I'm a newly converted Vector Linux fan. I have tried most versions of Linux (for desktop and server applications) that have been available over the past 7-8 years. After using VL 7, I have decided that I'm going to stay here for awhile (probably for life). The speed of the desktop environment is just impressive and I don't have time to be slowed down by a sluggish desktop.
As you read around you will notice that Vector has it's origins in Slackware. I have always found that it is easy to compile open source packages and configure them the way that I like with minimal trouble on either system. The compilers and headers files to make things work are already installed. Since Vector Linux is more of a "blank slate" than Slackware you only have the base system to contend with. You could set up any software and configure it to your liking with minimal interference. It is easy to understand the operating system architecture and would make a good version to make a derivation of. I have seen security distros based on Slackware so you will have some help already available as the packages should easily transfer over to Vector.
-- Vector Linux, because more of your CPU cycles should belong to you!