Gentoo is one of the newer distributions, but has shown an amazing growth in
the last years. This growth has been partly because of the
behind-the-scenes magic of portage (the package manager) and the simple
yet effective configuration tools, but also because of the
thriving community and the up-to-date documentation that makes using
Gentoo very easy.
When I first installed Gentoo, the Installation
Handbook was 9 pages of
text that barely described how to get a base install working. If you
tried to print the same document now, it'd be around 500 pages. Special
chapters exist for different architectures (
Dedicated documents describe how to setup a hardened (secure) Gentoo
paths , but also different window managers like KDE or fluxbox.
Since there are
almost no special Gentoo tools, this documentation can even be applied
to most other distributions without problems. And best of all, actively
maintained translations for many
The Gentoo Documentation Project, lead by Sven
Vermeulen and Xavier Neys
at the moment, tries to keep everything up to date, and as far as I can
tell, they're doing a great job. Every now and then some new HOWTOs and
tutorials are contributed by users and developers - if you have a
problem, it usually can be fixed with the documentation.
Although not liked by all, the forums are a
great resource for solving
all kinds of problems. At the moment the Gentoo forums are the largest
and most active phpBB installation we're aware of.
Many HOWTOs are drafted, discussed and improved here, some common problems are
explained, and "Off the
Wall" is a place for all discussions that are
not directly Gentoo-related. Very often the forums succeed in giving you
answers where the official documentation fails.
While usually people think about Bugzilla as a tool for bug fixing only,
it is used as a coordination tool in Gentoo. Any bugs, new ideas or
improvements are managed as their own bug. This gives many of the
features of mailing lists without causing as much traffic for the
Also all discussions and status changes are
trackable as bug comments. Even meta-bugs that depend on other bugs are
possible so that, for example, a meta-bug tracking all livecd-bugs can
be created. This generic use has made our bugzilla installation very
popular with about 96000 bugs total within a time frame of about 3 years.
Every first Saturday of the month a "Bugday" is
held where developers
and users (at least those that find the time) try to fix as many open
bugs as possible. This event has been a lot of fun for all involved and
is coordinated in IRC on #gentoo-bugs.
For all announcements, problems and discussions that don't fit in
bugzilla or IRC the mailing lists are used. Some of them (like
gentoo-user) are mostly used for user problems, some of them (like
releng) are mostly for internal coordination. Much can be learned from
them, and archives
exist so that older discussions are not lost.
This is the heartbeat of Gentoo. Within the Freenode IRC
interaction happens for all things Gentoo. Some channels like #gentoo
have an average of almost 1000 users at all times, others like
#gentoo-bugs are not as popular, but have someone with specialized
knowledge available around the clock. A lot of diagnosing, bug fixing and
general chatter make the Gentoo IRC channels very interesting, but
sometimes also frustrating since they can be overcrowded and at times
even a bit hostile. Since even the Gentoo developers are spread all
across the globe the IRC channels almost never sleep.
For those that want to get updates on Gentoo development but don't want
to be online everyday we publish a weekly Newsletter. Since we have a
rather small staff of volunteers it doesn't always get published on
time, but we try to do our best, and the feedback from the community is
almost always positive.
Sections like "developer of the week" show the
people behind the names, "Future Zone" highlights projects in
development. The GWN mailing list is by far the largest Gentoo
mailing list, so we try to give our audience the best publication we can
The Gentoo community is quite large and vibrant. The communication
happens through many different channels and is not always optimal, but
if you need help or just want to chat with some random people, you'll
For newcomers it might be a bit difficult to find the right
communication channel, but after some time you'll find your way around
all things Gentoo, and if you're not careful, you might get addicted to
it and spend much more time than you intended with this great
distribution and the usually nice people that help making it.
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