Okay, I’m a geek. I like blinky lights!
My Linux distro of choice is Slackware. When I built the computer I am using now, I should have chosen a better processor. It’s plenty fast enough for Slackware, but Windows would probably slow it down. Thankfully, Slackware runs plenty fast on it, as does my lightweight but pretty Desktop Environment, XFCE. As far as lightweight DEs (desktop environments), I actually have an old 486 laptop that runs an older version of FreeBSD and the Blackbox Window Manager.
I use other distributions, and have done since about 1996 or so. My original Linux Counter number is 49647. I used to think that was really high back then, and I was even embarrassed for having it, but now as I look in the mirror, my beard is grey and my scalp, um, is reflective…. Time marches on.
But I still like Slackware. It’s very simple and reliable. I’ve had Ubuntu updates that didn’t go according to plan and left a machine unbootable. I’ve gotten stuck in RPM hell before with Red Hat. But I’ve never been left high and dry by Slackware. Sure, I’ve had problems, but it was always transparent where they were. Slackware has always been a CLI (Command Line Interface) kind of distro, and once I learned my way around a shell prompt, that has always seemed like home to me. In fact, when I see GUI tools for package management, I get suspicious. To me, that’s just another layer of complexity that will eventually bite me. Editing config files by hand in my text editor of choice, now that is too simple to go wrong! Well, unless I screw it up of course. But I always know where the back up file is. And that’s what I love about Slackware.
There’s a learning curve with Slackware. But unlike many other distros, when you learn Slackware, you learn Linux. You aren’t simply learning a package tool that applies only to that distro. You learn the classic UNIX tools that have served admins well for decades. Once you learn your way around and get comfortable at the xterm, or whatever terminal window you like, there’s no excuse left to not get your work done! It’s rather nice! Of course, there’s always time to futz around with screenshots too.
But what about upgrades you ask? Well, they’re surprisingly simple. I actually had a vintage computer from 2004 in my office. I hadn’t done much with it since installing Slackware 9.0 on it back then. For whatever reason, that computer just languished for years until about the middle of last year (2014). Just for old time’s sake, I decided to upgrade it as far as I could with later versions of Slackware. Since it was an old AMD Athlon with a 80GB hard drive, it was a very humble machine by today’s standards. But that computer took the upgrades and is now running Slackware 14.0. I was starting to run out of disk space and it couldn’t quite handle 14.1. But I found a 500GB drive and tossed it in that same box, and that hard drive now runs Slackware 14.1–current. No problems at all. In fact, I’ll have to upload a screenshot from that box sometime. I think it’s running LXDE and OpenBox. I boosted the RAM up to about 2GB, and now it thinks it’s a racehorse. (It’s not.)
Slackware is a very easy to use distribution. It rewards time invested learning it. And best of all, no systemd! Slackware is the most traditionally UNIX like distro around, and I started with Slackware 3.0 way back when installation was still from floppy disks. I think 3.0 was one of the first distributions on CDROM. I got it in a book entitled Linux Secrets by Naba Barkakati. I still have that book and CD around somewhere. I’m sure it still works. There were chapters about DOSEMU and how to get your sound card working, using Mosaic, configuring dial-up with SLIP, text processing with ed and groff, configuring the Motif WM, if you were lucky enough to have a supported XFree-supported video card. We didn’t really have anything like Libre Office, so we used xspread. It was a humbler time for Linux!
I think it’s fun to remember back at where we came from. My Slackware box doesn’t resemble that first Slackware 3.0 box very much, but the tools running today have their roots in many of those old projects. I haven’t had to configure a SLIP interface in decades, but as I type this post on my browser, which has a dedicated connection to the internet (which I don’t even capitalize anymore), I remember these humble beginnings. Now, we take so much for granted. But I actually remember when X11 was not a given. It was a luxury. And we still got work done! Slackware has come a very long way.