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pun_guin
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:02 am    Post subject: The hunt for an unbroken distro: Is Gentoo for me? Reply with quote

Hi, everyone! I could need your advice. But before I tell you what I'm after, it might be relevant to talk about my background a bit.

I was probably rather late to the game: Some time in the mid-90s, my first encounters with Linux was the mystic "geek" room in my school, mostly powered by S.u.S.E. Linux instead of the (well-matured) WfW 3.11 which dominated the rest of the school's accessible hardware. I was sufficiently interested in technology, so, since I was just starting with "computing" and I did not have an established workflow yet, I purged my own, still new(ish) Windows PC and tried a number of distributions myself until the 2010s.

My longest-lasting (and, overall, happiest) encounters on Linux desktops during that period were probably with S.u.S.E. Linux, Red Hat (later, Fedora) and Linux Mint. Although I think that I always had a soft spot for "KISS" principles, my experiences with Arch which was recommended to me by friends were horrible: Everything was or, at least, behaved like being broken after every second or third update. My only encounter with Gentoo itself was in the school to which I referred above: The administrator had tried to move the network from S.u.S.E. to Gentoo - it was rolled back after a short period because Gentoo seemed to have its problems. I was not knowing enough back then, so I did not bother to ask him why.

I usually don't stick with Linux for too long and I left the boat entirely just before the big systemd wave. In the time between, while doing most of my tasks on Windows, I dove into FreeBSD desktops and I finally started to understand the advantages of compiling everything according to my needs. This was when I finally understood Gentoo - but I already had BSD. :wink:

However, for a number of (mostly driver-related) reasons, I started to actively watch and poke into the Linux ecosystem again. Seeing that systemd has become a monstrosity by now and I should probably not even try to tame it (life is short), I spent the first three months of my part-time return to Linuxland with a dedicated laptop running Void. While I truly like Void and I am happy to know it (it just works), it feels like I'm missing some of the freedom to change things at their core. Sure, Void has sane defaults, but I am curious enough to not just live with what's there. A reevaluation of my options left me with two possible candidates which are promising enough:

  • Slackware. There does not seem to be anything that could kill it - cockroaches and Slackware will probably survive a nuclear war. The obvious downsides to me: Package management (with actual management features - I can live with compiling ports, I do not want to live with hunting for several layers of dependencies) is a third-party thing on Slackware and SysV init might decrease performance. Void has runit which is plain awesome. Sure, I could probably replace it by something else with a lot of effort - but why? So I kept hunting... and I found:
  • Gentoo. I don't know why, but Gentoo - pronounced dead for 12 years now - is still there and it is still taking refugees. Nice! It does not seem to have any of Slackware's relevant "problems", but it brings its own one to this very laptop: It is a budget Acer Aspire with a 256 GB SSD and an AMD A8 CPU. I can't decide between the fear of a quickly degrading SSD or the fear of having to wait two days before compiling is done...


The most obvious answer would be: "Try both!" - I know. But Gentoo does not seem to be something which can be "installed quickly". One does not simply...
So what would be your advice? I'll follow it blindly, I promise. :D
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pun_guin,

Welcome to Gentoo.

Gentoo is more like BSD than any of the binary distros you named. The Gentoo Portage package manager name was borrowed from Ports.
Think of Gentoo like Linux From Scratch with a package manager and some get you going default settings.

Gentoo is the portage ebuild repository and the Portage package manager. Everything else is ${UPSTREAM}.
As a result, Gentoo is a toolkit you use to build your own distro, your way. With that freedom, you get a lot more control.
You must make all the decisions that binary distros make for you.

If you stay with all stable, it will mostly 'just work'. Likewise, all testing but expect some rough edges.
Mixing stable and testing is possible but leads to versioning issues.
If testing is not bleeding edge enough, the hemorrhaging edge is there too in the form of ebuilds that pull from the upstream repository.
You won't get the hemorrhaging edge by accident though.

Your first Gentoo install will take a few days. Once you have some practice, it won't need any more of your time than a binary distro.
There is rarely any need to reinstall Gentoo. It may be a faster way to fix an issue but you can always get from where you are to where you want to be.
That includes changing the hardware under the install.

Lastly, my advice is not to do anything in Gentoo blindly :)
Build on what you know works, so you can back out a change.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, NeddySeagoon,

NeddySeagoon wrote:
If you stay with all stable, it will mostly 'just work'. Likewise, all testing but expect some rough edges.


That's good - a system without edges would bore me. (Void... :))
But I - indeed - mostly just want to get my stuff done.

NeddySeagoon wrote:
Your first Gentoo install will take a few days.


Ew. 8O

But:

NeddySeagoon wrote:
Once you have some practice, it won't need any more of your time than a binary distro.


Hmm - I did a quick research before, including "how to update Gentoo", and what I saw was "then rebuild world". I know from FreeBSD that "rebuild world" basically means "just compile everything and the kitchen sink from zero" and I'm rather sure that this does take longer than a binary update of the two or three outdated packages - I was not aware that there is an incremental option. That lowers the burden - spending two days of compiling every two days does not sound like something reasonable, updating single ports sounds notably faster to me ... :)

NeddySeagoon wrote:
There is rarely any need to reinstall Gentoo.


Seems like I misinformed myself on that stance, at least.

NeddySeagoon wrote:
Lastly, my advice is not to do anything in Gentoo blindly :)


I was more thinking along the lines of "you should/shouldn't use Gentoo on your hardware because it rocks/you will hate it", but this advice is appreciated as well. :)

I'll see if anyone else jumps in - otherwise, I'll throw a dice tomorrow or something.
I will report back!
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pun_guin,

There are a few rare cases when you need to rebuild everything.
When the C++ ABI changes, all the C++ code needs to be rebuilt, that's not really everything.

I make a distinction between your time to install Gentoo and CPU time.
Despite what you may have heard, you do not need to read the compiler output as it scrolls :)
It will be saved in case its needed.

I run Gentoo on Raspberry Pi (arm64) a 2008 Acer One (x86) an AMD Phenom II and a collection of servers.
The servers do not have a GUI. The others have MATE and Xfce4.
There is a distinction between run and build too. The Acer One has an 8G SSD. Its not enough to build Gentoo but its plenty for a stripped down binary install.
Even the Pi has Libreoffice and Firefox, more because I can than because I actually it there.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the initial configuration may take a couple of days purely due to unfamiliarity. My 1st Gentoo install did take a weekend and this wasn't influenced as much by compiling. My most recent install (new PC build), I was booting within 30min and then the additional X all built within 2hours.

the time difference is mostly down to lack of familiarity with specific Gentoo tool but more importantly you realize you don't know much about how a Linux distro works & the needed configurations away from the upstream defaults.

Likewise when I did my 1st install the stage3 tarballs were only updated every few months, these days they are updated daily. Now this is key because once you have downloaded a valid stage3 tarball and lay this out onto your target harddrive, the packages contains are part of the @system set & they will not need updated (saves time). As a result the only packages you really need to build as part of a new install are the key but undefined components (your choice of logger, your choice of cron etc) as well as your custom kernel.

Then its a matter of adding the packages you want rather than just need (openbox etc...) to produce a custom setup.
The rebuild world is different from bsd. "rebuild world" to rebuild everything would be akin to emerge -e @world in gentoo where it means rebuild EVERYTHING. This is rarely needed and you would usually just use emerge --sync && emerge -uvDN @ world to sync the database & then build upgraded packages. If you run on stable you will go days sometime weeks without updates. If you run unstable there is usually updates daily... sometimes it is just one package & sometimes it is a massive amount (a qt bump)
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NeddySeagoon wrote:
There are a few rare cases when you need to rebuild everything.
When the C++ ABI changes, all the C++ code needs to be rebuilt, that's not really everything.


I've skipped through the (web version of) the news file - reminds me of FreeBSD's UPDATING, indeed.

NeddySeagoon wrote:
I make a distinction between your time to install Gentoo and CPU time.
Despite what you may have heard, you do not need to read the compiler output as it scrolls :)


Ha! Good.

NeddySeagoon wrote:
Its not enough to build Gentoo but its plenty for a stripped down binary install.


I did not know that Gentoo has something like a "binary install". Is that similar to what Slackware has?

Naib wrote:
the initial configuration may take a couple of days purely due to unfamiliarity.


Ah, thank you.

Naib wrote:
once you have downloaded a valid stage3 tarball and lay this out onto your target harddrive, the packages contains are part of the @system set & they will not need updated (saves time).


Good to know, thank you.

Naib wrote:
Then its a matter of adding the packages you want rather than just need (openbox etc...) to produce a custom setup.


I plan to keep a low footprint: A window manager, a web browser, a text editor, two or three compilers. :)
The web browser - assuming lynx is not really good enough - will probably be interesting to compile. Sigh.

Naib wrote:
The rebuild world is different from bsd. "rebuild world" to rebuild everything would be akin to emerge -e @world in gentoo where it means rebuild EVERYTHING.


Again - good to know, thank you. :)

Naib wrote:
If you run on stable you will go days sometime weeks without updates.


Stable would probably work for me. I updated my Void approx. once a week.

(I already like this community. Quite helpful yet! :D)
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hallo pun_guin:

I think you are absolutelly NOT late in the game. I started to use GNU/Linux around 2003, in the faculty of sciences (Red Hat 7) and then I switched to Gentoo around 2007. The first time you install it will take like 6 days, not because compiling, but, as the other pointed, to n00bness. I see that that will not be your case. It seems to me that with your experience, you shall have it up and running after at most 2 days. And as it was also said: update world does not mean rebuild everything again: I use a unstable branch, and I do not have to wait more than some hours to finish with an update-upgrade to the world set. The only packages that I have seen can take a while to compile are the browsers, namely chromium and firefox. Everything else is pretty fast on my i7 at 2600Mhz with 8 GB Ram and a mechanical harddrive.

Do it, man. It is fun.

Also, greetings to NeddySeagon, he has helped me many times here in the forums.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey wpkzz (just imagine I wouldn't pronounce it as a word),

wpkzz wrote:
It seems to me that with your experience, you shall have it up and running after at most 2 days.


Sounds like a fair estimation. I'm almost convinced to give Gentoo two days to persuade me... :)

wpkzz wrote:
Everything else is pretty fast on my i7 at 2600Mhz with 8 GB Ram and a mechanical harddrive.


I guess the i7 will beat my A8... :lol:
I have a Sandy Bridge i7 in my other laptop - but that's already taken by a different OS. :wink:

wpkzz wrote:
Do it, man. It is fun.


Hmm... :)
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NeddySeagoon wrote:

There are a few rare cases when you need to rebuild everything.
When the C++ ABI changes, all the C++ code needs to be rebuilt, that's not really everything.
...

FWIW, I've rebuilt "world" exactly once since 2009, for the recent profile 17 change.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pun_guin,

Gentoo does not provide a binary install but once you have an install, you can reuse the binaries.
It helps if you know you want to do that ahead of time.

Don't worry too much about firefox, libreoffice and a few other biggies.
They are available pre built. That does mean you don't get to choose how to build them if you opt for the pre built versions.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's nice. How can I reuse binaries and how can I install/update a binary Firefox?
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pun_guin,

When you install, set FEATURES=buildpkg in make.conf. That will save a binary package of everything you compile.
There is a utility called quickpkg too, that will generate binary packages from your installed system.
However, it either drops config files or includes them as they are on the live install.
That means a careless moment and you give away all your password hashes. You probably don't want to do that.

For a web browser, like firefox, you choose the right package at install time.
Code:
$ eix firefox
[U] www-client/firefox
     Available versions:  52.4.0^d 52.6.0^d (~)58.0.1^d {bindist custom-cflags custom-optimization dbus debug eme-free +gmp-autoupdate gtk2 hardened hwaccel jack +jemalloc neon pgo pulseaudio rust +screenshot selinux startup-notification system-cairo system-harfbuzz system-icu system-jpeg system-libevent system-libvpx system-sqlite test wifi L10N="ach af an ar as ast az bg bn-BD bn-IN br bs ca cak cs cy da de dsb el en-GB en-ZA eo es-AR es-CL es-ES es-MX et eu fa ff fi fr fy ga gd gl gn gu he hi hr hsb hu hy id is it ja ka kab kk km kn ko lij lt lv mai mk ml mr ms nb nl nn or pa pl pt-BR pt-PT rm ro ru si sk sl son sq sr sv ta te th tr uk uz vi xh zh-CN zh-TW"}
     Installed versions:  57.0.4^d{tbz2}(23:05:10 06/01/18)(nsplugin screenshot startup-notification -bindist -custom-cflags -custom-optimization -dbus -debug -eme-free -gmp-autoupdate -hardened -hwaccel -jack -neon -pgo -pulseaudio -selinux -system-harfbuzz -system-icu -system-jpeg -system-libevent -system-libvpx -system-sqlite -test -wifi L10N="en-GB -ach -af -an -ar -as -ast -az -bg -bn-BD -bn-IN -br -bs -ca -cak -cs -cy -da -de -dsb -el -en-ZA -eo -es-AR -es-CL -es-ES -es-MX -et -eu -fa -ff -fi -fr -fy -ga -gd -gl -gn -gu -he -hi -hr -hsb -hu -hy -id -is -it -ja -ka -kab -kk -km -kn -ko -lij -lt -lv -mai -mk -ml -mr -ms -nb -nl -nn -or -pa -pl -pt-BR -pt-PT -rm -ro -ru -si -sk -sl -son -sq -sr -sv -ta -te -th -tr -uk -uz -vi -xh -zh-CN -zh-TW")
     Homepage:            http://www.mozilla.com/firefox
     Description:         Firefox Web Browser

* www-client/firefox-bin
     Available versions:  52.6.0^ms (~)58.0.1^ms {+ffmpeg +pulseaudio selinux startup-notification L10N="ach af an ar as ast az bg bn-BD bn-IN br bs ca cs cy da de el en-GB en-ZA eo es-AR es-CL es-ES es-MX et eu fa fi fr fy ga gd gl gu he hi hr hsb hu hy id is it ja kk km kn ko lt lv mai mk ml mr ms nb nl nn or pa pl pt-BR pt-PT rm ro ru si sk sl son sq sr sv ta te th tr uk uz vi xh zh-CN zh-TW"}
     Homepage:            http://www.mozilla.com/firefox
     Description:         Firefox Web Browser


-- edit --

to reuse you own binaries, you arrange for them to be accessible, either by setting up a BINHOST or copying them to where they are needed, then you tell emerge to use the binaries.
emerge -K says fail if there is no binary
emerge -k says to build a binary if one is not found.

The portage repro, distfilies amd binaries can all be shared over NFS too.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I look after 21 local and remote Gentoo Xfce laptops and desktops . Using my "Cut & Paste" installation script allows me to install a system using about 10 to 15 minutes keyboard time. Compile time varies with the speed of the system. The most recent $450.00 Laptop took about 22 hours unattended time. This included Libreoffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, Avidemux and Qbittorrent.

Updates are run once a week.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, NeddySeagoon! :)
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:19 pm    Post subject: Re: The hunt for an unbroken distro: Is Gentoo for me? Reply with quote

pun_guin wrote:

I usually don't stick with Linux for too long and I left the boat entirely just before the big systemd wave. In the time between, while doing most of my tasks on Windows, I dove into FreeBSD desktops and I finally started to understand the advantages of compiling everything according to my needs. This was when I finally understood Gentoo - but I already had BSD. :wink:
Well, are you happy with BSD? If yes, don't touch it, if no, here we are. AFAIR you can even get some support for gentoo with BSD kernel, though you may have to resolve to irc.
Quote:

  • Gentoo. I don't know why, but Gentoo - pronounced dead for 12 years now - is still there and it is still taking refugees. Nice! It does not seem to have any of Slackware's relevant "problems", but it brings its own one to this very laptop: It is a budget Acer Aspire with a 256 GB SSD and an AMD A8 CPU. I can't decide between the fear of a quickly degrading SSD or the fear of having to wait two days before compiling is done...

Indeed, it's been raining newcomers for a month or something. And I thinks one full page of active topics every day remained roughly constant over last few years.... Less activity during summer (Gentoo is dying!) and more once the holiday season fades.
Also, what's the point of having an SSD you don't use? They are expensive per GB, but cheap per IO. And you're not really building stuff 24/7, so killing that drive would take a few years anyway.
This said, I use HDDs in my box and relay heavily on RAM... But then again, I'm not moving my box very often and definitely not when it's working, when HDDs are pretty sensitive to shocks... SSD seems better for a mobile device.

Quote:
I did a quick research before, including "how to update Gentoo", and what I saw was "then rebuild world"
Updating takes you 2 minutes. You launch it, have a look at the packages emerge is going to rebuild, and then you accept. You just collect the results a bit later. The actual delay depends on your network, your hardware, and size of the sources that will be processed :D
Yes, it may get in your way when you "just want to install something NOW!". It's not a big deal once you get to the second phase: maintenance. You don't really care that much about time it takes to compile everything. Failures are rare, so typically you just fire and forget.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:21 pm    Post subject: Re: The hunt for an unbroken distro: Is Gentoo for me? Reply with quote

szatox wrote:
Well, are you happy with BSD? If yes, don't touch it


The deepest and probably only reason for my return to Linux is that it supports my WiFi chip and BSD doesn't before FreeBSD 12 (and the numerous systems that import its drivers). So this is your chance to make me stay for more than a few weeks. ;)

szatox wrote:
Indeed, it's been raining newcomers for a month or something.


From Void or from systemd?

szatox wrote:
Updating takes you 2 minutes. You launch it, have a look at the packages emerge is going to rebuild, and then you accept. You just collect the results a bit later. The actual delay depends on your network, your hardware, and size of the sources that will be processed :D


And I assumed that my hardware was really on the lower end of the scale... :?

edit: typo
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pun_guin, no idea where they're coming from. Seems to be mostly Void those days, though I suppose a few guys had some previous experience.
There was a short increase in activity of people running form systemd just after Debian fell. I didn't really pay attention to the other distros.
A8 kinda is on the lower end. I have something similar, I think it's like 10 year old CPU by now, so nothing fancy given the progress that happened along the way. However, it does get the job done.
Sure, something new and shiny would get it done faster, but I also managed to hijack a small VPS. It is still usable on 1/1/20 (cores/RAM/disk) if you get creative. Now gotta see if I can keep it alive for an extended time, or maybe maintenance of that puny thing would overwhelm me after it stops being my new toy.

So, grab gentoo installation manual and give it a try. And then you can tell us whether or not Gentoo is good for you :lol:
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

szatox wrote:
So, grab gentoo installation manual and give it a try. And then you can tell us whether or not Gentoo is good for you :lol:


Sounds like I'll have to then.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll just throw in my experiences here.

Today's success:
Thanks to the awesome folks in #gentoo, I am compiling the Gentoo kernel as I am typing this. My poor little machine is making some noise. I heard that I could control the compilation priority over flags. I might experiment with that later. Right now, I am mostly sticking to the defaults from the Handbook, more or less doing some visual copy & paste (plus WiFi and SSD support).

I am not courageous enough to configure the kernel manually. Maybe when I have a running system...

Today's weirdness:
- The CD-R refused to boot. An USB thumbdrive saved the day.
- Gentoo has no vi but busybox vi? Not as intuitive but good enough. I don't like nano.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pun_guin wrote:
I'll just throw in my experiences here.

Today's success:
Thanks to the awesome folks in #gentoo, I am compiling the Gentoo kernel as I am typing this. My poor little machine is making some noise. I heard that I could control the compilation priority over flags. I might experiment with that later. Right now, I am mostly sticking to the defaults from the Handbook, more or less doing some visual copy & paste (plus WiFi and SSD support).

I am not courageous enough to configure the kernel manually. Maybe when I have a running system...

Today's weirdness:
- The CD-R refused to boot. An USB thumbdrive saved the day.
- Gentoo has no vi but busybox vi? Not as intuitive but good enough. I don't like nano.

there is vim. I know it isn't vi and yes vi would be busybox vi

There is nvi

Code:
 eselect vi list
Available vi implementations:
  [1]   vim
  [2]   gvim *
  [3]   busybox

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pun_guin wrote:
- Gentoo has no vi but busybox vi? Not as intuitive but good enough. I don't like nano.
The Gentoo Minimal Install CD doesn't have full up vi. Once you have Gentoo up & running, you can install it (app-editors/vim).

The Minimal Install CD also has zile, a lightweight emacs clone, if that's more to your liking.

Edit: Partially ninja'd by Naib. :)

- John
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Last edited by John R. Graham on Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
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pun_guin
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is the minimal install CD ... :)
Thank you!
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pun_guin,

The compilation priority is controlled with an entry in make.conf.
Read
Code:
man make.conf
around the PORTAGE_NICENESS entry.

If vim appeared on the minimal CD, emacs would have to be there too.
Then it wouldn't be minimal any more and probably wouldn't fit on a CD either. :)
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

vi is fine - Vim would be overkill indeed. Thank you for the NICENESS hint - I'll check that!
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.system-rescue-cd.org/

Gentoo based, CD sized, vim & much more.

Quote:
emerge app-admin/systemrescuecd-x86 sys-boot/systemrescuecd-x86-grub

Installs the iso and pops an entry for it into grub which is nice.
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