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Gentoo Linux   -   2004/11/18Viewed 237 times this month, last update: 2004/11/18



Well all know I love Linux. I've used and liked several distrobutions: Slackware in the early days, RedHat, SuSE, and many others. However, in recent years I had settled into RedHat simply out of familiarity. With recent changes in the direction of RedHat Inc., I have been interested in finding another distrobution. I'm not saying Fedora is bad, in fact it works very well, and the Fedora developers are to be commended, but it seems to me the rest of the Linux world is moving on from it's initial infatuation with RedHat. The IBM/Novel people make SuSE a very good candidate, and I've been very, very happy with SuSE on my laptop. I wanted a distro that would be easy to setup, recognize all my hardware and just work. SuSE does that. I won't be changing my laptop distro any time soon, and I'll probably put SuSE on other desktop machines.

There's a difference though, between machines I want to setup Linux on, and have it "just work", and machines I want to make jump through more hoops. Specifically, servers, which need to be very minimal and secure, and my primary desktop machine, which needs to run every possible piece of software under the sun. So, when Quake munged my RedHat installation, I decided to check out Gentoo. I had read up on it in the past, and thought it would be good for a server, where you don't need to mess with X configurations, mouse settings, and all those little nit-picky things you'd want your distrobution installer to auto-detect. It's "compile everything, all options possible" attitude seems great for servers, but daunting for a desktop installtion. But, for kicks, I decided to try it out on my desktop. After all, I do more tweaking to it than really any other machine I administrate.

The installation took longer than any other Linux installation I have done in recent years. I was starting to get really frustrated at about 11:00pm when it was STILL compiling gnome, and I was even more frustrated that is was compiling it at all, instead of using the pre-built packages. Then I remembered I had forgotten the --usepkg argument to the emerge command. (emerge is Gentoo's package management tool, part of the "Portage" system.) I stopped the gnome compilation, added --usepkg, and started it back up. In less than 10 minutes, I had gnome. A minute later, I had a pretty xdm screen. Configuration of X was not too bad, but only because I have been unfortunate enough to get to know the configuration file. This morning, after emerging firefox, cups, gimp, evolution, xmms, [LongPlayer], and configuring my sound card, I have a fully functioning desktop system, with all the tools I had under RedHat, and it took a LOT less time to get them all running than it did originally under RedHat. (Mostly because I was compiling things manually then.)

I'm really impressed with Gentoo. It does seem faster, it's definitely easier to manage packages, and while I'm sure a noobie user would have been stumped several times over during the installation, to and old-hand it's actually kind of refreshing. Portage even has descent and quake in it's archives! (Though I've yet to be that brave yet.)

I look forward to getting to know Gentoo even better, and deploying it on more systems, maybe an Opteron server sometime.

Comments:
Steve Kehlet (2004-11-18): Cool, as you articulate quite nicely, Gentoo does make a good fit for when you really just want to get back to the good 'ol days of Linux hacking. So what's the deal with the lead developer leaving, and has it had any impact on the project? Been meaning to look into this.

Erik (2004-11-18): Actually, I don't know. I haven't been following the politics, but I did read the main developer's story of the begining of Gentoo, so if he left, I suppose it'd be a good idea to see why!

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