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Rozza
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:10 am    Post subject: Is Gentoo a solid choice for a CS Student Reply with quote

Hey everyone,

So I am looking for a new distro (currently moving away from void) that I will be using on my laptop for university (Comp-Sci). I was looking for something that allows me to get my hands dirty and learn more about the linux system, but is also stable enough so that I can complete course requirements without having it break down when an update comes along. I was tossing up between Arch or Gentoo. I have previously used Arch, however a couple of times some packages from AUR caused a few issues (plus I am not a huge fan of systemd). I was wondering if you guys would recommend gentoo for univeristy work?
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bunder
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i've been using gentoo for many years, i won't say that updates will always be smooth and easy but for the most part they are pretty straight forward. definitely worth it for learning how to build packages from source instead of relying on a binary distro. also systemd is completely optional here, so that's a bonus.
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1clue
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 3:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

IMO a rolling release distro will always be more difficult to keep sane than a normal distro. The core reason for a standard distro is to avoid the hiccups that come with a rolling release. The fact that most distros are not rolling provides good evidence that the strategy works.

You might consider a second system. Update the first, test it, then update the second. That way you always have one working system.
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1clue
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 4:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another point I guess regarding Gentoo.

All my installations are special-purpose situations. I use multiple distros, and for most of my work-related hosting work I use some standard binary distro because I require availability and can't afford to fix a broken box.

So my Gentoo installations are all some special purpose arrangement with a single task to perform. I get the base install going and then add only those tools I require for the task at hand, and nothing else.

The simpler your install the easier it is to keep it stable. I rarely get any issues with my Gentoo systems simply because the core features are updated less frequently and are inherently more tested than optional packages, because literally everyone uses them.

It is very definitely possible to keep a Gentoo desktop system running smoothly with only a few hiccups. It very definitely took me a year or two before I could claim to be able to do that, and that was after I had been on Linux since 1996. It's also very possible to lose track of what you're doing and blunder yourself into a nonworking state. Been there, done that.

I would advise a system rescue cd be ready to run at any moment. I would advise your homework be kept on a drive which is accessible to multiple systems. This could be a USB or it could be a standard drive that's easily removed and dropped into another system which you have running. Or a NAS, or whatever else you might choose.
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The Doctor
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 6:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I used Gentoo for over 6 years of college work. Undergraduate plus some grad work. It never let me down.

On the other hand, Arch took a dump on me right when I actually needed my lappy to do some work.

The secret to using Gentoo successfully is do backups. I recommend purchasing a cheap usb external hard drive and use something like rsnapshot to keep a good backup. Next, realize you don't need the bleeding edge software all the time. Put off updates until you have an hour or so when you can live without your computer. If you have a paper due the next day and you need to get writing and revising wait until you turn it in.

I also encourage you to be a rebel and have two computers. I know, I know, but hear me out. A desktop is better suited to compiling your CS projects, playing video, ergonomic typing, etc. and the laptop is the perfect for note taking and being on the go.

This also means you can always have a canary. If an update goes bad on one box you can use the other one until you fix it. Better learning experience and more stable. You will also learn more about setting up nfs shares, binary packages, public/private key encryption, etc. It is an all around win for only $300-400 tops. You saved four times that by not going Apple.

Also, install texmaker and learn to use it. Trust me, libreoffice is not the way to write a strictly formatted paper. Tex makes following a format, like MLA, a no brainier. There is a time commitment up front but it will save you hours and bump your grade up substantially when you don't loose points for incorrect formatting.
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gordonb3
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Haha. I did my paper in LaTeX. Not exactly wysiwyg, you had to print it on paper to see the result, but there still isn't a single office writer product that can produce the same output I created then. Did not run Linux at that time though and I'm even unaware if that even existed then - I did my work on a VT100 terminal connected to a VAX-VMS machine.

As for Gentoo, one more tip: create binary packages (FEATURES=buildpkg). This allows you to return to the previous working version of a package even if that was expired from the portage tree. Was very happy to be able to revert a Gnome update that way some time ago. Which was essentially the only really bad thing that happened to me since I turned back from using Sabayon for GUI desktop. The rest categorizes under minor flukes and annoyances that are often quickly solved.
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krinn
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:05 am    Post subject: Re: Is Gentoo a solid choice for a CS Student Reply with quote

Its stability only depends on you:
- if a gentoo dev has done a shitty works, you can still fix this (downgrading, patching...)
- if a gentoo dev didn't do a shitty works, you still can bork yourself anything
So gentoo stability is really just equal to its owner skill ; per essence, a new gentoo user will always start with a very ugly gentoo, making him learning while fixing this, and making him learn even quicker (after 2-3 install try, because new user love to re-install instead of fixing it) ; still it's time you must invest, and a time higher than reinstalling ; that's a prize to invest: next trouble you'll met, you'll be able to fix that, while non-gentoo user would again use his only solve, re-install, again and again.

So your probable "real" answer is: you will be able to get your hands dirty, you'll learn like no other distro will teach you (except lfs), but no, you'll probably not get a stable distro, as it depends on you, and learning and making hands dirty are cause of instability.
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P.Kosunen
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Doctor wrote:
The secret to using Gentoo successfully is do backups.

Same secret works on almost any distro/OS.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rozza,

If you need to use your system next day, don't do updates because you might not be able to.
Keep binary packages of everything you build. That way a downgrade is trivial. The package does not need to be rebuild from source.
e.g. I spent 8 hours building *office, only to find all the icons were black squares. The downgrade took 10 min.

This works for stable and testing.

You will have fewer problems with stable. Testing is not as 'educational' as it once was.
Updating from stable to testing is easy. Reverting is not. There are a small number of packages that cannot be downgraded.

Start off with stable. Once that's mundane upgrade to testing.

The maintenance strategy is the same. Don't update right before it has to work.

The computer I used at college was a mainframe of some sort. Linus wasn't even born. :)
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Is Gentoo a solid choice for a CS Student


Gentoo is a great choice for anyone who enjoys having control over their computer. Not just students.
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CooSee
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jaglover wrote:
Quote:
Is Gentoo a solid choice for a CS Student


Gentoo is a great choice for anyone who enjoys having control over their computer. Not just students.


i agree - my first distro was debian, back in the days - then i discovered gentoo and it was so much joy, because you are in control as a user.

at first it may take some time to (compile) learn how gentoo works, but you won't regret it.

always safety first (backups) :wink:

good luck.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, going into my 3rd year CS.

Been using gentoo since my last year of high school.

Its been very nice. After the initial set up, development environments felt really easy to set up.
Had to work with Python, C, Java, Eclipse, Android-Studio, VHDL, JTAG, etc.
All of which were pretty easy to set up on Gentoo.

I'd recommend using gentoo for the knowledge it teaches you. I find a lot of students in my classes have hard times understanding files and where everything is. Then they hop into the command line and starting doing ./exec_program and wonders why it doesn't work when the error message is clearly there.
Or when they try to get their JTAG working to program an FPGA, they don't realize they need a udev rule to allow them access.
The list goes on and on.

Compared to other distributions, Gentoo has a lot of packages in the portage tree. Compared to Debian/Ubuntu where you have to go onto Google's website to download Android-studio, etc.

Hope this helps :)
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What the Doctor and Neddy said; except do not "upgrade to testing".

If you must keyword certain packages like TexLive, then fair enough, but not your whole system, if you "just want it to work".

Gentoo updates might not go through, but in the meantime you still have a rock-solid system.

In this respect, Gentoo "bugs" are very different to "upgrade bugs" on a bindist (where you have various elements in a stack not quite working right in usage, and you just upgrade to another bugset..)
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

steveL,

Awww. Stable is safe. Testing is a good way to lean ... as long as you have a safety net.

Mixing the two can be a bit of a challenge when you need two different versions of the same library.
Testing isn't what it was, with most of the raw edges being moved to overlays, its a lot safer than say, even five years ago.
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pun_guin
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2018 11:53 am    Post subject: Re: Is Gentoo a solid choice for a CS Student Reply with quote

Rozza wrote:
So I am looking for a new distro (currently moving away from void)


Out of curiosity: Why do you move away from Void? Void was my previous distro as well and I still like it a lot - but I'm fine with having moved to Gentoo. This community is unbeatable. :) The "not a fan of systemd" restriction does not leave many reasonable alternatives.

gordonb3 wrote:
Haha. I did my paper in LaTeX.


So did I (but on Windows). I could have used LyX, but I found that LyX was too limiting for most of LaTeX's features.

Welcome to Gentoo, I guess.
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1clue
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I used LaTeX for years. I still do sometimes, but often I use Markdown now as a lot of my documentation is hosted by github.

Even Markdown is better than any sort of "conventional" word processor for textual consistency and organization. Nothing beats LaTeX and variants.

WRT printing it out, I'm sure the person who wrote that knows that there is now the ability to make a pdf from it, assuming you have a graphical environment to view it from.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1clue wrote:
often I use Markdown now as a lot of my documentation is hosted by github.


Don't.
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gordonb3
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1clue wrote:
I used LaTeX for years. I still do sometimes, but often I use Markdown now as a lot of my documentation is hosted by github.

Even Markdown is better than any sort of "conventional" word processor for textual consistency and organization. Nothing beats LaTeX and variants.

WRT printing it out, I'm sure the person who wrote that knows that there is now the ability to make a pdf from it, assuming you have a graphical environment to view it from.
Yeah, that graphical environment was something of an issue back then. There was Windows 3.11 and there was at least one department where they had Sun Sparc stations, for which my student account was not valid. Obviously times changed, which is good for the trees ;)
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2018 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NeddySeagoon wrote:
Awww. Stable is safe. Testing is a good way to learn ... as long as you have a safety net.

Mixing the two can be a bit of a challenge when you need two different versions of the same library.
Testing isn't what it was, with most of the raw edges being moved to overlays, its a lot safer than say, even five years ago.
And when anything goes wrong, you will be told: "Well, you are running unstable; what did you expect?"
Sorry, but no one other than a student really has time for that, and as we've seen from the OP, most students don't want that, either.

Seems to me that if you do need to mix the odd unstable package in, then you will be learning just as much (about portage, dependencies and Gentoo) with a helluva lot less risk, as your base is nice and solid (so it keeps running, even if a GUI app is flakey, to give an example.)

You'd also be perfect for arch-testing, which runs in exactly that scenario: a stable system, keywording specific packages and dependencies to see how they work out.

I can't see a downside, for Gentoo either (with more people falling naturally into arch-testing than otherwise.)

None of which lessens the recommendation to run with FEATURES=buildpkg, as it is the only way to rollback correctly.

WRT LaTeX, KILE (the KDE LaTeX editor) used to rock, til KDE went doolalley at least. LyX is nice as well, ime, though I preferred KILE, when I had to work on academic papers.
Oh, and buy Lamport's classic "LATEX: A Document Preparation System" (2nd ed, 1994.)
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2018 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pun_guin wrote:
1clue wrote:
often I use Markdown now as a lot of my documentation is hosted by github.


Don't.


Interesting. In my case I don't get to be the one who chooses, but I will certainly forward the link to the people who do.

I noticed many of those issues myself, especially lack of standardization between dialects and lack of any documentation which accurately describes some of those dialects.

That said, I think a wiki-style markup language is a really good option, or would be if I could find the right one with adequate features. It would have to be something that is standardized though.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2018 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

reStructuredText is actually quite lovely and broadly supported. The only thing it can't do is italic link text AFAICS.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pun_guin wrote:
reStructuredText is actually quite lovely and broadly supported. The only thing it can't do is italic link text AFAICS.
gack XML.

You're right though, it is a nice format.

Just wish we could get away from the fubar of XML once and for all, since the HTML bods have finally ditched it.
The amount of years' effort wasted on it, just because Microsoft wanted to shaft us all, should make anyone working in IT in the 90s and noughties hang their heads in shame.

IMO, obviously.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

steveL wrote:
pun_guin wrote:
reStructuredText is actually quite lovely and broadly supported. The only thing it can't do is italic link text AFAICS.
gack XML.

You're right though, it is a nice format.

Just wish we could get away from the fubar of XML once and for all, since the HTML bods have finally ditched it.
The amount of years' effort wasted on it, just because Microsoft wanted to shaft us all, should make anyone working in IT in the 90s and noughties hang their heads in shame.

IMO, obviously.


+1 for "gack XML."

In our case documentation is written not only by programmers but non-technical people as well. A wiki markup is OK, but anything more complicated is not.

IMO one thing markdown does successfully is prove that a wiki-style markup can do everything needed by most documentation which is not a book, or highly mathematical. I'm pretty sure that if my coworkers and I change documentation specs it will be to another wiki-style language.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1clue wrote:
IMO one thing markdown does successfully is prove that a wiki-style markup can do everything needed by most documentation which is not a book, or highly mathematical. I'm pretty sure that if my coworkers and I change documentation specs it will be to another wiki-style language.
Have you looked at asciidoc? It was mentioned in another thread.
Apparently the ruby version is where it's being worked on now.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The Doctor:
Also, install texmaker and learn to use it. Trust me, libreoffice is not the way to write a strictly formatted paper. Tex makes following a format, like MLA, a no brainer. There is a time commitment up front but it will save you hours and bump your grade up substantially when you don't loose points for incorrect formatting.


(Tom Baker was my favorite Doctor. I thought he was the best, and offering a jelly-baby to the Dalek leader was just classic. As a young teen I had a small crush on Tegan Jovanka.)

I have to concur with using texmaker. I have never had a file get corrupted using laTex unlike LibreOffice which occasionally screws up on me. With laTex you can set all that spacing stuff in the preamble then not have to bother with it anymore. It's great.

Latexila is good, and you can even use Geany if you want. Lyx is okay too. I prefer vim but the IDE-type programs have the menu item to click and look at the output quickly which is convenient.
Latexila has tabbed ability so you can work on multiple chapters/sections at the same time.

As a CS student, Gentoo is a great choice (the best choice in my opinion) because it will test your problem solving skills --you will encounter problems using it: kernel compile, getting too happy with too many USE flags, and other things.
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