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The web site for Slackware Linux (http://www.slackware.com) has a section on "Slackware Philosophy." There can be no better summary of a project's philosophy than the one they explicitly espouse, and so their own words from their site are reproduced here:
Since its first release in April of 1993, the Slackware Linux Project has aimed at producing the most "UNIX-like" Linux distribution out there. Slackware complies with the published Linux standards, such as the Linux File System Standard.We have always considered simplicity and stability paramount, and as a result Slackware has become one of the most popular, stable, and friendly distributions available.
A notable phrase is the term "Unix-like." Many (if not most) Linux distributions today are aggressively focused on adding functionality and features— essentially modernizing Unix, as embodied in a Linux system. However, there has traditionally been a sort of "hacker mystique" around Unix, reflected in a rigorous philosophy of simplicity and self-sufficiency. (Believe it or not, it is easy to use the advanced features of Unix, once you understand the basics.) In the mad rush toward modernization, it can be argued that much of this traditional Unix philosophy is being lost.
Because of this, Slackware's goal to be Unix-like speaks volumes about its philosophy. Users of other Unix systems (commercial or otherwise) may find Slackware the easiest Linux distribution to migrate to, because it is Unix-like. This philosophy is typically manifested in practice by choosing simple, standard ways to accomplish tasks, rather than reinventing the wheel. For example, Slackware uses the traditional compressed tarball (Tape ARchive) format (which is simply a .tar.gz file) as its packaging mechanism, rather than make use of an enhanced package management system such as RPM or Debian's system. Slackware's use of standard tarballs make it possible to manage all the software by hand, but sacrifices some more sophisticated features such as enforcing dependencies and file conflict resolutions.
On the one hand, Slackware lacks many of the newer features that many other distributions have introduced. On the other hand, it's possible to manage an entire Slackware system with nothing more than a text editor and a little knowhow. This sort of self-sufficiency appeals to many experienced Unix and Linux users. It also makes Slackware a good "training crucible" for new users—if you can make it on Slackware, you can make it anywhere, so to speak. Many experienced Unix and Linux users (including myself) learned most of the basics on a Slackware system. For these reasons, Slackware maintains a sizable and occasionally ornery following of users who look affectionately on the distribution.
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