Why I Use Gentoo?

So, I have been asked this question many times. And of course the assumption is that I am some sort of a masochist who enjoys wasting time on compiling packages. However, that is not entirely true. There are some other reasons why, after trying Ubuntu (started linux with it), Gentoo and then Arch I settled on Gentoo.

The main reasons in a nutshell would be:

1. Rolling Release – Arch does the same thing, while you could achieve the same if you keep using the development releases of Ubuntu. (However, once a feature freeze sets in, you have a wait of couple of months before new packages move into the repos). Arch, in fact, is more bleeding edge that gentoo. However, that is an advantage and a disadvantage as well. While it allows you to have the most bleeding edge system, minor breakdowns are expected. The same can be said for Gentoo – however, with the option of hard masking (not normal masking) a saner solution exists.

2. Portage – No other package management compares to it. Period. Not even the mighty and holy apt.

3. etc-update/dispatch-conf – Haven’t discovered a better way to manage configuration files in a better way in any other distribution. Very useful, if you like to edit your configuration files and do not want them to revert back with an update.

4. eselect – Modular configuration framework. In my opinion, the best feature of Gentoo.

5. Slotting – Install more than one version of the same package.

6. It forces you to learn command line – it is quite useful when you become used to it.

7. And before I forget, the famous USE flags. Trust me, once you get to know them, they are really helpful. And of course, there is no counterpart in any other distribution – this is a unique feature of gentoo (or rather source based distributions)

However, it is not that rosy. There are some disadvantages as well. The most obvious is the time consumed in compiling the packages and in getting the system installed. However, once everything is ready which would take anywhere between 3 days to a week, you would have a great system and you do not have to put in too much effort in maintaining it.

But still. only those who want to spend some time in building a system should try gentoo. Other than that, there is always Ubuntu, which is the best distribution if you are new to Linux.


  1. I’m an Arch + KDEmod4 user. Have you experienced any performance boost over Arch in particular? Also, what DE do you use? I wouldn’t mind giving Gentoo a shot when the 2008.0 final version releases.

  2. The performance boost is notable in packages such as firefox and openoffice. I have compiled these and am not using the binaries. And yes, the startup time is the fastest compared to all distros. Compared to arch, there is a small improvement in system responsiveness, but the difference is not large to say something like Ubuntu.
    I use gnome, and moreover, there is no reason to wait for a certain release of Gentoo to install it. I would recommend you to grab the minimal CD, boot into it, change the make.conf to ACCEPT_KEYWORDS=”~x86″ (equivalent to the testing branch in arch), first update the system (toolchain and all) and then proceed with the installation.

  3. #1 – There are a handful of distros from new user oriented (PCLinuxOS) to advanced user related (Foresight Linux) that can offer rolling releases. Source based not so many of course 😉

    As for no other package manager comparing, I recommend you give Conary an actual check. It is far beyond the capabilities of anything you’ve mentioned.

    Conary handles configuration files so they are NEVER overwritten unless you want them to be.

    #4 you’re right, it is the best feature…but one nifty feature alone isn’t enough imho. If that were the case, Conary based systems would tromp every distro out there with rollbacks.

    #5 Conary has you covered
    #6 Conary has you covered

    #7 I “think” Conary has you covered because I’ve never used use flags…but they sound (from the docs page) like Conary flavors.

    Am I biased? You bet. I work with this software daily. This should at the very least pique your curiosity into giving it an honest look. 😀

  4. I must admit that I had never heard of conary, however it sounds really interesting. Perhaps you could shed more light on what package it uses. (from what I understand, it only updates the files that have changed – awesome idea, but how is it implemented). This has really got me curious and I am more than willing to give it an honest try. 🙂

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