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Gentoo Linux Musings 395

ChaserPnk writes "Gentoo has been in the news recently. First with the news that Daniel Robbins leaving Gentoo and then with Gentoo Linux 2004.1 being recently released. Have you ever wondered how Gentoo got started? An article at IBM DeveloperWorks explains how. Get to know the history of Gentoo." darthcamaro wrote in with a related story that suggests that Gentoo is preparing to change directions soon: "Is Gentoo gearing up to be the third major enterprise distro? That's what an article running on internetnews.com points to. They talked to the head of Gentoo's enterprise efforts. For those that think that Gentoo Enterprise is far off, Gentoo's guy figures if they had the cash they'd be up and running in 6 months."
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Gentoo Linux Musings

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  • by ErichTheWebGuy ( 745925 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:21PM (#9015532) Homepage
    There is something very appealing about a distro that is so source-code driven (for lack of a better tem). It embodies all the best things about open-source software.

    I have been extremely happy with Gentoo. It's rock-solid stable, and its the speediest of any distro I have tried (no doubt due to all your applications being optimized for your specific system).

    If they came out with an "enterprise" version I think I would give it a whirl, I can see it easily being a great fit in my server room. I wish them all the best.
  • I like Gentoo... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nuclear305 ( 674185 ) * on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:23PM (#9015541)
    I've been a Gentoo user for about 9 months, and it certainly has a promising future regardless of direction.

    The portage system takes one of the best features of FreeBSD and actually *improved* on the idea rather than creating a poorly ported system. Decided you want to try out a few optimizations to see what your server likes best? Just 'emerge -e world' and you've got yourself a freshly recompiled system. Dreading the release of 2004.2? No sweat...Gentoo isn't like other distros (read: Redhat/Fedora) where upgrading remotely is a nightmare...just update the system through portage and it's essentially the same system. No need to worry about how you're going to upgrade your hosting servers to the newest release or worry that it will come to an EOL and you're no longer getting your juicy security patches.

    It seems the most common complaint is the time it takes Gentoo to compile anything. The flexibility this system provides is well worth the extra few minutes rather than installing *.deb or *.rpm files and entering dependency hell.

    Yes, yes...let the distro wars begin.
  • I just wanted to say (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:24PM (#9015545)
    I started playing with Gentoo a few days ago... and I'm in love. I've been using computers for a while (DOS, Windows, OS/2, FreeBSD primarily), and this is the first Linux distro that I've come across that I really like working with. I think part of it appeals to the elitist inside me that wants to compile everything heavily optimized, but it also just feels... right... to me. So, thanks to the Gentoo developers.
  • by MarkWPiper ( 604760 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:26PM (#9015562) Homepage
    Debian's true success has been in spawning so many other interesting distros (Knoppix, Libranet, Lindows, and on and on).

    I believe however, that Gentoo is even better suited to this task. A fix in the source is a fix for every distro, where as a fix in a package fixes only a single release of a single distro.

    With the recent release of catalyst, gentoo makes even more sense in this role.

    I guess there are two knocks against Gentoo as a 'distribution base distribution': installation, and packaging. Honestly though, packaging -- once the source has been compiled once -- now works great. That's what the knockoff distros would be doing. Installation, they've left somewhat open-ended. Every distro seems to make an installer though, so I can assume it'd be easy to make one for a Gentoo knockoff.

    Gentoo's source database is simply of the highest quality. I think it is the distro to watch, but because it is so useful as a technology to create truly customized, useful distros.

  • by Inhibit ( 105449 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:28PM (#9015569) Homepage Journal
    Actually, it's kind of odd thinking of Gentoo in an enterprise setting. It's always billed itself as a "meta distribution" in the sense that it's something solid distributions could be culled off of.

    Due to it's ever changing and rotating nature, it's about dead opposite the rock solid Debian distribution. While it *could* be a Enterprise distribution, it'd be easier to create a solid locked branch built off Gentoo and kept clean of the nasty problems that tend to have (often) entered the portage tree in the past. And then it wouldn't really be Gentoo proper.
  • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:30PM (#9015581) Journal
    Businesses want support, stability and a minimum of fuss, not exactly areas where Gentoo enjoys advantages over other Linux distributions such as, say, Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake and Debian.

    At the moment, it's not positioned to compete against the major distributions for a share of the business market. It may be so at some point down the line, but it certainly isn't so right now.
  • Interesting start (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KrispyKringle ( 672903 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:30PM (#9015583)
    It's interesting to see how Daniel Robbins went and, on his own, built Enoch, and how he went from there to a distro as popular as Gentoo. It's also encouraging for many of us--when he started with Linux, he was just an NT sysadmin; this sure encourages me that I don't need to be a guru with assembly and C to make contributions.

    I suppose the other valuable lesson, though, is that he did make it that far not just because of enthusiasm or hard work, but because he had a good idea (ebuilds). I see a lot of knock-off distros--yet another CD-based router, for example--that just don't have any great ideas behind them. Sure, that's the point of Linux--I've got no complaints with people doing what they want, but it strikes me that the valuable lesson here is that a good idea can go far--but without that idea, you've got nothing.

    (That's the best I can come up with--just trying to focus the freakin' discussion on something other than ``I like Gentoo'' ``I don't!'')

  • Gentoo over dialup (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajutla ( 720182 ) <ajutla at g m a i l dot com> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:31PM (#9015590) Homepage
    I'm pretty new to Linux in general, but am not afraid of trying out something difficult or heavily CLI-based. I started with Mandrake and Fedora, but found them too bloated / Windows-esque for my taste, and am now relatively happily using Debian sarge, and have been eagerly awaiting its release. However, due to, er, some recent stuff, I'm getting slightly annoyed with Debian, wondering if the wait for Sarge might in fact be quite long, or indeed, interminable, and am looking at trying another distro. Gentoo looks rather appealing--it seems well-documented and so on, and looks like it might be pretty fun to set up. One thing, though: I have a dial-up connection. Is it possible/desireable to easily install Gentoo this way? I've got a fast connection at the University, and it seems [from reading the docs] that one can download ISOs containing binary packages built for Gentoo. But, er, doesn't that entirely defeat the purpose of installing Gentoo? Should I take the plunge? Is it a good idea to use Gentoo over dialup? I'd be interested if anyone has any thoughts on this.
  • meh Gentoo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vlion ( 653369 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:40PM (#9015645) Journal
    Pros of Gentoo:
    Perfect for that old system you want to keep using.
    If you are clustering, it probably would be the way to go.
    Easy to update.

    Cons of Gentoo:
    Installation- un-believably frustrating.
    Ever even seen Red Hat's system? Its SIMPLE and it WORKS. RH and Mandrake both can get my system to boot with grub on first install and boot, but nooooo, not Gentoo.
    Too tweak-heavy.

    I'm sorry. Gentoo is a great special-purpose distro. If it wants to go mainstream, it must have a better install system.
    Go take a look at woody's(Debian) installer, and compare with the Gentoo install scheme.
    Gentoo installations are crap.

    I've done Gentoo, Debian, Red Hat 8, and Mandrake 10 installs.
    Gentoo is the most difficult to install.

  • by lwells-au ( 548448 ) <lwells@bigpond.n e t . au> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:45PM (#9015673)
    From the "what-I-would-like-to-see" department :)

    What I would love to see in Gentoo, or any other distro that is source-based really, is a way of setting up the system from binaries and then have the system transmogrify itself.

    What do I mean? Well, after the initial install the distro could start to compile the optimised packages with a preset set of flags and "replace" the existing pre-compiled binaries as it finishes the optimisations.

    Why? Well I think this would offer the absolute best of both worlds. It would allow you to get a Gentoo-based system up quickly without waiting hours and hours for compilation. It would then take advantage of unused CPU cycles (and lets face it, I doubt most machines use a large amount of resources more than 5-10% of their operating lives) to compile optimised packages, thus giving the benefits that everyone loves about source-based distros?

    Is it possible? I have no idea. Frankly, I don't use Gentoo or even Linux all that often, but it strikes me as very neat solution for the one weakness present in distros that have to be compiled from source.

    I think it might also be quite useful in getting acceptence in the business world. Being able to get a system up and customised quickly could be an important selling point, particularly in SME business where there is a diverse range of hardware (and thus ghosting is not necessarily a good option). It such a networked environment, it might even be possible to use a distributed compilation system.

    Anyway, that's my little suggestion. As I said, it may not even be practical let alone possible, but it might stimulate further ideas that make Gentoo (and perhaps linux in general) an even better solution. Again, I don't even use Linux (well, only very infrequently) but I strongly support the underlying philosophy behind much of the OSS movement. /rant mode :)
  • by asv108 ( 141455 ) <.asv. .at. .ivoss.com.> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:48PM (#9015685) Homepage Journal
    Debian on the servers. Seriously, after the whole Redhat EOL debacle, I stopped relying on commercial distros for my Linux needs. Both distros have huge packaging systems and sport the ability to upgrade to major OS updates with one simple command.

    On the desktop end, I prefer gentoo because it is more lenient with accepting non-free packages and packages with potential legal issues. I also like the optimization abilities of a source based distro. As a java developer, Gentoo is simply the best Linux distro for Java developement. The major jre's are integrated in to the packaging system and the java-config utility allows me to easily switch from multiple jres on the fly.

    On the server side, debian provides stability and quality control. Contrary to popular myth, there are quite a few pay support options available [debian.org] for debian.

  • Gentoo Usage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mozingod ( 738108 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:49PM (#9015701)
    We're already using Gentoo on about a dozen or so production machines. Its been great. Setup time takes about two business days (system over night, bootstrap overnight), but who cares? We have the installation procedure we use down to the point where we don't even have to look at the screen, our self-made guides have everything written down. All the machines have a common configuration this way too.

    I'm currently working on a web based system to very easily keep all these systems up to date and allow us to choose which packages we want to upgrade, so we don't have to get the newest if we don't want.

    I hope they do release commercial support for it, we'd be one of the first on the list to purchase!
  • by KJE ( 640748 ) <ken@kje.ca> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:55PM (#9015723) Homepage
    I had played around with Linux at home, with SuSE and Red Hat and the like. But they were all so big on that 400MHz Celeron. Then I put on Gentoo, and it flew. MythTV, no problem! With the famous pvr-250, and me striping down the system to be a mythtv only box, I was smokin.

    But in the server room? Sadly, I don't see this happening. What sells there is support. And for people who don't know, when we talk about someone providing support, we talk about someone to *blame*. "Hey, the server is down, wtf? Well, I'm paying RH $XXXX, I'll let them figure it out." And for the most part, they do.

    The whole philosophy of Gentoo seems to go against this though. Red Hat can support it, cause they know you are running RedHat 7.2 with the 2.4.9-31MPT-SP kernel, cause that's what they shipped with. If you buiild your own they'll have one word for you: Unsupported.

    Now look at Gentoo Linux, they are at the other end of the spectrum, 100% custom. Who in their right mind is going to support that? How could they? I just don't see it.

  • Gentooo..EOOO! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by deathguppie ( 768263 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @12:09AM (#9015778)

    I see the future of Gentoo not only as a meta distrobution, but also as a comunication method between developers and users

    The biggest thing about Gentoo for me hasn't just been the fact that I can get anything (fresh out of the oven), but the fact that I can report bugs, and get feedback within hours....I can go to the gentoo forums and get answeres within minutes

    It's because I feel the future of linux is in its ability to progess, to find new way's of doing thing s, to find new......on a five year mission to .... well you get the idea.

    Gentoo is just plain FUNNN!!!!

  • Re:I like Gentoo... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @12:11AM (#9015788) Homepage Journal
    The portage system takes one of the best features of FreeBSD and actually *improved* on the idea

    Until it's safe to do an "emerge --unmerge", it's not an improvement. Portage has some nice polish, but a few basic pieces simply aren't complete.
  • by GoClick ( 775762 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @12:19AM (#9015828)
    We will take some random people in the following magnitudes and administer an OS test to see who's really king. Now I agree that Windows has a greater advantage because of market share, HOWEVER that's the real world and the one we play in.

    30, 9th graders selected at random
    30, Fresh high school grads
    60, members of the general population
    30, persons age 30-60
    30, persons age 60+
    30 small business _owners_ not in IT

    FYI this is 210 people.

    We will have them attempt the following tasks Using the latest versions of
    OS X

    Participants will be timed and rewarded with a prize if they succeed in their tasks, say a candy bar (to simulate a work environment where they would get money)

    There will be two tasks to do 1/2 of each group will do each

    The first half will have to complete the tasks without any documentation other than what is provided standard ON SCREEN.

    The second half with a full printed manual including screen shots and detailed step by step instructions

    Our tests will be

    Install the OS (I realize this isn't realistic cause every Mac already comes with it but it'll have to do)
    Create 5 users
    Log in as one of the users and complete the following tasks
    Write a complex document with some formatting and colors and save it as a HTML document
    configure e-mail and send that HTML document to someone
    make a spread sheet and save it to a location and upload it to a website

    Users will have to find and install all the software to do these things either durring the OS install or from the Internet, they can make 2 phone calls durring the test

    Then we'll see what OS is really easiest and fastest and cheapest, we'll assume these people all cost $0.002 per second... Meaning that the commercial OSes already start with quite an expensive handicap.

    I'm sure with some more time and thought one could make this more fair but I personally expect OSX (Followed by Linspire) to win the on screen only event by a wide margin even considering the heavy price tag of the OS (we'll just assume a PC that costs as much G4 to level the feild) Most of us have seen a newbie use OS X and it's almost like they know what their doing..... For the well documented test I would expect Linspire to win followed by RedHat.

    Now test could be expanded to setting up a small office network typical to a small business, I once again expect OS X to clean up
  • by Mnemia ( 218659 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @12:37AM (#9015914)

    Yes, but I believe what the Gentoo people meant by "enterprise support" is that they will be providing periodic stable forks of the Portage tree on a regular basis. The new quarterly release structure is a step towards that goal. They intend to take a snapshot of the Portage tree every 3-6 months and work on getting the packages in it very stable. Then they'll offer guaranteed support for those packages including things like security fixes for the lifetime of that "version" of Gentoo. Essentially it'll be like Redhat is now but you'll have a lot more flexibility in customizing the configuration to meet specific needs.

    It's not there yet, and some things need to get worked on before they're ready for this. They may need more developer manpower too. As a Gentoo user since early 2002, I'll be interested to see what they come up with with the new non-profit foundation. A very interesting concept to me would be a nonprofit that offers paid support for these "stable" snapshots of Gentoo for enterprise customers - I think Mozilla is offering something similar.

  • by GreyWolf3000 ( 468618 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @01:10AM (#9016084) Journal
    The way Gentoo is set up, you never have to do that, ever.

    And what if you want to upgrade gcc (assuming the new version has broken binary compatibility) or glibc? You'd have to build all the new software against the new toolchain, but you'd either break everything in the process, or build a temporary toolchain, then build a new one on top of the old one. In either case, you still have to reboot at least once.

    There are some packages you just can't upgrade on the fly.

  • Re:meh Gentoo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pantherace ( 165052 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @01:29AM (#9016156)
    Enterprise speaking, you would have a technical staff that was competent (or SHOULD). You are not going to have the users messing with systems. The ease of install matters not, when you will be installing essentially ghosted machines. Before you install it, you will be testing it.

    In fact, gentoo, is possibly even more suited to the enterprise than RedHat or SuSE. Why? The admins have even more control. They also only have to compile a package once for each group of machines, and can deploy it to all the machines. (and to a few test machines first) Not to mention the "emerge security" which will be coming along in the mainline portage/emerge stable release fairly soon. Which will essentially allow you to fix a system at a certain point (of your own choosing) and have all the security updates.

  • Re:meh Gentoo (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vlion ( 653369 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @01:34AM (#9016180) Journal
    Let's be blunt: the default grub setup doesn't work with my machine. I couldn't get it to work. The local gentoo guru couldn't get it to work. We tried two installs, at which point I gave up and found a somewhat more functioning distro.

    My conclusion was that I had a broken source of grub given to me with gentoo.

    I don't feel like having to deal with a system that makes me do every last bit of effort.
    If I did, I would do LFS. Before you flame me into the ground here, let me tell you I have a text-only(Without any X installed) Debian box right next to my Windows/Drake machine.

    I use it in my daily routine. I'm not afraid of a CLI.


    oh- friendly advice:
    Don't ever resort to ad hominem attacks, dude.
    They usually backfire. :-)
  • I think we should level the playing field just a tad. First of all, if you're taking that broad of a selection of people (well, it's not THAT broad but broad enough for testing), you have to consider that a decently high percentage of said people have trouble installing a program on their computer and that's with propmting, so, I would personally ditch the OS installation idea right off the bat.

    Next up, creating the users. I can count on my hands how many people on their home based computers actually have more than one user created on their systems (and this is regardless of OS), let alone 5 users. If we're going to keep this real world, we have to look at real world situations.

    Third. The setting up of email is a good one. Everyone basically has to do that at some point and time (except people using AOL basically) so that is a good test. Another good one would be setting up the internet connection, and I am talking about making the people setup a dialup connection. Broadband is cheating in some respects and a bit more difficult in others.

    Fourth, navigation of the OS/GUI. Make them find various programs and give the location. Nothing really obscure, but make them have to use the search functions of the OS/GUI. This will test how well the various OSs handle searches and how intuitive they are to people (if you're wondering, I'm looking thoroughly and only at usability here).

    Fifth, ask the users to create a folder in a given location, create a document to put into it, save this document to the removable media of your choice, and hand it to another person to open. This will test interoperability between platforms/programs. It is cheating to put the same Office Suite (hell, leave out the office suite, just use supplied text editors) on every system, regardless of availability.

    I can go on and on with this and I am seriously going to try and carry out these tests in the not too distant future. Some of these things I would use to gauge how well students were comprehending what I was teaching during Linux and MCSE courses. Others are jujst ramblings off the top of my head. hehehe Anyways, it's time to eat and I'm hungry...


  • by Our Man In Redmond ( 63094 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @02:41AM (#9016384)
    Gentoo per se, you might be right, especially if people are doing things like rolling their own kernels. But, consider a company that promises to provide support. The company installs Gentoo on the client machines, does all the necessary security upgrades and the like, and then tells the client not to mess with portage and genkernel or they void their service contract on that machine. The company can remotely kick off portage or kernel compiles on client machines via ssh, so they always know what's on a particular machine.

    Looks like a great opportunity for someone who can make it work.
  • Static linking (Score:3, Interesting)

    by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @03:04AM (#9016447)
    Would I be right in thinking that Gentoo would allow me to specify certain sets of binaries to be statically linked? Easily?

    I have bucketloads of space. Having critical things like tar, emerge, vgscan et al statically linked is *well* worth the few K or *gasp* maybe even a few *M*

  • by sffubs ( 561863 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @04:21AM (#9016633)
    I have to agree. I've been using Gentoo for about a month, and I absolutely love it. I used to use Slackware on pretty much all my boxes, and compile stuff from source myself (using Stow for "package management") so I could choose which features to compile in. Now Gentoo does all of that for me, in one command.
  • That would be great! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @04:39AM (#9016697)
    "it should be the basis of Mac OS XI in a few years"

    As a user of both Gentoo and Mac OS X, I think having Portage on the Mac would be the greatest thing EVER!

    Oh, and by the way, they are actually working on that - see gentoo.org and metapkg.org - so you're right; it will be available in MacOS XI - the only question is whether Apple will officially support it : )
  • Re:Server room? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bdaehlie ( 537484 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @08:42AM (#9017454) Homepage
    For what its worth, compiling big things like KDE is usually a disk-bound process. That is - the speed of your hard drive is probably much more of a determining factor in your compile time than processor speed or amount of RAM (once you're above a certain certain modest level, which you passed a long time ago on a 2.4GHz/1GB RAM machine). That has been my experience anyway. I compile Mozilla quite often and that is definitely disk-bound. I use a pretty nice PowerBook with the fastest hard drive I could get in it at the time and my compile times are terrible compared to desktop machines due to the fact that I have to use a drive that is slimmed down for portables. I'd much rather use a machine with a slower processor and less RAM but a faster hard drive.
  • by Creepy ( 93888 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @09:25AM (#9017749) Journal
    I've tried most of the common linux packaging methods (RPM with SUSE and RedHat, dpkg with Yellow Dog and Debian, and portage with GenToo), and I didn't think any of them were easy enough for anyone unfamiliar with Linux to use. UNIX even sometimes with a GUI has too many things with three or four letter names, and the GNU-acronym fetish (Gnu's Not UNIX) doesn't help - you wouldn't even be able to guess what something like WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator) is without reading documentation. I remember launching a number of applications in KDE or GNOME because I had no idea what they were at the time (xmms? what the heck does that do?). Many times the icon didn't help, as well (I can't think of any specific ones off the top of my head 'cause I changed most of the names, but, for instance, WINE's wine glass).

    The install of GenToo was messy, IMO, but I was a fairly early adopter, so I hope, at the very least, they've cleaned up the README file. As far as installs go, SUSE was among my favorites, but also one of my least favorites to maintain (Red Hat was worse [also RPM], but better than the no-package-manager Slackware distro I used before it), and GenToo was the exact opposite - one of my least favorite to install, and my favorite to maintain (debian was a worse install for me, but mainly because it didn't recognize most of my hardware and I had to download and split disk-image patches and then re-integrate them on the machine to get it on - ages ago, and probably long fixed).

    I don't usually go with the latest-and-greatest on my "stable" systems, only on ones I want to play around with - didn't try Red Hat until ~3 (I forget the exact version - versioning was different back then, and it was before the version inflation syndrome), and SUSE until 7. Yellow Dog and Slackware were early versions, though (Slackware, I would say, was probably TOO-early a version, but take that with a grain of salt - it was my first Linux experience, and also the first hard disk install I had ever done).
  • by Sevn ( 12012 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @01:30PM (#9020465) Homepage Journal

    I *HAVE* icc set in my use flag, and a license to legally use icc. Anything that can be built with icc automagically is. I have the haskell compiler also. It's not like you have to use gcc to compile everything in Gentoo. Set the use flag, install the compiler, anything that can use it will and all you have to do is type emerge blah. That's heaven my friend. Mandrake is very very very very very very easy though. They get points for that. It's just not up to my standards.
  • Re:I like Gentoo... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Devi0s ( 759123 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @01:35PM (#9020516) Journal
    Gentoo will have a very easy time dealing with the compile-time complaint. If Gentoo is adopted on multiple systems in an organization, the work they've done with distcc will let them share the compilation load with all of the other Gentoo systmes in the network.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"