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What is Slackware?
An "elder statesman" of Linux distributions, Slackware is a powerful, free, and open-source operating system focused on stability and simplicity.
The Linux operating system (OS) has brought the power, versatility, and simplicity of UNIX to the masses since 1991. Used on everything from mobile devices to dedicated Web servers, Linux enjoys widespread popularity with hosting providers, personal users, and developers around the world. One of the most popular distributions of this open-source OS is Slackware. Originally released in 1993, Slackware is also the oldest active Linux OS.
What is Slackware used for?
Created in 1993 by Patrick Volkerding, Slackware Linux is focused on simplicity and stability. Its primary goal is to provide the "most UNIX-like" experience possible for users. It's the oldest surviving distribution of the OS, and is well known for having a very limited set of custom utilities. All changes to the code require text edits.
It's not a system for neophytes, but this emphasis on keeping things consistent, clean, and bug-free makes it an ideal distribution for hosting providers and resellers alike.
A complete installation of Slackware includes a bevy of applications and tools, including the X Window System, support and development environments for C/C++ coding, Perl support, networking utilities, built-in mail, news, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Web servers, and more. The latest version (Slackware 14.1, as of May 2015) is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
What does Slackware cost?
Slackware is free and available for download directly from the developer's site. It's also supported by a wide range of Web hosting providers as a part of their Linux-based hosting and reseller packages—particularly for cloud-based Virtual Private Server (VPS) and dedicated plans.
Some providers may also offer it as an optional replacement for standard Linux installs, or even give you the option to install it yourself on your VPS or dedicated server.
Why choose Slackware?
Slackware users chose it for its simplicity and the fact that it puts the user in control. Slackware is intentionally simple. It provides only the bare-minimum tools and features in the basic installation so that you can add only those components that you actually want and need. This enables users of Slackware to have a very clean system that doesn't include a lot of things they would rather not have on their system.
What are some alternatives to Slackware?
There are many different Linux operating systems. Some other popular Linux operating systems include: Ubuntu, Linux Mint, CentOS, and Debian.
Ubuntu is a very popular open-source OS option for Linux web servers and desktop installations alike. Ubuntu is set apart from the pack by it's simple installation process and excellent support from the lead developer Canonical.
If Slackware is the elder statesman of Linux distributions, Linux Mint is the up-and-comer. Linux Mint is designed for desktop use only, and isn't a Linux distro you'd consider for a web server, but it earns a spot here by being one of the hottest Linux distro's of the day.
CentOS and Debian are the two most common Linux distribution for commercial web hosting providers. If you buy hosting on a Linux server that server is probably running CentOS or Debian.
Slackware pros and cons
Pros: Slackware is intentionally simple and configurable. If you're looking for an operating system that will be as stripped-down as possible out of the box so you can configure it for very specific use Slackware might be exactly what you're looking for.
Cons: Slackware's simplicity is also its greatest weakness. If you want an OS that doesn't require very much tinkering to get it up-and-running then look elsewhere. The basic Slackware installation is intentionally stripped of even the simplest of functions (such as playing audio). This makes Slackware an interesting choice for purpose-built servers and expert Linux enthusiasts, but an unlikely choice for a shared server that has to wear many hats, and an even unlikelier choice for a desktop installation for any but the most dedicated Linux users.