Date with the Gentoo Oxen – Part Trois


I told myself this time would be my last. Before, I wavered and bailed, because I lacked commitment. I prayed this time would be different, that I honed myself through the CRUX experience. Knowing Gentoo rather well already, I dedicated a full weekend to its installation. Usually, it doesn’t take that long, though it’s reasonable to expect things to go wrong at some point. I began my courting attempts with the Archbang Linux live image. Though not Gentoo proper, it makes for a comfortable starting point on UEFI systems as X11 is already set up and in case something goes terribly wrong with the Gentoo chroot, problems can be looked up on the Internet swiftly. Moreover, so far Gentoo’s live images did not support UEFI, making GRUB2 installation with EFI support impossible. Some things to keep in mind prior to beginning work with Gentoo Linux:

  • The installation process is quite tedious and requires good understanding of Unix subsystems, OpenRC specifically.
  • Certain applications like Chromium, WebKit or GCC take a really long time to build. It’s highly advisable to install them overnight (or acquire a decent rig).
  • Knowledge of every single USE flag is not mandatory, though an idea of what applications provide which functionalities and how USE flags describe them is. Alternatively, means of a quick lookup to make sure USE flags will not collide.
  • Manual kernel configuration usually entails good understanding of one’s computer.

With above points in mind, I went for another date with Larry the cow. As expected, this time was truly different. Larry felt charming and smart. I could definitely sense the appeal of Gentoo’s tremendous flexibility. Things did go wrong at some point, though in a recoverable fashion. USE flags were tricky as ever, but I did manage to get them right without breaking the system altogether. This made me shed buckets of manly tears. Really!

After a while, I started seeing the limitations, though. Larry doesn’t do Java, at least not the way other GNU/Linux distributions do. He (it?) said I need to cut a deal with Oracle, sign a license, yet still I can only get the binaries. Not quite how I envisioned my Eclipse work. Far from smooth and freedom-friendly. Not to mention the downtime due to long compiles. I should probably get myself a server to do the heavy-lifting for me, though why bother in the first place? No relationship is without thorns, I guess.

To wrap things up, the prognosis looks good. Larry is a cow with gender disabilities, though swims as fast as a Gentoo penguin. The minor inconveniences I can live with as in return I get a flexible, rolling-release distribution that I can tailor perfectly to my own needs. It boots fast and actually runs faster than most GNU/Linux distributions, too. Not to mention the boring lack of those Ubuntu-esque ‘oh, where did my config go’ moments. Most importantly, the BSD feels are there. Loud and clear, echoing through the ports tree down to the Unix-inspired system management practices. I’m lovin’ it!


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