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If you clicked this link for finding out more reasons why to choose Gentoo Linux over any other form, you'll be sadly disappointed. Sure, Gentoo has all these great optimizations and fast doodads but it all boiled down to this chain of events.

A bit of history first (to show how old I am.)

In 1993, I was first introduced to Linux as a replacement for Unix by a friend. He hadn't tried it out himself at that point but since I've already had a few years of Unix admin experience from an old TRS-80 Model 16b HD machine (68000 at 6MHz, 15MB HDD, 512KB RAM, and Microsoft/Tandy TRS-Xenix 1.03.05, which later became SCO Xenix). He mentioned SLS. I went to look around and found Softlanding Systems 1.03 Release with Linux kernel 0.99pl12. No, I'm not the earliest adopters, but this was the first time I had net connectivity fast enough to download it and a machine capable (386DX40, 4MB RAM, 40MB HDD). As with any linux newbie, I had tons of trouble with it, especially with disk corruption. Turns out an ext2fs bug was introduced into 0.99pl12. Ouch, call that a bad time to start Linux. I also had my box rooted too. Good experience that was. No really, it was when I first realized how important security was, and how difficult it is to maintain.

After using SLS for a while (I never recompiled a new kernel to fix the ext2fs bug, never had enough disk space, plus no "safe" place to compile), I heard of this neat distribution called "Slackware." I downloaded 1.1 as the SLS binaries were getting long in the tooth and there was no upgrade to SLS. Here I finally got a larger disk, with its newer kernel I began compiling new kernels as new patches came out. This install lasted for a good few months.

By the time I felt necessary to upgrade again, Slackware 3.0 was available. Also at that time, SLS finally also had a new distribution, but I decided to use 3.0 anyway instead of using their supposedly new and improved SLS 1.05 or something. The package improvements in SLS looked minuscule compared to two major release updates in Slackware. So Slackware 3.0 it was, and thus also began the name of "Multiplex" for my PC.

However, around that time a new problem occurred. I noticed I started to get a lot of technical support questions about specific issues on particular distribution I never tried before. That distribution eventually became probably the most popular Linux distribution ever - thus I switched over to RedHat Linux 4.0 to see these new "redhat-isms." Also began my annoyance with my 9-character hostname and thus the name "Q" was taken. Getting back on topic, even though the upgrade process was a mess from version to version, I continued on with 4.2, 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.2, 7.0, 7.2, 7.3, and 9 as I become all too familiar with the placement of all the config/startup files. (By the way, RH8 is missing. I never felt it was enough of an improvement over the 7-series.)

Anyway, through the years I've also touched on Mandrake 8.0 and Debian 2.2, but never really used them that much. The packages of Mandrake was too much like Redhat's anyway, and Debian's dselect left a really bad impression. Actually, I still use Debian on a remote machine I manage as well as some virtual machines, but I don't have the physical machine on premise (unless it's the virtual machine :). Honestly speaking, after using Gentoo emerge, I learned more about apt-get / apt-cache and how the other Debian package manager tools worked, and grew to appreciate it more. Just skip the false curses dselect.

I tried the BSDs a bit but by then I've already gotten too used to Linux. I still use NetBSD on my DECstation 3100, though. It's not an ia32 machine, rather, it's a MIPSel-based machine. Unfortunately, it was a forced choice as none of Ultrix, VMS, and OpenBSD are being updated for this machine...

But then I digress. Anyway, now Redhat ended its free for enthusiasts support and Fedora came to light. At this point in mid 2004, I downloaded Fedora Core 2 getting ready to install it as the logical follow-on to RedHat. But before I started installing, two friends of mine suggested I should try Gentoo. At first I complained to them, all this compiling is wasteful. They claimed customization is impeccable. Anyway, just like Debian and Mandrake, I tried it. Did a stage3 install because I didn't want to waste my life compiling something I wasn't sure I would keep. It worked on the first try. No DUH. I've gone through more than 10 years of Linux and of course it will work. Yes, any distribution would've worked, I've gone through so many and I could likely fix anything to work.

Why'd I end up stick to Gentoo? (Same reason why I stuck with Redhat for 5 major releases...)

The answer is easy. Why, I'm just too **MNED lazy to reinstall something else! Currently all my machines run Gentoo Linux and sometimes I curse myself for using this because all my machines are different architectures and different dependencies. Alas it does save some disk space to have each customized to the particular use of the machine (like I really need mysql or v4l libraries on my laptop and server; or microcontroller development tools on my p4 pvr) so I end up compiling a LOT, maybe too much. Not to mention my machines are all different microarchitectures - P4, Athlon, P3, and P2. Although I could generate a P2 binary for all, the dependency lists are horrendous and I would need to end up distcc'ing it all again anyway.

At least I don't have to do it often and having fast machines up on distcc it's not way too bad.

The good thing is that Gentoo seems to be pretty automated anyway, most of the times I can emerge and leave it to finish. etc-update sucks as bad as Debian's dselect so that's still got some work that needs to be done. And most of the packages, it's good to have the source code around in case I need to modify it (and I do!) which sure beats having to download both binary and source separately.

Well, That's it. Just my sobering experience why I use Gentoo Linux. I am NOT going to claim Gentoo is the best distribution around. You be the judge of that. All I have to say is it worked for me, despite its compilation annoyance.

By the way. funroll-loops calls Gentoo 'rice'. (btw, funroll-loops is actually a gcc option, -f unroll-loops. This is an optimization that can be done to reduce numbers of conditional branches at expense of memory to improve execution speed.) This analogy to cars couldn't be less apparent with the "stage1" "stage2" "stage3" wording, albeit different, also relates to performance packages in cars. Well, not a great analogy, but nevertheless it's there.

Core i7 2700K 3.9GHz @ 4.1GHz
Core2Quad Q9550S 2.66GHz @ 2.93GHz
Core2Quad Q6600 2.4GHz Given away
Core2Duo E6700 2.66GHz
P4 Pentium 4 3.4GHz (64-bit Gentoo)
P3 Pentium-M 1.6GHz (Laptop)
Athlon Athlon-XP 2200+ @ 1834MHz Dismantled
P3 Celeron Tualatin 1200 @ 1364MHz mostly retired
P3 Pentium 3 1133MHz (Laptop) Gone/Donated
P2 Dual Pentium Pro 200MHz @ 233MHz Dismantled
Asus eeePC 901 (netbook, was eeebuntu, now Gentoo)
Geode GX1 233MHz Dev board

Non-x86 Linux machines
Dell Poweredge 3250 - dual Itanium2 (Madison) 1.3GHz (Gentoo Linux 64-bit Itanium)
Linksys WRT54G (DD-WRT)
Sharp Zaurus SL-5600 (Openzaurus)
Nokia N900 (Maemo)

Ubuntu Linux, though another Debian-sourced Linux, may be the next episode of the Linux saga. Gosh darn, it's the only Linux I was able to boot with ACPI support so far with the new Core2Duo 'out of the box'. Fortunately I think the ACPI issue was fixed in firmware as a BIOS update and haven't had trouble booting ever since.


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