Gentoo 2008.0: Return to greatness?

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When the long-awaited Gentoo 2008.0 release finally hit mirrors last month, the two largest groups of users found themselves out of luck: x86 users discovered that their live CD wouldn't copy the kernel during install, and the AMD64 image wouldn't fit onto a standard CD-ROM. This was not a great start for a distribution whose comeback may rest upon this release. Updated ISOs were released two days later, though, and those work well for getting a quick Gentoo install ready to customize.

Gentoo was once the darling of the Linux distribution world, thanks in large part to its Portage package management system. Portage takes the source code for any given package and compiles it to the user's specifications as set up in configuration files. When I began using Gentoo in 2003, everything worked like clockwork. Results were practically guaranteed and always to my liking. I had stability and a slight but noticeable increase in performance. But the greatest thrill of running Gentoo was the sense of ownership. No other system in the world was exactly like mine, and mine was exactly as I wanted. That's hard to achieve with binary distributions.

As time passed, however, the project's founder moved on and the quality of Gentoo began to decline. Packages no longer compiled cleanly, and some of the workarounds caused instability. I was on the verge of giving up on Gentoo, but I wanted to wait for the new release before deciding. This is the story of my two Gentoo installs.

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