Gentoo or FreeBSD for noob w/VERY little UNIX smarts?
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It might be hard start but if you want to learn and read go for it, I don't think it would matter much on which you choose, I don't know much on FreeBSD so I can't give my thoughts about it but I do think it wouldn't matter, if you ready to put some hard work and time into this you'll be fine with whatever you choose, my only tip think on Slackware too.
I was in the same situation 2 years ago, being remotely exposed to AIX at work. I tried both FreeBSD and Gentoo, and my personal experience was that FreeBSD was easier to get up and running than Gentoo.
At some point however I wanted to get back to Linux and chose Slackware, which is still what I use today. Had I know Slackware before, I might have skipped FreeBSD, but FreeBSD is certainly very worthwile to learn.
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