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Is Gentoo in crisis? 199

Posted by Hemos
from the well-yeah-probably dept.
TheCoop1984 writes "A recent article on distrowatch, and an extended thread on the gentoo forums, have pointed out that gentoo is not what it used to be. Daniel Robbins came back and went again after only a few days, developer turnover is as high as ever, personal attacks on the mailing lists are common, and people are generally not happy about the current state of affairs. Is gentoo rotting from the inside, and can anything be done about it?"
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Is Gentoo in crisis?

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  • Teenagers (Score:2, Funny)

    by skorbutrage (983250)
    Honestly... It's just a teenage tantrum. Just ground them for a while, that should do it.
  • flameeyes / Diego (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2007 @08:51AM (#18314949)
    The post linked to is much more amusing with context [ciaranm.org].
    • Considering both posts together I think this is sign of healthy community.

      I personally would vote for the people who have remained with Gentoo: I believe that you can make something better only from inside. External critique is also very important - but it is rarely constructive. And to be really constructive you have to be in loop - you have to be part of it. (But of course that make sense if the loop isn't broken already.)

    • by makomk (752139)
      Ah yes... I suspect ciaranm may have been part of the reason flameeyes resigned. In fact, interesting things seem to happen around ciaranm - it looks like he was heavily involved in the flamefest where Daniel Robbins resigned [gentoo.org] (you know, the founder who came back - briefly) and appears to be part of the reason why he resigned as well. (I'm not even entirely sure exactly what said flamewar was about - I think it was related to some spinoff project of ciaranm's Paludis package manager, but I'm not sure if even
  • No way! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by guysmilee (720583)
    When people with strong personalities leave an organization it becomes more attractive for people that would rather not deal with them. I expect Gentoo will see a trickle in of new developers.
  • by squoozer (730327) on Monday March 12, 2007 @08:53AM (#18314971)

    I hope gentoo doesn't pass away as it's a clever idea and a good system but really who was it appealing to? Even as a geek is wasn't really interested in compiling my own packages because there is so little to be gained by it. Probably the best solution is to have a system where you can compile your own easily when you want to but generally take the precompiled offering - basically what Debian does. The performance that Gentoo claimed never really appeared AFAIK and I think that would be the only reason for the system.

    • by Billy the Impaler (886238) on Monday March 12, 2007 @08:59AM (#18315029)
      Well I've been hearing people say for years now that for most users computers are more than fast enough. Perhaps the extra few percent increase in performance of running specially optimized, self-compiled binaries is just not so visible these days when multiple GHz-speed machines with gigabytes of memory are everywhere.
      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday March 12, 2007 @09:41AM (#18315565) Homepage
        This is very true. The people who really need the speed, those running clusters and such, aren't using Gentoo. People who use up all their CPU cycles are probably the only ones who would benefit. Most of the people running gentoo just seem to be home users who think they're seeing a speed increase, but would probably get more work done if they didn't spend so much time compiling and tweaking.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          ...probably get more work done if they didn't spend so much time compiling and tweaking

          Not that all the compiling and tweaking is necessarily a bad thing. Many people like to fiddle with computers in that was as a hobby. They don't see it as a distraction from more useful endeavors, rather, they see it as something interesting to do.

          I actually see this more with Windows users than Linux users, though. Somehow some guys get interested in speeding up their computers or protecting it from slowdowns via thi

          • by EggyToast (858951)
            And then wonder why NewApp 1.0 won't work on their "fast, souped-up" system, and how FancyHardware is the buggiest piece of shit because they can't install the driver for it.

            Which inevitably leads to the method most Windows users resort to when their computer seems irrevocably mangled -- Format&Install.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ADRA (37398)
            As an old-school Windows tweaker, I can say there are a ton of on-by-default services that will never used by the 'typical' desktop user. It only takes me around 1 hour to get everything setup from scratch. Its finding the changes that make a difference that takes a long time. Once you have it, there's no need to tweak endlessly. Now the only thing I don't worry about is video card tweaks. Many of the third party tweaking tools makes that quite a large job.

            As for Linux, I used to tweak around quite a bit wi
        • by matt74441 (1000572) on Monday March 12, 2007 @10:16AM (#18316067)
          I'm a home user using Gentoo on two of my computers and I'm not doing it because I'm trying to get as much speed as possible, I'm using it because I like to be able to customize everything. Theres something I like about being able to build a system (almost) from the ground up, as I know exactly what is there. Oh and I don't spend all of my time compiling and tweaking, to me that is one of the weakest arguments against using Gentoo. When I hear that argument from someone, I know that they have failed to understand the purpose of Gentoo. The ability to compile everything and tweak everything on your system IS NOT A WEAKNESS of Gentoo, but its greatest strength. I would rather spend a day compiling X and KDE on my system when I know that it has been built with everything that I need, rather than installing a package that has been compiled with every option and have unnecessary dependencies cluttering up my system. Maybe I'm just more patient than most people, who knows. As for the article, Gentoo is not in crisis, one relatively unimportant developer is not going to take the entire project down. I wish him luck in whatever he moves onto, I just hope he tells the other developers that hes a freaking drama queen and they should censor all criticism from him.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by CastrTroy (595695)
            But nothings really stopping you from compiling the source code on any other distribution either. Simply download the source and compile it. Sure Gentoo does this for everything, but we don't really need this for everything. For the packages that do require it, go ahead and compile, you can do this on any Linux system. And as for things like KDE, most distros that I've used don't have a single "KDE" package. They have about 100 packages (or more, or less, never bothered to count) that you can choose to
            • by cyclop (780354) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:00AM (#18316633) Homepage Journal

              You are right, but Gentoo makes it easy. It has the best package management system ever done -even better than apt-get IMHO and surely at least on par with it.

              Having the easiness of a great package manager with included ability to fine tune your packages is the strength of Gentoo.

              • by Curtman (556920) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:45AM (#18317259)

                You are right, but Gentoo makes it easy.

                I second that. Very easy. I was never able to master the art of creating .deb's effortlessly in Debian/Ubuntu. In Gentoo I can whip up a 10 line ebuild that will fetch the source, patch it with whatever fixes for annoying things I care to (Such as making the preferences window resizeable again in Gaim - Damn you HIG nazi's), compile it, and install it in a minute or two. And I didn't need to browse a million tutorials with a million different ways of creating packages to do it. It just works.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Simply download the source and compile it. Sure Gentoo does this for everything, but we don't really need this for everything. For the packages that do require it, go ahead and compile, you can do this on any Linux system.

              Although I understand what you are thinking here, a lot of the time it's not practical... Mostly because of the way that the package manager handles dependencies. For example, do not install X.org from your repository. Install it from source, then try to install a program [say, via RPM]

              • by Knuckles (8964)
                . Mostly because of the way that the package manager handles dependencies. For example, do not install X.org from your repository. Install it from source, then try to install a program [say, via RPM] that depends on it's libraries.

                The program will hiccup and complain that X is not installed


                This is not because of how the package manager handles dependencies, but because you don't know how to correctly install from source on a system with a package manager. Of course you have to tell the package manager in so
                • I don't want to have to

                  # ./configure
                  # make
                  # make rpm
                  # rpm --install $PROGRAM.rpm

                  When I could:

                  # ./configure
                  # make
                  # make install

                  Or even:

                  # emerge -av $PROGRAM

                  The point I am trying to make is that you shouldn't have to bend over for a half-baked package management system. Sure, I know sometimes it's handy, which is why I used SuSE for over 3 years. But I just got tired of having to build my own packages, then install them over the old RPMs... It's a pain in the ass, I'd rather just install i

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by jimstapleton (999106)
      The advantage to compiling your own packages is that there is less of an issue with dependancy hell, since you have less to worry with them being compiled to slightly different libraries. Also, while most machines are fast enough you don't /need/ to compile your own packages, the performance boost in general with KDE, Gnome and especially Open Office is very noticable and extremely nice.
      • Bloody moderation system. These new buttons have no way to cancel a moderation. I misclicked Insightful and hit Funny instead, so this post should at least undo it...
    • by darkwhite (139802) on Monday March 12, 2007 @09:28AM (#18315379)
      Gentoo is very appealing to me and my lab because it offers unprecedented flexibility in how I want to build and configure my system, and reliable tools to keep it up-to-date and secure. Compiling from source is just one aspect of this flexibility - with just a couple simple steps I can modify the source code of any package and deploy it on my system, a much harder task on any other distro. Personally, I also consider it the epitome of the open source ideal.

      Back to the appeal question, our lab will soon be deploying Gentoo on a PXE booted HPC cluster with over 256 cores, and this is on the low end of the scale where Gentoo clusters come in (I know of people responsible for its deployment on 512+ node, 2K-core clusters). I won't even begin to list other places where Gentoo comes in as a first choice because of its flexibility.
      • by ZenShadow (101870)
        If you have a clean NFS root solution, I'd love to know more about it.

        --S (running 800+ gentoo hosts in production ;-)
        • by darkwhite (139802)
          I haven't deployed it yet, but it does work just fine on my test boxes:

          http://horizon.ath.cx/gentoo/ [horizon.ath.cx]

          Text search for "Micro-howto: Creating master and slave nodes for clustering". Everything up to the double newline is relevant.

          Any particular problem you've run into?
          • by ZenShadow (101870)
            Ah, we run our roots read-only, which is a bit more of a challenge. :-) It works better than anything else I've yet found, but it could still be cleaner.
    • I used it for the kick-ass package management system, and an array of packages that remains the best I've ever seen.

      I always looked at most compiling (save the Kernel and maybe the base of X) as an irritation--the cost of using the distro. Even with the compile time, it was STILL worth it.

      It would seem that I got in just at the beginning of Gentoo's "golden age", and left just before it ended. I switched to Ubuntu, which is lean and well-designed while having EXACTLY the bells and whistles that I want (if
    • by darkwhite (139802)
      To add to my earlier comment, the flexibility I speak about is not just superficial, control panel type stuff. I routinely write ebuilds for various packages in my scientific field, for both internal and public use, and it's much easier to do than with any packaging system I know of. The Gentoo mainline repository has more packages in many specialist fields than any other distro, and the overlays have much more. For any package, Gentoo offers the choice of staying with the solid, well-tested version, the cu
      • by Curtman (556920)

        although compiling for core2 does give a performance boost in some code compared to i686

        i686 would be nice. Compare it to i386 though, which strangely enough is what most x86 distro's are still compiled for these days. Does anyone still have a working 386?
      • by Procyon101 (61366)
        core2 is unstable gcc though, and I am VERY wary of using an unstable gcc :(
    • While USE flags and such things are quite useful IMO, my primary reason for using Gentoo is the extreme ease with which the while system is updated through distro versions. In Fedora, this is virtually impossible (I've tried the distro upgrade a few times, but it always requires booting from the installation CD and invariably breaks things to the point where it's more convenient to reinstall the entire system and redo everything from scratch). In Ubuntu, it is possible, but it generally requires update ~150
    • by springbox (853816)
      Well I use Gentoo on all of my Linux systems. One thing I like about compiling from the source is that I can modify the ebuilds and insert my own small patches on the local system without a lot of work.
    • by Goeland86 (741690)
      Gentoo is mostly compiled from scratch, but I never really believed it was for performance gain as far as software speed and responsiveness goes, but rather as features builtin to the software goes.
      Other people have already pointed most of that out, but the whole point of gentoo/portage is the USE variables, that let you quickly select what your system is going to be built for.
      Want it as a multimedia box? easy, just add all the multimedia-relevant use flags into your make.conf, then start emerge mplayer or
    • When I first went to Linux, I decided to jump in the deep end and use Gentoo as my very first distro to install and learn on. And BOY did I learn a lot with Gentoo. No graphical installer, no nothing except for the install guide that was just a few pages printed off on a printer. Between that, the Gentoo IRC channel and the forums, I learned all kinds of things about setting up a Linux system...because you had to get in there and get your hands dirty. I basically learned what to change or tweak and WHY I wa
      • by Procyon101 (61366)
        It's not like that anymore. Pop in the live CD, double click the icon that says "Install Gentoo". Then sit back and surf the web until it tells you it's ok to reboot into your new gentoo systems. You can still get the old advantages of a stage install by following up with an "emerge -e system || emerge -e world", but it's not the educational experience it used to be.

        And I too really liked the old educational experience.. I learned *A LOT* and am much more efficient at problem solving my system because of
    • The simplest difference between gentoo and binary distros is NOT that you compile your own. That is just a side effect. What is far more important is that you have the CODE, or rather more importantly, the HEADERS!

      If you EVER tried to compile a package yourselve on a binary distro you will have found that you first have to download a ton of headers, wich are often out of date, or you are using some weird binary.

      Simply put, if I want to compile a package on gentoo on my own I can do so by JUST compiling th

  • Netcraft may or may not confirm it [netcraft.com], since it rarely can tell Linux versions or distros apart anyway.
    • In other news, Netcraft confirms Slashdot is dying. Sources tell us that an obligatory Netcraft comment was not modded "Funny" due to a breakdown in the moderation system.
  • For me the point of Gentoo was the USE flags, few programs had plugin support, even fewer had runtime cpu detection. Nowadays it's much better, even oldschool programs like mplayer can be used without recompiling. For the past two years I have been using Ubuntu on the desktop and the only program I compile by hand is hot-babe (most people can live without it). I've compiled the kernel hundreds of times in my days, but not for a couple of years now. Gentoo just isn't worth it for me anymore, it was in the p
    • Gentoo just isn't worth it for me anymore, it was in the past.

      But if you happen to pick some junk PC/Sparc/Apple and would want to put it to better use, you soon would find that only flexibility of Gentoo allows you to make something real out of the junk. Or if you are developer you get instantly all the environment for you ready: with capability to automatically test little but disruptive changes on wide range of applications. It is irreplaceable.

      Of course, for end user on new powerful computer it

      • by gclef (96311)
        You know, I used to be one of the very people you're talking about: I was running gentoo on a Powermac 7200 (PowerPC 600-series arch, 120Mhz CPU, 64MB RAM) and using it as a DNS, mail, and web server.

        I bailed on Gentoo years ago due to problems with the distribution. Examples: Bind 9 was masked in portage for a year and a half after it's release due to a conflict with another package...which was trivially fixable, but no one would accept the patch; bugs in the builds for my arch were ignored since it was a
      • That's actually one of my bigger gripes about Gentoo -- in fact, I submitted a bug about documentation, which people refused to fix or understand.

        I can't find it now, and I suspect the bug report is gone.

        Basically, their installation instructions -- or some similar documentation -- mentioned Reiser4 and warned that it was unstable, beta stuff, or something like that. I pointed out that it may be unstable (and they could say that), but it was obviously, factually wrong to claim it was beta, as the code has b
      • by Bent Mind (853241)
        But if you happen to pick some junk PC/Sparc/Apple and would want to put it to better use, you soon would find that only flexibility of Gentoo allows you to make something real out of the junk.

        I have to agree. I sometimes refurbish older computers for children to use. I've found that Gentoo is about the only current operating system that works well. The oldest system I've used is a 233MHz PII with 32MB of ram. It made a nice game computer for a 3-year old. Gcompris, Childsplay, and Tuxpaint all run great
    • by Knuckles (8964)
      the only program I compile by hand is hot-babe

      No need: http://medibuntu.sos-sts.com/repository.php [sos-sts.com]
    • Reason #1 is sheer transparency. I can do an ebuild in my sleep, and it certainly makes it a lot easier to dig around when something's wrong. Whether it's because of the binary nature, or because I simply don't know how to use it, I'm just not as proficient with hacking apt stuff.

      Reason #2 is g-cpan, and things like it. Ubuntu has to manually go and re-package CPAN libs, Gentoo can automagically generate them for things which don't require special care. In general, Gentoo's philosophy of a package being an
  • by HBI (604924)
    When drobbins left the first time, the distro headed toward the toilet and this situation does not improve things.

    The Portage tree continues to have broken ebuilds in stable because of changes to the scripts. This puts the lie to the entire notion of 'stable'. Constant changes to syntax in scripts are also occurring. I don't see a damned good reason why 'emerge sync' is now deprecated, for instance. It worked fine for years before. What's the problem now?

    If I have to hack theoretically stable ebuilds t
    • by vadim_t (324782)
      The 'emerge sync' thing is somewhat understandable: What if you want to emerge a package called 'sync'? Debian's apt-get at least does it unambiguously, as you say "apt-get install package". In Gentoo it's weird because the action executed depends on whether it's an internal command or not. It also means that you can't add a new command to emerge with a name that clashes with an existing package name.
    • by greg_barton (5551) *

      The distro is doomed because i'm on the hairtrigger of moving all my boxes off of it after almost 5 years, which makes me think many people have done so already, and will do so.

      I second that.

      I ran Gentoo for 3 years. Switched to Kubuntu last year and haven't looked back. I was just tired of it breaking all the time, simple as that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wolf31o2 (778801)
      I love these sorts of comments.

      When Daniel was around, Gentoo also only had about 80 developers and less than 30,000 files in the tree. The package count was less than 1/4 what it is now. The bugs were still less than 25,000. There were horrible cliques within the distribution... tons of infighting. Daniel stopped doing Gentoo development long before he actually left the distribution. People seem to have this starry-eyed memory of when Daniel was around. Trust me, It wasn't a cake walk by any stretch
  • council meeting sumary, taken from gentoo-dev

    http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/council/meeting-logs /20070208-summary.txt [gentoo.org]

    full log

    http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/council/meeting-logs /20070308.txt [gentoo.org]

    for me, gentoo is still more healthy than any other platform ever
  • What's the big idea? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hey! (33014) on Monday March 12, 2007 @09:40AM (#18315543) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me that a project like this has to be driven by a "Big Idea".

    The big idea doesn't have to be a valid one -- although it helps. What it has to do is attract and retain contributors. It has to keep them working together despite their differences. Differences between people who are working toward the same goal can be a good thing, if their commitment is strong enough that they eventually try to to see the other side. If not, then they end up standing in the way of progress until they decide to leave.

    Each successful distro has a big idea.

    Fedora: bring the most up to date technology to Linux, both for users and others who want to make specialized distros.

    Debian: create the freest possible operating system.

    Ubuntu: promote a free operating system like Debian, but with more frequent releases so that users have the benefits of newer technology.

    Slack: place the highest value on design simplicity; assume the user knows what he is doing and stay out of his way.

    CENTOS: provide a completely free operating system that will also allow any user to run enterprise software (e.g. Oracle) without paying any unnecessary license fees.

    Knoppix: make it possible for everybody to try a free operating system without the hassles or issues of a hard disk installation.

    and so forth. Each of these ideas not only has merit, it has contributor appeal.

    The big idea of Gentoo is to create a distribution in which components are distributed in source code form only, and compiled by the user. The idea has both its merits and problems. But the real question is whether it has enough appeal to motivate people to overcome their normal differences. Time will tell, but I have my doubts.

    For one thing, the Gentoo goal is achievable and has been achieved. In many other distros, the big idea is like the horizon; it keeps receding as you move towards it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jamiethehutt (572315)
      The big idea of Gentoo is to create a distribution in which components are distributed in source code form only, and compiled by the user.

      I've been a Gentoo user for about 4 years and that's never been the goal, that's the means through which it achieves its goal.

      Gentoo is a system designed to allow a user to easily put together their own personalised system aimed at doing whatever they like on whatever they like (hence the big pile of supported architectures). It's about providing as much choice as possibl
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by wellingj (1030460)
        I think Gentoo should focus on it's embedded offering. The benifits of being
        able to compile all your packages from source and combine your system however you
        want and do it all from source really shines.
    • Not necessarily.

      Gentoo supports binary packages in Portage. The core purpose of Gentoo was to allow a user a means to have exactly the system they want. The most important and powerful facet of Gentoo are USE tags.

      No other distro provides the level of customization that Gentoo does.

      Honestly, in a perfect world, I'd like to see every major distro tie into Portage, which is the best repository system out there. Most distros look down their nose at Gentoo for being silly, unprofessional, and a "ricer" distr
      • by Procyon101 (61366)
        mmmm. Just the thought of Debian, Slackware, Fedora or Ubuntu adopting portage makes me very happy. Imagine all the binaries and stability of the tree that would bring.
    • by Procyon101 (61366)
      The "big idea" for gentoo is configuration. I can easily configure a system to run as a server, workstation, embedded system, hardware-specific configuration, etc.. even if the configuration needed to do so require source level changes. I need only make a few adjustments to a config file, and the system will build itself accordingly.

      The system is not restricted to source-only distribution. There are binaries in the tree, and many more would be welcome, but the demand for binaries just isn't all that grea
  • by Tanuki64 (989726) on Monday March 12, 2007 @09:58AM (#18315797)
    Currently I still use it myself, since I can handle most of the problems myself and has the flexibility I like. But I stopped installing it for friends and relatives. And I strongly discourage its use in my company. It is just too unstable. It is fine if you are a geek (I am) and have too much time (I don't). For my friends it is kubuntu now.
    Gentoo was and somewhat is great, but there hardly is a world update anymore, which goes smoothly. Sometimes things even break silently, so you cannot even be sure when something broke. Constantly the need to learn new configuration syntaxes because the old configuration stops working after an update is very tiring. Uprade/downgrade ping-pong also stops being funny quickly. I could complain because of seemingly egomaniacal decisions of the maintainers to remove widely used packages like xmms, but this would not be fair. If they have not enough manpower to maintain those packages, better remove them, but it still stings to be forced to search for alternatives.

    I would not say there is no quality control in the Gentoo development, if I find 10 bugs, there might have been 100 others, which had been caught before release, but it simply isn't enough. I think it is fair to say that the Gentoo project has outgrown the current staff. They simply cannot handle it adequately anymore.

    If anyone from the Gentoo staff should read this lines: It really isn't meant as an insult. You did great, but reached a point where your current methods are not sufficient anymore.
    • by darkwhite (139802) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:06AM (#18316701)
      Your sentiment is valid. Your points are not.

      The first thing to do is to stop emerging world. Emerge things when you know you want them, otherwise just run glsa-check (really "glsa-check|grep '\[N\]'") to scan for vulnerabilities. And if you do upgrade a big package, run revdep-rebuild.

      Gentoo is not well-suited for the beginner desktop user or beginner corporate sysadmin. Its features do impart the drawbacks you describe: the config syntax changes would only be encountered by someone upgrading to the next release of a traditonal distro, where they are expected. In general, traditional distros don't have to deal with nearly the same amount of QA testing that Gentoo does. So really, regular desktop users are better off with ubuntu and friends, junior sysadmins are better off with RHEL and friends. It's when you need the flexibility Gentoo can provide that you want to use it.

      I don't personally care for the XMMS issue, but since XMMS needed GTK1 and had vulnerabilities that needed fixing because its upstream dev team disbanded, it's really predicated on those two issues (you do realize that it's irresponsible for a dev to keep a package with known vulnerabilities in the tree, right?). You can still install it from an overlay, you can install a modern XMMS clone, and as far as I'm concerned, any package that doesn't support utf8 should get off the face of the earth ASAP.

      Gentoo does need new QA tools to deal with the combinatorial explosion of package versioning and configuration possibilities. That, and a bit more immunity to drama on part of the devs (e.g. the ability to tell ciaranm to fuck off), is necessary for Gentoo not to stagnate.
      • by Otter (3800)
        The first thing to do is to stop emerging world. Emerge things when you know you want them, otherwise just run glsa-check (really "glsa-check|grep '\[N\]'") to scan for vulnerabilities. And if you do upgrade a big package, run revdep-rebuild.

        I would give exactly the opposite advice (Do as many small world updates as possible instead of waiting until updating something you want turns into a whole-ball-of-wax nightmare!) but either way, there's something obviously wrong when the package manager needs to be

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tanuki64 (989726)

        The first thing to do is to stop emerging world. Emerge things when you know you want them, otherwise just run glsa-check (really "glsa-check|grep '\[N\]'") to scan for vulnerabilities. And if you do upgrade a big package, run revdep-rebuild.

        I really don't think this is a good advice. Superficially it sounds good, but Gentoo isn't stable enough for such a procedure. As I said, I once installed Gentoo for friends. Unfortunately one of my friends lives quite a distance from me and I have no remote access.

    • Dude you forgot about XMMS!
  • by quag7 (462196) <deepspace@dataswamp.net> on Monday March 12, 2007 @10:25AM (#18316197) Homepage
    You know, I've read several articles online in the last few months which suggest serious problems with Gentoo. But I think it's important to consider the fact that, from my personal perspective and in my own experience, I have had less issues in the last 6 months with Gentoo (except for a hardware failure on one of my main hard drive), than I have had in all the time I've used Gentoo. My system right now is also running more unstable packages than I've ever run, and this is all in amd64.

    I admit that I'd stick with Gentoo even if, from my perspective as a user, it was going through a hard time, but on my (KDE desktop) system, which is the main system I use for just about everything, if I didn't read these articles, I would have no idea that anything was going wrong.

    I have spent less time maintaining, fixing, or otherwise bringing my system up to date in the last few months than I have in years.

    As for interpersonal politics, lack of diplomacy, and immoderate language, I don't think that's anything unique to Gentoo. It may well be that there are some cultural issues which need addressing - not for me to say - and perhaps the departure of key developers may, in the future, affect the user's experience, but for me, this has not yet been the case.

    I like Gentoo a lot - in fact, I wound up running it sort of by mistake. As a newcomer to Linux, I'd read (in late 2001) that the Gentoo install was some kind of baptism of fire. I had problems understanding some of the fundamentals of how Linux systems are set up and at the time my Mandrake install was not helping me learn. I installed Gentoo as a lark, with the idea that I might learn some things about Linux that I could apply to Mandrake (which I was running because everyone said, at the time, that it was a great distribution for beginners).

    Having gotten it installed on the first try, without any problems whatsoever, I ran it for a little while. Then I fell in love with portage which was - at the time - more reliable than Mandrake's package manager. After a few weeks, I couldn't find a reason to go back to Mandrake. This was just a few months in, after years of being a Windows user (which is why I also take issue with the popular assertion that Gentoo isn't for beginners, because it was ideal for me).

    In the time since, I've tried several distributions and use Debian on my router and my file server, because they're old, crotchety machines that I was too lazy to install Gentoo on. But I've yet to find anything which so closely matches my expectation of how my system should work, than Gentoo. Which is why I'd stick with it (that and 5 years of momentum, of course).

    For me, Gentoo is about ease of use, and specifically *not* having to spend a lot of time keeping my system up to date. In no way am I suggesting that the assertions of others that "Gentoo is too much work" are invalid, but they certainly have nothing to do with my experience, or that of many other Gentoo users. As for compiling software (for instance), this is a process I run, background, and forget about. Every few months, something a little more involved might require an hour or so of my attention (a major GCC upgrade, for instance) but overall, maintaining my system is simply not a time sink, at all.

    And no, I'm not a developer. A computer hobbyist and fan of computers, but hardly some kind of guru. There may be good reasons not to use Gentoo, but I'd hate for anyone to think that these political spats somehow define the distribution or have much to do with the user's experience.

    At least, it doesn't, so far, have anything to do with *me*. I still recommend Gentoo wholeheartedly. I have a lot of affection for it. I can and have used other distributions and I could learn to live with just about any distribution if I had to, but I doubt it would be the complete pleasure that Gentoo has been. I don't have hatred for any of the distributions I've tried out (Debian, OpenSuSE, Mandrake, Fedora, Slackware, Kubuntu, and FreeBSD as well), bu
    • by Otter (3800)
      But I think it's important to consider the fact that, from my personal perspective and in my own experience, I have had less issues in the last 6 months with Gentoo (except for a hardware failure on one of my main hard drive), than I have had in all the time I've used Gentoo.

      My impression is that the people who are running 'emerge -uD world' every week are doing just fine and don't understand what all the fuss is about. It's those of us who update infrequently (I have dial-up at home, and anyway don't usua

      • by quag7 (462196)
        That may be - I run emerge -uD world about once a week, but I've got a pretty decent broadband connection. In general, if people have the resources to do so, it is worthwhile to update at least once a fortnight. It's pretty clear that those who update infrequently (including those who don't update files in etc) tend to have more problems.

        Beyond which, better to fix an issue or two here and there than face down 7 or 8 at once, which is more likely if you don't update often.
  • by friedmud (512466) on Monday March 12, 2007 @10:48AM (#18316487)
    For me, as a Computer Scientist, it's all about the packages. I _love_ the bleeding edge and the obscure. No other distro out there offers the depth and breadth of packages that Gentoo does. Using anything else is just downright painful as I end up compiling a lot of my own programs _anyway_ by hand (and not managed).

    I originally switched to Gentoo because I had given up on using Slackware's package system and was keeping a large library of software current by hand.... Gentoo scratched my itch perfectly.

    I really do hope it doesn't die from the inside. There are still a lot of people doing a lot of good work... and a _lot_ of people still benefiting from it. The way I see it, these type of squabbles are just a by product of becoming popular. As your dev team grows you're inevitably going to have personality conflicts... you just hope that over time you find a way to work them out and it doesn't bring the project down in the mean time.

    Friedmud
    • For me, as a Computer Scientist, it's all about the packages.

      For me, as a Baptist, it's not. Just as long as we're tossing out unrelated qualifiers.

      No other distro out there offers the depth and breadth of packages that Gentoo does.

      Interestingly, I feel the exact same way about Debian, and that's what kept putting me off of Gentoo - the packages I wanted just weren't there.

      I like Gentoo and still use it on some very old hardware where the extra 5% performance from "-fomit-instructions" actually make

  • Releases are still on track. bugs are being fixed. packages are being maintained. I just switched to Gentoo a couple months ago at home, on my notebook, and at work. All is well from the end user perspective. :)
  • Just learn how to set CFLAGS when you build a Debian package and quit wasting time with Yet Another Distro.
  • by 0xABADC0DA (867955) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:20AM (#18316887)
    Right now there are 220,000 files, some ~100 bytes and others ~0-4k. Just to support portage. Space-age filesystems or not that's a lot of tiny files to be scattered around and updated piecemeal. What happens is that gentoo starts taking more and more time to do syncs and searches, not to mention everything else slowing down.

    A good solution would be to put portage into a .zip file. In a zip each file is compressed individually, so you could still do rsync diffs. There's an index at the end so you can do really quick lookups (bypassing the whole slow path of inode / namei). The fs can do read-ahead and caching much better on a single file, and it won't have to do a seek for every file.

    This is the kind of real, fundamental problem that gentoo should be solving. Gentoo should be the lightest distro, not a huge sprawling mess.
    • by jZnat (793348) *
      Or you could just partition off all the portage-related files into their own partition. I hear that reiser3 is good for large amounts of small files (better than ext3 and others at least), so that might also be worth checking out.

      Also, since you'd be using Gentoo, you might as well apply the reiser4 patches (or is there an ebuild for that? probably) and use that instead.
      • Thanks for assuming I wouldn't have done that already. I have portage, edb, db, and /usr/tmp linked to a reiserfs. You know what? It's still really bad, although on the other hand it is much better than keeping it all on the main fs.

        I tried using reiser4 as my main fs and would get 10+ second freezes. Maybe it's good for only doing portage, but I wouldn't know. No thanks.

        From a basic knowledge of python it looks like it should be pretty easy to intercept the standard open, read, write, close calls to f
    • Agreed.

      I've been off of Gentoo for almost two years now, but I'd taken to keeping the Portage tree on one machine and nfs-mounting it when I wanted to update my other two (laptop and main desktop).
    • by Dan Ost (415913)
      I find that putting my portage tree on a ReiserFS partition speeds things up noticeably and reduces the amount of space required to store the tree. This works good enough for me.

      If you wanted to, you could put your portage tree in a compressed file system (mounted over loop-back) and, presumably, get most of the benefits you've described without making any changes to the way portage works.

      Give it a shot. Let us know how it works.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nostrad (879390)
      You're right on target with the biggest problem currently. There is an idea of creating PortageSQL and keep it all in a DB instead. Until then there are solutions such as this: http://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-t-401647.html [gentoo.org] (which is what I'm currently using).
      I have one machine generating a squashfs file from the latest release and a ramdrive which holds the changes. It works really well and keeps the portage database to ~40MB instead of 600. Then I just wget that file onto my other machines.
    • by wolf31o2 (778801)
      You can have your tree on a squashfs, which works quite similarly, is supported by the kernel (gentoo-sources, anyway) and doesn't require additional dependencies for portage. I've also found tmpfs to work quite well, but many people won't have the RAM for it. Besides that, there are several implementations about for other back-ends for the repository for portage. It's just that none have been polished and adopted officially.

      As for some space savings, we're switching to Manifest2, which removes *all* of
  • by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Monday March 12, 2007 @12:05PM (#18317491) Homepage
    I've run Gentoo for about 3 years, give or take. Despite comments that the performance gains of compiling from source aren't worth it, try having a PIII-733 Laptop with 256Mb of RAM (hard limit on that machine) that you want to actually USE as a Linux box. Painful with anything except a well optimized Gentoo installation. I ran that for over a year before I took a trip with that rock-solid little laptop. It was a pleasure to use every day of my trip... the laptop was tiny and therefore was easy to throw in my backpack (I was motorcycling across the UK) when traveling, was light and simple. With Fedora the poor beastie just crawled... and Ubuntu I just couldn't get working reliably on that hardware (ironic, I know!)

    I've still got that little laptop, and periodically boot her up to do an "emerge --sync; emerge -u world", maybe compile a new kernel. I don't use it as a daily laptop any more since I bought a Mac last year... but it's still a rock solid little machine that I might take with me this year when I repeat my trip in October.

    But old hardware isn't just what Gentoo is good at. I use it frequently; in virtual environments. The host... well that can be Windows, Linux... or ESX... take your pick. However, when I need a slick, fast booting and "built to order" Linux box as a guest then there's nothing better than a Gentoo installation that boots the kernel, the VMWare Tools and then the application the guest is hosting! Fast boot, application isolation and simple package management (I usually set up a centralized Portage tree on the host machine). Believe me, the ability to reboot your web server in less than 10 seconds makes management sit up and take notice, especially when the other groups are using IIS boxes that take five minutes to come back from a hard failure.

    But Gentoo isn't for everyone, and isn't for every implementation. I wouldn't call it "granny-friendly", and I would only use in a production environment where isolation is possible and rollback is simple (like in my aforementioned virtual environment... snapshots are a thing of beauty). Having said that, I recently built out a new home server and it got Gentoo almost by default. I thought about Fedora... but the flexibility of Gentoo really got to the geek in me :)
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      try having a PIII-733 Laptop with 256Mb of RAM (hard limit on that machine) that you want to actually USE as a Linux box.
      I've had less and ran Kubuntu on it (I rebuilt most of the packages on another computer with apt-build after having set the optimizations for that hardware).
  • I don't see Gentoo failing any time soon due to the distro's that are being based on Gentoo. I see fewer and fewer people using "pure" Gentoo in the future, but more people using distro's based on Gentoo. Face it, Stage 1 Gentoo is hard to set up. Why bother when you can run something like Sabayon or Vida that gives you all the benefits of Gentoo with a much easier installer, provided you set up your use flags recompile after install (or not... your call). Just like few people actually run "true" Debian
  • Post vs Comments (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sascha J. (803853) on Monday March 12, 2007 @01:35PM (#18318789) Homepage Journal
    Quite funny that almost everytime when "Gentoo" is the topic, all the talks and comments evolve around (pseudo-)speed, source-distribution and things like that.

    The article is about internal problems, and not about how one's computer runs absolutely flawlessly, or not.
  • After KDE and Xorg has been compiled from Stage 1 so the developer can answer on the allegations.
  • Good & bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FonkiE (28352) on Monday March 12, 2007 @02:35PM (#18319965)
    Well I think gentoo got better over the years. Maybe the developers have to reorder and have some manifest they stick too when arguments/problems come up.

    What got better:
    - modular X
    - good integration of gentoo kernel and driver packages
    - /etc/portage settings
    - cleaned up USE flags

    What got worse:
    - dropping of packages for just political reasons e.g. xmms and the lie that's technical
    - complexity
    - useless dependencies (like not being able to install postfix and ssmtp at the same time)

    Can be fixed - no panik.
  • Gentoo's value (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dasher42 (514179) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:31PM (#18322927)
    I ran Gentoo for a couple years. I'm now running a mix of Ubuntu and OSX, mostly because to get all the software options I wanted, I couldn't pare down the libraries enough that my system was substantially different at the end from Ubuntu. I'd be sad to see Gentoo go downhill, though. There's a lot of value for the Linux community in people hammering on bleeding edge software. Where else would you have seen so much interest in applying genetic algorithms to find the best gcc optimization flags [coyotegulch.com] for compiling software?

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