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My Gentoo odyssey

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Gentoo is a Linux distribution unlike any other I have used, not just in terms of how it does things, but in the philosophy which drives its design. Gentoo doesn't ask what it can do to make things easier, it asks you exactly what it is that you want it to do, and then does precisely and only that. I gave Gentoo a good try, but I won't be sticking with it. Why not? I'm glad you asked.

When I began my Gentoo adventure, I believed that the main difference between Gentoo and the other distributions I've used (Caldera, Red Hat, Mandrake, Xandros, Storm, SUSE, Debian, Slackware, and Ubuntu) was that it was a roll-your-own distro, requiring you to compile everything you use. But after struggling with Gentoo for 10 days, I realized I was wrong.

I began on a Friday and spent the weekend doing Gentoo installs -- ranging from the ultra-fast minimal install (live CD) to a partially pre-compiled Gentoo Reference Platform install from the live CD. On Monday I decided I was Gentoo-savvy enough to use it on my production desktop platform. I even joked with my co-workers about it, saying that back in the day, Gentoo users first had to rip the source code from the bone with their teeth before compiling and installing it, but now the live CD had sissified the process to the point that anyone could do it.

I exaggerated the ease of installing Gentoo. For a proper Gentoo install, you'll need to read the fine manual. Read it a couple of times. Cover to cover. Pay particular attention to the sections on USE flags and Portage.

You will hear, see, and read "RTFM" dozens of times before you're done. But don't make the mistake of thinking that simply means having a copy handy as a reference during the installation, because by the time a question appears, it may already be too late. You need to RTFM before you begin.

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