There was an interesting thread I read in the forums this morning that was talking about the general process of stabling software, and while I found the original poster’s statement very interesting, I posted my own thoughts in response in a few posts in return that I considered shed light on how the scenario really is in developing for Gentoo. Writing about it really got me thinking about the distribution as a whole, and why I like it, and why I keep coming back to it. In short, why I freaking love Gentoo.
I’m going on my eighth year or so of using it. I don’t know the exact timeline, but I’m pretty sure I’ve used it since around April of 2002 or so. I’m also coming up on my fourth year of being a Gentoo developer. That just blows me away. I’ve also started recently getting a resurgence of interest in working on the development side again, something I’m really glad to see, since I have been progressively phasing myself out over the past few months. Quite recently, though, I’ve managed to get myself much more organized and that has given me a much bigger picture of areas where I want to focus (and ones I want to drop interest), and so that has made it working on Gentoo fun again. For the record, that’s how it should always be.
There is one argument in particular I wanted to rehash here, and that is the one about stability as a distro.
I’ve often heard the argument, when debating Linux distributions, someone say something like, “Why would anyone run Gentoo .. it’s not stable!” I never have a really good retort to that answer when people bring it up, other than something simple like “Well, the obvious reason would be that I’ve used it for years and if I manage it, you won’t have any problems.” Not to say that I don’t have problems with my Gentoo installs, but these days they are usually stupid things … like forgetting my root password or accidentally firewalling myself out of the box.
I don’t really care about the “distro wars” though. My motto has long been, “to each his own.” Find what works for *you* and apply it. I could argue all day to someone about the merits of Gentoo, but really, all that matters is that it fits my needs well and does exactly what I want it to do, and how I want it to do things. Everyone else can go find their own. I’ve got mine.
But the fallacy in that original argument “Gentoo’s not stable!” is a weak one. It implies that the distribution should be the one providing all the support for keeping things constantly maintained, running and efficient. To me, those tasks sounds like the description of a systems administrator job position.
My point is that, it shouldn’t matter what Linux distribution you are going to use — you need someone to keep it up and running. I think Gentoo is great because it removes the veil from saying, “just run these versions of the software and you’ll be totally fine.” Bugs creep in all the time. Binary distributions stick you with a set of packages, that if, you want to break out of that pigeon hole, it may be completely impossible to do. With Gentoo, the definition of “stable” is left up to the user, the maintainer, the systems administrator. I love it.
I also can’t believe I’m still a fanboi, after all these years.