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LinXI0
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:52 pm    Post subject: Deciding if Gentoo is for me Reply with quote

Hello all,

I'm currently looking to migrate from Windows to Linux. I want the same abilities I have using Windows to transfer over to Linux, and many things answered. I've narrowed the distro of choice to be either Gentoo or Arch Linux. A warning beforehand; I have so much to say, that this is more likely the start of a discussion than a Q & A.

What I'm looking for:
- Having the latest software available.
- Installing multiple versions of the same software.
- Installing old versions of a software and keeping them indefinitely.
- Trying out different stable versions of software (meaning installing/uninstalling frequently).

I'd like to have a rolling release OS that I can be somewhat lazy with. If I decide I want to update later than sooner, it wont be (much of) a problem. I'm looking for a rolling release but one that's flexible/forgiving and customizable.

Gentoo questions:
* I hear often about quarrels between the developers. Is this resolved yet or is this some event that happened way back that keeps resurfacing and is irrelevant now?
* Can I install software that isn't available in a repository without working against Gentoo's design?
* Are programs in portage marked unstable best avoided or is it because there hasn't been enough testing done on the packages?
* Does compiling rather than using binaries increase stability?

A key problem I have with Linux is that it seems to want to force me to use a repository. A repo can't have every software available or always maintained properly, and the idea of being limited to a select amount of software seems too restricting to me. I like to install whatever software I want and have it be the latest, oldest, or whatever I choose.

I have more questions but don't want to ask too much at once. I'm looking to pin-point certain gaps of my basic understanding of Linux without investing a lot of time in a long read. I've been researching independently, but time has been a bit scarce recently, and talking to forum members will help my efforts go a whole lot faster.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
A key problem I have with Linux is that it seems to want to force me to use a repository.

8O Linux is not forcing you to do anything. Repositories are there for your convenience, developers often create custom repos which you can add to your package manager. So you don't have to worry about updates, etc. Feel free to install software by hand.

I think you should start using Linux, then your questions come closer to the earth.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you are looking for a perfect world.
There's no such thing.
Every distro uses a "package manager".
You can install software that's not in their repository.
But if you do you're on your own and it will not always play nicely with the existing software.
As far as Gentoo is concerned you should update it regularly or face problems when you want to install new stuff.
Binary distro's often are a PITA when you upgrade.
In short Linux is far from perfect,neither is anything else made by man.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LinXI0,

Developers will always have differences of opinion thats the way of open source. People are in it to pursue the things they are interested in.
The same disagreements happen in closed source software too, its just you don't get to hear about it.

Installing multiple versions of the same software at the same time is difficult to support as the different versions want to install differing versio0ns of the same file in the same place.
You probably want to use a chroot for most of this. How do you expect the system to know which version of a multi-install you want to run?

Trying out different stable versions of software (meaning installing/uninstalling frequently) is OK..

If you are new to Linux, start with a half way house, set up a dual or multi boot system before you decide to wipe everything and fo with your choosen distro.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
8O Linux is not forcing you to do anything. Repositories are there for your convenience, developers often create custom repos which you can add to your package manager. So you don't have to worry about updates, etc. Feel free to install software by hand.
Ah, so it's more of an assistant than a barrier. When I typed that, I was thinking of Ubuntu and other distros intended to be user friendly.

Quote:
I think you are looking for a perfect world.
There's no such thing.
Not at all. I listed those reasons so others can understand what I'm looking for, and suggest a method(s) on how I could to achieve that. There's give and take with every OS, but I'm trying to figure out which one is suitable for me.

Quote:
Binary distro's often are a PITA when you upgrade.
Could this be explained further? I think it might answer a question I have about Arch Linux.

Quote:
Developers will always have differences of opinion thats the way of open source. People are in it to pursue the things they are interested in.
The same disagreements happen in closed source software too, its just you don't get to hear about it.
Yes, you make a valid point. My main concern was whether there was a massive conflict that threatened this very distro, but with the setup of a foundation, council, community, and the maturity of the project, I doubt there's anything to worry about.

Quote:
If you are new to Linux, start with a half way house, set up a dual or multi boot system before you decide to wipe everything and fo with your choosen distro.
I have a VM setup and I'm ready to try out the distros that interest me. The thing is, Gentoo is a massive project (at least for a newbie). I can't simply try it out like Linux Mint; I have to study it and invest a lot of time with it. I have to process what the commands I'm typing in from the manual actually mean, and I would be the maintainer of my OS as the final result. I don't mind the amount of work I would have to put in if it is the distro that suits me. That's why I'm asking beforehand, so I can get a grasp of certain aspects of Gentoo before I put in the dedication.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, you are installer and maintainer if you choose Gentoo. But your efforts will not be in vain if you finally decide to use some other Linux or *nix. What you learn is generic knowledge, very little of it will be Gentoo-only.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep and if you want to start it slowly, you can install an Ubuntu aside your Gentoo box.

So, in case of a major crash, you will be able to debug yourself.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 1:29 am    Post subject: Re: Deciding if Gentoo is for me Reply with quote

LinXI0 wrote:
* Are programs in portage marked unstable best avoided or is it because there hasn't been enough testing done on the packages?


The latter.

LinXI0 wrote:
A key problem I have with Linux is that it seems to want to force me to use a repository. A repo can't have every software available or always maintained properly, and the idea of being limited to a select amount of software seems too restricting to me. I like to install whatever software I want and have it be the latest, oldest, or whatever I choose.


It sounds like you want a custom operating system. You can use the following to do that:

http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/

LinXI0 wrote:
Quote:
Binary distro's often are a PITA when you upgrade.
Could this be explained further? I think it might answer a question I have about Arch Linux.


Upgrading a binary distribution is like upgrading Windows. The procedure exists, but it usually fails and when it does not fail, things do not work like they did prior to a fresh installation.


Last edited by Shining Arcanine on Thu Dec 02, 2010 1:32 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 1:32 am    Post subject: Re: Deciding if Gentoo is for me Reply with quote

LinXI0 wrote:
- Having the latest software available.

Possible, though in many cases you'll have to check external repositories (overlays).
Quote:
- Installing multiple versions of the same software.

For a few selected packages this is trivial in Gentoo (e.g. gcc, kernel), but in general you'll have to manage that manually (outside of the package manager).
Quote:
- Installing old versions of a software and keeping them indefinitely.

This will cause problems with any distro (or OS for that matter) due to dependencies. In the long run you wouldn't be able to update your system anymore.
Quote:
- Trying out different stable versions of software (meaning installing/uninstalling frequently).

Frequent (un)install operations aren't a problem, but remember that building software from source takes much longer than installing a binary package (from a few seconds up to several hours even on modern systems).
Quote:
I'd like to have a rolling release OS that I can be somewhat lazy with. If I decide I want to update later than sooner, it wont be (much of) a problem. I'm looking for a rolling release but one that's flexible/forgiving and customizable.

With Gentoo it's really necessary to perform regular updates (I recommend complete system update at least every six months, preferrably more often). Outdated Gentoo systems can be very tricky to update to a current state.
Quote:
* Can I install software that isn't available in a repository without working against Gentoo's design?

Sure, assuming it doesn't collide with a repository package. Best practice is to only install software using ebuilds though so the package manager is aware of it (so you can uninstall it again for example).
Quote:
* Are programs in portage marked unstable best avoided or is it because there hasn't been enough testing done on the packages?

If with "unstable" you refer to the testing branch (~arch), those packages are usually ok to install. After all they are intended to become the next stable version. Packages masked by other means (package.mask, empty KEYWORDS) however can however cause trouble.
Quote:
* Does compiling rather than using binaries increase stability?

Not necessarily. But some problems will be caught at buildtime rather than runtime, which could be an advantage.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 3:07 am    Post subject: Re: Deciding if Gentoo is for me Reply with quote

Quote:
Upgrading a binary distribution is like upgrading Windows. The procedure exists, but it usually fails and when it does not fail, things do not work like they did prior to a fresh installation.
I'm glad this was said, I'm pretty sure I'm getting the picture, but I want to make sure. Gentoo is a rolling release, so every time a system upgrade is performed it becomes a different "version". Using Windows to illustrate this, it would be roughly:

Windows updates = security fixes to vulnerabilities in Linux.
Service packs = system component changes in Linux.
Upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 = kernel or other massive system change.

Except all this is done continuously instead of installing upgrades or versions. Since things would be new and current, breakage in a rolling release Linux distro would be similar to when a new version of Windows (or any software for that matter) is released and bugs are reported and have to be "ironed out". If I wait too long to upgrade, the changes will be so dramatic that a seamless upgrade wouldn't be possible because the difference causes incompatibility. At that point, it's been "changed" into a fixed release version so-to-speak.

Quote:
This will cause problems with any distro (or OS for that matter) due to dependencies. In the long run you wouldn't be able to update your system anymore.
I think I get it. It's equivalent to trying to run a Windows 98/XP app on Windows 7. It might not work because the app is built for the legacy OS's. Is there a way though that I could keep the old apps and access them in my main Gentoo installation?

Quote:
With Gentoo it's really necessary to perform regular updates (I recommend complete system update at least every six months, preferrably more often). Outdated Gentoo systems can be very tricky to update to a current state.
At least every six months would be greatly beyond my expectations. Four would be great...even three maximum.
I was thinking along the lines of once a month for slacking off. Between Arch Linux and Gentoo, would it be more than likely for Gentoo to deal with my reserved updating habits than Arch Linux?

Quote:
Sure, assuming it doesn't collide with a repository package. Best practice is to only install software using ebuilds though so the package manager is aware of it (so you can uninstall it again for example).
Okay, for installing software outside the repo, I would have to make an "ebuild" to enable a way for portage to handle it. Sounds similar to Arch Linux's PKGBUILD.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you run stable you can live with updates every 6 months, but if you run unstable 6 months seems to me like a headache, once a weak/month is more reasonable :mrgreen:
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:56 am    Post subject: Re: Deciding if Gentoo is for me Reply with quote

LinXI0 wrote:
Okay, for installing software outside the repo, I would have to make an "ebuild" to enable a way for portage to handle it. Sounds similar to Arch Linux's PKGBUILD.


difference between "have to" and "should ideally"

the package manager is a matter of convenience. Especially when it comes to dependencies, upgrading, that sort of thing.
If you are going to be installing dozens of libraries or apps on a regular basis, then you should very seriously look into what it takes to create an ebuild, and run your own local overlay.

You can get by without writing ebuilds more than likely if it's just the one odd occasional package you need to install by hand.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LinXI0,

Lets stop comparing Gentoo to binary OS for a moment. What you get with Gentoo is a core system, that every Gentoo must have, thats your stage3 tarball and a toolkit to make your own operating system. Its as current as the datestamp on your portage tree, after you have updated your install to take advantage of the new ebuilds.
The portage mirrors are updated every 30 minutes but its considered antisocial to update more than once a day unless you have a really good reason.

Stable Gentoo, it the well tested branch, it builds and works as you might expect, testing is more exciting, most of the software is newer but its less tested. If you choose a testing system, you will probably hit a few build failures and other bugs sometime. Be prepared to post here for help and file a few bugs. You may also run a mix of stable and testing by installing a stable system and keywording one or more testing packages. Assuming the initial build(s) go ok, updates may not as you can get into a situation where one of your stable packages depends on version A of something and one of your testing packages depend on version B but bot versions cannot be installed at the same time. The package manager cannot resolve this conflict.
As well as stable and testing there are hard masked packages and other overlays outside of the main portage tree. Hard masked packages are masked for a reason, if you understand the reason and can live with it, go ahead and try. Post in unsupported software for help. Overlays vary. Many overlays are used for development of ebuilds before the ebuilds are moved into portage.
Lastly, there are so called 'live' ebuilds. These have a version number of 9999 and fetch source code from the upstream projects code development system. If you use these, you get to keep the pieces of any breakage. As its live code, it may not even compile. You don't get more up to date than that.

You can support old/confliction versions of packages by using a chroot. A chroot is a mini install, containing only the files needed to support the program of interest. Its often referred to as a 'chroot jail' as the process is used on servers as a layer in the security onion.

Portage can save all the packages you build as binaries, so if you want to quickly swap between an older and newer version of a package no recompilation is required. You reuse your own stored binaries, provided you enable that feature.

One word of warning. Even stable goes through an upheaval from time to time when major upstream projects make big changes. Binary distros hide these because you bet a new pile of binaries that 'just work'. With Gentoo, you will need to follow the instructions, there will be instructions, for the update and do it yourself. I you want to look an example, modular Xorg comes to mind.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
You can support old/confliction versions of packages by using a chroot. A chroot is a mini install, containing only the files needed to support the program of interest. Its often referred to as a 'chroot jail' as the process is used on servers as a layer in the security onion.
I will look into this method, and it gives me an idea. Is is possible to create an outdated Gentoo OS on an additional partition, compile it without portage, and use that as just a base area to install old apps? The point would be to create a separate, bare environment I could run them on.

Quote:
One word of warning. Even stable goes through an upheaval from time to time when major upstream projects make big changes. Binary distros hide these because you bet a new pile of binaries that 'just work'.
I will make it a habit of paying attention to what I update before hand. I expect this with big system components though.

I have a few follow-up questions:

1) If I mangled my system up pretty badly, is there a way I could restore it to a previous state?
2) Is there a "save system settings" type feature I could use if I need to do a reinstall that will restore my programs and/or program settings?
3) Are files and the OS itself independent from each other? (So if I had to reinstall for what ever reason I wouldn't have to make a backup of personal files beforehand?)

Being able to recover is critical to me in case things go unexpectedly. I would plan on eventually having Gentoo on a machine I can do work on and minimalizing downtime from an emergency would be invaluable.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

System settings are in /etc.
All user settings and files are in /home. Having /home on different partition is a good idea.
http://linux.die.net/man/7/hier
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LinXI0 wrote:

I have a few follow-up questions:

1) If I mangled my system up pretty badly, is there a way I could restore it to a previous state?
2) Is there a "save system settings" type feature I could use if I need to do a reinstall that will restore my programs and/or program settings?
3) Are files and the OS itself independent from each other? (So if I had to reinstall for what ever reason I wouldn't have to make a backup of personal files beforehand?)

Being able to recover is critical to me in case things go unexpectedly. I would plan on eventually having Gentoo on a machine I can do work on and minimalizing downtime from an emergency would be invaluable.


1.Make a backup
2.Make a backup
3.Look 1.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Use Rsync + snapshot with an external drive and you will be good to go : http://docs.funtoo.org/wiki/How_To_Backup_Your_Funtoo_With_SystemRescueCD
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

d2_racing wrote:
Use Rsync + snapshot with an external drive and you will be good to go : http://docs.funtoo.org/wiki/How_To_Backup_Your_Funtoo_With_SystemRescueCD


Rsync is pretty damn awesome. I've actually been meaning to blog about my backup system for a while now, but I haven't come around to it. Basically you can use rsync and hardlinks to have something like Apple's TimeMachine Backup System in Linux. Here's for example my backup script: https://github.com/XQYZ/My-Scripts/blob/master/backup
I'm basically running this in a cron every hour to backup my /home dir (root backup is done every couple of weeks via stage4 manually). Then I use a little (wip) python script named bjanitor (=backup janitor) to clean out old backups (keeping hourly backups of the past 48 hours, daily backups of the current month and monthly backups for the current year):
https://github.com/XQYZ/My-Scripts/blob/master/bjanitor
Screen: http://ompldr.org/vNmV0dQ
The system also features logging capabilities and some other goodies, but as I said it's still kinda WIP.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LinXI0

just install them both and see how they feel.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

skellr wrote:
LinXI0

just install them both and see how they feel.


I agree. Since you have the option of having VMs, you can have the gentoo handbook ready on the host OS while you install...

By the way, if I have understood these things correctly myself, you can have a 'chroot jail' for your old trusted software in a folder in the same partition, no need for a separate one.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Use Rsync + snapshot with an external drive and you will be good to go : http://docs.funtoo.org/wiki/How_To_Backup_Your_Funtoo_With_SystemRescueCD
Will add to my 'Linux research' list.

Quote:
I'm basically running this in a cron every hour to backup my /home dir (root backup is done every couple of weeks via stage4 manually). Then I use a little (wip) python script named bjanitor (=backup janitor) to clean out old backups (keeping hourly backups of the past 48 hours, daily backups of the current month and monthly backups for the current year)
That's a great setup. Writing scripts opens a world of capabilities. I don't know much about writing scripts atm but I will save those links.

Quote:
By the way, if I have understood these things correctly myself, you can have a 'chroot jail' for your old trusted software in a folder in the same partition, no need for a separate one.
Ok, I was making the situation more complicated than needed. "Chroot" is a new concept to me, I'll research it in more detail.

A recent post in a thread about Arch Linux shed some light on unanswered questions and made me realize that it isn't the distro that suits my wants/needs. The distro that makes Linux appealing to me is Gentoo, so I will installing it shortly and learning from it. :)

I have one last question:

Would going to amd64 be a hassle compared to x86?

x86 is the only architecture that I'm familiar with, and I'm not sure how much support amd64 really has on Linux. I like the idea of a 64-bit system I can use for both home/work if I can make it happen. I usually hear that it's best for workstations/servers, though it could have changed over time. It seems Flash support is Ok now (from what I quickly read), but is there anything else to keep in mind?
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
x86 is the only architecture that I'm familiar with, and I'm not sure how much support amd64 really has on Linux. I like the idea of a 64-bit system I can use for both home/work if I can make it happen. I usually hear that it's best for workstations/servers, though it could have changed over time. It seems Flash support is Ok now (from what I quickly read), but is there anything else to keep in mind?

Linux went 64 bit long before Windows, what support we are talking about? 64 bit is good if you have lots of RAM. And it gives slight performance boost with certain applications, video encoding comes to mind. For a desktop 32 bit is just fine.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jaglover wrote:
Quote:
x86 is the only architecture that I'm familiar with, and I'm not sure how much support amd64 really has on Linux. I like the idea of a 64-bit system I can use for both home/work if I can make it happen. I usually hear that it's best for workstations/servers, though it could have changed over time. It seems Flash support is Ok now (from what I quickly read), but is there anything else to keep in mind?

Linux went 64 bit long before Windows, what support we are talking about? 64 bit is good if you have lots of RAM. And it gives slight performance boost with certain applications, video encoding comes to mind. For a desktop 32 bit is just fine.


64-bit is good for applications that use mmap(), as it enables them to mmap() terabytes.

Anyway, 99.9% of software that is available for x86 works on amd64, so if I were the original poster, I would go with amd64.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I always got the impression that 64-bit apps need to be tailored to them or they won't work well or at all. What I mean by support is software. Would my software choices be noticeably reduced (due to vendors favoring 32-bit) and is there something else that's a common complaint that makes 64-bit unsuitable or uncomfortable for home use (like the Flash issue was a big reason for many)? I think Wine was another app I heard that had or has issues in a 64-bit environment. If 32-bit apps run fine in 64-bit environment then I guess my concerns are invalid.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
64-bit is good for applications that use mmap(), as it enables them to mmap() terabytes.

Anyway, 99.9% of software that is available for x86 works on amd64, so if I were the original poster, I would go with amd64.
This is very good to hear. I will be using the amd64 version when I install. :D

Last edited by LinXI0 on Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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