Where does Gentoo fit in?
Posted Apr 9, 2004 14:40 UTC (Fri) by ladislav
In reply to: Where does Gentoo fit in?
Parent article: Which is the best distribution?
The main reason for Gentoo being left out was that, originally, the article served as a response to a question from a general business publication. It just didn't seem fair to sell Gentoo to a person whose familiarity with Linux was, presumably, too limited.
Granted, this is LWN, so Gentoo could have been included. The question is, which category would it fit best? Daniel Robbins has yet to come out and say openly that Gentoo is ready for mission critical servers (in the past he was quoted on several occasions that other distribution would perhaps be more suitable for such tasks). Yes, there are many who do use Gentoo on servers, but most of those are advanced users who are capable of sorting out most problems that come their ways. Perhaps as a personal server? Maybe. But would I want to spend the best part of a day to get a Gentoo server up and running if I can have the same in minutes with Slackware or Debian?
That leaves us with a desktop, where we are talking not one day, but at least two days of compiling (OpenOffice took 36 hours to compile on this 1.4GHz P4 machine), before you get a fairly complete setup. Sure, you can install binaries first and recompile later in the background, but still... it is just an awful lot of work to get Gentoo up and running - great if you are a hobbyist with plenty of spare time on your hands, but maybe not that ideal in a business environment where you don't have the luxury to tie down the computers for two days. Even if you do, once you compile the stuff and get your desktop up and running the way you like it, you'll end up using the same applications as the business next door that chose Mandrake and had it all set up before tea time. To an average user, it matters little that the underlying Python power in Portage is so much more flexible and beautiful than urpmi when all he or she cares about is getting the work done with OpenOffice, Gnumeric, or whatever.
I used to be a big fan of source-based distributions and believed at one point that they would dominate the Linux distribution world in the future. I no longer hold that belief. While Gentoo is a fun distribution to tinker with and to learn the internals of a Linux system, it is not a panacea. Yes, it has addressed the package dependency problems often associated with binary distributions, but at the same time it introduced different kinds of problems - it's not rare to hear in forums that a small upgrade completely hosed somebody's Gentoo system.
Gentoo comes with a lot of power and that's why it has to be treated with caution. I would really only recommend it to OS enthusiasts and maybe to those who are interested in getting to know all there is about Linux.
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