I’ve been a loyal Slackware user for well over a year, and I recently had to install Fedora Core 6 at my office (no more windows at work, hooray!). So here’s a brief comparison of the two distributions (don’t expect it to be unbiased :)):
Installation: Slackware has a very neat CLI-based installation that I’ve got quite comfortable with. All you need is a copy of Slackbook lying around, and the whole process is very smooth. It does throw you in a shell at startup though, so people might like to do some tweaking to start with X by default.
Fedora’s Anaconda installer is much prettier, and the GUIs for time-zone selection and partitioning might be far more appealing to new users (Slackware, in comparison, requires cfdisk or fdisk to be run first for the partitioning). One minor gripe is that the upgrade process was terrible in its lack of options: it just did a default upgrade with no package selection options.
Packages: I’ll stick with Slackware on this one. I’ve had hardly any dependency problems, and I personally find it very comfortable to download and install its .tgz packages.
Fedora is another story. Some of the people here at work didn’t check the Eclipse package in the custom install, and it was a nightmare trying to install it later. yum works incredibly slow out here, so downloading several 100 MBs was impossible. Installing the rpm from the DVD threw up dozens of dependencies. And as I mentioned, the upgrade option during install didn’t allow package selection either. The easiest way seemed to be a quick reinstall of the / partition.
I admit my unfamiliarity with FC6 might be a problem here, for example, try as I might, I couldn’t get yum to read the DVD as a repository. Anyways I’ll learn all that soon I guess. On the good side, yum was very smooth in smaller installations (like Fluxbox), I had absolutely no problems there.
Administration: Again, I might sound biased, but Slackware’s way is seriously nice: no GUIs, just open an xterm and jump into the config files yourself. Minor tweaks that I usually do post-install are: Mouse wheel enabling, other xorg.conf fine tuning, startx, poweroff enabling, lilo setup, sound volume storing, etc. That does sound like a lot, I admit!
Fedora is better in this sense because all those things mentioned above are configured automatically. Just login after installation and you have a perfectly working environment. There are a bunch of GUIs starting with system-config-* for the most common administration tasks. As I’ve mentioned, I’m more comfortable with handling the files directly instead of through GUIs (I’ve faced problems in earlier distros having poorly configured wrappers). But in this case the Fedora team has done a really job, and I found that the GUI tools were neat, simple and never corrupted any of the files. Good job here too.
Desktop: Slack defaults to KDE, Fedora to Gnome. Frankly I don’t know how anyone in the world can stand Gnome once they see KDE, but to each his own *shrug*. The first thing I do in both cases is switch to a minimal window manager. Here Slackware has many options, as the installation set comes with really neat ones like Fluxbox, WindowMaker, Fvwm and Xfce. I’ve comfortably settled with Ion3 at home, though.
At work, I chose to put in Fluxbox. The general desktop environment for both cases is faultless, as they come with all the common software that you’ll need for development, Office or just plain browsing.
Well there you have it. There’s probably nothing that’ll ever convert me from Slackware, but other distros have their good points too. FC6 is a very nice one that is very friendly and usable. I know there a lot of things in it that I haven’t covered here, such as SELinux, which looks very interesting, and Compiz, which looks very pretty. But I haven’t tried those enough to comment about them, so maybe some other time..