The Slackware Linux distro was created by Patrick Volkerding in 1993 and was originally based on the Softlanding Linux System. In fact, it was originally born out of bug fixes to the Softlanding Linux System that for whatever reason never made it into that system. The first official release was version 1.0 which was released on the 16th July, 1993.
It’s the oldest distro still currently in development and over the years has been the basis for many other distros, most notably SuSe Linux.
It’s stated aim is to be the most Unix-like distro and also to be the most stable and simple and it does indeed have a reputation as being the most Unix-like version of Linux.
Slackware Linux’s name came about because it was originally intended to be a personal side project, and Patrick Volkerding wanted a humorous name to reflect there was no serious commitment to the project. The name remained even once it became a serious project.
Slackware’s design philosophy is to aim for simplicity and ease of use and a core architecture that tries to prevent changes to upstream software packages. Part of this philosophy involves not having a strict release schedule – releases are made available when they are ready, not on some pre-defined date.
The aim for ease of use is that Slackware should be intuitive and easy to use for experienced Unix administrators and at the same time easy to learn for new Unix users.
There is no official issue tracking system, nor is there a public code repository – all development is non-open; there are no code contributors and no set procedures to become a developer. All decisions about what goes in release packages ultimately rest with Patrick Volkerding.
Slackware fully complies with the published Linux standards, such as the Linux File System Standard.
Slackware is a commercial distribution funded only by store sales.
The current version of Slackware Linux at the time of writing is 14.1 which was released on the 4th November 2014.
A full installation gives you the X Window System, C/C++ development environments, Perl, networking utilities, a mail server, a news server, a web server, an ftp server, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, Mozilla Firefox, plus many more programs.
For a long time, Slackware concentrated sorely on the IA-32 architecture and previous releases were 32-bit only but Slackware 14.1, while still aimed at the IA-32 architecture, also runs on x86_64 processors in 32-bit mode.
DistroWatch shows that usage of Slackware is falling, though it is still has a significant number of users. Slackware’s official line is that it will never cater to the masses, and it is primarily a server distribution – although it makes a fine desktop, they don’t guarantee they will continue to include KDE for example, if it becomes too big a job to integrate it given their resources.
Although declining in popularity, Slackware is still one of the most popular, and more important stable and friendly Linux distributions. It is particularly good for server installations.