Arvan Reese wrote a guide for beginners explaining all about source-based Linux distros.
Source-based Linux Distributions from a Beginner’s Perspective
2004-05-10 Linux 16 Comments
Arvan Reese wrote a guide for beginners explaining all about source-based Linux distros.
I’m not really sure a source-based distro (especially Gentoo) would be the best place for beginners to start. I would think that Linspire or Xandros might be a better place to start, or Mandrake or Suse for Windows power users
Gentoo is the ultimate source-based distro and is nice to see it run on the box.
I love Gentoo the bast Linux I have used
Starting with distros like Linspire (shudders at the word) and Xandros are NOT good for beginners. I have been using Linux for about a year now and when I had been using it for 4 months I knew more about it than people using even Mandrake and RedHat. Why? Because those distros hide everything from you. They pull a Windows. Slackware was the first distro I used and I have to say it is one of the best learning tools available. It teaches you how to do stuff in a Linux environment and prepares you for more “advanced” distros like Arch, CRUX, etc. The next distro I installed was Gentoo and it really taught me a lot (though I’d have to say that since I spent a longer amount of time on Slack I learned more from it). However, Portage was buggy as hell, and I would always have to download distfiles manually. So, I moved to Arch where I’ve been happy for about the past 6 months. Recently, however, Arch has had a bunch of issues with slow package repositories and libraries that destroy systems. So, I’ve been trying to switch distros, heading towards Source Mage (I tried it a while back and really liked it), but sorcery keeps fudging my system. Until I can get that issue resolved, I’ve been stuck on OpenBSD.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you start with a distro like Fedora, Mandrake, SUSE, or, worse, Linspire or Xandros, you will not get anything out of it. If that is what you want, that is fine, but if that is what you want then a) you shouldn’t be coming to OSNews and b) you shouldn’t be reading articles about source based distros.
Because those distros hide everything from you. They pull a Windows.
Well, I don’t think most people (ESPECIALLY beginners) have this huge desire to sit around and dick with Linux all day. If they can get their work done without having to sit around futzing with the inards, then that’s all the more better. But, you’re right – people who want to learn the OS probably shouldn’t start off with the ‘easy-as-pie’ distros, but someone who just wants a free Windows alternative and has no interest in anything technical (which would probably describe a beginner) has no business playing with a source-based distro. I’m not saying that Gentoo isn’t a capable distro, just that it’s probably not the best place for a beginner to start.
— “However, Portage was buggy as hell, and I would always have to download distfiles manually.”
That sounds pretty strange to me. Ive been a Gentoo user for nearly a year now, and I can’t recall any such troubles. Was it a long time ago when Gentoo was less mature? Did you set ACCEPT_KEYWORDS=”~x86″ or somthing silly like that? Were you perhaps a bit too agressive with your CFLAGS?
I don’t mean to imply you don’t know what your doing or anything, but I can’t help but wonder if you made a mistake in your configuration somewhere that may have been responisble. If Portage is anything, its a reliable and stable constant on what is one of the most dynamic distros around.
I do not had any big problem whith Portage all just works fine.
I actualy find it’s better to ease yourself slowly into the linux world. I started with mdk9.1. I had one heck of a time learning to use it. Now I use gentoo.
I have a friend that introduced me to linux. He hadn’t yet installed it yet at the time. We were both going to learn linux together. Today he uses windows. The learning curve is huge even for a n00b distro, especially if you don’t know where to go to get help. I remember he spent about an hour trying to find out how to shut down the xserver in RH9 so he could install the nvidia drivers. Never did get it to work.
Today I could install those drivers on RH9 in a heart beat. My point is that what you get out of linux is what you make of it. It has nothing to do with your first distro, but of your desire to learn. If you find that the learning curve is greater than your desire to learn, you will get nothing out of it. Except for a newfound appreciation of XP.
from the article about DOS:
I think that experience actually gave me the perseverance to dive into the OS repeatedly. A trait that is really helpful in Linux
This seems to be a big issue in the problem with Linux today.
Its easy GUI -vs- “It will only work if you tweak it”
Back in the 80’s people “HAD” to learn the OS better then people today because the user interface was not as advanced? as it is today.
No one had a problem banging on the command line to get a program to run. Thats just the way it was.
Now that people who were born after 1985 are grown up on Windows, Then I’m afriad everything is different now.
Most average Windows users dont even know that the CLI is even there!. Even the power users only know the basic commands like IPCONFIG
I’m not a Mac fan, but they seem to have the OS done right. Its unix that you can control everything from a GUI. The command line is still there if you need it.
The first time I tried Gentoo Portage was indeed buggy as hell and I switched to Source Mage where I was much happier. But when the latest version of Gentoo was released I tried it again, and I must admit this time around my impressions have been a lot more positive. It all goes around in circles, doesn’t it? Source Mage seems to be going through a period of instability at the moment, as does Arch… Not to worry, no doubt things will change in due time.
That’s why I never complain about “too many distros”!
I think such ditros are good for noobs that like to just get their work done. I know comming from windows that M$ Os’es do take a lot of work to keep running and I just got sick of it!
So instead of service packs, av’s, dlls and registry keys I switched to Linux.
I first met Linux on a webserver and was amazed at how stable and secure it was, pluse all the things that you could do that a windows user would probably pirate or pay huge amounts of money for.
I then moved it to the deskop and became very happy with it. I use RH9 for my media (Downloading ripping and burning movies and music etc) And SuSE for work. I customized the GUI as I would like it and I was on my way. Loved Linux after that!
Gentoo was my first Linux Distro and I haven’t looked back, I have tried other Distros, i.e. Fedora, Slackware, Debian, but after using Gentoo, with its speed, bleeding-edge software, controllability, and overall comfort level, it seems to be the best I have found.
Although I’m no longer using it myself, Sorcerer is by far the most user-friendly source-based distro I’ve came across. At least it was the last I time I used it (about a year ago).
It doesn’t have the userbase of Gentoo, nor as big of software collection (although Gentoo itself seems to be falling more and more behind as far as new packages being released in a timely manner), but it also doesn’t have as big of a learning curve as Gentoo.
It’s not that Gentoo is extremely hard to use either, but for Linux newbies, the install’s a rather intimidating process.
Sorcerer dumbs down a lot of the stuff that the average source based user probably doesn’t care about anyway (things like bootstrapping for instance), and instead gives them a very easy to follow, curses-based menu.
Now a lot may have happened in a year, but I’m willing to bet that Sorcerer is still a nice lil’ distro.
The last time I checked, Kyle was still taking his medication (referring to his “my source” freakout of a couple years ago), and if they’d just do away with the dumb naming conventions, they could be a very viable alternative to Gentoo.
Especially if you have to do work on that box. If you’re new to Linux and you want to learn how to use it but you have to do work on that box as well, go with a new-user friendly distro. If you have a spare box or don’t depend on that box, then by all means, if you willing to climb that learning curve an advanced distro is the way to go.
My experience with Gentoo wasn’t too rosey. My install was irregular and the documentation didn’t cover what I needed to do. So I tried to guess my way thru and I thought I had it thought out right, but I should have waited and gone to a forum for advice cause I did bad things to that harddrive. Even tho I had backedup everything in my XP partition and wasn’t too worried if I had to reinstall incase Gentoo messed up the partitions, but what I wasn’t ready for was an unbootable drive. Not even restoring the MBR worked. And the documentation that I printed out didn’t cover that. LOL. Oh well. I have Killdisk and I wiped the drive clean and reinstalled the MBR.
I thought the article was great, but his advice shouldnt be taken by everyone.
99% of people dont want to learn anything about computers. What baffles me about this is that windows has such a huge piece of the pie. You cant really manage a windows box and know nothing, honestly, mac should be where windows is right now.
I enjoy playing with operating systems (like the author) so linux is probably my favorite out of what i have used. There was a pretty steep learning curve, but once you get over the hump theres no looking back. something he didnt mention is that with source distros, your learning linux, not the distro. even just installing gentoo will teach you about linux. if you learn how to do something in slack, it will work in pretty much anything. this isnt the case for mandy or rh, or any of the newb distros.
I use Gentoo since July 2002 and I haven’t found any problems with it; except of course, normal application breakage caused by aggressive CFLAGS, or bloat because of too many -redundant- USE flags.
Now I’ve learnt two simple things. Number one, stick a “-*” in USE. Just like this:
USE=”-* acl acpi kde …”
Number two, don’t use unnecessary CFLAGS over-optimizations. -O3 just eat up valuable cache memory, so try -O2 or even -Os.
Kernel choice is also important. I’ve found -mm to be one of the most stable and feature-rich kernels around.
If you’re a beginner who *really really* want to learn, then Linux From Scratch is the “distro” for you. It was my second distro and I used it exclusively on my main system for about 2 years. Sure, it was a bumpy ride, but well worth it.
Now I have Slackware installed, but use it more or less as a precompiled LFS. The base system is Slackware, everything else is configure, make, make install’ed.