GentooThis forum is for the discussion of Gentoo Linux.
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So I think I'm ready to jump into Gentoo. I've had Ubuntu for a while now and it's served me well. The problem is, I feel like Ubuntu installs a lot of things I just don't need. Even GNOME feels bloated to me. So after installing Arch on my laptop without a hitch I feel like I know my way around a linux system. I'm sick of how much slower Ubuntu gets with each version upgrade. So I want to install something that let's me do it exactly how I want. I love the idea of compiling the kernel and every program so it fits my system. I would go with Arch on my main desktop as it's working well on my laptop but I feel less assured with a newer and less popular distro like Arch. I've encountered some buggy AUR packages. I want to switch to Gentoo even just to try it out, keeping my Ubuntu install so I can recover from any problems but I'm concerned about one thing. Running arch, I'm always right at the bleeding edge with rolling releases. I know ubuntu isn't THAT up-to-date but I feel like I'm getting what I need there as well.
I've read that Gentoo's portage is quite behind at stable, like Debian stable with some packages behind years. Is there a way to switch to a more up-to-date release schedule like Arch?
Any other suggestions are welcome too, I've read about Slackware but I quite like dependency resolution.
Gentoo is great, stable, reliable and easy to use and configure if you know what you are doing. It's stable branch is IMO quite well up to date and you can of course install packages from testing and thus run a mixed system. This is what most people actually do. There are also bleeding-edge overlays (repositories), so you can have any new software really very fast but you can as well wait until it's more tested to get into testing or even more tested to get into stable. It's actually similar to the Debian system (but Gentoo stable is rolling). Gentoo stable could be compared to the actual Debian stable which was out about a month or two ago, but it's slowly getting ahead. In longer term it's somewhere between Debian stable and Debian testing.
The Gentoo package management is by far superior to any other Linux package management and there is quite a lot of things that make Gentoo more pleasant - for instance it has Vim syntax highlighting for every silly configuration file, it has nice configuration tools like eselect, it's management system is easy-yet-powerful and it could be very well configured etc.
So I'd recommend it to you if you already have some Linux skills and if you are willing to learn (but it has great documentation and forums).
Having run Gentoo on my desktop for quite awhile, I'm going to throw a few things out for you to think about.
1st, upgrading can be a royal pain. It generally can be quite pleasant, but I've seen cases where something would screw up and take hours to fix (the upgrade to x.org server 1.5.x wasn't painless for alot of people, for example). USE flags, while they can be quite handy, are not consistent between packages. At times, some USE flags can change a package completly (iirc, I enabled debug on dhcpcd and lost my net connection. Reason was that it changed the entire package over to do something totally diffrent than what was expected).
Packages can be kept up to date fairly easily either by using a local overlay or by submitting bug reports requesting version bumps. However, some overlays are so bleeding-edge that they are unstable. These are generally dev overlays that they open to the public, so avoiding them is quite easy. It is also fairly trivial to download just a single ebuild and install it locally, which is what I usually did.
Don't let Gentoo's reputation of user control fool you, either. Several packages (bash being an excellent example) are patched without an option to opt-out. The devs still control what is installed on your system, giving you options only when they want to. At least this has been my view after trolling through Makefiles and ./configure scripts. The number of possible options vs. the number of options given to the user vary widely from package to package.
Portage itself is an interesting topic. It has been improving slowly over time, but I think its starting to suffer from feature creep (which has, at least one time I am aware of, broken a package which required a feature the stable version of portage didn't support. This was a stable package that was being installed, too). Some of these are starting to add new features that, imo, are counter-intuitive. An example of this would be the new eselect-news system, which seems to overlap ELOG fuctionality, but requires more input from the user than the previous method, which simply (if configured) emailed the output of the post-install messages to the specified user.
To wrap things up, go ahead and try it. I suggest using their irc.freenode channel instead of the forums as a first source of info since it is quite active. I would also think about how much I wanted to learn about Linux, since there are other source-based distros out there (SourceMage is one, though it seems like a small distro currently), not to mention LFS (which is what I'm currently attempting to install to replace Gentoo). If your machine is able, it would be wise to install another distro within a virtual machine so that you know you will have a working system to fall back on should anything go poorly for you.
As a Gentoo Advocate, I say go for it. Their forums and wiki are filled with things I read and use daily. Even for RHEL, Debian, Ubuntu, I still find their articles to be great.
Portage is amazing. Just read the Gentoo handbook and try out tools like flagedit, gentoolkit and all its great goodies, etc.
I suggest starting with a stage 3 install.
Before installing, read through the handbook, then you might want to start an install using the x86 quick install guide.
I started off knowning next-to-nothing about linux, installed Gentoo and got my system up and running and over the course of 2 or so months learned more about linux than some people learn in years. Trust me, its a great investment in yourself
Gentoo allows you to mix and match between stable, testing and "we don't know if it works"
The closer you get to the bleeding edge, the more problems you have.
To keep your Gentoo under control, you need to get into an update routine that prevents you updating just before you must have a working system. Also, provided you have the disk space, Gentoo can keep a copy of every binary you build, so that going back a version (or more) when something breaks is very fast - no rebuilding required.
In my 6 or 7 years with Gentoo, I have only hit major issues twice. Mostly because I use all testing with one or two "we don't know if it works" packages.
Basically, all has been said. I'll just add a few things.
You should start by reading the handbook (look at my signature). There you can see how to mix branches. You don't have to choose between stable or testing, you can mix them as you wish. So, you could choose to use a well tested base system while having every crazy thing you want in your desktop.
If you like gnome but you feel that it's bloated in other distros, there's something called gnome-light in portage. You might be interested in that, but to say the truth, I haven't tested it myself and I have no idea what's the real difference with gnome. It's been years since I can't stand neither of the big desktops, though I use some kde and gtk applications under fvwm without any problem, and I like them.
PS. Just add that, besides the huge collection of ebuilds in portage, you also have extra collections of ebuilds, which we call "overlays". They can be easily integrated using a tool (layman), and most of them are of a good quality (I've never foobared my system using an overlay, like you could do easily in mandrake using external repos). A big part of this is that portage itself is smarter than other package managers. It uses a sandbox to install the packages so no package can do silly things even if the ebuilder was not so smart. It also check for collisions between packages.
Besides that, often bumping the version of a package is just a matter of copying it to a local overlay and renaming it with the new version number. Usually portage does the rest. So, if you are really in a hurry to update you can just do that most times (of course, that will not work always, and in any case it's not something to worry about now).