Spotlight on Linux: VectorLinux 6.0

VectorLinux is one distribution that seems to hum along under most users' radar. This is a mistake because Vector has many of the characteristics that make Linux great while adding some that has often been heralded by competitors as not existing except with larger commercial distributions.

VectorLinux is based on Slackware Linux, which remains the oldest living distribution to this day. Vector is fairly old itself. Very few people realize this distribution has been around since the last century although little proof remains of these early versions. The Vector Website has a comparison chart that goes back to 1.8 and one archive of old mailing lists posts preserves a support question from August 2000 on 1.0.

While Vector is based on Slackware, its developers have been working slowly over the years to separate themselves from Slack. The larger part of Vector is now independently developed with only the inner core still being derived from Slackware.

Different Versions

VectorLinux comes in several versions which can be confusing for some. They have versions based on different desktops, different software configurations, and different costs. Probably most popular is Vector's KDE free download version. As the name implies it is based on a stable KDE desktop and is usually dubbed their SOHO Edition. 6.0, the latest stable version, features multimedia support, OpenOffice, proprietary drivers, and lots of handy applications.

Other versions are designed to be lightweight. These are the Light and Standard editions. The difference between these are the size of the download, specific window environment, and included software. Both are designed for older machines. The Light version, which features Fluxbox and JWM, is said to operate on processors as slow as the Pentium 166 and 64 MB RAM. The Standard Edition features Xfce and boasts the ability to run on the Pentium 200 and 96 MB RAM. The standard version as well as its accompanying second software CD can be downloaded for free or ordered for a nominal fee.

Some version come in a SOHO (small office, home office) Editions. These differ by concentrating on software believed to be of interest to those using their desktops for business purposes. Desktop publishers, word processors, spreadsheets, accounting, and graphic design are some of the business oriented categories addressed by these SOHO Editions. The latest stable versions of SOHO often ship with newer desktops and software. Two version are generally available in SOHO line, the free downloadable Standard and the commercial Deluxe.

Then there are the Deluxe and Live versions. The Deluxe version is a general purpose desktop that contains extras and is available at a small cost for a box set or high speed download. The Deluxe comes with 14 days technical support, which many say the lack therof is a barrier to the wide adoption of Linux. The Live Edition is just that, Vector's installable Live CD. This is for those that wish for a portable solution or perhaps for those machines without a permanent hard drive.

Paid Support

All these different version aren't designed to be confusing, but to offer choice. Unfortunately, it can and probably does cause a bit of confusion. More choice is almost always a good thing for most people though. As if Vector users couldn't get more choice, here's another: commercial support. Should you wish for help beyond the documentation and user forum, Vector offers expert support from senior developers for the cost of $30 per 3 hours. This includes a support ticket system that can be monitored real-time as well as one-on-one email conversations.


Of course Vector comes with lots of software, but it also comes with handy original configuration tools. Through those you can set up hardware that may require tweaks beyond auto-detection and auto-configuration as well as install additional software. While the package management isn't original to Vector, it offers a familiar environment. The hard drive installer was once very much Slackware, but has been replaced in latter versions by a one with a graphical interface.

Pros & Cons

Advantages of Vector are stability, performance, easy-to-use, and paid support. Vector offers an attractive but conservative and professional look as well. Disadvantages might be the number of versions available possibly causing confusion, having separate live and install versions, limited 64-bit support, and a general lack of buzz. Vector suffers from silence. Its users need to get out there and blog about it, write some how-tos and get it some attention.

Development is slower than many other distributions, but that means a long life span. This can be either good or bad depending upon your point of view. The latest stable release is the various 6.0 editions, but 7.0 is on its way. Don't wait for it though. Developers are cautious and 7.0 is unlikely to go gold much before fall of 2011. Finally, don't let all the versions confuse you. You can go and grab any of them really and then install about anything you need from repositories.

VectorLinux 6 Standard Deluxe


Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of


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Run vector on my laptop - very good dist

Jim G's picture

Well I run vector on my laptop, 1 GHz / 360 MByte. It work very well no problem.

Version - hard to tell nowadays, I think at the time I installed it it was 5.8 or so. But after that I have added bits and pieces of later versions as well. Does not seem matter. Unlike other dists like Ubuntu it is really stable and don't break.

I run with XFCE desktop. Vector can at time be a primitive compared with flashy dists like Ubuntu and such. Have not tried Vector with KDE. So I am not so sure if this is the newbie dist of choice.

The foremost character of Vector and what appeals to me is its matter of fact felling. It feels like it is meant for serious work. To work on and to get things done. So if you awed by jumpy icons and wobbly windows maybe this is not the choice either.

But if you need a system that you trust and that will work at all times. Then you should have a look at Vector.

// JG

Thanx to Vector Linux

Toni's picture

I had to install a distro to my old Dell Laptop. No cd, no net, no usb boot in bios (but yes with a floppy boot). I tried many distros, most of 'em based on ubuntu and none managed to work from ram and then install to harddrive. At last I found Vector Linux which really managed to do so. Now I'm working with it and I'm impressed of the speed it reaches. My best expirience with linux by far. Thanx Vector Linux.

Vector is ok, but...

claudecat's picture

I am a person that tries out almost all distros, and I will say this about Vector. It still needs work in terms of hardware recognition. I have wireless and Sprint mobile broadband as my internet options, and neither work "out of the box" with Vector. Strangely, plain vanilla Slackware at least gets my Sprint connection going via kppp. I really want to like the Slack derivatives, but in my experience, they all fall short for the reasons mentioned. As a non-geek, Mint still gets my nod as best distro ever.

Vector Linux

Anonymous's picture

I too was a fan of Vector Linux about 5, give or take, years ago. About their 3.x series days. A great, lightweight desktop running IceWM (I still like Ice!!) I recommended it to friends and acquaintances for older hardware. I bought my own CD (waited something like 6 months for it to arrive) to support them and encouraged others to do likewise. Then they got carried away. KDE became the default desktop and the hardware requirements went up from there.

I've been pointing people towards Absolute Linux (also Slackware based) lately. I can only hope they don't get carried away with themselves as well.

Not necessarily.

blackbelt_jones's picture

"Then they got carried away. KDE became the default desktop and the hardware requirements went up from there."

There are several versions of Vector Linux. The "standard" version uses XFCE for the default and the "Light" version uses a customized version of icewm for the default.

Vector Linux

Lyn David Thomas's picture

I have been using Vector 2002, I was attracted to it because I was working for a charity that recycled computers and gave them either free, or at a nominal charge, to disadvantaged people. By its very nature the project worked on older machines. Vector was perfect for these. Vector has always been fast, great on lower powered machines and amazing on newer faster machines, coupled with a really friendly community it has been a good newbie distro. Good for people who want to learn about Linux in a supportive environment. It has developed tools to make administration easy. The community both feeds into development and provides quality support, and unlike some communities as a non developer I am made to feel at home and my input feels valued. People could do a lot worse than giving this distro a spin.

Long live to Vector Linux!

MefhigosetH's picture

Vector was one of my first Linux Distributions that I try, along with QNX in 2003.

This distribution was helpfull to me, as rescue kit on sytems and hardware computer services, in an early job, when I was young :-P

Blessing to the developer team of this great distribution. I was impressed over the system devices support of this stuff and over her stability and performance.

Chears for Linux Journal from Argentina.

Vector Linux

V. T. Eric Layton's picture

Vector has always impressed me. I had it on my system back in '06 for a while. My primary operating system is Slackware, so I appreciate Vector's roots. I would really like to see a 64 bit version, though. It's long overdue.


~Eric, the Nocturnal Slacker