Gentoo 2004.2 was released
. As a relative Gentoo newbie, this writer decided this would be as
good a time as any to slap Gentoo onto his Toshiba laptop for further
Gentoo's installation process is, to put it mildly, different from most
Linux distributions. Gentoo does not really offer an installer as such, but
does have a process for installation that is well-documented.
At first glance, the quick
install instructions for x86 machines gave the impression that it would
be an extremely tedious process. In actuality, the install process for
Gentoo was reasonably simple as long as the user is able to follow the
directions and is willing to perform an install that requires more than
point and click skills.
This writer wouldn't recommend installing Gentoo for anyone new (or newish)
to Linux, but for Linux users with a decent amount of experience under
their belt, installing Gentoo is no major feat. It's a bit time-consuming
compared to other distributions, so be prepared to set aside a few hours to
perform a Gentoo install from start to finish. Depending on the speed of
your machine, and which stage you choose to begin from, the installation
can easily consume a workday.
One of the things that was particularly nice about Gentoo's install was the
ability to set up the SSH daemon after just a few steps, and log into the
Gentoo system from my main desktop and finish the install from there --
allowing me to work on another project while doing the Gentoo install from
an xterm, and to simply cut and paste most of the commands necessary to
install Gentoo, rather than typing them.
One thing that did not endear me to Gentoo's installation process initially
was the lack of a Vi-like editor by default. To install Gentoo, one needs
to edit a few files in the process and the only available editor seems to
be GNU nano. While having nano available is a good thing for users who
aren't used to a Vi-like editor, most experienced Linux users expect a
Vi-like editor to be present on almost any running Linux system.
For current Gentoo users, there's no need to go through the installation
once again to reach 2004.2. Users who are on Gentoo 1.4, 2004.0 or 2004.1
can simply sync their Portage tree and run "emerge --update world."
The Portage system and Gentoo's management tools are what set Gentoo apart
from other Linux distributions, and it takes a bit to get used to for those
of us reared on package-based distributions like Slackware, Red Hat and
Debian. (Ladislav Bodnar contributed a nice overview of Portage back in
June.) Having only briefly toyed with Gentoo in the past, this writer spent
quite a bit of time getting used to Portage. It is something of an acquired
taste, but it works well and it's easy to see why so many Linux users are
In fact, the Portage system actually came to the rescue about mid-way
through the install. While editing the system's /etc/fstab, this writer
became quite frustrated with trying to think in nano while editing the
file. Instead of finishing the install with nano, a quick "emerge vim" made
it possible to use Vim for the remainder of the install process.
Changes in the 2004.2 release are mostly incremental. One major change in
this release is the inclusion of X.org-X11 as the default XServer for
licensing reasons. This release also includes GNOME 2.6, KDE 3.2.2 and XFce
4.0.5. According to this week's Gentoo
Linux Newsletter, GNOME 2.6.2, KDE 3.2.3 have been marked stable in the
Portage tree, and XFce 4.0.6 will be there soon.
In all, Gentoo 2004.2 isn't a radical departure from previous versions of
Gentoo. It's a good starting point for users who have been interested in
using Gentoo, but haven't yet stepped up to the plate. For users who like
to tweak things and get to know Linux in-depth, Gentoo is a user's
paradise. For users who want something to work with minimal fuss, Gentoo is
not the best way to go. That's not a criticism of the distribution, but a
simple acknowledgment that Gentoo method is not a quick and easy way to
The distribution is quite solid, and well-documented. In fact, Gentoo's
documentation may be some of the best on the "market" -- it's easy to
follow, and the Gentoo project has done a particularly good job at
providing complete documentation for the installation and use of the
system. While it is taking some time to get used to, this writer plans to
continue using Gentoo on his laptop for some time to come.
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