Re: Impressions of Gentoo
From: Mike Ballard (dont_w_at_nt_spam.org)
Date: Sat, 08 Nov 2003 04:22:40 GMT
On Fri Nov 07, General Schvantzkoph disturbed my nap when he said:
> I've been a Redhat user for several years but now it's time to pick a new
> distribution. I'm thinking of giving Gentoo a try. How solid is Gentoo?
> How well does Webmin support it? How happy are Gentoo user's with the
Hope you got enough to decide but if not, I absolutely love it!
Outstanding documentation, great forums. This is my home machine so I can
afford the occasional instability (but I am not saying I think Gentoo is
unstable). My impression is that Gentoo gets stuff out the door fast so
take that FWIW. But of course you're not obliged to use newer stuff
anyway if you think it's unseasoned.
I've used mainly RH since 4.2 and decided 9 was the end of the line for me
(before I knew about their new direction). A couple things I never cared
for was 1) the kitchen-sink installation and 2) being rpm-based and the
difficulty of trying out new releases of some things. Admittedly I almost
always used their installation but even when judiciously selecting
packages to have it install I ended up with a lot more stuff than I
wanted. After installation I'd usually go back and look for crap to
1. For the most part with Gentoo, what's installed is what you tell it
to. That's good or bad depending but I love it (my /usr is not much more
than than half what it was under RH). I happened to start at what they
call "stage 1" which is a ground-up compile so besides system
packages/tools, everything else is now installed only because I wanted it.
I prefer having only just what I asked for and know will be installed
(emerge -p shows you what will be installed).
2. No rpm!! That alone is almost worth it to me. For one thing, not
everything you may want is in rpm format which means you end up in a half
and half situation where some stuff is compiled yourself and some is rpm
magic, always with the hidden potential for conflict. But I never really
took to the rpm method anyway (rpm -qa, -plq and -i is about it) so my
bias may be unfair. I usually ended up getting source for things and
compiling/installing myself and only fell back on rpm for potential
convenience. But even then I ran into my share of irritating conflicts
because of it. Besides the hidden conflicts of a half/half system the
next biggest irritant about rpms is the dependency loops you'd get into
with larger/newer packages (the last straw was a major PITA trying to
check out ardour or something which I never did get to try because I gave
up). But that may be more a function of how you manage rpms. The tool I
used mostly in the past was gnorpm which gave me a fighting chance against
the dependency loop but was too unstable to rely on. Ximian's red-carpet
is an outstanding rpm management tool but I don't know if they make
available every possible rpm package or only mainstream stuff. To be fair
I believe you can still get into something of a dependency loop with
Gentoo except that for what they maintain in portage they've already
thought it out so it's not really a loop, rather a big list of stuff that
emerge would download and install before the package you want is
installed. In a sense they've plotted the dependencies for me, which I
sometimes struggled with using rpms.
And of course with all this compiling a possibly meaningful side-effect is
that unlike plain-jane rpms which must be compiled so as to be suitable on
a number of different machines, every single package installed on your
machine is compiled for your CPU (for those packages that make use of
CFLAGS, etc., that is). I like not having to make optimization trade-offs
because the pre-compiled rpm bin must run on AMD, Pentium, etc. Of course
when you compare the speed humans work at as opposed to the hardware,
who's to say if this is much of a benefit? But it sure isn't going to
hurt that I can set optimizations specific for my Athlon (so long as I
don't get optimization-happy). This may be a little too subjective but I
have yet to run ldconfig and have it finish in less than an instant. Many
times using RH ldconfig would take 5+ seconds to complete. Is that a big
deal? No, but it's what contributes to a sense of leanness, including
that that's as much an intangible as anything measureable.
Gentoo provides lots of control features (make.conf, etc.) which I like.
And there are a number of ways to install it which is something else I
like. It's one of the big reasons I switched to *NIX many years ago in
the first place - I can have it my way even if my way is stupid. And
since I'm much more comfortable dealing with source than the mysterious
goings-on with rpms anyway, not to add that I was using an rpm-based
distro with no real reason for preferring rpms, it wasn't much of a
decision for me to switch. I'm real glad I did.
-- mike.ballard--at--earthlink.net "Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm schizophrenic and so am I"