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Yeah, there are a lot of 'em -- and, you what? many are based on Slackware.
So, why not give Slackware a try -- unadulterated, as close as possible to what developers intended, rock solid, dependable and a pleasure to work with.
Hope this helps some.
I respectfully disagree. A majority of distributions are based on two major players, Debian and RedHat. Or, more generally speaking the ones that use the .deb format and apt/synaptic for packages and dependency tracking, and the ones that use .rpm and yum or something along those lines. It's the oddballs that DON'T use one of those methods. As for your remark "as close as possible to what developers intended"...er, what developers are those? There's a lot of developers that have never used Slackware and could care less. Slackware is basically a one-man band, Patrick Volkerding, and represents his vision more than anything else. Since Linux is an "anything goes" phenomenon, it's a little arrogant to say that a particular distribution represents some particular apex of purity in software design. I think it's the users who can determine what particular distro is best for them, without having to take a philosophical stand on the subject.
As for your remark "as close as possible to what developers intended"...er, what developers are those? There's a lot of developers that have never used Slackware and could care less.
One of Slackware's design principles is to use, if possible, unpatched upstream software. So the packages you can find in Slackware are as close to the upstream software as possible and therefore like the original upstream developers intended their software to be.
My 2 cents to the original question: Most of the little known "distributions" are nothing more than re-spins of Debian and Ubuntu with a different default theme or some extra applications made by 16 years old kids with Remastersys. Of course there are some that begun there life as something like that and are now outstanding (like Mint or Salix), but most are not.
Not to forget that there are also some very good special purpose distributions like Backtrack, grml, SystemRescueCD, antiX or RIP Linux, which I really appreciate. But other than that it is, IMHO, most of the time not worth the time one wastes with playing with those "distributions", especially when you can have basically the same setup with installing a mainstream distribution and launching one or two apt-get/yum/whatever commands.
My 2 cents to the original question: Most of the little known "distributions" are nothing more than re-spins of Debian and Ubuntu with a different default theme or some extra applications made by 16 years old kids with Remastersys.
Sixteen year old kids are quite clever then, as they probably don't want to waste their time on a distribution that is difficult to setup and maintain - gives them plenty of spare time for getting out in the sunshine, meeting women and drinking beer.
There are some dire things out there. I saw a mention of OS4 (stupid name — has he never heard of the Amiga or the iPhone?) at Distrowatch and investigated. It turns out to be a renaming of the horrid old PC/OS. Its forum still has more spam than posts. The latest idea is to charge $45 for it (with support), but to allow free downloads so long as $2000 a month comes in from donations. So you install it; eventually (or immediately) he doesn't get his $2000, so you loose your repository access unless you cough up $45. That's one I shan't bother to review!
Even worse, the 45$ are for desktop use. If you want to have the OS with "server extensions" (whatever that may be) you have to pay 99.99$. Comes with 90 days support. I would rather do without the support and buy a Red Hat subscription for 49$ or a Slackware package for 50$.
Looking for something that wasn't yet another Ubuntu respin, I've just found Foresight; I'm posting from it now.
It's rolling-release without being bleeding-edge. New installation disks are infrequent, so it doesn't get into the news often. It doesn't seem to have a lot of users, but development is active: some packages have been updated in the last month. The package manager — conary — is unusual, being especially designed for rolling-release and easy roll-back if you get an update that disagrees with you.
Distribution: Debian Sid AMD64, Raspbian Wheezy, Slackware Current AMD64, various VMs
For rolling-release cutting-edge I tend to ask "What does it have that Sid Doesn't?" and/or "Does it break less often than Sid?"
Don't get me wrong, I know there are better releases out there than Sid, but I've yet to come across one which makes me want to learn another Distro (I'm sure the same goes for users of Fedora, Slackware Current and others).
Other than a desire to just experiment and play around, I've never understood the motivation to use one of these "little known" distros, eventually you're going to run up against problems, and with a very small user base, you might be stuck for a solution. The large user bases of Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and yes, even Slackware, serve as a huge problem-solving machine that works by and large for free.