Weekend of Gentoo

15 05 2006

For reasons that are increasingly less clear, I decided that this weekend Linux would return to my laptop. That statement seems to imply that I’ve run Linux on my laptop before, which is true. I have run a few of the packaged distros (Ubuntu, Mepis, etc.), but that’s not really running Linux so much as not running windows.

Gentoo. That would be the spark that led to my Linux enlightenment, or so I hoped. I downloaded the Minimal Install ISO (2006.0) and set about my task.

Minimal, in this case, is not at all misused. The CD booted to a flashing cursor.

Once I recovered from that little surprise, I was on my way. Gentoo has really good documentation. Notice I didn’t say “for an open source project”. Gentoo has really good documentation for any project. I had no trouble finding what I needed and the writing is clear and thorough. If only IBM’s documentation were so good.

The install process is time consuming – especially if this is your first time – but dead simple. I did have to recompile my kernel, because my first attempt wouldn’t boot, but I have since made several recompiles without any trouble.

Portage rules. Portage is Gentoo’s package manager, and it’s really nice. It reminds me a bit of gems. It downloads your packages as source and then compiles them for your machine. Very nice.

The downside to Portage is that it can be time consuming. It took five hours to build kdebase. That’s a heavy price when you’re used to binary installs on a windows machine.

All in all, I’m pretty happy so far with Gentoo. I wish someone had recommended it to me years ago.

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