Gentoo for All the Unusual Reasons

You might think of Gentoo as a bleeding-edge distribution for development workstations, but the simple packaging system can make it a good choice for any production system that needs to stay up to date.

-- Andrew Frederick Cowie Operational Dynamics Consulting Pty Ltd


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Wait, you may like it, but is really REALLY not for everyone.

stop's picture

I agree. Not all distros are for everybody. I use the easy-to-use kubuntu, But why the F·ck the robotics teacher want us to use Gentoo? Nobody in the industry will change to linux when we go there to work. Why so elitist?

Im not saying that there no are people might find it usefull. Even if the teacher had a reasonable point to use it I wouldnt complain. But no, he has zero reasons other than "you will be more "smart" that the other ones in the industry". All the packages for the class are fully compatible with ubuntu, indeed, some are not compatible with Gentoo (well, they are, but it takes too F@cking much to make it so).

The worst thing is that we didn´t get linux classes before, because in the college program there is no f@cking linux teaching, not even in robotics class. But the first homework in robotics is to install Gentoo on minimal in OUR LAPTOPS!.... if I pass this class I will go to the teacher and say "f@ck you and your stupid gentoo and your stupid Phd that you make in Japan (yeah, he has a damn Phd in robotics from Japan, what is he doing now? Teaches in a crappy college, I think he wasnt that good at all ha?. Is not a crappy college is a crappy robotics team... I bet he was the last one of his class).

And the lucky ones that passed his class (maybe there were some "favors", because the homeworks are only tons and tons of papers to read and not touching the damn robots or computers, very very little programming.... ) are some stupid arrogant pieces of students that feel that they are the f@cking sh!t because they installed Gentoo, now us, the ones that are still using Kubuntu are the noobs and we should be punished with more homework. Gentoo is not for men, is for programming engineers and nothing more. There is no other thing to celebrate, if you want to get elitist too, pull a 360 double flip body varial on a skateboard, I can do it (and maybe no one else) and is not that great.

Gentoo it takes too damn much for a damn operative system to install, you can say "use the guides", the f@cking guides are too long, sometimes incomprehensible and techincal for an OS. Not even Red Hat in 98 took that long to install, and back in the day the computers had very very very low RAM and CPU capacity. For a mechatronics engineer is useless, indeed for everyone else. Just programming engineers will find it usefull if they hate windows and love and marry linux, they have children Tuxs and find a way to support their linux familly programming for a company without touching windows. Yes, I do think that windows sucks big time, but no company will change to linux because you use it. Also the mankind will die and we will erase the forests, as you see. There is no happy ending, there is no fairy. We are doomed and money beats all sadly.

Arch Linux

Seth Paxton's picture

Gentoo is a great disto. I was running Gentoo as my primary OS until I discovered Arch Linux. Arch is very comparable in speed and its not a source-based distro. I highly recommend it.

I'm a Gentoo addict.. that's right addict

MetaPhaze's picture

I Love Gentoo.
I can get the help I need on the wiki, the forums, and if all else fails the gentoo irc channel is booming with people, usually hundreds more than the other distro's irc channels.
I spend lots of time helping people with any distribution of GNU/Linux...
One thing I've noticed about the Gentoo community in general is their commitment to the whole GNU/Linux community, not just Gentoo... Most of the Gentoo users that I know will go out of their way to aid Debian, Slackware, Ubuntu, or any other distributions users.

Not so anywhere else I've been.

I've been using Linux since 1994, and have tried many distributions, many of them I plain didn't like and usually ended up going back to slackware, and building anything that I wanted to install from source and finding my own dependencies and building them as well.

Then my friend introduced me to this awesome, fast, flexible, completely configurable distribution called Gentoo, and I haven't been able to stick with another distribution since.

Initial install went ok, I followed the instructions from the installation howto on the Gentoo page and took my time and re-read and re-read and made sure I had every step perfect... Like a child who gets a new transformer and can't wait to know every little detail, I dove into my first install.

It built perfectly the first time but when it was all done and over with I just had to do it again and again and again. I must have gone through that installation guide about 45 times before I knew it by heart and could even recite it.

Now I help many people convert from Windoze to GNU/Linux and try to make the conversion go as smooth as possible and I even configure many of their games and applications that need wine to run for them, just to make their transition painless and show that Linux is a very capable OS choice.

I've beheaded many windoze boxes now and many of the people that I install gentoo for have asked me to remove their windows partition and give them back their wasted space.

I will help any user of linux despite distribution choice, we are all on the same team, despite our level of technical expertise, or desire for performance. I see every linux user as an equal, that just needs training. With all the fear and ignorance that windoze helps create it doesn't surprise me that people fear the words Operating System.

I've installed many remote Gentoo boxes and I myself keep them updated for the people that I've installed for until they feel comfortable running their own boxes.
I have to say that I don't understand why people think Gentoo is hard... It's really not and it is definitely a distro worth your time and consideration, for gaming, science, production, or just putzing around.

I use Gentoo for all of those things and I run 15 boxes myself just here at my house... I have my grandmother and grandfather, my girlfriend, my girlfriends mother, and many of my friends all running Gentoo, if they can do it so can you.

None of them want to go back to windows, and many weren't happy with the other distrtributions that I had them try.

If you ever need help with any distro, or just want to drop by and talk linux, computers, electronics, or anything else, drop by #mystrix on and look me up.


linux configurability

Anonymous's picture

Gentoo.. I have used it before and it seems pretty good. I think what confuses people is that tools are tools, and every job has tools that are most appropriate to finish that job.

I am not a linux wizard, so I don't do Linux from scratch and wouldn't attempt to rebuild a debian box. So if I wanted a size-optimised system for a usb-bootable or cf card, I would use gentoo to build it. Its neat having some of the bsd-style source building concepts.

I had a 3 or so month foray into the bsd world, trying obsd, fbsd, and pcbsd. I don't like kde, so the more linux-oriented desktops such as gnome didn't place as nice as on linux if I remember correctly. But one thing I did get was choice. I have an older savage card, and had no problem building XFree instead of Xorg on FreeBSD 6. Ask a free software zealot how to do that and you will get lynched.

So under certain graphics modes my card was unusable with Xorg, on bsd or linux. FreeBSD gave me the choice from the point of installation. I really appreciated the architecture of the system. Everything did what it was supposed to and the documentation was great. However I still wanted the linux xterm functionality, bash, and yes, better ootb support for my devices and peripherals. In particular my mp3 player (UMS-accessable from linux) didn't play nice with FBSD (yes other UMS devices worked). Also I don't want to use a linux binary compatibility layer for flash, etc. In future I may, but I am running with too little resources right now for that.

So I moved my system over to ubuntu. That doesn't mean bsd sucks or gentoo is for losers, but that for what I want this pc to do ubuntu seemed to be the shortest path to get there.

So my point is there are pros and cons to all software. Gentoo is interesting, and anyone who says you don't learn anything using it is overstating their case. If you don't need qt, why compile it in? These kinds of choices aren't going to make you a good sysadmin, but for certain purposes they may be the right thing to do. I have yet to look into whether portage facilitates the substitution of xfree for xorg.

Its like religion. Certain distros will have a "right way," gentoo may have a "right direction" and in linux from scratch anyway is the way. (You can go "anywhere" on any distro but that doesn't mean it was designed to facilitate that.) As a newbie, the further you stray from the beaten path (think orthodox) you will break your system. If you can fix it you may learn something. But to continue the metaphor, the two people who will not learn anything are:

1. The mindless moron who fumbles down the road of digital orthodoxy, letting his system make the choices.
2. The mindless moron who chooses open country and falls off a cliff or drowns in the swamp.

So to sum it up, distros like gentoo will not make you smart and the debian camp will not make you dumb, nor vice versa. If you are often waiting 2 minutes for an unresponsive application in gnome on a pentium I with 64MB ram, thats dumb. If you are re-emerging world for the 3rd time this week to see if you get better performance with a new USE flag on a home network samba server (and you aren't doing it for fun) that is equally dumb.

To be fair, you can run a really tight debian system and not sacrifice any speed. But you may have reasons to build a system with certain things out that distros include by default. And just as valid is the point that we need not cause ourselves unnecessary pain. When asked why he was banging his head against the wall, the admin replied, "Because it feels so good when I stop!"

Debian vs LFS vs Gentoo

chris w's picture

I have used Debian since bo 1.3.1 (currently running etch 4.0) and I can honestly say it can be very slow. But that is not a bad thing. Linux was and still is designed to run on a 386 processor. Debian has stuck with the o.g. model. Debian also pioneered the strictly GNU/open source distribution that paved the way for distro's like gentoo. However one thing that Debian (and other distros) have not held high is the ability to custom compile and custom configure sources from the package management system. Although it is possible to compile source to .deb packages; it is somewhat difficult to find out how (the process for building private version-bumps isn't much more complicated than gentoo's though).

Another issue with Debian is that a lot of the tools (like vi) are compiled to work on every conceivable terminal; making it difficult to use some apps on any terminal. Again, Debian is sticking to the principals of GNU/Linux, good, at least some disto is.

At the other end of the spectrum is "Linux From Scratch" (LFS). LFS is basically a hand-holding-custom-compile-every-single-detail-guide. It is probably the fastest distro out there. However I found LFS 6.2 to be problematic because of issues with the new Freetype structure and the inclusion of gcc 4.0.x. Those two inclusions made it very difficult to build a complete system because at that time very few upstream developers were coding against those packages.

LFS doesn't have its own package management system. (can you see where i'm going with all of this?) Enter Gentoo. The middle of the road. Give me my source and let me compile it too. And I want it integrated with my package management system. Gentoo obviously fills a void; an important void of integration of source with system.

I have never used Gentoo but always wanted to try it. Thanks for the enlightening article.

Gentoo is a joke

Anon's picture

Gentoo/Linux is just a dilettante BSD, but instead of choosing pkgsrc they've put up a mechanism written in Bash and Python that is nonetheless SLOW no matter how much optimization you configure. In Debian it's possible to build from sources, I myself use FreeBSD, NetBSD & Debian on the same machine and many of the sources are shared between them all.

There was a time when installing Gentoo was a "fun" thing to do, but starting with 2006.0 they choose to provide GRP only by using the buggy Dialog/GTK installer that may kill your partition table. Until 2005.1, GRP's were individual tarballs and now they seem to "exist" virtually in the Live-CD. There's no way to install KDE from GRP even when KDE binaries exist in 2006.1. Oh, and there's no UFS modules on the LiveCD at all and no recognition of BSD disk labels. There's something obviously wrong. It should be easier to setup an usable system in short time and make improvements and recompile everything from it.

It seems to me if you are

Anon's picture

It seems to me if you are hung up on having the GRP option in gentoo you should switch distros. I have *never* used the GTK/GUI installer and I *never* will because I dont have to. I can setup a Gentoo System start to finish in about a day (Opteron or Core2 Duo Type System) I dont need a Gentoo Reference Platform as I just build a base system and add what I want. also instead of building something like openoffice which takes hours and hours you can always emerge the binary package openoffice-bin in a matter of seconds. As for the UFS modules, I am not sure if the new 2007.1 live CD includes them, but you can always make a custom livecd by using the standard livecd and replacing the kernel with one that includes the modules. Doesn't seem like gentoo is the joke but you are for not being able to work through a couple of mild quirks. Have fun with BSD... we wont miss you

gentoo rocks, i installed it

Anonymous's picture

gentoo rocks, i installed it on ancient laptops, new machines

and it outperforms any other linux distro i've ever used...

documentation is better, support is better, forums are better...

...sure there are some bugs, but i can dig into other distros and point on other things...

every distro has bugs, unless you want to use stable releases of debian which are outdated...

...with gentoo you actually know how to solve them, you understand your system better, and this holds for average user of gentoo - if there are any doubts compare gentoo forums with any other distro (except distros like slackware).

Quotes like "gentoo is a joke" are jealous emotional outbursts,
i will never say something like this about any top distro, even Ubuntu or Suse no matter how many bad experiences i had with them...

..fact is - even with this so called "difficult" installation, gentoo is growing, and apparently it will continue growing...

Future Article

Anonymous's picture

Would like to see a future article discussing building binaries and distributing through portage.


Anonymous's picture

I use gentoo.


Because if you tell a gentoo user you use debain they don't declare your death.

Try telling your standard debian user are your local linux user group that you use gentoo, and chance has it he will disregard you ad an idiot.

The gentoo community as a whole is great, the forums are full of howtos and great people and even some crapy people, the docuemtnation covers just about anything anyone could want to do, and if it does not the forums do.

Gentoo runs on all the archs I own, a gentoo install can be under 50 mb if need be, I can have X11 or no X11, ratpoison or KDE. xorg, xfree or xdirectfb.

Updating configuration files with dispatch-conf is perfect, it does so without wiping out my configs, while not wasting to much of my time.

It will do whatever I want and I have not yet come accross somthing it will not do.

Gentoo takes time, but not as much as people would have you belive, I can setup a debian system in 15 minutes, the count for gentoo (stage3 with binary packages) is about 20 minutes, and its alredy more of a system that I would like to be using.

I normaly install as many binarys as possible, and make the system work, and test it, then if I need to optimise somthing like mplayer or xorg I recompile them.

Some systems its worth it to have the whole system compiled with smaller binarys etc, there are many reasons.

Also with gentoo I can install a package that supports GTK but does not need GTK without GTK, under debian, its compiled with GTK so I am forced to have GTK, you might say "well GTK is small" maybe, but all the libs in existance are not quite as small, and honestly why waste space (cache and memory) with bloated binarys if you don't use the features?

I thought unix was about small binarys working together? But I guess thats another debate.

Gentoo is the most unix of all the distros, bsds withheld.

Gentoo and 64bit

Doc's picture

Can anyone say love at first compilation....? I recently built a 64bit computer to run as a server and as a fairly powerful workstation for some engineering applications in fluids. Who supported 64 bit first? Gentoo and I guarantee I had the fastest runtimes the soonest compared to my other colleagues who were still using a 32 bit cored OS. Yes, Gentoo is complicated and very technical to run. Hey, it took me three builds to get it right but I now have a computer that is more stable and much faster than any i386 machine I have ever run.

These guy are onto something with build from source. Granted you could build from source with any Open Source OS but this is native. Having a 64 bit native machine has made my work much easier and much more productive than without. And Windoze well its only use is gaming..LOL!

Live long and run Gentoo!

Mechanical Engineer Guy

Of crazies, morons and bleeding edges...

D. Medina's picture

What is the point in attacking individuals for being individuals? We are fortunate that Linux provides opportunities for many types of users and will accomodate different needs as opposed to Windoze which attempts to force all of us to accept the MicroSloth way. Be grateful that our needs are being met and lets eliminate the name calling. We have a common bond - the wish to see our favorite operating system succeed and flourish in a hostile environment created by MicroSloth's policy of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Some of us want the Millenium Falcon - fastest in the galaxy but finicky as all get out... and others want the relative stability of the USS Enterprise. What of it? Linux let's us have it all. Don't sneer at the newbie who has no idea what a distro is! One of the greatest strengths of the Linux community has always been the willingness to reach out and help someone pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. No one ever started out knowing it all. I've been playing with Linux since 1994... anyone remember Yggdrasil Linux? I've played with Debian, Gentoo, Knoppix, Libranet, Lindows/Linspire, Mandrake, Mepis, Morphix, Redhat, Slackware, Susse, Ubuntu and many others that I've no doubt forgotten. I'm still not sure which one I want as my "one and only." Since I've got several boxes which I use for different tasks I select the best tool for the job and am grateful that I have the option. Am I a moron because I use Ubuntu? Maybe so... and? What's it to you? Does my using Ubuntu diminish you in some way? On the contrary, I am still one more person able to stand up and say: I use Linux and it really is better than Windoze. I shoehorned DSL Linux on an old IBM Thinkpad 486 with 540 mb Hard Drive, a fujitsu pcmcia NIC and no CD drive so I had to install from multiple floppies and bootstrap a network hook up for the rest. Does that diminish you? Not if you have a need to do the same and can count on giving me a call for help. Old adage: United we stand... divided we fall - please stop the name calling. Where else can you have so much fun playing with so many different toys for so little money (Speaking of which... if you enjoy your distro of choice... drop a few bucks in the donation box and let them know about it) Thanks to the author for trying to present a balanced view of Gentoo. Thanks to extended Linux community for all the enthusiasm... and the willingness to lend a hand.

"We are fortunate that Linux

Anonymous's picture

"We are fortunate that Linux provides opportunities for many types of users and will accomodate different needs as opposed to Windoze which attempts to force all of us to accept the MicroSloth way. Be grateful that our needs are being met and lets eliminate the name calling."



Anonymous's picture

I think this is missing the fact that gentoo does have precompiled packages...

Its not about optimizations... But it can be if you like.

You can use gentoo to build any system you want...

Its fair to not like gentoo, but to constantly show contempt for people who use it is just insane... Give us a break eh?

Most guys i talk to start out "blah blah source this that" but then i explain my reasons and they shut up about it.

Really. Distro choice is personal choice, what the user/admin makes out of it is somthing else.

Source based distros and the way as a whole is sucks.

Anonymous's picture

It's for those, who got the time. Lot of time. And a lot of system resources. And don't forget about traffic. You'll need much more of it, if you choose source based system.

Debian is only one solution in linux world for those, who know real price for such thing as time (and resources managment).

All others stays with gentoo and a deep feeling, that they doing something important by changing their USE flags and let their boxes do the distributor's job.

RE: Source based distros and the way as a whole is sucks.

Daniel's picture

It's for those, who got the time. Lot of time. And a lot of system resources. And don't forget about traffic. You'll need much more of it, if you choose source based system.

Not true, I build a whole system in 2 and a half hours with Gentoo in an athlon xp 1.7, while my pentium 100 with 32MB of RAM runs Gentoo as a PHP, MySQL server and keeps compiling while serving all my webpages. You can build a whole system without network connection with a couple of CDs. You said it all, you choose, even if you want a binary distro, Gentoo is for you.

Debian is only one solution in linux world for those, who know real price for such thing as time (and resources managment).

You can work as you compile, if you don't know that you can talk about Linux. Time and resources can be managed in Gentoo with far more power than any distro, you CHOOSE, every little detail, nothing is imposed, so, you don't know what you're talking about here too.

All others stays with gentoo and a deep feeling, that they doing something important by changing their USE flags and let their boxes do the distributor's job.

We are working while you deal with dependencies and slow performance cause if you change your processor for an 486 your system would still run. We compile, while you struggle. We use new features, you buy a Turion and use half of it. We don't care about the "distributor's job", we do it, we get faster, compatible applications.

Gentoo vs. Debian -- My reasoning

M. Edward Borasky's picture

I started out in the Linux world using Red Hat, usually ordered on CDs on the first day of release. When the Red Hat folks made the (I think correct) business decision to separate RHEL and Fedora, I looked around for another distro. After a few days of research, I settled on Debian, bought some Woody CDs and loaded it on my machines. It should be noted that I was dial-up constrained to 24K at the time, so I needed CD ROM distros.

Debian was my choice for a number of reasons, the main one being the size of the repositories. Woody at the time had nearly 9000 packages and Sarge had about 15000! This is *way* more than Fedora. Then I discovered Gentoo.

At the time, Gentoo only had about 4000 packages in their repository. I ran both Debian and Gentoo for a while, depending on the machine, the application, etc. But Gentoo's package repository kept growing, Gentoo's support for Java was better, the Gentoo developers were friendlier, Gentoo's system administration tools were better, Gentoo had more of the packages I needed, the "sarge" release kept slipping, I got broadband and a third computer, I learned more about Linux and Gentoo.

I'm now more or less exclusively Gentoo. I still load Sarge occasionally over the network just to prove I can still do it, I play with CentOS so I can keep my RHEL skills up to date. And I keep Knoppix and Kanotix handy for LiveCDs; Gentoo hasn't yet come up with a competitive LiveCD offering, although I know they **could** if that were one of their priorities. The Gentoo repository now has almost 10000 packages and is still growing. As far as I'm concerned, they have the *best* Java support in the Linux world, and a lot of really great software is written in Java. They have some packages that Debian and Fedora don't. And because they're source-based, it's a lot easier to create packages.

Good article..

outspoken's picture

Hey, thanks for writing about Gentoo in a well thought out fashion. It is appreciated when someone can take the time to learn a distrobution and get involved with it before making their decision and I feel you did just that. Making the points about how a server can compile binary packages in a production environment, making your own ebuilds, etc. Very well done.

I have been a Gentoo user since v1.2 (which is maybe a year ago?). Before that I used SuSE and Slackware, mostly SuSE for about 2 years. Right now I work for an *nix software development company as a SysAdmin and we run FedoraCore3 and SCOUNIX machines. Wow, I have never used such a terrible OS before in my life! =) I would have to say FC3 is slightly better than SCO but only for its package management and being free.

At home my wife and I use Gentoo as desktop distros and I have a local file server/devbox running Gentoo as well (soon to be FreeBSD) - I'm looking forward to the GentooBSD project!

Funny comments. I installed g

Anonymous's picture

Funny comments. I installed gentoo 3 times. It was easy as cooking, just read the recept. I just don't see why some steps aren't at some script.
My problem was... emerge. Soon I've got stuck with the things that all says portage solve... dependencies! That never, ever, happen to me at debian, neither at ubuntu. Just sudo apt-get etc. I don't even remember that things happen when i used Fedora, last year.

My last installation was simple. I emerge fluxbox, icewm and gdm. I liked. Decided to try gnome... it won't compile. Mozilla won't allow, depencencies bla, bla, bla. My other try, 6 month ago, it was mozilla and any mozilla related stuff that can't emerge. And the same for totem or mplayer! It still doesn't emerge those.

Btw. check:

Is a ubuntu poll called: What Linux Distro were you using before Ubuntu? It seems that the major users of ubuntu (a debian based distro) are gentoo users. I wander why? tired of emerge the world :)

My gentoo experiences have be

Anonymous's picture

My gentoo experiences have been much better than your's. The documentation and user base for Gentoo is excellent, whenever I ran into problems with things like Open Office not compiling a quick Google usually fixed it. Aggresive cflags and/or conflicting use flags (hardened is an example) can also cause things to be unstable or not compile. If you're going to go gentoo, at least try and learn how to use it.

All I can remember about ubuntu is that it's debian based, and a quote from a friend of mine: "Ubuntu - Linux for Morons!"

Ubuntu releases on the very s

Anonymous's picture

Ubuntu releases on the very same day that Gnome.

For one reason. Part of the stuff that works on gnome, works on ubuntu too. Since it's linux for morons, is morons shit that those guys are making. But wait. Or those people have a metaphysical duplicity, and gnome is for morons when is on a ubuntu and for elevated ones when on a gentoo, or you and i are morons. My god, I have 6 linux on this machine! And they all have gnome. I'm a moron^6!!! Help!!

Thats what I'm doing. Try it.

Anonymous's picture

Thats what I'm doing. Try it. Or better fight.
I finally emerge totem, but now it can't plays dvd (I tried kaffeine and strangelly it goes ok and plays dvds nice, with USE=gtk gnome -qt -kde)... I'm trying. i'm really impressed because this time i installit from stage1, and turns out to be the fastest distro i ever try. My point was not saying Gentoo was not nice.
My point was saying that emerge was not the Absolute Amazing Thing for ALL and with no pains. It is a myth eternally propagate by gentoo fans.
Its a extremelly nice tool, but some times hard to use, some times danger (to your OS), some times (most of) just smooth as silk...

Ubuntu was the other distro that came close to gentoo, speaking of speed. Slower (a little), but taking in count it was made on pre-compiled binaries, short install times, NO dependencies problems that apt can't solve and everything working out of the box, with the velocity of computers these days minimizing speed differences, i can't imagine a reason for not beeing an alternative. Quoting you, try it a little before speaking. I only mention because there seems to be a lot of users of ubuntu that was gentoo users and decided to make the change. I'm trying to do the other way around... but keeping a realistic perspective.

About the comment of your friend... well seems to be the kind of 'noise' that morons usually do, isn't it? A specilist (not in Linux, in morons i mean :))

Something easier than create new ebuilds on gentoo

sf_alpha's picture

I think it's more than easy version bump by creating new .ebuilds.

Portage can allow user handles it's patch and controlling of building itself by use ebuilds tools (gentoolskit-dev). What other distro package management can does ?

#ebuild unpack xxx.ebuilds

Go patch and modified remaining sources in /var/tmp/portage/xxx/work

#ebuild merge xxx.ebuilds

It easily to grab patch that is not updated on gentoo portage. This compile from what you have patched, You can even configure and compile it your self and let portage merge and record package files for you.

As a 3 years user, I think th

Anonymous's picture

As a 3 years user, I think that Gentoo is really a greath distro if you used (like I was on Slackware) to install from sources. But it also has a few flaws.

- Greath for resolving and installing dependencies, but sucks at removing them when no more needed.
- The ~ KEYWORD is set arbitrarly. For example, I installed GKrellMSS. The latest x86 stable version was buggy, but the next version was ~x86 masked, yet it worked.
- There's no reliable auditing of the ebuilds going into Portage. Of course, not all, but many ebuilds are plainly badly written or gives bad implementations. One example, I update my OpenLDAP setup. At the end of the installation process, there was a message that basically said "if you upgraded from the prior version, your setup is now srewed and you have to rebuild it". Yeah, thanks for telling me AFTER!
- emerge's message and warnings are printed as a per ebuild iteration, not as a whole at the end. So you can't review those messages (like manual steps needed to complete install) at the end of an emerge. Sometime (often) I miss a few and end up troubleshooting because of that.

Well, you get the picture. I could go on, but the positives beats the negatives. Some ebuilds have lots of merits. I gave a shot at a few of them, but clearly, the example given in this review has nothing to do with what is needed to build things like Gnome, OpenOffice, KDE, Xorg, etc. They're available at Gentoo's CVS for reviewing. Looking at them, you'll realise that there are people who worked really hard and well to build those things from sources. kudos.

Oh, and if you don't like it, use something else, but don't bash, come and fix it ;)

If you not use ~x86 keywords,

sf_alpha's picture

If you not use ~x86 keywords, you can add for specific pacakges
add lines like

sys-kernel/gentoo-dev-sources ~x86

into /etc/portage/packages.keyword .... This what you want to do so.


Many gentoo packages has some flaws... Fill the bug if you want it to be good for everyone :-)

This stupid story ....

Anonymous's picture

First of all guys we dont have to forget one thin' ( and are sponsored from which one ? - Microshit .

Secondary who says that Gentoo is hard be installed, show me which one of this "unixes" BSD (all of them are classified as Linux distributions, why ?) is a easy to install, use and maintain, both of them BSDs and Gentoo, SourceMage, Lunar and Sourcerer uses ports like installation systems, oh I forgot Crux and Trin (sorry guys). How one Slackware is better from Gentoo.

Slackware have only bash and ncurses based some kind of installation script, nothing more:

Slackware doesnt have dependencies check and install on demand like the only two distributions Debian and Gentoo.
Slackware doesnt have easy to use package manager like emerge and apt-get.
Slackware doesnt have package database - swaret is it unofficial package manager, some times and maybe more times of my trys with this scrap is to broke the Slackware.

RedHat and all other RPM based distributions, only one of all RPM is excluded, it's name is Conectiva Linux, the guys from Conective start a separate project from their distribution, to make it different, and this project is called apt-rpm (real dependencies check and install/de-install on demand like Debian and Getnoo's emerge.

If the authour of this stupid story (with example for the blufish) wanna have latest packages - please add ACCEPT_KEYWORDS="~x86" and u will be on the edge (like Debian SID)

Secondary, and most important, show me one distribution even and this BSD pseudo "unixes" with larger community and not also this one, with greater help from this community, for any subject even and posts not regarded to Gentoo system. Show me also another distribution, with growing everyday documentation database -

There is no one, from over 10 years I was tried and work on more than 50 distributions, I have 2 years in (bulgarian isp) with slack, before one of my friends to show me the power of Debian. before one year I switch it to Gentoo and never ever I will choose another distribution, Gentoo have everything that Debian doesnt, DEB is binary (386), Gentoo is not. All slackers, rh's, debian users, maybe in your world u're never compiled a package that's not exist in your distro ? there is a one ? NO, no one is pleasent enough with the current distribution, where is the problem than for Gentoo distro, and why u're says no one wanna compile all the source, than dont - goto http::// and take this fork of GEntoo, binary based distribution, but Vida is not Gentoo for me.

That's enough for today, before to read and post in feature here, read some LUG's what and who the hell stays behind some sites.

10x for reading

just fyi

KingPunk's picture

you must not be that informed, considering the plural of unix is unicies.
not "unixes" ;)

Does it even have a plural fo

Anonymous's picture

Does it even have a plural form ?
Unix is an acronym, isn't the plural form just a joke?

unices, that is...

Anonymous's picture

unices, that is...

Well, you could give the guy

Damian's picture

Well, you could give the guy some slack, he did say he was from Bulgaria. As you can see, Mr Punk (such an apt name), you're English and even YOU had problems.

difficulty or ease of installs compared to other distros

rbr28's picture

For those who think Gentoo is more you know that Gentoo can install rpms, just as easily as ebuilds, and as quickly and easily as any other rpm based distro? You can also get pre-compiled binary packages for many large apps. Examples are Mozilla Firefox, OpenOffice, KDE, etc.

Also, for those who prefer rpms and don't see the advantage of Gentoo's portage, let me ask you this. When you install an rpm do you know how it was compiled? Example, if you install the samba rpm, do you know if it was compiled with kerberos support, ldap support, mysql support, acl support, etc. What if you want to install Samba to support active directory integration? Do you know if your rpm can do that? I guarantee you (I know from lots of experience), that in this case and many others you will find that the rpm was built without things you need, or with things you don't need. This makes for bigger binaries, slower apps, less stable apps, and less secure apps.

Typically you will have to compile from source anyway to get things to work properly. This is where Gentoo excels. You would know all those things up front. You configure those options in one place and they apply for everything you ever compile (although they can still be changed easily for specific packages). Gentoo's portage overcomes a huge number of shortcomings of all distributions based on rpm's, and yet this is still just one of it's many strengths.

proprietary binaries

rbr28's picture

How it is handled in Gentoo depends on the binary. If it's an rpm, Gentoo can handle rpms no problem. If it's something else there are possibly other options but it could be an issue. If it's a binary installer that is built specifically for RedHat, obviously it might not install correctly on Gentoo, just as it probably wouldn't install correctly on Suse or many other distros with slight to major differences. I've never run into this sort of problem with Gentoo and I manage many workstations and servers, but on the other hand I wouldn't rule it out as being a potential issue.

Probably a more valid issue is support. Since Gentoo is so dynamic and flexible, you probably aren't going to see to many software companies supporting binary installs on Gentoo. That could reasonably be an issue for many people and it's why many people like to stick with distributions like RedHat, with commercial support.

I can't argue with people who say they use RedHat because of that support. RedHat is to Linux like Windows is to all operating systems. Any commercial software probably has an installer for Windows, and any commercial Linux software probably have an installer for RedHat. On the other hand, as I've said, I've never run into anything for Linux that I couldn't get working on Gentoo, and the vast majority of software has been much easier to install, manage, customize, and keep up to date.

Just a few comments...first o

rbr28's picture

Just a few comments...first of all if Gentoo is configured correctly 99.9% of the problems people mention are irrelevant. Yes, I agree for most people, even those who "think" they know Linux, building a solid Gentoo system is not as easy as building another distribution. On the other hand, people who criticize Gentoo, don't realize that there are many Linux experts who would never consider going back to any other distribution. Just like anything else, it works for some people and not for others. Just because it's not for you, doesn't make it a bad distribution.

Second, the first part of this review says building a system for improved performance over other distributions is difficult. No it's not. If all you do is set -march=i686 in make.conf, you will build a system that is noticeably more responsive than a system where everything is compiled with -mcpu=i386. Yes, in some applications this isn't noticeable, in some it's barely noticeable, but in many the difference is significant. How anyone doesn't see this is beyond me...I really think they are just fooling themselves. When I tried Mandrake a long time ago, I was amazed at how much faster it was than RedHat, and it's basically the same, except that most binaries are compiled for i586.

I have over 10 years of experience using and managing Linux in enterprise environments. I've used over a dozen distributions extensively, and I would never consider going back to any other distribution out there without major changes. I loved Knoppix and still use the Knoppix CD for some things, I thought Debian was very good, Mandrake was pretty nice, don't tell me how great your distribution is..I've probably used it and I'm not saying it sucks. All I'm saying is I know how to take advantage of Gentoo's flexibility and I feel I can build and maintain better (more secure, more stable, faster, and more manageable) systems than I can with any other distribution.

All you naysayers can go on about how inferior Gentoo is, but there are plenty of IT experts who have made the switch to Gentoo and will never go back. Check out something like the gentoo-server archives and you'll see how happy many server admins are with Gentoo.

And one final point...don't you Linux users notice how MS has made such an effort to discredit Linux? Why do you think that is? Now Linux users are doing the same with Gentoo and it's a shame. It's not a threat to other distributions, and no one is forcing other Linux users to switch to Gentoo. Yes, us Gentoo users love our distro and we want to tell the world about it, but that goes for dedicated users of just about any distribution.

Using Gentoo

gcy's picture

I used redhat and mandrake for several years, and have looked briefly at other distributions. It seems to me that that they all end up running the same programs in a similar fashion, differing mainly only in their method of installation.

I note that people criticise Gentoo for taking some time to install; --have they ever considered the time that has to be spent removing unwanted software from, and configuring other distributions?

The base installation of Gentoo does take longer than other distributions, but when the time taken looking for and installing dependencies for those other distributions is taken in to account, it hardly seems to matter when the result is tailored installation that can be easily and regularly updated on a weekly basis for very little time and effort.

I get the impression, when I read and hear so called linux users bragging about the number of distributions they have installed, that they don't actually use their computers and tune them to their use, but spend all their time jumping from one linux version to another.

It's my view, that for anyone wishing to do some serious computing, it's well worth spending some time installing gentoo and tailoring it to their particular use. Indeed, I have become concerned that the various producers of linux systems, in their attempt to pull users away from windows, are taking away the choices that linux offers, and making it more like windows, which decides everything for the user.

I think they are wasting their time, since the people who drive windows, on the whole, don't want to look under the bonnet, in the way that linux users do.

Gentoo updates not always easy

Anonymous's picture

The ease of gentoo updates 'emerge -u whatever' isn't neccesarilly as
easy and trouble free as people tend to imply. For example: last
night I decided to upgrade mozilla. I do this overnight so the
compile time is not an issue. This upgrade also decided to list Xorg
as a dependency and swap out XFree86 for Xorg. I found that strange
since I already upgraded another machine to that version of mozilla
and it didn't swap out my X server. Oh well, must be something new
and I want the mozilla upgrade so I did it.

Now in gentoo you usually use etc-update after an update to merge in
your configuration file changes. There were quite a few this morning
(over 250) because of the X server swap. Still no big deal. I was
able to merge them all in. Now reboot into the new environment and
guess what? No X. Why? Because even though the gentoo builds will
swap out an older piece of software for what it uses now, it does not
transition your configurations correctlly.

This is where I have problems with gentoo. Gentoo is usually pretty
good about providing migration guides (like moving from the 2.4 to
2.6 kernel), but it will occationally sneek in upgrades like this and
not warn you that you will need to reconfigure your system for the
upgrade. In this case, if you don't have a backup OS your hosed
because you can't get on the internet to find out what you need to do.

I agree that the gentoo forums are excellent and will get you through
difficult upgrades. It's just that problems do occur and you have to
be prepared for them. Keep a knoppix disk around for emergencies
and you can still get to the wonderful gentoo forums.

P.S. Any one out there have any comments on the ease of debian
upgrades as a comparison?

If you want to upgrade Mozill

Anonymous's picture

If you want to upgrade Mozilla and Mozilla only, use "emerge mozilla".
This will upgrade (or install if not already installed) mozilla and all the REQUIRED dependencies, i.e. the bare minimum to get it to run. Since mozilla runs perfectly fine on old versions of Xfree that package will stay intact.

"emerge -u" will always update all dependencies to the latest version, regardless if it is needed or not. This is mostly useful to upgrade virtuals like "world" or "system", where upgrading of dependencies is exactly what you want.

they don't sneak anything in.

Anonymous's picture

they don't sneak anything in. do emerge --pretend and it will tell you exactly what it will emerge and in what order.

XFree has been dead for a whi

Anonymous's picture

XFree has been dead for a while, there has been more than a few months notice of the switching to Xorg. Plenty of warning in my book. Also the large warning after emerging Xorg of the conf file change. The syntax is basically the same, and you can use one of the handy-dandy tools provided that do it for you :) btw, links2 is a console internet browser. learn to use an love it, being dependent on a GUI for anything I feel is a bad thing.

Gentoo upgrades do bite even the weary

Anonymous's picture

XFree was just an example. I could just as easily have commented on
Gnome2.8, alsa, minor kernel releases, etc. The point is you wait to
upgrade until it shows up in stable. You may hold off for a bit and
check the forums to see what the gotchas are. You see comments like
yours above saying it's basically the same. There's no problem so you
upgrade and you're screwed because it's not true. You figure it out
eventually and move on. The point is simply that updating isn't always
as simple as we are led to believe. There are times when big,
potentially problematic updates are passed off as trivial.

Where have you been?

Anonymous's picture

I mean realy, XFree has been declared depricated for more than half a year now. Its been obsolete since the release of xorg 6.8 (which also is some month old). The work on Xfree has practically ceased.
They (gentoo) have finally taken the last step and removed xfree from portage entirely, this shouldn't realy have come as a surprise.

I can see where you're coming

Anonymous's picture

I can see where you're coming from, but at the end of the day Gentoo didn't sneak in the upgrade - you decided to risk it!

Portage is a powerful tool and I long since learned that it's a good idea to be wary of major changes. A swap from XFree86 to Xorg is not something I'd expect to happen seamlessly overnight on any distribution. Indeed, were a Windows or MacOS system to undergo such a big change, I'd also be wary.

It's a credit to Gentoo and Linux in general that such things can be done relatively painlessly. However, I do agree with you that Portage can be further improved with user-friendly warnings about big changes and their consequences. Just a *** This is a big upgrade, please check the forums/docs before commencing; enter "I Agree" to continue *** would help. ;-)

As for Debian, you will run into similar dependencies on this and any other Linux system. There's just a lot of free software shared about with inter-dependent components. It's the reason why developers can achieve such a great system but comes not without cost.

I had to back out of using Debian's apt to install MySQL 4 because it wanted to upgrade way too many packages from unstable (I wanted a 'stable' system with the exception of MySQL because it's too stale in stable, but ended up using MySQL's binary tarball).

This is not necessarily a fault or flaw in Debian, but I think you'll find it no better than Gentoo for this kind of thing.

Gentoo? Not today.

Anonymous's picture

Excuse me, all of you guys gentoo fans, but I still don't
see compelling reasons for this distro. Quite opposite:
number of things worries me enough not to touch it.

First. Distro being "easy" and providing "more control"
is sort of mutually exclusive. Windows is "easy", because much of control is hidden and given as some pre-sets, selected for
you by others. If one ACTUALLY needs more control, (s)he has
to get a lot deeper inside the system, and the type of package
management becomes irrelevant at this point.

Second. Upgrading and keeping "up-to-date" has no value of its
own. Unless you are a hardcore developer, or, more likely, tester,
usual cycle of big upgrade once a year plus some minor updates
of mission-critical applications works pretty well.

Third. Sorry, guys, I just don't believe in "auto-magical"
resolution of dependencies. This kind of "magic" depends so
heavily on hardcore testing of anything-to-anything compatibility,
that blind upgrades tend to break something more often than not.
Again, package management system is irrelevant, since its scenarios
are based on testing results.

Fourth and the last - Gentoo guys seem too much concerned about
doing things "different way" just for hell of it. Weird default software sets, weird init scripts, .. allow me not to get deeper
into this, - final result is that after tedious installation and
many gigs of hard drive occupied by sources, the software set
still looks unlike any other unix or linux distro.
Strength of UNIX is that it's allmost the same environment regardless
of flavor, and gentoo seems to drop this big advantage for the
marketing "We are different!" kind of promotion.

have you actually used gentoo?

Evan Frey's picture

The main problem that I see with precompiled binaries is the following:

1) What configuration arguments were used?

If I want X argument to be passed to the config, then what? I suppose that I can download and configure and compile from source, but what is the point of rpms? Ease of install? Speed of install? As far as I know rpm stands for Red Hat Package Manager, which implies that rpms main use is to manage your installed software. If you are compiling from source to add X argument to config a source package, how do you manage updates? I guess that you can keep a list somewhere, but.... (follow the train of thought)

2) When there are security or stability updates, you have to wait for the binary.

But wait! you say, of course waiting is better, then its tested and stable! With gentoo, you can either install stable packages that have been tested OR (unlike rpms) you can install the untested source (yes, yes, I know "But I can install 'untested' source on ANY system" but again, its about MANAGING your software. KNOWING whats installed.

3) When I install a Red Hat distro with NO extra software selected, I get xorg-libs, gnome-vfs, libogg....etc. THAT I DONT NEED!

I have found that rpm dependencies are very odd. I install X software, and Y software (that I dont want or need) is installed as a dependency. This is due to the X software being configured (more often then not) with an uneeded argument. With gentoo, I know EXACTLY whats being installed and more often then not, why.

I could continue (as my gentoo systems are running happily with no need for me to babysit them) but im getting tired. To wrap up, some people will swear by binary distros, and yes if compilation time is a factor then I understand (although portage can create precompiled packages for you based on your specs and compiling them with distcc to speed up compilation time, there really is no excuse). The other benifit is knowing what it takes to move a linux based system. Just the install process (some would call torture) alone will teach you leauges more about a linux system then just clicking next in a GUI installer and will lead you further down the road to be coming a COMPETENT linux admin.

Couple of comments. Your

Amir's picture

Couple of comments. Your first point is purely a personal preference and is thus irrelevant. As for #2, security updates are generally made available very quickly if you follow your distribution's security announcements (either manually, or via some update notification mechanism). Lastly, don't compare an RPM-based distribution to Gentoo, it's not fair. Try comparing Debian with Gentoo. Debian, like Gentoo, allows you to compile from sources with custom configure flags.

Your last paragraph is completely irrelevant. You cannot use distcc to speed up compilation times unless you have a spare computer. You can do parallel compilation, but it's still compilation. Being a Gentoo admin goes not make you a competent Linux admin. I've seen many Gentoo losers who don't know jack about Linux internals.

To sum it up, I use Gentoo, and recently installed it on an amd64 box just because Debian wasn't ready with its amd64 support. What I want is a Debian-inspired distro with Gentoo-like qualities, but one that is not focused on compiling every damn executable from scratch. Give me Debian with larger apt repository and support for select better-optimized packages.

I always compile Linux kernels, Apache, and PHP from scratch anyway. Usually those are the only things I ever need to compile from scratch, since I would be limited by the ebuild maintainer's understanding of the respective packages(s). I hate it when an ebuild's USE flag capability does not reflect the full features of that software.

- Amir

well it's not just Gentoo. T

Fender1212's picture

well it's not just Gentoo. Theres plenty of source-based distros out there. also other unix varients that are source-based is BSD, which the idea of portage came from.


it's me's picture

I don't understand where's teh fuss, if you want to compile everything and go (as gentoo users like to say) *low-level* you should be running linux from scratch.
Comeing from SuSE RedHat or Mandrake, i understand this behaviour, everything seems *low-level* to them, hell watching gcc's output is so low-level for them that they are almost diging beneath their houses.

Ok. Your loss... :P

Anonymous's picture

But to adress your points nonetheless:

1. Windows isn't easy, as you said. In Gentoo, nothing is hidden. It's easy, if you know what you want.

2. There are no version numbers for Gentoo systems. Guess why? There's no need for a "big upgrade" once a year, you can keep your system up to date, or just upgrade the packages you want. You don't *have to* "emerge -Duvat world" all the time.

3. That's what you get by compiling from source... it all fits. Of course it's tested beforehand, and you may have an occasional hickup with testing (~arch) packages, but if it doesn't compile, it won't get into the system.

4. I don't think it's that different. The runlevels have names instead of numbers and sort themselves out, but apart from that, isn't it the same software as on any other distribution?

What about proprietary software?

Martin Jasny's picture

Interesting article, interesting discussion. Allow me a question: what do I do if I use Gentoo and I need some proprietary binary package? For example, I work with Lahey Fortran 95 compiler and I find it excellent. I do not know of any free source equivalent. All I know about is some GNU Fortran 77 compiler. If you have programmed with Fortran 95, you never go back to 77. And the speed and error handling of Lahey F95 IS excellent. What shall I do?

Fortran 95 on Linux

Jim McDonald's picture

Lahey, Intel, and Absoft, among others, offer Linux
versions of their Fortran 95 compilers. As usual,
check with the vendor about supporting a particular
Linux distribution on a particular hardware platform.
They won't give you source code packaged for Debian,
but they may help you get their binaries installed.

A free, open-source Fortran 95 is available at
It is still in beta, but it successfully compiled
some of my Fortran 95 code.

Of course, the FSF will release gfortran, a free
Fortran 95, with gcc 4.0 in two or three months.

A free, open-source Fortran 9

Jim McDonald's picture

A free, open-source Fortran 95 is available at

Also, FSF will soon release another Fortran 95
with gcc 4.0.