1   The stereotype

I remembered there was some of jokes or such like, which depicted major GNU/Linux distributions as in cartoon pictures. As for Gentoo, if I recall correctly, it is a broken old-school CRT monitor with some funny words like You broke, fix it. That was what I thought about Gentoo before I really trying it.

2   First glance

When I decided to download and burn the CD (I still couldnt remember what motivated me), I felt no fear about it. Honestly, some should have. In my opinion, Gentoo is not for a complete Linux newbie to try, even though its documents are well-written and truly full of knowledge. The installation process and maintenance are dumped a lot of terms and intermediate-skill-required stages. It is absolute not to saying Gentoo is for expert-only. Actually, there is a fact for one thing, by which can decide whether you are an expert or not: Are you willing to RTFM and google for answers?

If you are, then there is no doubt that Gentoo is the one for you. The installation stage before the first boot, more or less, it reminds me of the installation of LFS (Linux From Scratch) which I had tried almost a year ago. At that time, I also used multilib, the outcome of the processes should be similar. However, Gentoo is much more easier. Its started from stage3 and few useful scripts, you dont need to build toolchain, not even for once. With LFS, you must build them, twice! In order to get a minimal system for installing base system. Gentoo has prepared everything for you.

3   USE here and there

Portage, emerge, ebuild, etc., I have heard of them before. And now I finally am aware of their powerwell, that might sound exaggerative, but I have already known how to maintain the system by using them. In the only experience of LFS, I had never upgraded the toolchainbinutil, gcc, and glibc, etc; just in my first day of being a Gentoo newbie, I upgraded gcc 4.1.2 to 4.3.2 without a single problem (If I had, I wouldnt have this chance to write this.).

The most exciting thing of Portagethe package management system of Gentoois the USE flags and CFLAGS. You can customize your own CFLAGS very easy and decide what features of a package that you want by specifying USE flagslocally or globally, its very flexible to set the configuration. For example, when you firstly build GIMP, you think you dont need tiff support, so you turn that feature off. Later, somehow, your friend sends you a tiff format file and ask you to edit that. All you need to do is run sudo USE='tiff' emerge gimp and wait for rebuilding with the local USE flag (say tiff isnt in profile or make.conf). If you want to this on LFS, its not too hard either, but you have to handle the dependency by yourself; if on distribution like Fedora, you have to modify the SPEC file and build, then hope it builds smoothly since that is unsupported feature (from the package manager). Also, you need to wish the dependency has already in repository. Otherwise, you have to take care of that dependency, too.

On Gentoo, all you need to pay is the building time. You might think the building from sources take some time even much time, indeed, it is. But beforehand, you dont have unwanted code occupying your memory or your disk space. And, true again, it is just a small pay, but how many packages you have? If that small pay multiply 100 times, would that be small again? And how many small pay in a package?

So far, the kernel I built is about 2 MB with 11 MB modules library, and there have not done optimization yet. Some drivers I dont need remain, those can be removed. Why I havent removed them, because there are also many things that I do not understand what they are. This brings up another benefit of using Gentoo, you can know your system betterboth softwares and hardwares. You have to know them, then you can control. You will gain control eventually, again, if you are willing to pay time for researches.

4   The world

Within 48 hours, I have a bootable Linux OS, an X with Fluxbox, an ATI proprietary driver with DRI, Conky for system monitor, mpd and ncmpcpp for music playing, mplayer for multimedia, GIMP and ufraw, vim, subversion, and Firefox and other small bits. Currently, I have 400+ built packages on system. Sound, Video, Adobe Flash Player, and Java all work happily.

Except the installations, some customizations have also been finished. The rules of iptables, sudo, net connection in boot-time?not by the annoying NetworkManager, ccache?a compilation cache, Fluxbox and Conky adjustments, fonts, and many in /etc/.

Faster and stable worldthe world has become faster because you can choose what services you want to run and the power of choosing is fully in your hands. Which might also bring up some stabilities. If you ask me which program impress me most after using Gentoo, I would say Firefox. Before, on Fedora 10, it consumes 50 percents more of 2 GiB memory, that seemed to happen often. Now, it stays in between 10 and 20 percents. The appearing differences are it is now built up on for Core 2 Duo, it currently only has Adobe Flash Player plugin. The profiles of Firefox were restored from the backup of previous system. The world is dancing around me.

5   Community

I havent checked out the Gentoo community because all problems I have encountered were resolved via Gentoo Handbooks, documents, wiki pages, or googling. As far as I know, Gentoo has many IRC chat rooms, many forums, many mailing lists. It definitely wont be hard to get in touch with them and ask for an answer.

6   So

Gentoo to me is easy and simple to use, just as the many distributions follow the holy philosophy, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid), but this is actual one. With Gentoo (after newbie phase), you control and know stuff well. The package management and system administrate management are also easy to use. Every distribution has own pros and cons, no one is perfect in all aspects. But there may be one is perfect for you, and I just found mine. I believe as long as you pay a little more efforts, you can transform Gentoo into an eagle and command it to fly.