While mostly I use Fedora as my preferred desktop system on my laptop, I have used Slackware for many years on my office system.

Generally Slackware users are knowledgeable but not always friendly to anyone wanting to change Slackware. They tend to be isolated from the needs of non geeks. They expect non geeks to RTFM and become a geek.

I have been content with Slackware as a general user distro and have enjoyed tinkering. Yet there are several disadvantages with Slackware with respect to the home and non enterprise user.

  • No GUI administration tools.
  • No GUI package manager
  • No central repository support
  • A significant lack of packages.
  • A severe dependency on using the terminal.

Sweat equity is needed to create a polished Slackware operating system. Not quite doable because of the aforementioned missing components. While and a few other locations fill some of the void for missing packages, they do not come close to the package volume of Fedora or Debian. Not to forget that obtaining those packages is a full command line exercise. No, ncurses does not qualify as a GUI.

The only maintained Slackware GUI package manager is gslapt, based on slapt-get, which is not the officially supported Slackware package manager.

A significant attraction with Slackware is simplicity. The Slackware maintainer — benevolent dictator for life — and developers have not (yet) succumbed to systemd, pam.d, or selinux/apparmor, which leads nicely to reduced complexity in any system. Yet this simplicity is something only experienced users tolerate in the long-term.

Some people have tried to add missing polish. Zenwalk, Salix, and Absolute for example. The maintainers have added some GUI admin tools. Yet all fall short because these derivatives still rely heavily on using a terminal. Using the terminal is a local lingo meaning The Slackware Way. Users are expected to praise Bob for this approach.

All of these derivatives rely on users building their own packages.

I have settled for a while now with MATE, but that desktop is not an official desktop environment of Slackware. MATE support in Slackware is nominal at best, notably with a lack of themes and icons. Associated MATE help files are not compiled because of the build-time overhead.

In the end, while a great system for learning and tinkering, and one that technical users might find comfortable, Slackware is too much maintenance for home and non technical users, even if the missing components suddenly appeared and somebody worked real hard at providing a lot of the missing polish.

Slackware is not disappearing from my network, but will never see the light of day with people I help and support. Too bad because there is much to be said about simplicity.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, MATE, Slackware, Terminal

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