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Ah... this might seem like a rather long setup before I get to the actual questions... I apologize in advance, I'm just trying to explain where I'm coming from before ...
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  1. #1
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    So tell me about this Gentoo thing.


    Ah... this might seem like a rather long setup before I get to the actual questions... I apologize in advance, I'm just trying to explain where I'm coming from before I ask the questions themselves...

    I've been toying with various distributions on Linux for, oh, about 9 or 10 years, but I still consider myself a newbie. In fact, I consider myself something of a perpetual newbie because I've never had the time to really plumb the depths of Linux, familiarize myself with bash, and generally figure out how it works.

    That said, I have learned a *few* things... to the point where after discovering the joys of apt-get I just can't bring myself to go back to rpm-based binary installers. But I've been hearing about this Gentoo thing, and it intrigues me... it doesn't intrigue me to the point where I think I'm ready to give it a try, but it *does* intrigue me to the point where I'd like to learn more about what makes it unique.

    If I were going to try to describe what makes Debian unique from other distros -- to a newbie -- I could talk about either their hardcore free software philosophy or apt-get. From a technical perspective, I'd talk about apt-get, explain how apt makes it possible to install software without worrying about dependency problems because it automatically looks for and installs everything it needs for the software to run (well, in theory.) Of course, the problem with that is that the software must be sitting out there on a server you've added to your files, and if you've pinned it a certain way it might find the software but refuse to install it because the dependencies it needs would conflict with something you already have installed, etc... nothing's perfect. But that, in my opinion, is the most distinctive thing about Debian.

    Which leads me to Gentoo...

    I've frequently heard Gentoo described as a "roll your own" distro -- in other words, you compile everything directly from source. What I *haven't* heard is how this is done, and I'm curious about that... because you compile everything directly from source regardless of what distro you're using. I've done it myself, and when it comes to programming I'm a flipping idiot.

    So I went to the Gentoo site and started reading about Portage, and I have to admit it seems very, very interesting. From what I've read so far, it seems like it's taken the idea behind apt-get and gone one step further -- instead of dealing with binaries, it works directly with source code, and it at least partially automates the compilation of that code. I can see at least two big advantages to this: first, you don't have to wait for a distribution-specific binary to be created before you can use an application... you just get it, compile it, and run it. Of course, people comfortable with compiling on their own have been doing this already, but for those of us who don't like mucking about with such things that would be a boon. The second is that you don't have to wait for a *platform*-specific binary to be created to run it on your powerpc or AMD64 or [insert non-intel platform here], which interests me greatly because I happen to have just bought an AMD64 laptop, and I'm currently running a 32-bit version of Debian (Xandros, actually) on it simply because it's what I had on hand.

    Aside from that, it also appears to have adopted the apt-get "grab and install over the net" system of getting software, which is what won me over to Debian in the first place.

    So all of these things make me very interested in this distribution. But none of this information really tells me how *easy* it is to learn to use, and that's I'm curious about.

    So for those of you who are familiar with it: I am essentially someone who knows just enough about Linux to royally screw things up when I tinker too much. How difficult is learning Portage? How much hand-holding does it require to figure out how to use it with a reasonable level of proficiency? Is it really aimed more toward people who program? Is it harder to use than other more well-known distros (Mandrake, SuSE, Mepis, etc.) or is it just different?

  2. #2
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    It is hard to install, but the documentation makes it (mostly) a breeze. It explains everything which is done, but if youre going to install over the net I would suggest reading the manual on the net instead of the one on the CD. Look at the manual and you would get a picture of how it is to install gentoo.

  3. #3
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    also as a package management system, portage is much better than apt-get, because while just like apt-get you do not have to worry about any dependancies, but there is an advantage, when you type emerge whatever it emerges whatever and all of its dependancies on your computer and custom compiles them for you, fully tweaked for your system...programs are therefore supersmall compared to other distros, why would you compile for gnome, kde, fluxbox, and all graphics and sound cards when you have a particular setup? You can further tweak your custom compiles in your make.conf file with its USE functions. Once everything is initially setup any install is done by "emerge whatever". Portage lets you search packages also, to find the one that is right for you. Also it will with a single command automatically update your entire system with all new releases of packages.

    Setup is easy with the handbook, but lets face it, its still really hard, but well worth it in the long run.
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    But if you first make it work, it gets easyer and eayer...

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    So how difficult is it to *use* portage? For example, apt-get is really easy to use so long as I know the program I want is out there on a server somewhere. But let's say that I'm running Gentoo and I've come across a new piece of software, just stumbled across it, and I've downloaded the source.

    Could I:

    - compile the source I just downloaded with Portage
    - if the source requires dependencies I don't have, get Portage to look for those dependencies "out there" on whatever repositories Gentoo maintains
    - compile them all up and spit out a working application on the other end?

    So the makefile contain the default settings for portage when it compiles an application? In other words, is that where I would specify that I want the code compiled to optimize for my AMD 64 processor?

    How does portage handle *uninstalling* software? Is that possible, or is it a "when you put it there, it stays there" kind of scenario?

    Can the portage makefile specify *where* you want applications to be installed in the filesystem? My biggest problem at the moment is that whenever I install a Linux program, I have no idea where it goes -- unless it gets put in /opt, which from what I understand it really isn't supposed to do.

    But so far the impression I get is that Gentoo is a pain to install, but once installed it's basically Linux with a different (and in some ways more convenient) pakcage management tool.

    Though I'll tell ya, Linux configuration files and I, we don't have a pretty history together...

  6. #6
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    you dont even have to dl the source yourself just emerge whatever, it will first check dependencies, then dl dependancies, and all dependancies of dependancies, compile them all and run. Uninstall is similarly easy with portage, plus when it unistalls something it will remove all of its dependancies that are not needed by other programs. Plus you can fully customize anything that portage does to your system! you will never have to look for dependancies again, nor will you have to try to find and uninstall dependancies of programs that you don't use anymore that just clutter your system! emerge does it all...
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    Well, I was thinking specifically of a scenario where it was really new software that hadn't been put in any software depositories yet. In that case, if you tried to use emerge, wouldn't it just do what apt does when it looks through the repositories you've set up and doesn't find anything?

    But portage sounds really neat. I guess I'll have to look through the install document and see whether or not the potential pain will be worth the reward...

  8. #8
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    Well, I never ended up in that scenario, if you set portage to permit unstable, it finds the most... I found acroread7 in portage the day after it came out... If not, you can probably make your own ebuild...

  9. #9
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    Portage trees are updated constantly. Almost daily. There are some programs that are 'masked' which makes you think twice about blindly emerging them. The masked ebuilds are generally new releases with unproven track records, betas, or experimentals. Portage is super-smart. There's no way you can get something without its dependencies through Portage.
    --Dachnaz [Fuzzy Llama]

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by genesus
    Uninstall is similarly easy with portage, plus when it unistalls something it will remove all of its dependancies that are not needed by other programs. Plus you can fully customize anything that portage does to your system! you will never have to look for dependancies again, nor will you have to try to find and uninstall dependancies of programs that you don't use anymore that just clutter your system! emerge does it all...
    Actually this isn't precisely true. It's not fully automatic. You use emerge appname to install (which installs dependencies), emerge -C appname to remove the application (but not the orphaned dependencies), emerge depclean to remove orphaned dependencies, and revdep-rebuild to rebuild software broken by various library or toolkit updates. Portage does not do reverse dependency checking by default. This can be immensely powerful, but it means you have to "clean" things.

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