Slackware is one of several Linux distributions, so answering the question “Why use Slackware?” would be better served by first asking, “Why use Linux?”
There would be no point in switching to Linux if it were a Microsoft Windows clone, so you probably want to use Linux for one or more of the following reasons:
- You need to dramatically cut down your IT costs (e.g. reduce software costs by 90%, avoid upgrading hardware every time you need to upgrade software, etc.).
- You need to dramatically increase your IT quality (e.g. lower maintenance and administration costs, increase efficiency and availability).
- You need a system you can trust, guaranteed without backdoors, tracking systems or similar security risks.
Or, from a more personal point of view:
- You want or need to train yourself on Unix but can’t afford buying a Unix workstation.
- You want to learn about Internet technologies or software development and use real-world tools.
- You have an opportunity to salvage some “old” computers and want to do something useful with them.
- You want to set up a home network to allow several members of your household to simultaneously access the Internet.
IBM studies on TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) show that Unix-based solutions are approximately twice less costly than Microsoft Windows-based solutions in a broad range of situations. Other studies from IBM show a Unix-based system’s down-time is approximately ten times lower than a Microsoft Windows-based system.
These studies are very interesting because Microsoft Windows and Linux run on the same hardware, allowing a very significant comparison of the operating systems only. These studies also show switching to a mainframe system would approximately cut the TCO by 50% and down-time by 50 times, but it is less significant because the hardware and the usage are completely different.
In terms of trust, Linux is Open Source software, which means its source is publicly available. Because of its straightforward and modular design, it is possible for a team of experts to analyze the source to determine the degree of trust that can be placed in the system, in case there were any doubt.
Slackware inherits the qualities of the Linux kernel, GNU utilities and all the products of the open source community, qualities shared by all Linux distributions, but it is found to be more stable, solid, simple and sensible than any of the other distributions. This is what we call “the 4S rule”, which explains why Slackware is an operating system of choice for a broad range of applications.
Slackware is Stable
Slackware is maintained by a single person, Patrick Volkerding, who aims at delivering a stable, reliable, and trustworthy operating system. Patrick pays special attention to stability because an unstable system can neither be trusted nor relied upon. For this reason, every version of Slackware incorporates only the most stable, mature software packages available at the time of its release.
Slackware is Solid
As a result of Patrick’s focus on stability, Slackware has fewer bug reports and security issues than other distributions. This aspect is especially important for mission-critical systems or Internet servers for which following popular trends can be really hazardous.
Slackware is Simple
Besides stability, Slackware fosters simplicity. This doesn’t mean Slackware is limited in any way, but only that it isn’t unnecessarily complicated. This simplicity results in a remarkable ease of configuration and administration, allowing a prompt response to any kind of problem or need.
Slackware is Sensible
Slackware adheres much more closely to de facto standards than other distributions, saving users and administrators time and efforts. For instance:
- Slackware is fully compliant with the Linux File System Standard.
- Slackware’s package management system uses standard compressed tar archives instead an exotic file format.
- Slackware uses a BSD-style initialization system, which is much simpler and convenient than System V inits.
- Slackware provides simple and handy text-mode scripts to ease configuration and administration instead of an X Window-based “control panel”. This is especially important on servers, where remote administration and configuration is important and X Windows would unnecessarily waste valuable server resources.
Slackware for Beginners?
Slackware’s installation procedure is much simpler and much quicker than those of other distributions–even a beginner can have a working system very easily. Slackware includes more boot floppy images to ease installation on machines containing unusual hardware such as SCSI peripherals or proprietary CD-ROM drives than any other distribution.
In addition, the simplicity of Slackware facilitates remote technical support (by phone, fax, or email) and greatly facilitates the task of understanding and gaining control over one’s system. With Slackware, a beginner can concentrate on a single problem at a time, which is key to successful learning.
As Slackware more closely resembles commercial Unix system, it is a good tool for learning skills, such as system administration, which are easily transferable to other versions of Linux or Unix. A frequently seen signature on alt.os.linux.slackware states that “When one learns a distribution such as Red Hat, one learns Red Hat. When one learns Slackware, one learns Linux.”