Why I moved from Slackware to SUSE

Posted by Tejus Parikh on July 3, 2006

Yesterday, I blogged a little bit about how much I love Xgl on my new SUSE box. However, I handwaved over why a long-time die-hard slackware user would switch to a distribution such as SUSE.

The reasons I like Slackware and continue to use it on most of my other machines are many-fold. First and foremost, it feels like a “real unix” (TM). The boot process is elegant and simple. All the config files feel like they are in the right place. There isn’t a lot of junk that you’ll never need. Plus, Pat must be using some magic gcc because plenty of ancidotal evidence suggests that slackware is even faster than Gentoo. In other words, it’s the leanest, meanest version of Linux out there.

Beyond the practical, Slackware best epitomizes the essence of Linux. There’s a lot of history. Slackware was around from before the linux kernel was 1.0. Slackware isn’t run by a large mutlinational organization. It’s run by one guy (don’t know if he works out of his basement or not). Nor does Slackware try to force you into doing anything in any specific way. Slackware comes with KDE, but there are plenty of third party providers for Gnome. Slackware uses it’s own package mangement system, but comes with rpm. Of course, you can always install things from source.

A slackware install is a clean slate with endless possibilities with no limits. There’s never a point where something can’t be done. You are never more than one patch, config file change, and re-compile away from a solution. The mere fact that I knew I could get my systems working the way I wanted and that they would stay working was the biggest draw for me over the last five years.

So why then, if I’m waxing so elequent about Slackware why did I switch to something antithetical to what I find wonderful about Slackware?

The answer is not actually all that interesting. After five years, it was time to try something new and give the big, “user-friendly” distos another chance. I’ve used Fedora on and off for the last year at the places of my employment and have yet to be impressed. Unbuntu has a bone-headed restriction about users with an underscore in their name (a small problem when you’re the vi_jedi). I have little desire to spend the rest of my life compiling software, which ruled out Gentoo.

That left SUSE and Mandriva. Between the two, the choice came down to Novell makes SUSE and Novell makes Xgl. And I wanted Xgl. After a few major hiccups with config files, I’ve got SUSE up and running. So far it’s pretty nice and I’ve been thrilled with the windowing environment. However, the rest of my machines are staying Slackware for now ;)

Tejus Parikh

Tejus is an software developer, now working at large companies. Find out when I write new posts on twitter, via RSS or subscribe to the newsletter: