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I recently did a full stage 1 install of Gentoo after a few years using SUSE. I used a freebie 2004.2 disk to do this, and then when complete I emerged the latest packages.
I know this is a stupid question, but does this now mean i'm using the latest version of Gentoo? It's something I've never been clear about, as upgrades never worked correctly with SUSE - it was always far better to start from scratch?
One of the core concepts of Gentoo is that you should never need to reinstall your operating system. With frequent "emerge sync"s and "emerge -uDv world" to update, you should have current software at all times. Portage will let you know if you need to change your "profile", which sets up some basic settings for the system (minimum gcc version, etc.)
Opal - afer some initial fiddling around and reading documentation, I guess it took about 4 or 5 hours to download and compile using broadband (I went to bed, and it was done by the morning).
Then of course it takes a while to get things how you want. Another day perhaps. Then there's X and GNOME - they took another evening to compile. Then Firefox, Thunderbird and Xine! I've not dared to try OO or Eclipse yet!
As you know, this is not the simplest of distros - but the days I spent setting it up nice will be virtually made up by improved booting and my reduced stress levels - 55 secs from GRUB to X, where SUSE 9.2 was about 2.5 mins! It's not for everyone.....!
I performed a stage 1 in about 3 hours over SDSL. With your dialup, you'd probably want to use emerge -f (fetch) first to download the content, then build it. I know the core (stuff you install during the "installation" process) software can be downloaded within a 2 hour window easily, even over dialup. Some people say a stage 1 has problems like circular dependencies, etc. I've never seen them, and I've performed 3 stage 1s. I'm perfectly happy with my desktop.