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Joined: 21 Jun 2004
Posts: 29
Location: Maine

PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2008 12:52 pm    Post subject: The Musings of a Gentoo Sysadmin Reply with quote

While I'm waiting for my computers to emerge --sync, I'm going to take a minute to "muse" on my experience with Gentoo (as a system administrator) in a school setting of about 40-50 computers.

I recently worked with Kubuntu, not because I'm one of those "I'm finished with Gentoo!" people, but because I have some older hardware that makes prebuilt binaries easier to work with. However, it did not take me long to realize that while Kubuntu (or any Ubuntu flavor) has its advantages, nothing I've worked with so far compares to Gentoo.

In fact, I realize that if Gentoo were to "die", I'd be one sad sysadmin.

I've been using Gentoo in this setting for a number of years now, and thus I can install Gentoo from scratch as fast (if not faster) than, say, Ubuntu. Well, let me rephrase - I spend less of MY time installing Gentoo (I do other things while the code is compiling). I've developed various scripts over the years to help me out, as well as custom stages, my own init system, etc., so there has been some initial work to get to this point, but now that I am here, I really, really am glad that Gentoo exists.

Why am I sharing this? I get a little tired reading "I've had enough of Gentoo" posts.. I'm not saying that I've gnashed my teeth from time-to-time, but I've gnashed my teeth more at Redhat, Ubuntu, etc.

Gentoo gives me a couple of things that I just haven't found in any other distro. First, the ability to easily customize to my setting. When working with Kubuntu, I tried to slim down the install size, only to run into a dependancy nightmare. I have no need for half the stuff that comes installed, yet if I try to remove, for example, ppp - all the key base packages (like KDE) get tagged for removal as well. What is up with that? With Gentoo, I can really trim the fat and have just what I need. This is especially true since I build binaries on my compile computer and emerge those binaries to the other workstations, so the workstations don't need all the extra build files that a typical Gentoo install may require (for compiling).

The other thing is the obvious customizing of individual programs. Our hardware was new in 2002, and it still runs like new in 2008 because the software is tuned to the hardware. I do indeed see a speed difference between Gentoo and other distros. In fact, I recently upgraded the Gentoo install on one of my teacher's computers, and he came to me and said, "Is it my imagination, or is my computer faster now?" In fact, he says it flies! In a world where newer software means slower software (Vista, anyone?), Gentoo allows us to keep up with the latest software, only replacing the hardware when it finally dies.

Well, I've rambled enough. I just want to say, I hope that Gentoo is around as long as I have to administer Linux computers. I confess, I usually give Kubuntu to friends who are not tech-savvy, but as a professional, I find Gentoo wonderful for the environment I have to work in. It truly does make my job easier.

To see Gentoo in action at my school, check out this video:

My sync is done (a while ago) - chow!
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
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Joined: 17 Dec 2005
Posts: 1969

PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2008 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't find Gentoo faster myself, since I don't have any other Linux systems to compare
it with ... however, I do find it very, very solid. The last time anything took the OS down
was a couple of years ago, and the log reports made it look as if memory was going bad.
Anyhow, I reseated the modules and the problem hasn't re-occurred.

I suspect the reason that Gentoo is solid is all the code that isn't there; if you configure the
kernel for your hardware (and that's pretty easy) there's a lot less miscellaneous junk to
go wrong. As a bonus, of course, everything's probably a bit quicker.

I tend to pick the packages I install with an eye on their dependencies, so that I don't start
dragging in enormous chunks of code, but that doesn't always work. One time when I had
to install was a package (I forget the name) that used Java for configuration (?) or some
other subsidiary task. That was 100MB of downloads, and 200MB of disk space (Java is
apparently not compatible between versions, and you need both) just for one utility. So
far I've avoided Mono ... but I have avoided any problems with dependencies.

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Retired Dev
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Joined: 15 Jul 2005
Posts: 869

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


It's actually nice to hear stories about ppl who use Gentoo properly [1]. Gentoo is a metadistro after all, and it sound like you have created your own nicely customised distribution. I personally think that gentoo's strength could be its "[public] child distro's" and it is a disappointment that there aren't more public (ie sabayon) distro's ( not to discount the efforts of sysadmin's like yourself ).


[1] I don't even consider my computer as being the "proper" use of gentoo.
Help the gentoo-java project. Visit Gentoo Java Project

what good are admin powers if you don't abuse them for personal gain - mark_alec
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Joined: 04 Sep 2006
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll second that,

I have been using Gentoo GNU/Linux on the desktop since 2002. and I have professionally been managing a few gentoo servers and no other distro even comes close to me.
I love portage, I love the organized /etc layout, I love how easy it is to create your own init scripts and chroot services with start-stop-daemon.

On top of being a system administrator for 6 Gnu/Linux servers, I am also a C++ developer. I just love the fact that portage will let me use the cvs or svn versions of many libraries in a way that is supported by the package management, which makes everything so much more maintainable. The use flags are great for when you'd normally have to set custom ./configure options for certain libraries. If there is no svn/cvs version for a particular package it is trivial to write an ebuild for it yourself. NO OTHER distro out there will let me develop with the latest upstream versions of the libraries i'm using in my applications through libraries installed system-wide via the package management system. I can also very painlessly work with many different versions of the same library.

If Gentoo were to die it would be a disaster for me :( Unfortunately I don't really have the time to maintain any packages or contribute a lot of time to the project. So I'll donate something via paypal. There was some talk about Gentoo declining, but now it has new management, so hopefully things will improve again. I'll keep donating every now and then whatever I can spare (It's not like I'm rich, but every little bit helps I'm sure)

I'd like to thank the gentoo developers and package maintainers for their time and efforts. Pleeeeeeeease keep it up!
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