18 May, 2008

Why I love Slackware

A few minutes ago, I read an article ranting on about the recently released Slackware Linux v12.1, where the author expressed what he thought of Slackware as a Linux distribution.

[Slackware is (in conjunction with Debian) the oldest living Linux distro out there since the early 90's. Read my post about Slackware Linux in general.]

The author noted that Slackware (being an old-timer, has over 10 years of software maintainer experience in package-building) enforces strict packaging routines in the Slackware community; following source programmer instructions to the letter with regards to configure-options at compile-time, and standardizing the prefixes where the configuration and binary files are stored on the system.

This packaging method makes the packages extremely portable across different systems, as long as the systems retain the standard libraries and utilities included in the build-system (also known as a "vanilla base-system").

And the fact that it has only one maintainer at the top, having the final word on configuring and building of Slackware-software; the all-mighty (BDFL of Slackware Linux) Patrick Volkerding, makes it the closest distribution one can find to a "vanilla" system (or: "generic-type" "all-in-one" Linux base platform). Leaving plenty of room for: personal tweaking, custom branding, hacking, expansion and forking.

This focus on simplicity in maintenance, makes Slackware the perfect candidate for base-systems destined to fork-modifications.
Therefore, a lot of distro-developers swear by Slackware as their base-system, as it allows for some major modifications without breaking as easily as other, heavily modified distributions that require a lot of dependancy-tracking.

  • Now, it should be mentioned that Slackware does not include a packaging-system that incorporates dependancy-tracking, so it is not a distro recommended for 'non-tech-savvy' people (computer-n00bs) as it requires that you do all the command-line work manually.
  • AND, you are _absolutely_ forced to learn the inner workings of the system to modify it without breaking any functionality. So it has it's caveats, but these caveats just improve your understanding of the system, making you (the developer), master maintainer and developer of the aspiring distribution being made.
It inspires exploration and tinkering, so you learn Linux from the ground up. I guess you could say it's a flavour for hackers, developers, scientists, technology hobbyists, professors and generally anyone interested in the specification and documentation aspects. Or as described in computer jargon: "SuperUsers".

Everything I've learned about Linux; was either read about in the included documentation, or found online in Slackware forums. So I've done my fair share of information investigation, which is also a required ability in the open source world.

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