And the Winner is...not Gentoo

I knew I was taking a risk picking Gentoo. It has a number of significant drawbacks The first is that it would take an inordinately long time to install--probably a couple days--because everything is built from scratch. Another is that the X graphical desktop configuration is completely manual. It's not quite as terrible as the bad old days when we had to calculate video dot clock frequencies. Still, the charm of manual configuration is wearing thin. These days, I find myself happier using a point-n-drool configuration interface.

The benefits, however, might be more significant. In a recent article I discussed Gentoo performance. Although performance often is touted as one of its top benefits, I measured only a modest 15% gain. That, however, was on a Pentium II system. I had a hunch I'd see better results on my Athalon workstation.

Also, I really liked what I saw when I was poking around the system. The Gentoo developers have setup a nice system environment. The Portage package management system looks quite elegant. The boot and init scripts look very clean.

The final, convincing factor was the installation CD. Not the installation procedure itself, but rather the CD. It is one of the finest Linux packagings I've ever seen on a CD. Even if you don't plan on running Gentoo, it could be worthwhile having a copy of the boot CD on-hand. It provides the most complete, most comfortable boot environment I've ever seen, which makes it ideal for system rescue and recovery.

That install CD, alas, would also be its undoing. It failed to boot on my SCSI workstation. The CD image is good, I've been using it on other computers. The CD drive is fine. Every other Linux distribution I've tried (Debian, Mandrake, Red Hat, Fedora) boots fine on my workstation. When my SCSI adapter (Adaptec 29160) initializes, it recognizes there is a bootable CD in the drive, but then it passes right over it. Just to be sure I monkeyed around with the BIOS settings and flashed the latest firmware. None of this made any difference.

This, unfortunately, appears to be a known bug with Gentoo that was marked resolved without actually fixing the problem. My final hope was the IRC channels, but nobody could help. (Bob Johnson was the only person who even responded to my queries. That was disappointing.)

At this point the system had been down all day. I wasn't making any progress. I had meetings to attend and I wanted my email back. So I whipped out the Fedora CDs and an hour later I was back in business.

I was thinking I could run Fedora as a stopgap for a few days, until I sorted out the problems. Now I'm not so sure. The Gentoo experience was such a gigantic disappointment and the Fedora install is looking really nice (the yum package manager is great). Right now, I'm inclined to stick with what I've got.

Besides, I've got a server evaluation I need to wrap up.


Comments have been closed for this entry.

re: And the Winner is...not Gentoo

saw ur older post on blogs with comments....know of a place where i can get help with setting that up on mine?

re: And the Winner is...not Gentoo

I just went through lots of the same efforts Chip. I ended up with Debian after working a while trying to get Gentoo to recognize my network. I'll try Gentoo on my next machine, really....

re: And the Winner is...not Gentoo

Sound like you kinda gave up. Gentoo is for someone that doesnt mind spending a couple of days or weeks tweaking there system. 15% gain... thats great 15% is a lot in the gamers world as far as a work station like you mentioned...I realy don't think Gentoo is for somthing that basic, it's more for the super geek and and someone that wants to have a long project on there hands, to reap the rewards of customizing there OS just the way they want. IMHO if you are going with with Stage 3 tarballs there is no point in setting up Gentoo. Now if you dont want to put all the work in that stage 1 and 2 require, there is a version called jollix that is based on Gentoo just a scaled down version KDE GI IRC Wine ati and nvidia auto detection and everything you look for in a gaming desktop. And its fairly ez to setup, now not as ez as Fedora or Maney but it sound like you have pleanty of exprience with Linux installs.