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You can have both programs from RPMs and from source. To have the whole system from source (a source-based distro) you need to compile everything, so it's rather hard. But when you're upgrading your system (using source, not RPMs), you'll gat a source-based system one day
Sorry, I seem to have been suffering from a lack of clarity yesterday.
What I mean is more along the lines of the official source distros. Is it possible to use the tools that come with an official source distro to slowly convert a machine.
In other-words - If I want to use SourceMage's distribution site, could I install source-mage distro tools to start recompiling parts. - Not all at once - until (as you say) I eventually have a 100% source distro.
One really can't run two distributions at once, which is basically what you're asking for. There are too many differences between distros for them to cooperate. The init system, the location of files, the versions of programs and libraries, configuration utilities, etc. You have to take the plunge by making a complete switch or don't do it at all.
By the way, if you're considering a source distro, have you looked at Linux's close cousins, the BSDs? Gentoo's Portage is based upon BSD's port system, and Slackware's init system is modeled after BSD; which sort of explains why BSD is IMHO an excellent hacker OS. You won't have to give up Linux software, most is either compileable to BSD or has binaries that can run under BSD's fast Linux emulation.
I use FreeBSD and I love it. It's harder to install, and has less hardware support; which I suppose are the two main deficiencies, but I've found that with the ports system it's actually easier to maintain than a Linux system because the dependencies are always downloaded with the program. If you don't want to compile the program, it also can use pkg_add to install a binary - and it will also resolve dependencies using that as well. It has a very stable file system (FFS + soft updates) and an excellent virtual memory system (no "kernel of pain") as well. Keeping the entire system up to date is quick too, use cvsup to keep your entire source and ports up to date in a reasonable fashion. (I manage to keep my entire system tracking -STABLE over dial-up, a feat that would be too painfull with most source based Linuxes which seem to assume that you have broadband.)
Sorry for this answer being a bit long, but I thought that as long as we're talking about wiping out an existing system in favor of a source-based Linux that it'd be a natural moment for BSD advocacy. ;-)
I really appreciate the long answer, and to be honest - I would not mind trying a BSD variant.
I guess I was hoping that I can take the ease of initial install (and all the other crap I've set up) so that I can then use Source Dist /style/ tools to build everything from source going forward. I am already /starting/ this by saving run-configure-packagename files in my src/pkg directory. This way, I can set the package up the same way, the next time I download it. Since the source dists have tools to manage this already... yes, the best of both worlds. I like the ease of setup of an RPM, and I like the control that source gives me.
See, I'm kindof afraid that BSD won't be System V enough (Go ahead - laugh at how dumb that sounds). I wouldn't run Linux on my hobby system until it started to feel more like System V than BSD either (of course that was years ago).
How BSD like is BSD? Does it feel more like System V that it used to? Maybe this is an old timer question though.