Gentoo Linux

In addition to endless customization possibilities and performance improvements, Gentoo offers solid documentation and a strong community support base.
Good Points, Bad Points

The first item I should address is what I would think is a perceived "bad point" about a 24-hour system setup time. Although some may consider this compile time to be excessive, this is not 24 working hours. All together, I spent about three hours in front of the machine, and most of this was spent watching Portage do its thing.

The second thing I want to address about the time is my case is an extreme that, if you choose to use the Gentoo system, you don't have to go to. Only if you want to bootstrap your system and compile everything from the ground up are you required to go through these steps. You can, and many people choose to, install from the Stage 2 or Stage 3 tarballs, which have many packages precompiled using standard directives. In using the compiler directives that I chose for my processor, I have noticed a speed improvement by what I would estimate to be about 10% to 15%. My main reason for choosing the Stage 1 tarball was to become intimately familiar with building the Gentoo system from the ground up. Additionally, the Gentoo group does provide ISO images with software precompiled using compiler directives for specific branches of processor families (for example, Athlon/Duron, Pentium 4, Athlon-XP). These offer the optimization without the hassle of the wait of compiling.

A huge plus that has kept me with the Gentoo system is the ease with which I can add packages to, remove packages from and update packages installed on my system. Essentially, all of these are accomplished using the emerge command. For example, to install OpenOffice on my machine, I dropped into a shell and typed emerge openoffice. After a two-hour optimized compilation period, OpenOffice was available to me and my users (my wife). When a security patch was offered for OpenSSL, in order to update it and my entire system, I merely typed emerge -u world. All the packages I had installed on my system that had updates available then were updated.

Another huge plus that I have found has little to do with the Gentoo distribution itself but the support community and the Gentoo Web site. Gentoo's documentation is surprisingly commercial-grade, even more so than some documentation for the commercial distributions. The Gentoo group's reliance on XML and CSS for its Web site gives it a uniform look, feel and implementation. It's clean, robust and functionally usable.

As far as support is concerned, any question that I have asked has been answered within minutes of posting it to the mailing list. Generally speaking, the users I have encountered have been warm to newcomers, and they appear to be interested in cultivating a large base of users for this product. It's rare in the technical community to find seasoned users who are as adept at answering the questions of newcomers such as myself as they are at helping other seasoned users solve technical problems.

Last, but not least, an operating system with no application support is not a good thing. With Gentoo, there are no worries. The Gentoo community has produced more than 4,000 applications in the Portage/ebuild format (from completely free software such as Ximian's Evolution to proprietary software such as VMware), and the library keeps on growing. And if you can't find an ebuild for a particular product, you always can download the source and install it as you would on any of the other Linux distributions.

Gentoo Linux offers an option for the user who wants an easily and highly customizable system that also can be kept up to date with ease. If this is you, I highly recommend looking at this metadistribution.

Sean Bossinger manages the University Technology Services Support Center at Florida International University. In his copious free time, he enjoys playing in the park with his wife, Tracy, and two rambunctious sons, Donovan and Logan.

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Gentoo and I Just Broke Up

Dohn Joe's picture

Gentoo/Sorcerer/Debian

Anonymous's picture

Hi,

I'm currently weighing up which Linux distro I'm going to go with. I've been using Linux for a number of years, starting with Redhat and moving to Debian. I'm currently using Mandrake 10.1 but not really liking it. I am trying to decide if I should go back to Debian or give Gentoo or Sorcerer a try. I'm on unlimited dialup, so I'd like to be able to do updates overnight. Please help me choose!!

Rob

On the other hand...

CyberGlitch's picture

Gentoo involves a LOT of downloading, in other words: dialup and Gentoo are a bad mix. Unless you are incredibly patient, a different distro would probably be a better choice, but hey! If you are up to the challenge, go for it!

RE: Gentoo/Sorcerer/Debian

q-parser's picture

I'd suggest you using Gentoo. This widely spreading distro has much to offer to its users. Having read the article above might have given you some idea what's all about. If you choose for Gentoo, you'll get fully customizable system with loads of features. What I consider to be the greatest advantage ot it is that going through all the installing process give you insight of what is actually going on in linux and how it works. So in short, go for Gentoo!

q-parser, Slovakia

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

I've used Sorcerer Linux since more than a year. And I installed Gentoo on my machine (on another partition) and get realized about some advantages when using Sorcerer rather than Gentoo:
1. In Sorcerer when you update a package (called a Spell in Sorcerer), you don't have to download the whole source of the package; but you can download (leech) the xdelta file which is like a patch that's applied on a compressed file.
So imagine that in Sorcerer you can download about 4 MB to update Linux kernel, but in Gentoo it's not the case since you need to download the kernel source.
2. Sorcerer has heal command which checks for any corrupted installed package and fixes it when you have enabled Spells Archive, or just recompile it and install it (recast). And that's not the case in Gentoo, since you don't have heal-like command.

I admit that Gentoo site is more organized than Sorcerer's, but the distro Gentoo is less robust than Sorcerer.

Sorcer Linux "Heal" Command

MetaPhaze's picture

I suggest you do a little more research before posting...

Gentoo Linux has a "heal-like" command... *laughs uncontrollably* but I still can't believe people would use an operating system that treated them like a bunch of monkeys playing video games... *laughs again*

Gentoo Linux comes complete with the Portage Package Distribution system and the Gentoo Tool Kit (gentoolkit).

Once you install gentoolkit, which takes less than 10 seconds usually... you have a command called revdep-rebuild... which will scan your system for broken packages at any time and re-compile and install them for you... it will even go as far as letting you reinstall packages that use a specific library.

Sorcerer *laughs* sounds like a kids toy i'd buy my 10 year olds.

Sorcer Linux "Heal" Command

Anonymous's picture

MetaPhaze, you do realize that you are replying to a post that is 5 years old (at the time you replied), 6 years old at time of my reply. What is now available in Gentoo was not always there. Maybe Gentoo borrowed the idea from Sorcerer ;-)

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

1. This requires you have the older package available and that it is sane. It is safer to download the new paqckage and an MD5 checksum instead. Gentoo does use patches where applicable, E.G. for patched kernel sources.

2. If a package successfully compiles it will generally work. For installed packages there are tools to solve many traditional problems such as missing libraries etc.; the equivilent of recasting a spell would be simply remerging an ebuild and there are similar heal commands to find damaged packages.

Portage is undoubtably one of Gentoo's strongest points and the reason I, and many others, find using it a pleasure...

euphor][a

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

I am not sure what sorts of problems "heal" fixes but maybe revdb-rebuild (part of gentoolkit) is similar?

revdep-rebuild looks for binaries with broken .so dependencies and rebuilds the packages that own such binaries.

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

You are wrong you can give portgae the command --buildpkg and it will build a .tgz with the compiled program for you to reinstall using the -K option ;)

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

what I'm talking about was a command called heal, which checks for any errors in the system and fixes it.
BTW, Sorcerer Linux is built for sysadmins -while it's easy to install/use by a newbie-, but imagine that every sysadmin needs to follow every package he installed and see wether it's corrupted or not -which is the case in Gentoo since you need to do that manually-. This is not the case in Sorcerer since you have an option to run that heal command manually or automatically after you install any related package.

Sorcer Linux "Heal" Command

MetaPhaze's picture

heh, revdep-rebuild does the same thing as "heal"
the exact same thing... Gentoo is easy to install by a newbie... people just think too hard and make things more complicated than they really are... if you follow the instructions on the Gentoo site, you have no excuse as to why you couldn't install it... other than not knowing what hardware you have... which can usually be solved by using genkernel... which will build you a kernel that will work for your system automatically...

Real admins don't work that

Anonymous's picture

Real admins don't work that hard. That's what newbie admins who haven't figured out how things work do it. Real admins let the machines do as much of the work as possible because they understand: that's what they're for.

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

Gentoo performs MD5 checksums when you download a package. That alone will cut out 99% of corrupt packages (to be honest, I have yet to have a package come down from a server corrupt, so I don't know how it handles it.)

Past that, it also performs a checksum check when you install the program (so if you download the package onto one machine for later use on that, or any other, machine, you have a check there as well).

So you do not need to manually check packages for corruption -- it would be such a rare event that you could relegate it to special handling.

That being said, I do agree that heal is a nice idea nonetheless :-).

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

It seems that people are missing the initial poster's [hidden] point about heal, which is to fix packages that have already been installed and have gone bad some time *after* installation. It's not a common occurrance, but when it happens, it's a b***h to find and fix without automated tools.

Sorcer Linux "Heal" Command

MetaPhaze (anonymous)'s picture

with revdep-rebuild.. it is not hard to find and fix... at all... you are missing the point for sure...
revdep-rebuild is just like heal.. it does the same thing.

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

Using qpkg from gentoolkit u can perform a check on the status of an installed package. Each file in a package has its md5 sums and mtimes recorded, and those can be checked with 'qpkg -c '. A list of packages to loop over can be achieved with 'qpkg -nc -I', so in short:
for x in `qpkg -nc -I`; do qpkg -nc -c $x; done
, will do the trick of identifying which packages has got some files that have been tampered with... this only holds if the package db isnt corrupted as well...

I don't know if this is what was asked for?

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

"Generally speaking, the users I have encountered have been warm to newcomers, and they appear to be interested in cultivating a large base of users for this product. It's rare in the technical community to find seasoned users who are as adept at answering the questions of newcomers such as myself as they are at helping other seasoned users solve technical problems."That's a big point as to why I enjoy Gentoo so much, but I don't think we're cutivating a large base of users, we're just enjoying it so much, that we're happy to help others as they've helped us. I've used 5 distros, each for more than 6 months each, and I've never had such a positive experience with support in the forums/irc/mailing lists. As far as the optimizing thing, I'm sure it's not a huge difference, but who cares, it's a little more customized, but you have full control, which forces you to learn more. Lastly, I *LOVE* how I don't have to reinstall every 6 months when a new distro version comes out, I was really getting sick of that. Now it's a command like: emerge -uD world to bring myself up to the current stable (or unstable if I choose) version of Gentoo. It's all that I've ever wanted.P

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

Gentoo isn't the only distro you don't have to reinstall. Debian has apt-get update ; apt-get dist-upgrade and then you get everything that's new since last time. I haven't reinstalled for years.

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

You post seems to imply some familiarity with Gentoo. So a question: I am stuck behind a dial-up modem. Can I realistically hope to do emerge processes overnight on a regulary basis? Are these done as patches? Or do source packages always come in an entire ball?

Thanks

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

I'm not the parent to your post but I do use Gentoo. There are people who use Gentoo with no problems on a dial-up connection, I'm not one of them though. What seems a popular solution is to use the -f switch when upgrading to download the sources first. That way you can disconnect and later perform the actual upgrade using the downloaded source packages. Unfortunately Gentoo currently downloads the entire tarball for each package instead of just a patch from a previously install version. This has it's good and bad points though, but you will often have to download some pretty large source tarballs which maybe a burden for a user on dialup.

I've run gentoo for a few yea

FireCat's picture

I've run gentoo for a few years now, and have found that even on broadband it's a good idea to use the -f switch and download the sources first. The reason is that any broadband glitches won't affect your upgrade once they are downloaded. Even though these disruptions are minimal, it can prevent a few choice words when the car hits the telephone pole on the corner.

Re: Gentoo Linux

Anonymous's picture

After 2 years using Mandrake (a good distribution), I decided to try Gentoo. It took me a while to get some things working (like direct rendering on my video card), BUT I am EXTREMELY happy with the results. Not only do I have a system optimized for my hardware, but I know exactly what is on it and why it's there. With RH, SuSe, Mandrake, all kinds of stuff gets installed by default (yes, I know you could deselect all packages and then create a custom list of your own). I like the idea of start with a blank but optimized slate and adding just what you want.

Gentoo rocks! And the Gentoo forums can't be beat.

Re: emerge -u

Anonymous's picture

> in order to update it and my entire system,
>I merely typed emerge -u world. All the packages
> I had installed on my system that had updates available
>then were updated.

It is important to note that emerge -u only searches for updates on packages you've specified on the command line - ie, if you emerge kde, and it pulls in mplayer as a dependency, "emerge -u" won't find updates for mplayer. you need "emerge -uD" ( or --update --deep ), which checks all packages.

is there any good reviews of

Buzz Lightyear's picture

is there any good reviews of linux os anywhere?

Re: emerge -u

Anonymous's picture

[ emerge -u world ] updates every package you have installed on your system that needs an update remember to emerge sync before so it can get all the latest updates.
gentoo has 2 ways to install the standard and the ARCH="" way which installs unstables / stuff that just came out... 2.6.1 came out 2 hours ago and theres allready an ebuild :)

Re: Gentoo Linux - Thinks it's good? Try Source Mage !

Anonymous's picture

Source Mage is *FAR* easier to install & use. with the same benefits.

Gentoo developers seem to always choose the hard way to do things in the install process.

Re: Gentoo Linux - Thinks it's good? Try Source Mage !

Anonymous's picture

The install isn't hard in any way, it's just timeconsuming, and i really really doubt you get a fully optimized system with Source Mage, to get that, you need all that compilation time that gentoo consumes :p.

Re: Gentoo Linux - Thinks it's good? Try Source Mage !

Anonymous's picture

Did you try Sorcerer Linux?

Re: Gentoo Linux - Thinks it's good? Try Source Mage !

Anonymous's picture

Does it allow me to pin an older version if I want?
Essential in server machines.

How many packages does it provide?
If the info I gathered from the site is even nearly correct then Gentoo has about three times the amount of packages than Sorcerer.

Does they have Bugzilla set up?
I didn't see that, but I only looked the site fast. (It's a mess)

Gentoos strength is it's community and the users.

Anonymous's picture

Thats the truth, with gentoo they have a strong community, forums, documentation and thier chief architect actually understands the open source model. Unlike (ahem) a few other distros. (redhat)

Personally I am a network administrator and I used to have to go out and download and compile and install all kinds of nice open-source programs on redhat-like distros. With gentoo I have not found any that werent in portage, although i might in the future.

Re: Gentoo Linux - Thinks it's good? Try Source Mage !

Anonymous's picture

I went to the source mage website and it pretty much sucks when compared to gentoo's. I found dead links and I could not find any install docs to read ahead of time.
I think the whole Gentoo community is part of the popularity and the distro itself is getting better and better all the time.
There is no reason for me to even try source mage.
The Gentoo install is not that difficult, I had a newbie at work do it and he got it right the first time.

Re: Gentoo Linux - Thinks it's good? Try Source Mage !

Anonymous's picture

Although I'm not going to claim that sourcemage.org has a great web site, the dead links were caused by a problem with ibiblio, not sourcemage. The problem appears to be fixed, and I have no problem accessing the web site.

I've used gentoo extensively, and am currently using sourcemage. I've also used freebsd a lot. I find sourcemage to be comparable in quality to gentoo, and much easier to install.

In other words, if you're already using gentoo, there's not much reason to switch; but if you haven't installed gentoo or sourcemage, and especially if you're put off by gentoo's tedious installation process, sourcemage is a good choice.

Adam

Not that tedious

Anonymous's picture

What is tedious about it ? It takes me about 10 minutes to make a bash script for the install then after that is done I come back and compile the kernel, install grub and edit a few config files.

Well, Gentoo's install

Anonymous's picture

Well, Gentoo's install process _is_ very tedious, and infact somewhat irrelevant since such things (as you said) can be put into a script. There is no good reason for the long hauled install process, the excuse that it helps people learn more about linux is quite false, and the fact the rebuild is done at the same time is also irrelevant as it can be done after the first booting into the new system...
bottom line; Gentoo sucks, long live Source Mage! ;)

It's not that tedious

Anonymous's picture

I never found the process tedious (but then I always use Links to browse the web whilst waiting for a build to finish), it's basically just a list of "type this, and then this and then this, then configure that file, then type that...", the install could definitely be wrapped in a bash script, but it isn't exactly difficult. Also, I did find having to work with the command prompt the whole time very helpful, as someone who came from DOS and Windows without prior UNIX experience (with the exception of a brief use of Mandrake which I didn't like and was slow) I had never realised just how powerful a command line could be compared to the crap that is a DOS box [I didn't learn this with Mandrake because it booted into an overbranded GUI immediately and I would have likely avoided terminals like the plague].

Re: Gentoo Linux - Thinks it's good? Try Source Mage !

Stalione's picture

I suggest the following sequence for updating :
emerge sync
I like to see what the updates are and what USE flags are being used:


emerge -pvD world
emerge -uD world

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