Thursday, May 04, 2006

Gentoo GNU/Linux - Speed, Stability, Reliability.

I guess most of those, who are familiar with linux already heard of the fierce beast, which seeks for its prey in the Linux jungle, the Gentoo GNU/Linux distribution. Despite of what most of the people think, Gentoo is not about building everything from source, optimization flags, and text-mode installation.
What really defines Gentoo is the philosophy behind it, the idea of letting the user make the choice. Yepp, that's great isn't it? But what does it mean? Basically, it means that one can customize his/her system as she/he wishes -- Using Gentoo, noone will ever force you to share someone else's concept (and this includes the developer too) of how a Linux system should look like, that is you are free to decide which and how many programs you will use, what features should they contain, what architectures should they support, etc.

As far as I know, the newest(2006.0) release also contains a program, which provides a graphical interface for installing Gentoo. It is non-sense to discuss the gui installer, so i'll carry on with giving you a view-in to the nemesis of all ignorants, the text-mode installation.
It is far from being so complicated as it would look like for the first time. It's kinda like compiling a kernel - it sure _is_ hard for the first time, and you'll probably mess something up - but once you have done it, you'll find it easier than pushing the shiny little reboot button on your PC.
The installation can be divided to 10 easy steps:
1. Choosing the installation medium
2. Configuring the network devices (optional)
3. Preparing the disks
4. Extracting the stage archive and configuring it
5. Installing the base system
6. Configuring the kernel
7. Configuring the system
8. Installing system tools
9. Configuring the bootloader
10. Adding some users
Well... that would be it. After you've done it, you can't even imagine an installation without the command line. But why is the CLI installation better than the GUI one anyway? In the first place it gives you a clear overview of the installation process, it lets you make some important choices about how your system will work in the future.

One of the greatest features of Gentoo is Portage, the package managment system it provides, about which I, intentionally, haven't spoken yet.
Portage is a very powerfull and versatile system for adding, removing and updating software packages(at the moment of writing it features more than 10000 packages). It was originaly designed with ports, the BSD package managment system, in mind. Gentoo's Portage system works similarly to Debian's APT. Portage is written in the Python programming language.
The main idea behind Portage is to compile every package from source, with the ability of choosing between wanted and unwanted features(USE flags), and of predefining compiler flags for the package manager to use. Though the system itself is known as Portage, operations are actually done with a command line program called "emerge". A GUI front-end is also available, known as "Kuroo".
The init system is another important feature of Gentoo. It is similar to the System V init system that most distributions use, however the Gentoo one uses dependency based scripts and named runlevels.

If you are the type of person, who prefers somebody else making choices suitable for you, rather than making your own, or simply you don't have enough experience in the *NIX world to decide which programs, which security model, what layout fits you the most, you generally shouldn't bother with using Gentoo. In the rest, I strongly recommend it for anyone, who is looking for a stable, reliable, fast and highly configurable operating system.


Rohan Dhruva said...

Hey, DevONE you became a reviewer ? From a critic ? Switchin loyalties, eh ? :> Joking .. Nice review of gentoo, though i guess gentoo isnt the os for me - p3 550mhz 256mb ram and thatst he one and only box i have

DevOne said...

Heheh... Yes, i promised cruocitae that i'll do some contributing :) Maybe this way I avoid going to hell :D
On the other hand, I think there's no reason why a PC, like the one you described, wouldn't run Gentoo. Maybe the installation will take longer, but that may be the only con. If you have time and like Linux you should really try Gentoo out ;)

DevOne said...

Ok, maybe it's not nice to post this, but this comment was recently posted at regarding this review:
"Perfect guide if you wish to know what Gentoo really is. Worths diggs & frontpage."

cruocitae said...

It's nice to post that, don't worry, you've qualified your way to heaven.. :-)


cruocitae said...

Note: I also dugg it.. THAT's not nice..

Anonymous said...

Well, not every package is compiled from source. There are some binaries packages (firefox, openoffice, etc.); also, bootstrap process is-not-like linux from scratch - your system contains already main tools.

Speed? Stability ?
Speed is a himera; stability in gentoo
is not primordial - think about it - user choice - an novice user could easily break own system, by errors in editing /etc/make.conf. And there are planty of chances here ...

Stability? Use "~" for your architecture and you'll see how unstable gentoo could became.

In my opinion - today, gentoo means FULL CONTROL. Portage and gentoo is too powerfull for new users - that's way is better for all of them to try flavours of gentoo - let say Kororaa, Fabio Erculiani RR4 DVD or Vidalinux. And then - THE REAL STUFF.

DevOne said...

I think I've mentioned that not every package is compiled from source (ie. GRP set)
As for the stability, it is true that beginner users can make the system unstable, but on the other hand pro users can make it more stable, just by the same make.conf
It is generally not a good idea to use masked packages. "Stable" packages are not named like that for nothing.
Portage and Gentoo are not too powerful for anyone. They just require a little rtfm ...