I am also interested in the two main questions in this thread: 1) Why use Vector instead of other distributions, and 2) What is the value of purchasing deluxe versions of Vector when the free versions work just fine.
Someone smart once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I don't know why I care about what some dead Greek guy said, other than his statement seems to accurately capture my life experience. Thus my interest in the questions pursued in this thread. Why do I choose to use and support Vector?
I cannot say that I really know for sure why I like Vector, or why I keep buying deluxe versions, but both choices "just feel right."
I can make a few autobiographical observations. I have been using Linux for only about two years. My family's first computer was a DOS machine that loaded programs through a tape recorder. Since then, I ran a variety of MS machines, including Win 3.1, 95, 98, 98SE, 2000, XP, and Vista. Over the decades, I gradually became more and more frustrated with MS's "crippleware" operating systems. I know very little about MS as a company, but as a longtime user of their operating systems, it seemed to me that they deliberately built their systems with truncated functionality in order to corner users into purchasing additional functionality that should have been a part of the OS.
For me, Vista was the straw that broke the camel's back. I will refrain from falling into a rant and instead merely say that after purchasing a laptop with Vista pre-installed, I declared "enough is enough" and started the by now familiar routine of downloading distros, wiping hard drives, and evaluating installations. I also stopped buying new hardware. Except for an occasional part here and there (such as a quieter cpu fan or a raid controller), I doubt I'll ever buy a new computer again.
Vector first rose to the top of the pile for me because it was one of the only distros that worked with my oldest computers, both laptops and desktops. A couple of other slackware-based distributions would also install, but their approach to functionality was too bare-bones for me. On my oldest machines, Vector edged them out by providing a more user-friendly experience.
For my higher-end hardware, I was initially captivated by the glitz, glam, and glory of the top five distros on DistroWatch. I was new to linux, and I appreciated the comprehensiveness of their "plug-and-play" approach to operating systems and their MS-like "look and feel." Their learning curves were gentle enough that I could make linux work for me while I was using linux to do my work.
Sooner rather than later, however, stability increasingly became a problem on my newer machines running the more popular linux distros. I never expected linux to provide a bug-free computing life (and no operating system ever will), but I learned that many of the problems with system stability that I encountered were beyond both my ability and the ability of each distro's forum community to troubleshoot and solve. Too often, my only recourse was to wipe my drive clean again and reinstall, knowing that it was only a matter of time before system stability deteriorated again and I would have to rinse and repeat.
Meanwhile, my oldest hardware just kept purring along, humming contented operating system tunes.
"Hmm," I finally thought. "What's good for the gander might be good for the goose."
Enter Vector SOHO (but still in its free varieties).
For the first few months after installing Vector SOHO on my newer desktops and laptops, I confess that I felt a little deflated, even defeated. I had wanted all the eye-candy bling and slick point-and-click fling (rhymes with "bling") that made the top five distros so titillating; but I had learned from my experience that there is some truth to the cliche, "don't judge a book by its cover," and to the truism that reading newspapers is a better way to remain informed than watching cable news. I had also become seasoned enough in linux that Vector's comparatively minimalist approach to its Control Center tools and the few minor by-hand configurations I need to make from time to time under Vector actually helped to make using my operating systems interesting, informative, and relevant to my computing life.
Most importantly, Vector SOHO proved to be just as stable, consistent, and reliable on my higher-end hardware as it still is on my decades-old machines. Moreover, I don't feel "lost in the crowd" here on the discussion forum.
Eventually, it dawned on me that I wanted to give something back to the Vector community. Initially, I satisfied this impulse by requesting that Vector's packagers add my favorite applications to the repositories, and thus make them available to other Vector users, which in turn might help make Vector ever-so-slightly more valuable to its users.
But after nearly two years as an end-user of Linux and its kindred open source co-conspirators, I have come to learn something that I think is even more important: I am using Vector because I like it, because it works for me in some vaguely unquantifiable way. I am using Vector because it strikes an optimal balance (for me) between stability, speed, and usability over approximately a dozen hardware platforms spanning decades of recent computing history. I am using Vector because I find the rest of the user community to be friendly, informative, accessible, and nice.
I switched to Linux and other open source software because I was fed up with paying again and again for crippleware that was pressed upon me for profit. I now choose to contribute financially to Vector by purchasing Deluxe versions because I want to support the programmers who support me with an operating system I value. I want to give because I have been given.
I did not arrive at my current sentiments quickly or easily, but I like what Linux, Vector, and other open source teams have done for me: They have helped me to learn that I have choices, and that when I choose to support those who support me, all is right in my world.