A little while ago, the lugradio team ran a section called "distro wars", and it containted comparisons between certain distros and they rated them each week on a different aspect.
One particular week the subject was "evilness" ie how evil is a particular distro in that how much does it (or not) give back to the community.
Slackware was not part of the review, but someone posted on the lugradio forums that Slackware was the most evil distro. Now I could not believe that twoddle, and had to respond with some good old fashioned Linux distro zealotry.
I got slightly carrried away at the time, some of it is a little dated (about 6 months), so forgive the huge ramble.
Mr Burger said "Slackware is the oldest surviving distro, nuff said", but apparently that was not enough, so here are some points which may have not been considered important by yourselves, or even known about.
Slackware started in 1993 with kernel 0.99, the idea of a distribution and how it might work was started as Pat took SLS (Soft Landing Systems) and tried to make an easier installation method, only to be told by Peter MacDonald (from SLS) that he would have to re-write ALL the scripts otherwise Peter would claim distribution rights as it was derived works, so Pat did so and put the results out freely for people to use.
And as such has contributed greatly to how the community exists today and continues to do so with the testing of mostly un-patched software in the Slackware-Current branch, an evil distribution this is not Mr Deans.
Slackware's goals are ease of use, stability and simplicity, these themes thread through most of its structure.
Slackware's installation is a simple process taking a few minutes to complete the choices, with questions such as the usual keyboard mapping, installation targets, package choice etc.
Slackware is fully compliant with the Linux File System Standard.
Slackware uses a BSD-style initialization system, which is simpler than System V inits.
Slackware uses a single install package for an application, in reality this cuts down on the missing dependency issue of most RPM based distros, as if a package is installed, then its normally all installed. eg QT is one package, where as some RPM distributions have split it into 6+ packages.
Slackware binaries, including the kernel, are mostly created from un-patched sources, this has several advantages such as:
~ If you need extra support for some unique piece of kit, you can easily patch your own kernel or software without as much fear of breaking any other part of the system. If a new kernel is released with great improvements you'd like to use, then simply drop it in.
~ You can upgrade packages yourself if needed and still maintain binary compatability with other applications installed by using pkgtool, you are not tied into waiting for releases from the distribution vendor.
~ When you learn how to use an application, thats how the application works, not the way a distribution has made the application work. Even within linux and OSS there exists the possibility of vendor lockin, although to a far lesser extent than the proprietary alternatives.
~ Speed of packages release, as no patches have to be made to fit a new package release, also meaning any bugs can be reported upstream to application maintainer as well as distribution maintainer, as an issue will be with the standard code and not something that was done to it. This helps to make any bugs easier to track down and fix. This also contributes back to the community in the form of Slackware-Current, where users are effectively testing in most cases very new software which hasn't been altered, so it does help to become a large bug tracking/squashing exercise for the individual applications that are used.
Problems and suggestions can be emailed direct to the creator and maintainer, Patrick Volkerding, who somehow usually manages to respond quickly and in detail, which considering his workload, volume of other communications and current health problems is very impressive, again, evil, Slackware is not.
Slackware's package management system uses standard compressed tar archives, making it extremely simple to create your own packages, view the contents of a package, or edit an already created package. With these and package sets, you can create custom installation solutions depending on the situation/requirement.
The package repository is mirrored on 40+ Countries FTP/HTTP sites, as well as the available torrents. These include the release ISO's, the packages, the security patches and the source's which include the build scripts detailing exactly how the package is created, again useful if you need to tweak the settings for a particular package, or use a particular fork instead of the standard one provided.
Slackware runs a Release and Current version at any one time, so you can keep with the stable, or run with the latest, which nearly always has the latest releases far quicker than other distributions. My main desktop has always been in sync with current over the last few years.
Because Slackware is controlled by one person, decisions can be made more quickly, like the decision to change from xfree86 to xorg when it did, and more recently to drop Gnome (which by the way, because of Slackware's popularity there were already seperate Gnome maintainers for a while, such as dropline and my preferred option, GSB (currently based on 2.10)). With these decisions there is mostly some casual input from the community directly, like when Pat was thinking of migrating from xfree to xorg, he just posted to newsnet "guys Im thinking of changing over to xorg, what are your feelings on this?" Two week's later and it was done.
Commercial support is available from 10 different companies if needed, but security updates and bug fix's are available from Slackware for more versions than a lot of other distributors.
eg. There are security fix's in Slackware 8.1 from May 2005, and 8.1 was released in 2002/06 (4 versions ago).
I started using Linux in 2000, in the shape of Suse 7.0, and while I liked it in some respects, I quickly became very frustrated after being promised that "Linux is different to MS, you can change it, install what you want, configure it your way" etc, and finding that it was very difficult to actually do that. Dependency hell, sooo many packages, why can't I install the latest kernel without breaking loads of stuff, why can't I install this application XYZ, it keeps failing to install because of other libs being specifically changed on Suse, so you have to wait for the project to release an RPM that they've hacked, or for the distributor to release one. Something isn't working, yet the system management tools hide the configurations, so it was trickier to trace a problem, it took longer to track down issues and fix them, because of the more complex layout, because of the non-standard software installation.
Slackware on the other hand encouraged me to do what I wanted, was easy to setup, felt more transparent in operation, far easier to add extra software, easy to maintain not having to keep track of 000's of small packages, just simpler.
People always say, "I dont want to tinker and mess around, I actually want to get on with doing real stuff", again that's why I've stuck with Slack. The system install takes 30mins, and 6 hours later I've got it doing exactly what I want, thats it, those 6-7 hours and it'll run perfectly for a 18 months. Time to upgrade to a new release, no problem, the notes are clear and its quick, and unlike upgrades on some other distro's (we've all probably experienced the grief involved), things will actually work afterwards. Or if preferred, use Current and keep it up to date more regularly.
When using Slackware, you quickly realise that installing a kernel is actually very simple, installing new software from source and editing .conf files again is, on the most part, REALLY easy, the myths of linux are pretty quickly erased. What I ended up with is a smaller footprint, with MY best of breed packages, with the ability to fix most problems very quickly. Be able to install and try new software very easily and quickly, search for types of application, read the online docs, compile, install, setup and run, just a few minutes in most cases.
Installed hundreds of packages, found what I like and made a custom Slackware install CD with slackware packges and other latest source archives with build scripts to rapidly deploy what I want. Technically this is not true Slackware distribution, but Slackware enables you to easily do this if required, and trust me, for me to be able to do it it must be easy. And it doesn't take long, really, it is simple to do.
I often try the new distro's when they come out, as its not good to blindly subscribe to one view all the time. In the last few months I've tried Gentoo 2004.3, Suse 9.2, Ubuntu 5.04, Linspire 5.0, PcLinuxOS p81a, Fedora Core 3, Mandrake 10.1, but keep going back to Slack.
Of course, all the reasons I've mentioned for using Slackware are the exact reasons that others would choose to use something else. But thats the point, it's just another great choice, which I think fill's a gap in distro wars and am surprised to have not seen it there.
Perhaps it could have been:
Gentoo, Slackware, Debian, Ubuntu, Suse, Mandrake/driva, Fedora, RHL, CentOS, SLE, PcLinuxOS, Linspire, Xandros, NLD
But then again, that would have turned lugradio into distroradio