Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 1st Sep 2006 20:45 UTC, submitted by Valour
Gentoo Another review of Gentoo 2006.1. In one respect, Gentoo Linux 2006.1 is the same as it's always been, except with newer software on the installation media. Beginning with version 2006.0, though, a graphical environment was added to the live CD along with an installation program that rarely worked properly. The good news is, the installer works reasonably well in Gentoo 2006.1; the bad news is, it's still quicker and easier to install by hand via the command line.
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Gentoo is not for everyone.
by Quag7 on Sun 3rd Sep 2006 00:22 UTC
Quag7
Member since:
2005-07-28

An installer for Gentoo? Training wheels on a Harley. I can fully understand why someone would want an installer and I'm not saying Gentoo is better than any other distro, but it is specialized for a certain mindset.

A lot of the criticisms of Gentoo - I'm not speaking about anyone in this thread, just general observations - come from people who have no business running it in the first place. To use another analogy, it's like buying a plastic hobbyist model of a car, and then complaining that you have to "glue stuff and paint stuff, and God, why not just buy a pre-painted, pre-glued toy car?"

This being said, I think a lot of long time Gentoo users learned that, despite perhaps trying it out of curiosity or as a challenge, it actually *is* what they prefer.

I am a little mystified at the installer. I don't mind it or anything provided I can install Gentoo the traditional way, but I'm just not sure what the point is. The traditional Gentoo method is not difficult or geeky; it's just *manual*. If you can follow directions, you can install it - a child could (and some do) get it running.

I continue to encounter bizarre myths and ideas about Gentoo. Here are a few I'm bored of hearing:

(*) Gentoo is an elitist distro that people use to be "l33t." Well, this may have been true in 2002 - at least in terms of peoples' motivations, but by now it has become clear that many beginners, given interest and patience, can get Gentoo installed. My first Gentoo install was as a newcomer to Linux, and I just followed the directions, typed what the docs said to type (not even understanding everything I was doing at the time), and it worked. I see no one posturing as being some kind of computer whiz because they followed the directions and got Linux installed, but I still encounter a lot of people who have no clue about Gentoo resorting to this weird, lame, about 4-years-out-of-date cliche. In fact, what makes the Gentoo forums what they are is the honesty and enthusiasm so many people have from all different skill levels.

Experienced users love the ability to easily customize and patch their installs (and this can be done on all distros, but Gentoo is set up to make this easy, given its source orientation), and newcomers are often surprised ("that wasn't hard at all - and wow, I finally understand why X is done the way it is because I had to do it myself.").

This distro is not for everyone - not everyone is interested in and fetishistic about things the way Gentoo is - it is not all things to all people, and I am puzzled at attempts to make it that. One of the biggest benefits to Gentoo's manual installation is it sets expectations - nowhere is Gentoo's character more on display than during it's traditional command-by-command install.

Gentoo's power is both in encouraging the user to look a little deeper and understand things *just one level deeper* than most other distros.

But you're not programming in C, you're not writing assembler - you're not resolving dependencies by yourself.

You're running simple commands to launch scripts which then take over for you.

(*) Gentoo is not unstable and full of bugs more than any other distribution. Where the problem arises is Gentoo doesn't protect the user from himself. You can seriously hose a Gentoo system, because the whole philosophy of the design encourages users to tinker, and you run into curiosity killed the cat issues.

Yes, sometimes things in Gentoo break, usually because of major changes like modular X, major gcc version upgrades, and so on. Things break on my Debian boxes too. But this is pretty rare.

It used to be that people would choose to run an unstable "branch" of Gentoo, by setting it up so it would install *all* of the newest, unstable package. But now, you can very easily set it up to run so that you can mark specific packages you're interested in the unstable versions of, while keeping everything else stable.

And because you were encouraged to tinker with a lot of things like compiler flags while installing, that sticks in your mind, and people tend to tinker with their systems, sometimes breaking things in the process. You can avoid this by simply restraining yourself.

But what's the fun in that? Gentoo is not about restraint. It's about messing with things you've always been told you weren't supposed to mess with. That has a price. To any dedicated Gentoo user, the risk is real, but worth it.

(*) People complain about Gentoo on the forums. Well, yes, but how many Linux forums have the sheer quantity of daily posts than the Gentoo forums do?

In some cases the complaints are legitimate but in many cases, there are people complaining who never had any business using Gentoo to begin with - people who have no interest in tinkering and just want to get work done.

The amount of maintenance for an average Gentoo install is strongly overstated, but you won't get the kind of wizards and instant gratification that other distros will give you. You *will* edit text files to get things done, and you *will* get to know your hardware intimately. You *will* wait awhile while the apps you want compile to your liking.

Perfectly fair and legitimate that a lot of people - really smart people - would rather get a root canal than do this.

But don't use Gentoo, and then complain about it for being what it is - a distro for people who have more than a casual interest in their OS. Somehow, people who would really be happy with something like Ubuntu (or SLED on the extreme), wind up trying Gentoo and then hating it for what it is.

(*) Gentoo users think that compiling their apps will make them significantly faster and get off on watching pages of gcc compiler output scroll by.

I know of very few people who use Gentoo because of speed (actually I know none, but since people claim that there are legions of Gentoo users with this attitude, I'll take their word for it).

People use Gentoo because of - mainly - portage, its package management system. Because USE flags make setting all of the compiler flags in a single place simple (don't use Gnome? Disable support for it, save hard drive space and have a cleaner system).

Because they are anal about what is on their hard drive.

Because they love the general vibe and feel of the vibrant Gentoo community - a community that wears its dynamics on its shirtsleeve - that is to say, people who are excited, passionate, and downright fascinated by Linux; where the OS is the means to get work done, but also (for many Gentoo users) an end in itself.

This whole "Gentoo ricer" thing may be true for a minority of users, but again, this is a very old stereotype. And I don't even know that knowledgeable people maximizing the performance of their systems is a bad thing - maybe those things trickle down to the rest of us, including those who don't even use the distro.

I just passed my 4th year running Gentoo on my desktop. I am not a developer, or a systems programmer. I just like computers, and I've tried several other distros, given them an honest try. I've not found anything which has tempted me to switch (I can live with Debian - understand why people like it - and I actively liked FreeBSD but it doesn't really give me any more than I have with Gentoo, given my specific personal needs).

For the computer enthusiast, computer hobbyist, and on up to developers, Gentoo is a fine choice; the "Heathkit" of Linux distributions. It is also good for beginners who believe in jumping into the deep end first in a sink-or-swim effort to really acclimate to Linux (this was how I became a user).

But it is not for everyone. And that's fair, and I think it's fantastic that we have options because we have different - legitimately different - needs.

Reply Score: 5

Bringbackanonposting Member since:
2005-11-16

I am in a similar situation. I actually use it as my main WORK desktop. It has only what I need. If I am missing something I emerge it while making a phonecall or reading an email. In many cases its not much slower than installing a binary package. What a treat it is to install a package where I can specify what USE flags I want - downloading and installing 5Mb instead of 5Mb + 50Mb of it's dependancies that I don't need/want (you know what I am talking about - yes you). I am a power user. I know how Linux works because of Gentoo. I fix MY OWN problems and I HELP OTHERS. If it wasn't for Gentoo I would be forever a noobie begging for help when something goes wrong. Like I have always said: If you don't USE Linux seriously then don't use Gentoo. Use Ubuntu or whatever. Leave us in peace.

Reply Parent Score: 2