Linux Step By Steps
Distro Review: Gentoo

From Sat Mar 16 07:23:26 2002

Well, I haven't sent out any gentoo "propaganda" in a while, so here

When I rebuilt my PC a couple of months ago (gave the wife my older,
slower PC), I put up my favorites - FreeBSD, elx linux, and gentoo. I
had a few problems with FreeBSD that I wasn't interested in pursuing, so
elx became my day-to-day system. As in the past, elx installed without
a hitch, but it is slightly slower than the average distro (totally

With gentoo, I encountered nothing that I couldn't find a solution for,
and I now have every piec of hardware and software that I'm interested
in working flawlessly, so maybe others would be interested. gentoo has
blossomed since the first of the year (daily traffic on the gentoo-users
group is approaching unmanageable proportions). gentoo still intends, I
believe, to release its 1.0 version sometime this month.

Here are my results:

1) The install from ISO image burned to a CD works exactly like the
instructions on the gentoo web site. The only wrinkle that took was
related to tne NICs in my PC. I have two of them, but only one in use.
The gentoo installer would not recognize the NIC attached to my lan as
eth0; it was recognized as eth1. (Both cards are serviced by Tulip.)
Fortunately, I had my favorite config availabel, because you need to
build your own kernel. In the final network setup of the install, I
selected dhscp and eth1 to be activated. After reboot and considerable
weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, I discovered that the regular
linux kernel I had installed and the init scripts would only recognize
the card as eth0!!!

2) Once I got the NIC working, it took a boring (everything worked) day
and a half of compiles to get KDE 2.2.2, enough gnome stuff and mozilla
for galeon, xfce, sylpheed, cups and gimp-print up and going. If I had
it to do over, I would omit the gnome stuff and just use Mozilla which
has 99% of what I like in galeon.

3) gentoo uses devfs, so you need to do a little bit of configuration
work to get sound working for normal users and CDRW using ide-scsi.
gentoo has the devfsd.conf file well documented with the appropriate
lines to uncomment and tweak, but it took me a few days uf strugling to
make them work. The key to it is this: if you modify/add items in the
devfsd.conf, you need to delete any /dev/xxx entries related to the
changes before shutting down. Once I did that, everything was

4) cups worked for my printer (laserjet) right out of the starting gate.
Audio sounds worked as sonn as I brought up a mixer. The concept of
leaving the audio volume at zero until you mix it is the dumbest thing
I've encountered in linux land, but that's certainly not a gentoo
problem. cdrecord -scanbus works, so I presume my CDRW will work when I
need it. I've adjusted /etc/group and /etc/fstab settings so that I can
use the xfce built-in floppy and CD mount functions. I've installed
aterm (lower overhead than xterm) and my preferred color settings. I've
also loaded OpenOffice 641C, and it is working well. That's about it
hardware and software wise.

5) Just personal evaluation (no proof), but everything seems to work
quicker than on elx.

6) Even though I installed only a month or two ago, there are several
changes waiting for the baselayout (init scripts, etc.). I'm not about
to try this until I have cloned the system for backup. The one glaring
flaw in the gentoo developer group (I've complained there) is that they
like to make supposedly insignificant changes to the init scripts
without testing them!!! Some of these changes are not so insignificant,
and then you get "oops, I've fixed that now."

7) portage and its tools have improved considerably, although they did
manage (again) to break portage a few days ago. Their concept of a
freeze to prepare for release 1.0 seems to be a little different than
mine. There are a lot of questions about portage, and the documentation
and tools are scattered about the web site; you have to do a little bit
of digging in the archives.

8) On the user group, most of the reported problems are newbie stuff
(didn't do enough RTFM) and install for laptops (the pmcia blues just
like on every other distro) which is a hit or miss proposition. Also a
fair amount of DSL and PPPD blues, which is also quite familiar.

9) gentoo is fairly attentive to security exposures, but there's no
finally version of an update process yet.

10) Summary: it's good enough for me. Grade B+ at least.

Collins Richey - Denver Area - WWTLRD?
Gentoo_rc6-15 2.4.17 - xfce + sylpheed + mozilla +OO641C