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Old 08-10-2006, 08:12 AM   #1
LQ Newbie
Registered: Mar 2005
Distribution: Debian
Posts: 25

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LFS vs Arch vs Gentoo

I'm tired of Debian and would like to know a bit about LFS, Arch and Gentoo.
Could you provide information regarding:
  • Installation (how long/simple)
  • Stability
  • Ease Of Use
  • Package Management
  • Maintenance (low/high)
  • Learning Curve
  • Required Experience
  • Security
  • Error-Proneness
  • User-Error-Proneness
  • anything else worth comparing
Old 08-10-2006, 09:09 AM   #2
Senior Member
Registered: Oct 2005
Distribution: Gentoo, Slackware, LFS
Posts: 2,242
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hello bongo22.
do you enough disk space? rather than comparing i suggest you install the 3 systems instead.
Old 08-10-2006, 09:17 AM   #3
Senior Member
Registered: Sep 2005
Location: France
Distribution: LFS
Posts: 1,591

Rep: Reputation: 79
LFS is as secure, as stable, as easy to maintain and to use as you make it to be. The package manager is not present unless you make it.
Installation is as long as it takes, but will be longer than debian for sure.

Last edited by Agrouf; 08-10-2006 at 09:22 AM.
Old 08-10-2006, 09:50 AM   #4
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Registered: May 2004
Location: Australia
Distribution: Gentoo
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LFS and Gentoo are both source-based distros so they will take you anything from a few hours to a day to install, maybe more if you're talking like a P2 or something. Gentoo has a package manager and while it lives under the guise of being an advanced distro, anybody who can read and copy-paste commands shouldn't have any problems at all using it. LFS is just that, Linux From Scratch, meaning nothing. You being an entire distro from the ground up starting with nothing. I'm sure the home page will tell you all about it.

Arch is easy, binary and minimal. It's generally pretty up to date but on the occasional package they take their time. It's not a newbie distro and if you ask a question in their forums without reading the docs first you will get snapped but depending on who you ask that isn't such a bad thing. Try Arch first and if you don't like it try one of the other two, I say this because Arch is the quickest to install and get to a usable state.
Old 08-10-2006, 09:55 AM   #5
Senior Member
Registered: Sep 2005
Location: France
Distribution: LFS
Posts: 1,591

Rep: Reputation: 79
LFS is a book. It is a tutorial on how to make your distro.
Its purpose is to make you learn linux, or to make something you can't do with other ready distros.
If you are bored, install LFS, this is the funniest distro.
Old 08-10-2006, 10:23 AM   #6
ReliaFree Maintainer
Registered: Aug 2004
Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Distribution: Slackware-current, Cross Linux from Scratch, Gentoo
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For Gentoo...
  • Installation (how long/simple)
It takes a couple of hours at most to get a working system with CLI only. This assumes you've read and understand the installation documents before you start and know your hardware pretty well. "Everything" is compiled from source for your machine, so you can guesstimate how long different packages will take . For example, KDE or GNOME could take 6 or more hours when installed from scratch. Of course, you define the flags for your system that are used during compilation so you only provide support for what you want.
  • Stability
Gentoo provides a stable, a testing, and a masked branch. It also allows you to use non-Gentoo software. Obviously you can see the philosophy with regard to stability. Gentoo's stable branch is more updated than Debian's, IMHO. I'll offer that I mix stable, testing, and 3rd party on my system and don't notice any stability issues or problems that limit my productivity. Currently the only issue I have is my screensaver doesn't start unless I manually lock the session. Keep in mind that this is for a home desktop system.
  • Ease Of Use
Well, the apps on Gentoo aren't any different, so from that perspective it's no more or no less easy to use. As far as managing the system, I do most of that from the CLI regardless of distro. So from my viewpoint that aspect is no more or no less easy either.
  • Package Management
Once again, I do this from the CLI, but I'm sure there are GUI interfaces. I had to learn a new set of commands, but I like the system that Gentoo uses (called portage). I feel like it gives me more control over the packages I have installed on my system. I can exclude whole categories of applications (e.g., I don't want games, I mask the all the games categories). I can include or exclude a single package or even a single version of a single package. I can choose to use the testing branch for package A, version 2 and the stable branch for all other versions of package A. There's alot of other features like cached compiling, binary support, USE flags. You can read about portage on the Gentoo website.
  • Maintenance (low/high)
New versions are being introduced every day, so you could theoretically be updating on a daily basis. I don't think there are an inordinate number of critical/security bugs that would require you to be patching and updating all the time either. A lot of those come from upstream and would, likely, impact you no matter what distro. There's alot of opportunity to tweak, but no requirement to tweak.

That said, if you do a poor job during the initial installation, you could spend a fair amount of time maintaining things. For example, if you forget to compile parallel port support into your kernel during the initial install, you'll need to recompile the kernel before you use your printer. If you spent the time planning your initial install, you should be OK.

Once you get it setup, it's not like you need to adjust this and turn that everytime you want to run some program. Similarly, you don't need to overhaul the system every three months just to keep going.
  • Learning Curve
Coming to Gentoo from another distro, probably not too high. Of course, I'm learning something new all the time. It sorta depends on what you've done on previous distros.
  • Required Experience
  • Security
Anything that you use in Debian to make your system secure is (?) available in Gentoo.
  • Error-Proneness
Well, like I said earlier, I do just about everything from the CLI when maintaining/managing my system. So I'm just as likely to make a mistake in Gentoo as in another distro (except maybe *buntu which uses sudo by default).
  • User-Error-Proneness
Put a GNOME desktop on Debian and a GNOME desktop on Gentoo and I don't know that the user is going to be more likely to make an error in one over the other.
  • anything else worth comparing
It's kinda dumb, but Gentoo has a slicker, more professional looking website.

I'm not a programmer, so don't have much to offer a project I guess, but I volunteered to help two other distros and never heard a peep. It would've been nice to at least be told to piss off. When I volunteered to help test a package, the Gentoo dev said, "Cool, thanks." and responded within an hour of me volunteering. As a customer, that goes a long way with me.

Gentoo's official forum is hosted at their website. I look for answers there, but I prefer a different forum that I won't mention whose initials are They're not unfriendly, but I feel that there's less patience there than at the previously unmentioned forum.

For your information, I've used FC4, FC5, Debian Woody, Debian Etch, and Slackware 10.2. My kids use Ubuntu and Kubuntu. So, that's my frame of reference.

Originally Posted by bongo22
You're welcome, hope at least something I wrote is helpful to you.
Old 08-10-2006, 12:15 PM   #7
Registered: Sep 2005
Location: UK
Distribution: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
Posts: 76

Rep: Reputation: 16
Arch, with about a year of experience:
[*]Installation (how long/simple)
few hours if you know debian and read the installation guide.. a week if you need to get some weird piece of HW working
Very good, unless an upgrade crashes your system.
[*]Ease Of Use
configuration with files, but there is just a few files, so it's fairly easy
[*]Package Management
Superb, but the number of packages is someting like a few thousand, compared to debian's 17000 or something.. Note that it's fairly easy to create a new package from source yourself and share it with others!
[*]Maintenance (low/high)
Upgrading all packages takes just one command, just like in debian - but watch out - it's goot to read the latest newsletter before full upgrade in case of some reported problems or quirks.
[*]Learning Curve
For a total nowbie it would be pretty steep. For an ex-debianist, fairly ok.
[*]Required Experience

I tried Arch after having used Mandriva for 2 years. But your milage may vary.

All security upgrades come from packages themselves, and they tend to be fairly up to date in the repos. Note that installing firewalls etc is down to you.
Stuff happens in upgrades sometimes
[*]anything else worth comparing
Fastness and slimness is just a great pleasure. The community is young, techie and very helpful.

Still I consider Arch "A toy to play around with", and SUSE is what I use for serious work. This because you CAN really screw up your system too easily with Arch - it's a life on the edge.
Old 08-11-2006, 02:25 PM   #8
LQ Newbie
Registered: Mar 2005
Distribution: Debian
Posts: 25

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: Disabled
Thank you all for the replies.
I will try Arch and Gentoo first and LFS once I have gained more experience.


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