Gentoo has often seemed like too geeky a distro, even for me. Slackware is probably as hardcore as I need to get (and indeed, I use it on two — soon three — servers). While I consider myself a purist to the extent I like working directly with source rather than binary software distributions, I’m not such a developer/hacker that I need to compile my distribution from the ground up (barring special projects).
However, the author, Jem Matzan, presents a case of Gentoo vs. Slackware or Debian:
What makes Gentoo Linux stand above other distros is not just its flexibility — Slackware and Debian are just as flexible — but its customizability. Whereas with Debian’s stable distribution you’re left using software that is months or years old (including the kernel), Gentoo uses the latest tested editions of the Linux kernel, the GNU project’s userland utilities and compiler, and the more than 7,000 ported programs in Portage. Slackware, although just as moldable as Gentoo and Debian, does not have an automatically updatable package management system and compiles nothing from source by default.
I can do without automated upgrades, as I want to make sure something’s not going to bust my system before I run it. That may be due to being burned by Windows a few times and a “learning experience” or two on FreeBSD, but it’s not a habit I plan on breaking any time soon. But it’s always nice to know there are options out there, and that’s especially true for Linux. Should Slackware suddenly bite the dust or take a turn for the worst, there’s always something available to fill the void with little to no adjusting.