[lug] Primer on Linux Distros

Randy Arabie randy at arabie.org
Fri Oct 18 09:58:00 MDT 2002

On Friday, 18 October 2002 at  8:41:00 -0600, ljp wrote:
> On Friday 18 October 2002 08:12 am, you wrote:
> > > Gentoo--very interesting distro in which you compile everything from
> > > scratch. This takes a long time to install (!) but in the end has the
> > > advantage that you know the software is completely optimized for your
> > > system.
> Not necessarly true, they have a minimal binary installs to get you running.
> I like gentoo. It's rather easy to admin, once you get to know their 
> commands, and init file layout.
> If you want xmms installed, 'emerge xmms' - you download/compile not only 
> xmms, but dependencies as well. No more searching the internet for every 
> little package you need. 'rc-update...' to add services at whatever 
> runlevels. If you are like me and compile most everything anyway.. Gentoo is 
> very nice. But to install.. you do need to know a bit about linux, or at 
> least, follow their install docs to the tee...
> and if you have a few linux machines around, you can install distcc and get 
> distributed compiling to help save some time.

FWIW, I found gentoo easier to install and configure than debian, and it 
didn't take any longer either.  I had gentoo running on my workstation, but
have switched to debian.

I liked gentoo's optimization and package management system.  I think it is
outstanding.  What I didn't like was their single tree.  I think they would 
benefit from having at least another, like 'stable' and 'testing'.  The single
tree is updated daily, it is almost like working out of CVS.

With gentoo, you have to update your copy of the package tree quite frequently
if you plan on installing new (or updating existing) packages.  It can result
in situations like this:

I want to install APP_A, which depends of LIB_X.  I already have LIB_X, because
APP_D depends on it too.  However, when I installed (i.e. compiled) APP_D it's
genetoo ebuild script required LIB_X v.1.6-2.  Now (2-months later), when I go
to build APP_A it requires a newer version of LIB_X.  This is fine, and the 
gentoo emerge system takes care of it, but you end up with two versions of 
LIB_X.  The other option would be to upgrade APP_A to use the newer version of 
LIB_X.  If you were to build a system with everything you need at one time,
and were not adding apps later (i.e. a server) you shouldn't have situations
like that.

I never had a situation where this created a real problem, but I did wind up
with several versions of many libraries, which consumed a lot of disk.  I did
upgrade an older app in a case like this, and regretted it because the newer
version had bugs.  Rolling back to the older version was not an option, at 
least not via gentoo's emerge system, because the old ebuild scripts were not
available.  I could have just un-emerged the app and grabed vanilla sources or
a binary distro, but I didn't want to risk mixing in non-gentoo problems.

As far as debian goes...I like it so far.  The initial install was slow, but 
maybe that is because I only installed a minimal base from CD and then 
everything else over the net via apt-get.  I do have DSL, but the night I 
did my install the debian mirrors were really slow.

Allons Rouler!
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