well, there are the standard X desktop environments like KDE and Gnome and XFCE, and the simpler environments like Fluxbox, Blackbox, WindowMaker, FVWM2 and TWM. There are all the desktop applications that accompany these environments, like the KDE suite applications, Gnome applications, Netscape and Mozilla, The Gimp, Xine, XMMS, and a host of others.
My laptop, for instance, runs several desktops for several users. My 'at work' persona uses XFCE and my 'at home' persona uses Blackbox, while the 'guest' account is set up for KDE. On my home desktop machine, I typically use Blackbox or XFCE, but again, my wife's login and the guest account default to KDE. Slackware didn't dictate which desktop I could use; it gave me choice and latitude to select the best desktop environment for my needs, and provided all the tools to make my choice work.
Slackware isn't the 'user unfriendly' distribution many think it is. My 13-year-old nephew enjoys my 'guest' KDE account on my laptop. He has no trouble using Slackware to play Kolf or "surf the web". Of course, he doesn't know that Slackware is complicated and difficult, and I'm not going to tell him.
So, Slackware is my choice. It's a flexable, capable, stable distribution that suits all my desktop needs. It's simple to install, simple to maintain, simple to use, and simply the best.
Master Codewright & JOAT-in-training