LinuxDig.Com Linux News : An Adventure with Gentoo Linux : Review Part 1
Author: HumanX | Wednesday April 14, 2004
For those of you unfamiliar with this Linux Distro, its claim to fame is speed, pure speed. Part 1 of this review covers the installation process of Gentoo Linux and a first look.
From the Gentoo Web Site
" We produce Gentoo Linux, a special flavor of Linux that can be automatically optimized and customized for just about any application or need. Extreme performance, configurability and a top-notch user and developer community are all hallmarks of the Gentoo experience."
Gentoo is a Linux Distribution without the glory of the GUI installer, everything is command line and reading documentation. The question is, is that necessarily a bad thing? If you are new to Linux or have depended on installers for some time, it is refreshing to get back to manual installs of Linux. Their is a great deal to be learned and the installation is more rewarding when you are finished. Though I would not recommend Gentoo for new computer users because they would be way over their head. But for those who want to learn Linux, what better way then getting this close to a raw installation. Not close too a raw installation, but close enough that you can learn a great deal.
* Note: Gentoo is working on a graphical installer and will be available sometime in the near future.
The installation less the compilation times took about an hour or so. You are required to download the (depending on your installation) Universal CD and a package CD. The Universal CD contains practically everything you need to install Gentoo, in effect, it is a completely usable version of Linux on a CD.
* Note: The Gentoo Live Universal CD did detect all of my devices and even configured DHCP automatically. No problems at bootup. Gentoo install guide does supply you with kernel options for specialized hardware including pcmcia for laptops.
Gentoo works by copying a working version of the Live CD onto your system and then copying source files. Once this process has been completed you essentially compile every single program with native compile options. What does this mean? Each x86 processor contains a standard set of instructions that any x86 program can run against. Each new model of processor for example pentium II, pentium III, pentium IV, AMD Athlon has extended instructions which improve the speed of the processor, but these additional capabilities are unique to each processor.
Most Linux distributions are compiled for the lowest common denominator and that being an i386. That is an ancient processor! So most Linux distros are compiled for ancient computers! Gentoo compiles for the type of computer you are on and that means a truly optimized version of Linux. Gamers would probably drool over this capability (* Gentoo has a Gamer Forum on there site). There may be some of you saying that your Kernel has been recompiled or other applications have been recompiled native, but those apps may share resources with non-native apps. Gentoo is 100% native. This type of compilation will generally give you a 10%-20% increase in speed.
* Note: Gentoo is not only for the x86 platform, it works on most major hardware architectures including embedded hardware.
Gentoo has a system called Portage which in effect gives you a system to download updated files to your system, similar to up2date on Red Hat. Within Portage is an application called emerge which when combined with the program you would like to install will download the application from Gentoo and compile / install on your system. It is relatively pain free and easy to use. I think it is easier to use then Red Hat / Fedora up2date.
Example: emerge kde
This command will either install KDE from a package CD or download it from Gentoo along with all dependencies to your system, compile and then install.
After following all of the directions from the Gentoo guide, I built a Kernel, compiled sources, installed GRUB boot loader and rebooted the system! I was then greeted with a friendly Gentoo login prompt! One try, it worked great! Good Job Me, Good Job Gentoo Team.
* Note: Installing Gentoo does take a great deal of time. Depending on your processor, expect to spend 3-5 hours on the install. I compiled the system over night and finished in the morning. I installed Gentoo on an AMD XP 3000.
* Tidbit 1: Distro Watch ranks Gentoo as the fifth largest installed Linux Distro. I have seen various figures on this, but it is in the 20th percentile of installs which is huge if you compare that to the amount of distributions available.
* Tidbit 2: A Gentoo is a species of a small, fast penguin, pronounced "gen-too" (the "g" in "gentoo" is a soft "g", as in "gentle"). The latin name of the Gentoo penguin is Pygoscelis papua. The name Gentoo has been given to the penguin by the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands. -- From Gentoo Web Site
My first encounter with Gentoo was a very positive one. It is a distro I have eyed for quite some time and have always planned on getting my hands in it. My only complaint at this time would be that the documentation could use a section for a crippled new installation that will not boot. Other then that, if you are not a new computer user and you are interested in Linux, I am quite sure you would enjoy the Gentoo experience.
Remember, Gentoo is a fast version of Linux, built for speed. Invest a little time into Gentoo and reap the rewards of the computer you are sitting in front of. It will be the first time it actually had an operating system in it that fit it like a glove.
Review 2 will be an overview of the installed system and available 04-16-2004. http://www.linuxdig.com/blog
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