Venerable Linux distro Slackware comes back to life

Slackware Linux, first released in 1993, is different from the more popular flavors, and that might be its appeal.

digital transformation / butterfly surrounded by ripples of change
José Ignacio García Zajaczkowski / Gerd Altmann (CC0)

Being first doesn't guarantee success in the technology industry. Remember the Netscape browser? Still, it can have its advantages, such as a different or unique approach to things.

Such is the case with Slackware Linux. Slackware was the first formalized Linux distro, released in 1993, just two years after Linus Torvalds posted the Linux kernel. It was overtaken and overshadowed by Red Hat, SuSe, and Ubuntu, but it never went away. Now it's coming out of the shadows with an upgrade.

Slackware creator Patrick Volkerding recently posted a beta version of Slackware 15, the first update to the distro since version 14.2 in 2016. If you think that's ancient, you should see their website.

Slackware was the basis of future distros, including SuSe Linux, with some key differences, starting with its own package management tool called slackpkg. More importantly, it uses init rather than systemd as its process manager. Systemd has its roots in modern Linux distros, while init comes from the Unix System V design, and there is a difference.

Slackware in general is much closer to classic Unix than newer Linux versions, given it was first developed in the mid-'90s, when Unix was still king. If you are old school enough to use init scripts and know your way around the command line in general, then Slackware is probably more appealing as both a server and desktop Linux.

"Slackware 15 has a lot of flexibility, but it's not for kids, and it's not SUSE, and it has non-Debian/RH/SUSE/Oracle roots, yet it's still very familiar to salted enterprise personnel and has all the juice except it eschews the disciplines/configs imposed by system," said Tom Henderson, principal researcher at ExtremeLabs.  

"There's something to be said for that when many distros are pretty monolithic. This one has some flex, and it works in a VM/KVM/etc, bare metal, whatever. Mature distros with that flex are in the enterprise class, just not found much anymore as each company tries to find a niche. A general-class distro of this style is more flexible," Henderson added.

Slackware 15 supports 32-bit and 64-bit x86 plus ARM architectures. It supports GNOME, KDE, and Xfce as desktop options and has Linux Kernel 5.10.x stable (LTS) and is available with Kernel 5.11 option as testing package.

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