Gentoo Linux


The concept of Gentoo Linux was devised in around the year 2000 by Daniel Robbins, a former Stampede Linux and FreeBSD developer. It was the author's exposure to FreeBSD and its "autobuild" feature called "ports", which inspired him to incorporate some of the FreeBSD software management principles into Gentoo under the name of "portage". The idea was to develop a Linux distribution that would allow users to compile the Linux kernel and applications from source code directly on their own computers, thus maintaining a highly-optimised and always up-to-date system. By the time the project released its 1.0 version in March 2002, Gentoo's package management was considered a superior alternative to some binary package management systems, especially the then widely-used RPM.

Gentoo Linux was designed for power users. Originally, the installation was cumbersome and tedious, requiring hours or even days of compiling on the command line to build a complete Linux distribution; however, in 2006 the project simplified the installation procedure by developing an installable Gentoo live CD with a point-and-click installer. Besides providing an always up-to-date set of packages for installation with a single command, the other important features of the distribution are excellent security, extensive configuration options, support for many architectures, and the ability to keep the system up-to-date without re-installing. The Gentoo documentation was repeatedly labelled as the best online documentation of any distribution.

Gentoo Linux has lost much of its original glory in recent years. Some Gentoo users have come to a realisation that the time-consuming compiling of software packages brings only marginal speed and optimisation benefits. Ever since the resignation of Gentoo's founder and benevolent dictator from the project in 2004, the newly established Gentoo Council has been battling with lack of clear directions and frequent developer conflicts, which resulted in several high-profile departures of well-known Gentoo personalities. It remains to be seen whether Gentoo can regain its innovative qualities of the past or whether it will slowly disintegrate into a loose collection of personal sub-projects lacking clearly-defined goals.

  • Pros: Excellent software management infrastructure, unparalleled customisation and tweaking options, superb online documentation
  • Cons: Occasional instability and risk of breakdown, the project suffers from lack of directions and frequent infighting between its developers
  • Software package management: "Portage" using source (SRC) packages
  • Available editions: Minimal installation CD and live CD (with GNOME) for Alpha, AMD64, HPPA, IA64, MIPS, PPC, SPARC and x86 processors; also "stages" for manual installation from command line
  • Suggested Gentoo-based alternatives: SabayonLinux (desktop, live CD/DVD), Ututo (desktop, free software only)
  • Other source-based distributions: Lunar Linux, Source Mage GNU/Linux, Sorcerer, Linux From Scratch

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updated: 01.11.2010

released: 31.10.2010