[clug-talk] Inspiron 9400

Shawn sgrover at open2space.com
Tue May 9 21:18:40 PDT 2006

On Tuesday 09 May 2006 20:11, Mitchell Brown wrote:
> I've never tried Gentoo, but I do know that the newest LiveCD has a
> brand-new graphical installer... much like in the recent flights of
> Kubuntu! So that would avoid alot of manual compilation labor. I'd

bzzzzttt!!!!  Wrong....  (but to be fair, that was my impression until I tried 
it out on this laptop yesterday... then aborted the process - read on for 
more on this).

The graphical installer is only really recommended for those who have done a 
manual install of Gentoo a few times.  It serves nothing more than act as an 
interface to collect the data needed that you would otherwise have to enter 
at the command line - but it gets ALL of it at once, and then goes to work.  

> love to try out Gentoo too. If you get it all working, let me know how
> it turns out, and maybe I'll give it a whirl. I've heard when it comes
> to speed, there's no comparison in anything. It's blazing fast. I
> guess thats where custom compiling the kernel to your hardware specs
> helps! If you want some more info on Gentoo, I would point you in the
> direction of www.systemtrash.com - they're a Romanian (?) podcast that
> specializes in picking apart distros. They've done (to date)
> PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, Gentoo, and SuSE. Plus, they've done an interview
> with Leo Laporte (*all hail Leo Laporte!*). I encourage everyone to
> look at these guys - while having a funny-Diggnation feel to it, they
> seem to know what they're doing!

The BEST place for info on Gentoo is the Gentoo forums - 
http://forums.gentoo.org.  almost any question you can think of has been 
asked there.

Jon, and anyone else considering it, here's what you can expect from Gentoo.

- steep, but easy, learning curve.  The installation documents are simply 
incredible and explain so much that you take for granted.
- LOTS of time compiling.  I fully expect that to go from scratch to a KDE 
desktop, without using binary packages (yes, that's possible too), will take 
at least a full 24 hours of compile time on modern hardware, if not longer.  
Unless you have set up a compile farm.  Even with my AMD 64bit 3000+ and a 
Gig of ram, it still took a full 48 hours to compile X windows, and KDE.
- However, with proper tuning of your system, it will be relatively faster 
than an equivalent install of Fedora/Suse/Mandriva/etc.  But don't expect to 
get the tuning down until you've installed Gentoo 3 or 4 times.
- A streamlined system - no unnecessary gunk installed, unless it is needed by 
a particular application.  (think about abandoned libraries, or programs 
you'd never use - which is the case in all the mainstream distros)
- A nagging suspicion that you've missed a configuration option that is there 
by default in a mainstream distro.  i.e. My box does not automount CDs or USB 
devices.  I thought I had this set up, but it's still not working - and it's 
just not a big enough problem for me to go hunting for it.  However, this 
works flawlessly with Kubuntu and other distros.
- control.  That is the ultimate reason to go to a system like Gentoo.  You 
have complete control over how the system is setup and configured.  You do 
with other distros as well, but you have to be concerned when rebuilding a 
kernel that you don't break something.  Or you have to work around their 
method for editing/saving your configurations.  With Gentoo, you'd know 
(after a couple of installs), what works and what doesn't, with no 
interference other than your level of knowledge.

I liken the choice of distro in this case between buying a prebuilt car, or 
building your own using a kit.  (whereas Linux From Scratch would be building 
all your own parts).  Anyone can drive a prebuilt car.  It takes a strong 
interest in how things work to try building your own.  But, building your own 
gives you a much better knowledge base for working with the prebuilts.  
Windows chauffeurs you around and decides where you can stop, Linux lets you 
drive yourself and pick your own destination (and car).  Some Linux distros 
(like Gentoo), give you the tools to build your own car - with all the 
responsibilities that implies.  (of course all Linux distros give you the 
tools, but the mainline distros make them more or less irrelevant).

I'd recommend Gentoo to anyone who is serious about really learning how Linux 
works (or Linux From Scratch - though I understand that's even lower level).  
If you don't have that desire, I'd stick with a mainstream distro.  

I considered installing gentoo on my new laptop, and decided against this for 
a couple of reasons.  First, I didn't want to take the time to compile the 
system (though I know enough I could have been up and running in two hours - 
at a basic command prompt at least).  Second, I don't want to take the time 
to figure out the ins and outs of getting the laptop functioning properly 
(wireless, display/graphics, automounts, etc.)  Third, I wanted a system I 
could just download an ISO for and do a fairly quick install/recovery if I 
needed to.  If I were on the road and something caused me to rebuild the box, 
I don't want to wast days before it's back to the state I was in originally - 
I'd rather only wast a couple of hours.

That said, Gentoo has a home on my desktop, though I think I've 
installed/removed a few things too many and should start over with its system 
(it's been about a year since the last time I wiped the drives, and I like to 
try out new things a lot.. :) )

Hope this helps shine some light on the choice for distro.  I'm not really 
trying to belittle Gentoo, but it really is better suited to those who like 
to take things apart and try to put them back together.  It's a tinkerer's 

(btw, the resolution hack didn't work on the new laptop... so I'm now stuck 
until Linux catches up with that hardware I think)

More information about the clug-talk mailing list