On many sites there are a lot of information about Ubuntu or its successor, Mint, these distributions are excellent, very good for those who have never seen anything on Linux, but maybe someone could be more interested in having a greater freedom of action and try something that goes beyond a well-marked path, so what do you think of the GNU/Linux Arch and Slackware distributions ?
Many things are spoken around Arch and Slackware. And also many myths are around surrounding these two distributions, for someone they are hard to install, hard to use, hard for administration, good only for geeks.
Many myths about Arch/Slackware and I should say also Gentoo aren’t true. Both, Arch and Slackware, bring only the best to the operating system experience. BSD elegance and Linux kernel. Great customization, great user experience and unique philosophy. Today quality and simplicity don’t go together. But let’s take a look at some of the main aspects of a GNU/linux Distribution.
Both, Arch and Slackware have textual based installation. Slackware offers a nice ncurses based installer and Arch has a fast and simple text driven installer. Both processes are fast, but installation on Slackware is a bit easier for newcomers and some options can be easily configured after the installation.
Configuration and usage:
Back in the days, Arch was configured in a file called rc.conf located in the /etc directory. This used to confuse some users. Today, after moving to systemd things are much easier and almost all configuration are done with five lines of text in terminal. On other side, Slackware is configured in the old fashion way. Pure BSD manner of Slackware is hard and requests high user concentration.
Slackware is a source based distribution, while Arch is an binary distribution.
Slackware has no package manager. Well, it does have one. An package manager from first generation called package installer/uninstaller. Main philosophy is that the user is responsible for the system that he uses. But there are many third party package managers and some of them are also resolving dependencies. Yes, dependencies. Slackware does not resolve dependencies by default and the user need to take care of them. Arch, on other hand, has an very nice and high quality package manager named pacman. Arch also offers AUR ( Arch user repository ) with almost has every package you will ever need. For communicating with AUR there is the program yaourt. Also you can choose from many GUI based package managers.
Slackware is alongside Debian well known for its stability. The packages go to main tree when all bugs are fixed. With packages with bigger bugs fixed that are moved in current release. Current release is something like Slackware testing. But there is Patrick with his criterion for packages. What Patrick does not like, does not come to Slackware. That is how we lost Gnome in first place. Arch is a rolling release and many people say that such a system isn’t stable but Arch is stable.
Winner: Well, here is no winner. Slackware is for people who need systems with stable and secure packages and Arch is for people who need systems with newer packages, but still fast and stable.
Arch has new and fresh packages while Slackware has older packages and his ALSA and Mplayer are quite older. Without many words let us pronounce the winner of this category.
After the installation, with the first update Arch will also update and upgrade kernel to an newer version while with Slackware you have to download and compile kernel by hand if you want a newer one, that’s doable, but much longer.
Both distributions have a great community. Arches community is growing and many Gentoo developers are also Arch developers. Slackware has an old community that works in the old fashion way. Both distributions have great communities and you will get help fast if needed, just be kind.
Do not get Slackware wrong. Slackware is not half dead. Slackware is very much alive and active. One of the oldest distributions in general and the oldest active distribution, Slackware has given much to community and users. Slackware work in old ways and is still alive. No meter if like or dislike it’s way, Slackware is an institution. Arch is easier for maintenance and gives great user experience. Despite popular believe, Arch is easy to install. Every user can do it. Both distributions have their own philosophy and way and every comparison is ridiculous if not made for informational purposes.
But every challenge need to have a winner an the winner here is the user himself.
No matter what you choose you will win and learn a lot of thing about GNU/linux, much more of what you could learn with an “easier” distribution.