using gentoo

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. 🙂

Go Gentoo. 😀

I also can’t believe I’m still a fanboi, after all these years.

7 comments on “using gentoo

  1. dufeu

    If Gentoo is still fun enough for me to even now remain a fanboi at least as long as you, it’s should darn well be fun enough for _you_ to remain a fanboi too!

    As for distro stability, my primary thought on the matter:

    An allegedly “stable” distro means you’re frozen at whatever package versions work best with the version of the “stable” distro you have installed. i.e. What packages are released with it. It’s my experience that packages outside of the distro’s repository are simply too problematic for bother with.

    If you think there might be a grain of truth in the above, let’s think about some of the implications:

    1) To get upgraded versions of most packages, one has to wait for the distro maintainer to upgrade the package versions for you. This is essentially one of the version upgrade drivers for most other distros.

    2) Not only are most end users dependent on individual distros upgrade schedule for package version upgrades, packages not in a particular distro repository are simply not available to them.

    Gentoo breaks the user dependency on distros by specifically putting the user in charge of their own definition of stability, desirability of new features and, with the help of the community through layman, what packages outside the normal repository they want to install.

  2. Benedikt Böhm (Hollow)

    i’ve never thought about it from that pov, but you’re totally right. i love my job as a gentoo admin and my customers are really happy with it too. great post 🙂

  3. rgk

    I completely agree, no distro is perfect but Gentoo just works for me. I’ve been using Gentoo since 2006 now and I must say, I’m just as much as a fanboy as I was since I first installed it.

    1. Nigel

      Hi, I’m a user of gentoo stable. I’m not a admin or developer, just a user. I installed my first gentoo desktop in 2005 on a dell 450Mhz optiplex GX1. The box is still going. I moved it from a kernel 2.4 to 2.6 and removed X in about 2007. Its now a wifi / router/ web server. Its never had a reinstall. I keep it up to date. Its slow to upgrade. SCREEN -r is great for emerging. Its on 24/7 so speed is not important.

      I now have 2 laptops, 2 desktops and 1 server running gentoo at home. (1 windows XP for work)
      My son (5years) uses gentoo on one of the desktops.

      Gentoo Rocks!

      Keep up the great work Steve.

      I have only just started adding content to the gentoo wiki.


  4. H.Habighorst

    Well… I’ve always returned to Gentoo on my Desktop System because it has got one major bonus against (most) distributions:

    Normally, If an app doesn’t work, you are forced to wait – or you’ll need to rebuild the whole package.

    If I compare the work of rebuilding the package with patches, checking etc against emerge… Hm, it’s definitely more simply.

    The second argument against Gentoo is… it compiles you to heaven. Well, dunno if anyone knows about Moores Law… But on most computers today compiling isn’t slow and it doesn’t take days.

    The third argument against Gentoo is the installation – well. I’ll be quiet as I don’t know the last time when I installed Gentoo (3-4 years?!?). Only thing that was a bit troublesome was the conversion to Ext4, but thanks to Live CDs and a bit of knowledge, it worked out very well.

    Hmpf… Unstable Gentoo… Lemme think… Yeah. There are those types of users who don’t know what they’re doing or know that they’re doing something that CAN lead to unstableness(but ignore it, hey why should this happen to me?). But this isn’t gentoo’s weakness, it’s his biggest pro: You can do whatever you want. You can even force the system to be unstable or to do things that are not realiable. Gentoo is the way you want – you’ll just need to configure it.

    And I think that’s the point where someone cannot simply write: Gentoo is not stable…

  5. Quake_Sinatra

    I think the gist of the comments ( and i wholeheartedly agree) is that Gentoo IS.
    Gentoo is as stable as its user is, if i want to run ~amd64 programs i can FORCE the machine to let me. The install (done it a few times recently – for tests on hardware) and for the most part the base install is less than 40 minutes – compilation of X and GCC took about an hour so on decent hardware i hard a workable desktop in about 2 hours – not bad. Gentoo is what it is, that is the argument for it. It is what you make of it, it is what you want to do to it. It is the only distro outside of the slack, ryol crowd that isnt cookie cutter. If you dont like Gentoo – you probably dont need any customized distro. More power to those that want a custom distro whether they use it as such or not. Sound fanboy enough to you?
    Gentoo since 2003 – one home partition the whole time 🙂


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