I have been a Linux user since ‘95. I still remembered my very first Linux distribution — Slackware 2.x on 50+ floppy diskettes, and I still remembered the joy to have it installed on my 486 DX-4 75 with 8Mb of RAM. However I eventually got tired with Slackware, for the next ten or so years there has constantly been a search for “the perfect distribution”. I started with Debian, tried Red Hat, moved to Mandrake, and finally settled down on Gentoo Linux.
- Portage rocks — download, build and applications against your current list of libraries. All on command line.
- USE flags — flexible configuration over the ways packages are built. You can use it to customise your Gentoo installation to suit your needs — like there is no need to pull half a dozen packages to install everything from Perl to Gtk+, if you just want to use text-mode Vim.
- Build optimisation — since every packages are built specific to your system, they can be optimised at build time for your platform.
- Large package library — not sure how many packages are there, but I can usually find the ones I want. Installing them is a breeze.
emerge <package>downloads and builds the tarball, install them onto live file system, and add it into “world file” to track updates later.
Why Not Gentoo?
However at the same time I also acknowledge that Gentoo is not for everyone.
- It builds, builds and builds… — especially when you are on a resource limited VPS. Large packages like glibc, gcc or Apache can take ages to build. Not good if you are in a hurry.
- Require more memory — just to get GCC running during an emerge, otherwise prepare to swap like crazy whenever an update/a new package needs to be emerged.
- Require more disk space — to store the entire
/usr/portagetree, which can be quite huge. It might be an issue on resource limited VPS.
- Frequent updates — it might be good news to those who love to live on the edge, but to others frequently emerging and occationally configuration file stuffs up can be quite frustrating.