A little backstory. I've been a Linux user since 2007. Some time earlier I read about it in a magazine, but didn't have a way to get it. Finally we've got the Internet, and I ordered a Ubuntu 7.10 CD from shipit.ubuntu.com - they used to send them for free, but have long been defunct. That started my long Linux journey. Next was switching from Ubuntu to Kubuntu (loved KDE 3!), and when they switched to the (IMO) terrible KDE 4, after a while I decided I can't bear with this, and sought another distro.
At that time, I heard about the Linux distro for the smart people - Slackware. You will learn how Linux really works, they promised. I didn't need any more convincing - it was soon on my drive. I've actually learned a lot (can't say that about the *buntus..), and still have a soft spot on my heart for Slack. In fact, I haven't used a non-Slack based distro since then for more than a few days or so. But in the end, pure Slack had a lot of flaws.
First of all, it installed too much stuff by default. All the major desktop environments, a bunch of web browsers, mail clients, music players I was never going to use. And all the libraries those depend on. After every Slackware installation, I had to spend some time cleaning it up, leaving, for example, only one of all the default desktop environments. Of course it's impossible to remove everything you don't need - and very easy to break the system (done that more times that I can remember..). Disk space was a problem too, since I had a really old computer. Wasn't there a smarter way?
Let's start with the installation process. I have always had a problem with this part in many distros. Since I didn't have a CD / DVD burner at the time, I've installed from USB drives - and in Slackware, this was quite complicated. Salix handled that quite nicely - you could simply dump the ISO on a 1GB drive (13.37), boot from it, and it just worked.
Salix followed (and still does!) the refreshing philosophy of one application per task. It included everything necessary for your regular PC usage - a lean desktop environment, a web browser, music player, image editor, mail client, IDE, torrent client, etc - and no clutter in sight! No need to remove things = little chance of breakage. Now this alone sealed the deal for me, but Salix had other advantages over pure Slack.
Whereas vanilla Slackware required manual downloading and installation of programs, Salix had graphical tools to manage that - Gslapt and Sourcery (for SlackBuilds). The main repositories also supported dependency resolution, again lessening the chance of breakage. Of course, you could still install the old-fashioned way if you wanted to (and it was necessary sometimes).
Other things were more convenient in Salix as well, for example user and group management - which in Slackware required some cumbersome terminal commands. Pure Slack had no love for GUIs unless necessary - even something as sensitive as partiton management was text-based, while Salix had GParted by default.
These days, Salix' superiority over Slackware has increased even more. The Live ISO is available with a nice graphical installer, while Slack still sticks to the old text-based installer. It was nice back in the day, but it's time to move on.
Well, Salix' main selling point - the one application per task philosophy, is fulfilled only by one other distribution - Zenwalk - but it is much less polished. Live ISO is not available, and the installer is the ancient text-based one. Only 64-bit processors are supported. It does not even have a proper website or documentation. How about others, like the *buntus? Well, I've long since moved on from those. Since I've experienced Salix, I don't want to go back to distributions with the "throw everything in there" philosophies. No clutter allowed!
Salix is a carefully crafted distribution that satisfies the following:
There's no other distributions that fits these. Now I still have one small issue with it - namely I would choose some default applications differently. Mozilla Firefox has lots of privacy issues (archive), and I think Ungoogled-Chromium is a better choice. Exaile is a pretty good music player, but QuodLibet, with its advanced filtering capabilities, is superior. That's just nitpicking, though - against a distribution that's pretty much perfect out of the box otherwise (and you can easily replace the applications you don't like through the repositories). I've stayed with it for maybe five or six years straight, only checking something else out for pure novelty sometimes - which never lasted more than two days or so. Salix rules!
You can download Salix OS here. If you like it, write a nice review here. Last month's popularity sits at place 139, worse than server-only distros, distros for specific tasks, or just plain inferior distros. Let's fix it! Salix is a full featured desktop distribution and deserves at least a top 30 place.