The story of Slackware is pretty darn interesting, when you start to dig a little deeper. Perhaps the most compelling element to the narrative is its longevity. Some twenty-five years after it was first released to the world, Slackware is indeed still going strong. It remains a preferred Linux distribution method by many. As of this writing, it is also still being updated at a decently steady pace.
If you’re just starting to learn about Linux distribution options, you will hear about Slackware a lot. There are several reasons as to why that is the case.
An Introduction To Slackware
In order to better appreciate the longevity of Slackware, we have to cover two major subjects. First, let’s take a quick at the history of Slackware. That begins in 1993, although work began on it even earlier than that. With this foundation, we can then move on to the benefits of Slackware. These are benefits that have remained consistent through the decades. They can go a long way towards explaining the appeal of Slackware in 2019.
As of this year, Slackware is the longest-standing Linux distribution choice that is still being updated.
A Brief History Of Slackware
Working from an even older Linux distribution known as Softlanding Linux, Patrick Volkerding created Slackware in 1993. It was released to the world at large in April of that year, and it has been well-regarded and updated ever since. One of the main purposes for the creation of Slackware in the first place was to establish the most Unix-like distribution option for Linux. Many believe they have succeeded in this regard time and time again.
Both stability and simplicity in design have always been the goals of Slackware. According to Scott Chow of Theblogstarter.com, Slackware continues to aspire to make as few changes as humanly possible to software packages that come from the upstream. Furthermore, it also tries to avoid anticipating use cases, or precluding the decisions of the user. There is nothing in the way of a graphical procedure for installation. You also won’t find automatic dependency resolutions for any given software package. It utilizes plain text files, and utilizes a small set of shell scripts, when it comes to configuration and administration. Booting it will take you to an environment of what can be described as a common-line interface.
Slackware has been updated a few times throughout the years. Volkerding continues to spearhead these updates, which is perhaps why Slackware has maintained such impressive consistency from 1993 to the present. The most recent update was released in June of 2016—just two years ago.
As we get ready for a more detailed look at the benefits of Slackware, let’s take a quick look at some of the main Slackware features you can expect.
One of the great things about Slackware is that it covers a lot of different needs right out of the gate. It is designed in such a way that you should be able to start working with it pretty quickly, and that would be regardless of your level of experience.
We won’t cover every single Slackware feature here, but let’s unpack some of the top things to expect:
• X-Window Systems
• Developmental environments for both C and C++
• The ability to use Perl
• Various utilities related to networking
• A server for mail
• A server for the web
• A server for FTP-related needs
• GNU Image Manipulation capabilities
As you can see, Slackware brings a lot to the table from the beginning. That is certainly an impressive benefit unto itself, but there are so many other potential advantages of using Slackware to keep in mind.
Slackware Benefits Explained
Ultimately, it is obviously up to you to decide if Slackware is right for your needs. The great thing about Slackware is that you will know the answer to that almost immediately. Many find it to be a straightforward collection of features that they can engage immediately. Others see management and administration of Slackware as being riddled with tedious challenges and time-consuming requirements.
For now, let’s explore some of the most commonly-cited benefits of using Slackware for Linux:
• Stability: Even the people who find Slackware to be too challenging will tell you that it at least benefits from being enormously stable. Over the course of the past twenty-five years, Slackware has continued to function without a whole lot of problems. It has moved nicely with the times, but it really hasn’t changed all that much. Few things related to computers have such stability.
• Security: Even for Linux distributions, there are traps and pitfalls that need to be constantly kept in mind. By and large, Slackware doesn’t have that problem. It probably helps that new versions of Slackware do not come out until everything is absolutely ready.
• Neutral: Remember that Slackware isn’t dependent upon a package manager. This is largely due to the fact that the applications are installed through a source. Slackware is not affiliated with any company either. Distribution was community-driven in the early 90s, and Slackware remains committed to that a quarter of a century later.
• Speediness: Another thing to keep in mind with Slackware is that it will only install what you absolutely want. Because of this, and keeping in mind the release policy we mentioned above, Slackware tends to run the fastest of the Linux distributions.
• Clean configuration: One of the big knocks against Slackware is that it doesn’t have graphical config utilities. No matter what you want to do, you are going to need to use the command line. Some people find this frustrating, but others would argue that this gives you the cleanest possible config files to work with.
• Want to understand Linux: There are other benefits to Slackware, but this one might just be our favorite. Even if you initially think Slackware has a higher learning curve than other distributions, there is a strong argument to be made that it will be worth the extra effort. Some don’t even experience this extra effort. However, if you do, think about Linux in broader terms. If you need to have a comprehensive understanding of Linux, you really can’t ask for a better teacher than Slackware. When you’ve mastered everything there is to know about Slackware, you will have pretty much mastered using Linux, as well.
Slackbuilds and strong IT cred are two more benefits that are worth taking to heart. At the end of the day, nothing in the world of Linux distributions can exist without a certain measure of controversy and disagreement. People also tend to be fiercely passionate and loyal about their favorite distribution. Nonetheless, Slackware has a staying power that would be absurd to ignore. It has worked for an incredibly long time, and it has done so in a field that has little time or patience for things that can’t be intensely/comprehensively useful. You could certainly make the argument that it has done more for bringing people to the world of Linux than just about anything else.
Is Slackware right for you? At this point, you are in the best position possible to make that determination. As we mentioned before, Slackware is best experienced in a hands-on capacity. You can research the subject to death, and you still won’t really know for sure. The only thing we can promise you, as we mentioned before, is that you are going to be able to decide how you feel about Slackware pretty quickly. It could be one of the best decisions you have ever made, in terms of working with a distribution that helps you meet your goals.