Linked by Dave Scott on Mon 17th Mar 2003 17:36 UTC
Gentoo I recently read Dustin Wilson's Newbie Gentoo Review and as a 'n00b' who recently installed Gentoo, I found it to be a good article about Gentoo. It is a very good overview of the installation and configuration process. After reading all the comments about how most people thought or were looking for it to be a newbie walkthrough, I thought that as a 'n00b' who has recently installed Gentoo, I would try to write a little something about installing Gentoo for the newbie.
Order by: Score:
by rjpa on Mon 17th Mar 2003 17:41 UTC

Whoa I was first, for the first time ;)
Is Gentoo better/easier than Debian ??

by dwilson on Mon 17th Mar 2003 17:49 UTC

If anyone has a little spare time and a computer you are willing to have down for bit, you should try using this guide to install. I am interested in hearing how it goes.

re: Cool
by dwilson on Mon 17th Mar 2003 17:50 UTC

Oh, and of course, you shouldn't have installed Gentoo before. This needs to be noob tested.

RE: Cool
by Super Bobby on Mon 17th Mar 2003 18:18 UTC


OK, I'll give it a shot. I just happen to be in the position to take you up on this, and I am actually excited about it. I am somewhat a noob, but not totally. I currently use Xandros for the simple fact that it is Debian based and does all the config work for you. It may be a bit lazy on my part, but until now it just saved me time. Now all I have is time and I'm very motivated by all the resent let's go for it, I'm ready!!

Re: Whoa
by stew on Mon 17th Mar 2003 18:35 UTC

Is Gentoo better/easier than Debian ??

It's different. While Gentoo is at the bleeding edge, always having the latest versions of the packages available, Debian has a reputation of being a little behind but stable. Also, Gentoo in general requires you to compile everything on your own where in Debian the standard is using binary packages (note that Debian also allows you to use source packages and parts of Gentoo are available as binaries).

by Karl on Mon 17th Mar 2003 18:36 UTC

I tend to get better performance making my root partition reiserfs. This can be done by:

mkreiserfs /dev/hdXY where X is a letter and Y a partition number. I seriously recommend ext3 for the /boot partition though, since grub handles it better.


p.s. All that is in the install guide ;) Good job on a shortened version though.

dial up users...
by Rob on Mon 17th Mar 2003 18:46 UTC

What about dial up users?

@Super Bobby, Dave Scott
by Luckett on Mon 17th Mar 2003 18:59 UTC

i agree with Karl...Reiserfs rox a whole lot. also when editing fstab if you add (to the options) "notail" reiser is even faster "noatime" also helps

Good, but...
by GregC on Mon 17th Mar 2003 19:05 UTC

Lacking some VERY important details...mostly concerning "flags" and compiling kernel options. I looked at the detailed instructions from gentoo for make.conf and went "whoa"!

Processor types are easy to determine (ppc, i386, etc), but there are other flags that are very specific. If you are not sure you could enable all options, but then it's no longer gentoo, but a bloated distro with everything enabled. Want support for teTex? Even KNOW what teTex is? You better, because you need to set this flag when optimizing. How about liem, gdbm, pic, etc?

There's no discussion in the documentation regarding the pros and cons of having something like .tif built in or not...will I not be able to view jpgs if it's not checked off then I set my make.conf? Anyone? Bueler? Get my drift?

Any serious discussion on this issue? I stopped the install process at this point, and went with knoppix (hd install). Would love to try gentoo, as I have a thinkpad 600, and can use the speed increase.


Re: dial up users
by Dave Scott on Mon 17th Mar 2003 19:06 UTC

You know, I really don't know how to set up dial-up in Gentoo, and I could not find anything in the user docs. You may want to head over to and search in the Networking and Security forum. I just did a quick search and came up with about 50 threads on dial-up.

by Dave Scott on Mon 17th Mar 2003 19:19 UTC

From what I understand and have read about GCC optimization flags, for most modern processors (e.g. PIII and up) the optimizations you would want (at most) would be "-O3 -pipe -fomit-frame-pointer". I also noticed that there is nothing in the GCC docs about any specific optimization flags for specific programs. I think you may be thinking USE flags. You may want to check out this article on freshmeat which explains the purpose behind -Ox and all the available options.

As for USE flag settings, check out the docs at for a USE flag howto, and there is a link at the end of that page to a list of current USE flags. As for not being able to view jpgs if it's not in your use setting, check out the /etc/make.globals file on your gentoo box. These are default USE flags that are enabled by default.

Re: dail up users
by Quazion on Mon 17th Mar 2003 19:19 UTC

Your mad! installing gentoo from scratch will be hours of downloading..... even over my DSL line its a lot of download time... fresh kernel is allreaddy 50MB atleast...

by Dave Scott on Mon 17th Mar 2003 19:22 UTC

The LiveCD images contain everything you need to get a working Gentoo install, including the kernel sources (albeit it will be basic and command line only, but this is why there are GRP packages available).

I did it
by Meh on Mon 17th Mar 2003 19:23 UTC

I have installed Gentoo over a dial-up before. It takes a long long time, but hey, before that I was using LFS (also in dial-up).

USE flags
by GregC on Mon 17th Mar 2003 19:33 UTC

I've already checked out the USE flags how-to, but as I said earlier, theres's no discussion regarding the possible outcomes of each selection.

Example, I want to use fluxbox as my WM. So I set gnome and kde as disabled. Will I not be able to use the KDE CD player? Will I not be able to use any programs that depend on the gnome libraries? If I have to enable KDE and Gnome to use these items in fluxbox, do I lose the optimization of not selecting everything and the kitchen sink?

The default file for gentoo does not have PDF file listed as enabled...can you not view pdf files now?

I guess what we need is the "Verbose walkthru of USE flags"


USE flags
by Anti on Mon 17th Mar 2003 19:42 UTC

Generally the USE flags are on unless you add them to your USE line with a - infront. Like -kde, or something. But if you need to emerge something that requires some kde libs it will emerge the libs.
And don't confuse USE flags with compiler optimizations for gcc. They are two different things.

Excellent info!
by GregC on Mon 17th Mar 2003 20:06 UTC

If I leave everything turned on (maybe turn off things I'm certain I'm not using - like 3dfx, canna, cjk, and voodoo3), then am I safe? Will there be any performance gains/loss by leaving everything else as-is (enabled)?

This is where the install doc and the use flag how-to needs further explaination....the install docs just say "set the flags you need" but should be more like "remove the flags for equipment/services you are SURE you do not have installed, and if you do remove these flags, the outcome will be XYZ".


USE flags
by Anti on Mon 17th Mar 2003 20:19 UTC

Well, I'm not very experienced when it comes to USE flags, but I know that many ebuilds won't care what your USE flags are. Just take a good look at what USE flags the bigger builds (like xfree, kde and such) take note to. Sometimes you can gain a bit by switching off some flags.
Also remember to try different switches when emerging something that you're sure won't need all the stuff the --pretend lists. Sometimes you can get rid of optional stuff.
But all in all, it's probably better just setting the USE flags you know you're going to need.
Can't tell you if this means switching them all off, or if you can do something else, as I'm not really that much into the rules on that point.

by Dave Scott on Mon 17th Mar 2003 20:20 UTC

Greg, Now I understand what you were stating, and as a Gentoo n00b, I can honestly say that I have no idea what the possible outcomes of these situations are, except to say that from what I understand of Portage, even if you have -kde -qt -gtk -gnome in your use flags, if you try to emerge a package that has a dependency on a lib that is installed with one of these, it will get compiled and installed.

For your first question about KDE CD player, no you will not be able to use it because it is installed as part of the kdemultimedia package (I believe) which in turn is dependent on a bunch of kdelibs and qt (and possibly kdebase, I'm not sure). As for the programs that depend on gnome libraries, this is the beauty of Portage, it will check dependencies for you and install all the necessary libs.

As for losing the optimization if you have to emerge kde and gnome, the only consequence is hard drive space and some download/compile time.

As for pdf files, I think the PDF USE flag just installs the pdflib library, so if you install a program to read PDFs, it should get compiled and installed as well (again, this is what I understand of how Portage works, but I am by no means a Gentoo expert).

As for a USE flags walkthrough, I also would like to see this (being still a n00b) and the ramifications of the various USE flags being turned on and off, but AFAIK there is nothing on the Gentoo site and nothing I have seen anywhere else, but perhaps if we make the suggestion in the Gentoo forums, a developer may have the time and desire to churn out a quickie.

USE Flags
by Andrew on Mon 17th Mar 2003 20:30 UTC

In your make.conf, where you specify your USE flags, you're pointed to this:

and this:

"emerge ufed"

USE Flags
by Anti on Mon 17th Mar 2003 21:14 UTC

Heh, that settles it. I'm blind or ignorant. Or both. Never noticed that. And that after using gentoo for ages.
Thanks, Andrew ;)

use and optimization flags
by goo.. on Tue 18th Mar 2003 00:20 UTC

USE flags have very sane defaults. If in doubt, don't turn everything on, nor turn anything off. Additions are relatively safe but they will increase compile times and dependencies unnecessarily. Turning some defaults off will not break your system either, but if you later find out you needed a flag, you have to recompile everything using that flag. So it is wise to leave them alone, unless you know what you are doing.

Optimization flags aren't supposed to break your system either. ebuilds, presumably, forbid use of some flags on per-compilation basis. That is, even if you specify -O3, unless you change the ebuild itself, your -say- noatun compilation will use -O2 when -O3 is known to fail. However they are not so safe, because unlike USE flags, it is not possible to foresee the consequences of compilation flags on a new release. Someone has to fail building with their flags and file a bug report for maintainers to find out about bad the interaction. That someone may be you. -march=i686 -O2 -fomit-frame-pointer, together with overriding by ebuilds where known to be dangerous is safe %99 of the time. -march=athlon-xp -O3 -fomit-frame-pointer is probably the most heavilty tested combination. If some ebuild fails with it, you will instantly be notified by someone in the forums.

Rule of thumb, if you use gentoo, use it like everone else does as much as practically possible. Some USE and optimization flags are very well tested and you should take advantage of that. That you can tweak the hell out doesn't mean you should. Gentoo gives you flexibility, use that with caution.

@ GregC
by BP on Tue 18th Mar 2003 01:02 UTC

Portage usually takes care of that. If you want to use a QT,GTK app, it will download all the necessary dependencies, whether it's the packages of GNOME/GTK, and the sorts.

Well, that's one way to fix up dependency issues...

USE flags, etc
by zhen on Tue 18th Mar 2003 01:36 UTC

Hi all -
First of all, thanks for the excellent review. As the Documentation Coordinator, I am glad to see that the documentation is such a great help. If you have any questions regarding the docs, please feel free to mail me.

As far as the USE flags go, there is an updated guide in the works that will be *much* more comprehensive.


Use Flags, simply...
by Tony on Tue 18th Mar 2003 01:37 UTC

Use flags determine what kind of support will be compiled for a program.

Say you have a program that has a gnome, kde, and commandline interface. If you have -gnome in your use flags, the gnome frontend will not be compiled or installed. The commandline interface will always be there. Get it?

If you want to see what flags a package is using try the -vp flags with emerge. (very useful)

Generally having less USE Flags will safe you harddrive space, compile time and bloat (You determine what is bloat by setting the use flags). So you lose some functionallity, but this is good if you don't want that functionallity. ie, if you don't have a 3dfx card the -tdfx is advisable.

If a flag is not specified it is off! So you may want to check the /etc/make.profile/make.defaults to check which flags you don't want and need to add a -flag for.

re: gregc
by dwilson on Tue 18th Mar 2003 01:48 UTC

Example, I want to use fluxbox as my WM. So I set gnome and kde as disabled. Will I not be able to use the KDE CD player? Will I not be able to use any programs that depend on the gnome libraries? If I have to enable KDE and Gnome to use these items in fluxbox, do I lose the optimization of not selecting everything and the kitchen sink.

I will give you a little thing about use flags.

If you don't know what to do, leave it as is. The defaults are fine for most people. Now, you can customize if you want, but you don't HAVE to.

If you have -gnome as a use flag, then if something has optional gnome support that can be compiled in, it won't. This doesn't mean you can't use gnome, but you'll get no special gnome treatment from anything you compile. Same for all other use flags. And, if it doesn't work, change the use flag and compile it again... it really isn't hard.

USE flag documentation lacking at this point
by wilburpan on Tue 18th Mar 2003 02:44 UTC

I've asked the same questions about USE flags in the Gentoo forums, and basically come to the conclusion that this is a potentially very powerful way of optimizing your system, but is also very poorly documented. One of the key features that is not explained well is what flags may apply to teh particular package that you are trying to install.

The thread is located here:

Regarding the root password...
by Rude Turnip on Tue 18th Mar 2003 14:10 UTC

My only comment on Dave's review is that I would change the root password immediately after getting to a command prompt from booting the LiveCD. The initial root password is a randomly generated string that you don't get to see. By changing it to something you know; it will be much easier to open up additional vterms if you need to do some diagnostics/web research while installing.

@Rude Turnip
by Dave Scott on Tue 18th Mar 2003 16:58 UTC

Changing the root password after booting the LiveCD may not be a bad idea for the very security minded, but as you are working in a virtual environment (which provides the frontend to configure and install the packages to the hard drive), there's not much to screw with (yet) and the password will not be remembered once you reboot and actually enter the gentoo system.

Successful Gentoo Install
by Anonymous on Tue 18th Mar 2003 18:56 UTC

I just finished my Gentoo install, am using it now, in fact! From Stage 1! ;-)

What I liked was the power over the compiler and packages... Compared to RH8phoebe and Mandrake, it definitely peforms better. (Partly due to the pre-empt kernel patches and partly due to the gcc optimzations.)

Installation is very straight forward and I learned alot along the way. Which is really what I'm in it for anyway.

Yet it was a little confusing regarding the flags, masks and different init scripts... (I've been using Red Hat & Mandrake Linux since ~'95)

Bumps I ran into involved devfs, which I re-enabled since it seems to be required. That's OK, just another tool to learn.

Another bump was installing it on my laptop. I ended up installing the HD in another PC and working on it there...

A FreeBSD/OpenBSD styled install or a floppy/network install would be a big step forward...

The whole flag thingy...
by clutch on Tue 18th Mar 2003 19:22 UTC

First, remember that "xmms" enables xmms support, while "-xmms" directly disables xmms support when compiling. That being said, it is possible to compile all kinds of spiffy KDE and GNOME things while using fluxbox (as I do) in Gentoo. Also, you have to pay attention to the flags that you use, because sometimes all this customization can give you some bizarre results. My first example is when I emerged SAMBA and had "ldap" in my USE line (as I intended on using an LDAP server at some point), and when I wanted to start adding SAMBA accounts, it complained that it wasn't configured with an LDAP server and couldn't process my request. So, I did a little search on the forum, and found out about my ldap flag. I then switched it from "ldap" to "-ldap", and re-emerged SAMBA. Afterward, it worked fine as it compiled with the new flag arrangement and didn't compile any LDAP support into the app. Another example is when I was using fluxbox for a while, and decided to try out KDE for a bit. I had the Qt libraries and and kde-base since I was using some KDE apps and utils in fluxbox (such as K3B and Konqueror) so I decided to run the desktop itself. Well, when I went into it I didn't have any working sound, while I did have sound working just fine in fluxbox using ALSA with my Audigy. So, I checked out my flags and found that I had "-arts" in it, which disabled support for the KDE sound server. Later that night, before I went to bed I re-emerged kde-base and used "arts" rather than "-arts", and when it was done sound worked in KDE.

Now, why bother with "-this" or "-that" when not listing it is the same thing? Well, it isn't it the same thing, that's why :-). The file contains a few flags (or it can contain whatever you want, but I wouldn't recommend altering it) of its own. If you add flags to make.conf, these are then *added* to whatever has. However, if you decided to not have, say, "gnome" support in an application and didn't enter "-gnome" in your make.conf USE line then it might *still* be compiled into your application if had it in there. This is a *major* reason why you should *not* alter, as it is meant to control your system reference point, and changes to make.conf can override it if you want. Now, if for some weird reason you had the "gnome" flag in, and you put "-gnome" in your make.conf file, you will *not* have gnome support compiled into your app as make.conf will override Cool eh? Now, what's even better, is that you can do a one-time flag setting in your emerge command with something like "USE = -wavelan emerge pcmcia-cs", and this will emerge (compile and install) the current stable pcmcia-cs package without wavelan support *even if* you have a "wavelan" flag in your make.conf. I have used this in certain pcmcia-cs packages to enable monitor mode on my Orinoco NICs for my laptops so I can use Kismet and AirSnort.


On changing the root password while using the CD...
by clutch on Tue 18th Mar 2003 19:31 UTC

The only times I have changed the root password while booted from the rc2 CD is when I install the OS over SSH. That's right boys and girls, you can install this over SSH and help out someone who is new to this. I have installed Gentoo on other servers (in some cases a few states away) over broadband, and it works just fine. The *only* major issue is not having "screen" to maintain a session, so if your session is broken, so is your current install process, which can be very annoying with having to chroot back into your environment. But I have installed from Stage 1 over SSH about a dozen or so times and only had one bomb out (that was because my friend's ISP had this stupid 8hr time limit on his DSL before they would disconnect him and he would have to reconnect). However, what I did do was get the environment running, start the SSH server in the new environment (but on a different port) to get the keys made, then shut it down and reset the port. Once I had the install completed, I made sure to have the passwords setup and added SSH to the service list. I then had my friend's girlfriend take out the CD when I rebooted the system and I was up and running in the new installation. It's pretty nice having this remote install ability.

Oh, and with my previous flags comment, I forgot to wrap up with stating that the command line USE flag overrides the make.conf USE line which overrides the USE line. I hope that clears that point up.

great info everyone!
by GregC on Tue 18th Mar 2003 21:16 UTC

As the person who brought up the whole discussion on Use flags and the lack of documentation, I thank you all in advance. I will start a fresh install tonight. I will try it on a Thinkpad 600, using the flags and optimizations that another gentoo user forwarded to me. They had the same ones selected that I had highlighted.

I hope to have something to report back on in the morning. Stay tuned and thanks for the help.

Now my main concern is my make.conf, I plan on listing every flag I want, and -'ing the ones I dont need. What will that do to my compile times (compared to just taking out ones I dont need - like 3dfx)?

I look forward to the updated USE flag docs from Gentoo.


new installations
by Joe on Tue 18th Mar 2003 23:55 UTC

Sorry if this was already posted. I would strongly suggest that anybody installing Gentoo look over the USE flags first and make a list of what you need and don't need. This way when it comes time to modify your "make.conf" file there will be a lot less guessing.

Also make sure you comapre it to the default USE flags found in the "make.defaults" file.

Use Flags
by kabau on Wed 19th Mar 2003 15:35 UTC

USE flags are for setting optional settings only. For instance, xmms can be compiled with Gnome support, but it isn't required. Therefore, if you have '-gnome' in your USE statement, xmms won't be compiled with Gnome support. However, a package that requires Gnome to compile and function will build the required pieces of Gnome regardless of what's in your USE statement. So if you built the KDE cd player, it will build the necessary bits of KDE.

Here is a link to the current version of /usr/portage/profiles/use.desc in CVS. This lists all official USE vars with a description. It is important to note that ebuilds can use their own USE vars that are not listed here. I've not seen one do that yet though.


Gentoo is a great learning tool...
by torque2k on Thu 20th Mar 2003 21:16 UTC

I've installed Gentoo on a few different systems, and with the 1.4rc2 release, I've had a blast. It works very well, whereas 1.2 was problematic for me on two of the same systems. I have really learned more about Linux in general because of Gentoo's "thorough" install system. Currently I've got it on a PC with an AMD 761-based mobo with a Promise RAID/ATA100 chip, running three hard drives (one in a removable bay), a DVD-ROM, a CD-RW, ZIP-100 IDE, two 3Com NICs, an external Courier v.Everything modem, and onboard AC97 audio AND an SB Live! card... and it works perfectly!

BUT, and it's a big but, not without a ton of investigative forum searching. Bookmark right now.

Kernel configuration is fun (not). I thought I had enabled parallel port use, but there are two VERY different switches, and only one was on. Boot to the CD and recompile the kernel... very easy to figure out. I may write a n00b doc for that soon.

Setting up the CD-RW was a chore, but nothing some forum searching couldn't fix. Again, a kernel recompile was necessary.

Learning about 'etc-update' and 'rc-update' is essential! 'etc-update' allows you to choose between different lines of different versions of configuration files for a particular package you've installed. 'rc-update' is the command you use to add a service to the default startup. Once you learn Gentoo's way of accomplishing this you'll look at other distros in a new light (very dim). However, I'd suggest doing an 'emerge xxdiff' and use 'xxdiff' for compares instead of the 'etc-update' command, if you're running XWindows.

Learn the few simple commands in 'emerge', such as 'emerge search XXXX' and 'emerge --pretend XXXX'...

Finally, always remember to use 'emerge sync' BEFORE you install any packages, to make sure you've got the latest version. If a new Portage is available, by all means, compile that first before installing other packages!

Hopefully these tips will help some of you in your quest to install one of the most interesting distros available. Good luck, and stick with it!