When people have asked me for my preferences on Linux operating systems in the past, I jumped before the question was finished and screamed UBUNTU! Why? Because it was what I knew, and I assumed it was the best for my needs, so it would work for them as well. With my novice experience and knowledge in Linux distributions, I just assumed that I could use Ubuntu as a blanket over every kind of OS-related problem the world could throw at me.
Lately though, through a Network Security class of mine, I've been exposed to Slackware Linux in full detail and difficulty, and I have to admit that my mind is turning that Slackware solves certain problems better than Ubuntu did. Slackware is the Operating System for those who want to get their hands dirty and learn what's happening under the hood. In a similar sense to Arch Linux, Slackware puts the control and configuration in the hands of the user.
In most operating systems, 99% of detail is abstracted away from the user so that they only have to worry about pretty icons on a shiny GUI Desktop. Slackware does not believe in this. Its goal is to give you the most basic packages needed to run a fully functioning Operating System and to leave everything else up to the user. From initial setup to package installation (which Slackware does not have a package manager), the Operating System requires the user to move around the terminal partitioning the drives, configuring Network Adapters, creating boot loaders, and the whole nine yards. This may seem daunting to a novice sys-admin or user, but once they overcome the mountain of difficulties, they emerge with a much greater knowledge and appreciation of how Operating Systems, especially Linux-based ones, actually work. For example, instead of relying on System Preferences to setup your network, the user is deep into
/etc/rc.d/rc.inet1.conf manually managing Network Interfaces, how they connect, and how they operate.
These are the reasons why I am moving my personal Linux distributions to Slackware.
Slackware is 4 years older than me, coming out in 1993, and it is officially the oldest Linux distribution, meaning it has some experience under its belt. In those 24 years, there have only been 14 official releases. Compare this to Ubuntu, which came out in 2004 that has 16 official releases. Now the number of releases doesn't mean everything, but they take their time and ensure each release is as good and stable as it can be. There is some serious reliability and stability the user will experience when using Slackware. This also means that Slackware has a tendency to be more secure, as the software is matured more before a release is put out. Also, without a default package manager, the user installs everything from source meaning (hopefully) its coming from trusted locations.
Without all of the extra clutter and non-sense that most Operating Systems come with, Slackware is bare bones. It gives you want you need and want, and it does it well. Because of its release policy and smaller size, you are going to find the Slackware distribution runs faster than most other distros. Again, this is due to its integrity, stability, and setup that branches from its mature releases. One of the complaints against Slackware is the lack of graphical configuration utilities, but this slims the Operating System to a point where it runs faster than a race car.
Slackware allows the end user to carefully pick and choose what to install every step up the way. This means that nothing is installed without the eyes of the user checking it over. This power and neutrality is not found in many other Operating Systems. What you want to use is what you install. Although installation is more difficult, it gives the user total power and control over the machine from the hardware up. Get ready to learn though, because with all this power comes great responsibility. Don't complain when you nuke the
eth0 network interface and suddenly don't know why you can't access the internet - like what I did. ðŸ˜± But I learned how network interfaces work with the Operating System, and now I could fix the same problem in minutes.
UNIX is very simple, it just needs a genius to understand its simplicity.
Dennis Ritchie, Co-developer of UNIX, precursor & base to Linux
If you know Slackware, then you know Linux. By its very nature, Slackware demands a better understanding of the operating system as a whole than does any other distribution. If you install from scratch, you will know how Linux works from the hardware to the GUI layer and how to configure your machine at every level.
Slackware presents a challenge to any technical person, and I highly suggest you accept the challenge if you enjoy computers at a level past the standard user. There are some fantastic lessons to be gained from installing, configuring, and using Slackware compared to major, popular distros like Ubuntu. Try it. You will profit from numerous benefits associated with a distribution known for stability and security, as well as the benefits to your own experience. I highly recommend that you give the latest Slackware release (14.2) a try. Once it's installed, you will have a Linux distribution that works extremely well, the likes you may never have seen.