Linked by Eugenia Loli on Mon 9th May 2005 18:38 UTC, submitted by Robert Burns
Slackware, Slax "I have very mixed feelings about this release of Slackware. I do not think that the underlying philosophy of Slackware is obsolete. The concept of a system that can be configured and molded to the n'th degree is still in my opinion very much a good idea. However, this release of Slackware is not without its problems in execution." Read the review here.
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I wrote a big long post but didn't like it, so I'm starting over.

I've found that Slackware users can usually be grouped into one of 3 camps; those who have been around the block and just feel most comfortable with the degree of control they get with Slackware, those who have *not* but either started with slackware or found it better than the few distributions they briefly experimented with and have grown accustomed to it, and those who used to use Slackware a lot but have since moved on to using other distributions on their machines.

As a disclaimer I'm in the 3rd group.

As an ardent coder and a lover of politics, I noticed a few things that started to concern me about Slackware. The first was that the community which was always touted as mean spirited, the community which I never really found as such, *started* to become more hostile (or to simply ignore) questions about the merits of the Slackware system of organization and others.

Why is it easier to view text files in /etc/rc.d/ as opposed to run 'rc-update -s' and 'rc-update add _runlevel_ _service_'? Why is rsynching -current better than "apt-get dist-upgrade"? Usually the answers you get are laughable; most hinge on some paranoid delusion that distribution-common software like rsync are inherantly better and less likely to bite you than distribution-specific software like apt, disregarding the differences in their purposes and how they fit the problem at hand: that rsync is designed for the synchronization of files and apt is designed (in part) for the synchronization of packages.

I started to fall out of love with the type of simplicity that Slackware pushes to the forefront and with the simplicity of other distributions with more lush package management. Slackware's simplicity is with its components and their organization (both of which are sparse: a good thing), but when it comes to keeping the whole system "in your head", things get out of hand quickly. Slackware offers you *no* sort of system-level abstraction, no tools that can abstract away questions you will always have. You want to know what packages you have? `ls /var/log/packages`; Other than that, you're stuck grepping around in there for what you're looking for or worse not finding it at all.

After using other distributions with large package repositories, I found that the number of times I had to go outside the repository was extremely small, even though at first this led to some trepidation. Going outside the repository but staying within the package management system in slackware is trivial, and in more managed distributions its complex, but if you never have to do it, why settle for hand-done triviality?

Finally, the recent decision to not include Gnome was somewhat of an epiphany: I want my linux experience to be as freeform as possible, with me feeling as though I am making decisions on what software I run. In slackware I mostly kept with what was in -current (or the most recent stable in some cases), but that shaped in many ways my experience, and not always for the better.

Grub was the first piece of software I encountered that made me realize this, but as time went on I realized that much of the things I was previously building was there in the new distro's repository. Slackware also does not ship with python bindings for Qt or Gtk, so say goodbye to experimentation with oh about half of the up and coming applications written with those toolkits. It probably won't ever ship Mono, so there basically goes the other half.

Looking to the future, I found that more and more software is being developed using tools and libraries that I do not get (officially) running slackware. As time goes on there are two possible solutions: Slackware occupies a smaller and smaller niche meeting the needs of users who don't care for the software they can't run (or don't mind building it themselves or using 3rd party packages), or Slackware inevitably increases in its own complexity in order to abstract away complexity in lower levels of system management. If you take a look at the trend of major open source software development and then try to affix those efforts to a simple disjoint loose collection of individual packages, you'll see that the trend of slackware development is divergent. Libraries are good, Bindings are good, interoperability is good, and this stuff is complex to manage with the philosophy that "simple is best" and "unconfigured vanilla" is good enough for the user.