Baby steps with Gentoo

October 19, 2007 at 12:08 pm | Posted in General Linux | 10 Comments

Yesterday I figured that adding my ancient PIII/500 to my “build farm” (consisting of only my laptop at the point) wasn’t going to cut it (well seemed to save about 20% gcc-time during qt-copy build, but in the end the overall saving wasn’t that much). So I decided to free some space on my girlfriends pc and put linux on it.

As I’m pretty familiar with setting up debian nowadays I thought a change would be cool, so I decided to give Gentoo a shot. And I’m impressed actually. If you know your way around linux its absolutely easy to setup a system using the online manual, you don’t even need to read all the text just check which commands to execute šŸ™‚

So I managed to have an icecream-enabled gentoo within something like 1-2 hours, not bad at all given that most things have been compiled from scratch. And it did work quite well. But then I wanted to check the USE flags and set them apropriately and having a look at the list of available options I was blasted away – a ton of things to configure. Also keeping compiling every night to maybe have a basic KDE sometime next week doesn’t sound too appealing to me.

So while I think this is a nice distribution, its not something for me at this point as I need to have a system up-and-running faster and with less configuration effort.


  1. It isn’t necessary to customise all your USE flags initially. A few global flags in /etc/make.conf combined with the desktop subprofile are all that is needed to get a system up and running quickly.

    Further customisation for select packages is easily achieved via /etc/portage/package.use

  2. You don’t have to compile to whole KDE thing to get it working. Gentoo has split packages for all the KDE (and GNOME) apps, so if you just do an ’emerge kaffeine’, it will install all of its dependencies(system, X, kdebase, xine-lib and some media plugins) with the USE flags you set, then Kaffeine.

    Please see

    My installation here is quite modular, and not compiling things like kde-accessibility if you don’t need them saves you days.

  3. Ahh, check the apps under /usr/portage/app-portage, some of them like ufed, genlop, gentoolkit, eix/esearch will help you a lot.

  4. What about the Gentoo-based distro Sabayon? – it has a live-DVD or live-CD and precompiled packages, though you can recompile everything with your own USE flags obviously using portage. Give it a shot, it’s worth it and has KDE as standard desktop environment.

  5. Thanks for all that information, I was aware of some of the things already (like being able to build just drkonqi from kde if I want to, or the gentoolkit).

    Anyway, as I said it turns out to be a bit more to learn than I initially hoped and I just don’t have time for that right now (its not just the compiling thing, pc can do that during the night), so I’ll stick with what I know best šŸ˜›

  6. If you liked the “concept” behind Gentoo, but want a running system faster, you could be interested in Sabayon Linux. A Gentoo-based distribution which has a dvd image ready to install which contains kde pre-compiled and optimized for different architectures. Its pretty neat since it also brings suse-kickoff menu and compiz integration, a lot more, and works very well out of the box.
    But gentoo is still the base, and you can emerge everything you like, change useflags etc.
    They are even building a next-gen package-manager to distribute pre-compiled packages fast and efficient.
    After using Gentoo for years i got quite frustrated spending so much time compiling and tweaking use-flags etc. But I always loved the flexibility it brought. Sabayon Linux is a good mix and often brings “the best of both worlds” ©.

  7. Getting a Gentoo system up and running, ready for hacking on KDE, is indeed a little painful. I started doing this a few days ago.

    The real pain comes when you emerge hundreds of packages to be told by one of them that you need to change some USE flags and re-emerge. This is not nice to see when you get up in the morning expecting to have a working system.

    Due to such problems, I’ve ended up compiling Qt about five times and kdelibs twice. Finally kdenetwork (the package I want to work on) is compiling and seems to be going okay.

  8. Well honestly, if you want something you can setup faster but still have lots of flexibility. I’d suggest looking in to archlinux. People seem to overlook it, but actually from personal experience it takes 30-40min to have a completely functional desktop, with all of the development software needed to build kde.

    Aaaaand boom, your done šŸ™‚

  9. Personally, I love the fact that you can configure many little details, I have a reasonably fast laptop and desktop so a full working system with KDE installed ( sans games and edu ) takes about 20 hours to 30 hours that includes a full system “re-bootstrap.”

    But I do know it takes some time getting used to, specially coming from a compile free type distro.

  10. If you can set up distcc with other computers on your network, it will save a lot of compile time.

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