Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

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Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby cwwgateway on Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:21 pm

I was listening to mintcast episode 123 (I know it was released a while ago, but I didn't listen much over the summer and I'm trying to catch up), and they were talking about rolling distros. In particular, they talked about Gentoo and Arch. While I've used Sabayon, I've never tried Gentoo and I've never successfully installed Arch (so many settings that have to be changed). I was wondering - what are the actual real world benefits of installing Arch or Gentoo where you have to configure so many things during installation (I understand an installer with lots of options or a text based installer, but you have to manually edit files to do Arch installations). People say that, for example, when you install Gentoo, you compile everything, which "optimizes it" for your hardware. Honestly, I don't know what that means. I do understand that with Gentoo and Arch you get to customize everything, but at what point does that actually significantly differ from a distro like Sabayon with a graphical installer? There obviously is a good reason to use them (or people wouldn't go to the trouble of installing them), so I want to know what that reason is.
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Re: Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby proxima_centauri on Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:30 pm

Here's a link to the 'philosophy' of arch linux. https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/The_Arch_Way
Maybe that will answer some of your questions.

Those who like to take the "hands on" approach to their distro will gravitate toward distro's like arch linux or gentoo.
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Re: Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby cwwgateway on Thu Oct 25, 2012 9:56 pm

Sorry for the really late response, I forgot to subscribe to the topic :oops: . I've read the stuff on the arch wiki, but it isn't clear about the practical benefits- it talks about how it lets people tweak their systems and doesn't add "unnecessary additions," but I don't know how manually editing config files has any real world benefits. I guess you can equate it to how people tweak their desktop environments and try very hard to get everything perfect, but I can clearly see and understand the difference between different desktop setups. I find the differences after installing between a preconfigured distro and a distro where you configure everything to be unnoticeable. I understand that there are certain benefits of the distro as a whole (as in the repositories, community, etc) once the system is installed, but you get the same benefits using distros like Sabayon and CinnArch.
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Re: Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby claudecat on Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:48 pm

Main benefits of both for me are more fine-grained control of the system, and NEVER having to reinstall. If you care to learn, you can more easily tailor Arch or Gentoo to YOUR needs than you can a preconfigured live-cd style distro. In my experience both run significantly lighter on resources than the big-boy distros using the same DE and gui settings (using KDE in my case). Arch and Gentoo are also the "rollingest" of the so-called rolling releases - in most cases you'll see updates literally within hours of the upstream release. As mentioned, you only need install them once, and yes, they are both a pain to install, but updating is really easy once you learn how. You do need to keep an eye on the forums/mailing lists for potential problems.

Sabayon, while simple to install, is different than Gentoo as it uses precompiled binary packages, and it will not upgrade the kernel without extra effort. Not as true a roling release in that regard at least. Arch can be installed relatively easily using distros like Archbang or Bridge, which come in live-cd form and are completely compatible with the Arch repos. Well worth a try even for the novice. Gentoo is really a dive into the deep end though... not for the faint of heart!
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Re: Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby mmix on Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:49 pm

i am using funtoo/clfs/snowflake, so i can give some hint.
automated/already built package doesn't works always, sometimes, it failed, it failed enough to newbie/user can't use the distro anymore.

manually build package or source package distro is DIY-style, when problem occurred, user know what he/she should do.
plus system-upgrade is my way, not their way.
just my 0.002 cent.
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Re: Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby cwwgateway on Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:25 pm

claudecat wrote:Main benefits of both for me are more fine-grained control of the system, and NEVER having to reinstall. If you care to learn, you can more easily tailor Arch or Gentoo to YOUR needs than you can a preconfigured live-cd style distro. In my experience both run significantly lighter on resources than the big-boy distros using the same DE and gui settings (using KDE in my case). Arch and Gentoo are also the "rollingest" of the so-called rolling releases - in most cases you'll see updates literally within hours of the upstream release. As mentioned, you only need install them once, and yes, they are both a pain to install, but updating is really easy once you learn how. You do need to keep an eye on the forums/mailing lists for potential problems.

Sabayon, while simple to install, is different than Gentoo as it uses precompiled binary packages, and it will not upgrade the kernel without extra effort. Not as true a roling release in that regard at least. Arch can be installed relatively easily using distros like Archbang or Bridge, which come in live-cd form and are completely compatible with the Arch repos. Well worth a try even for the novice. Gentoo is really a dive into the deep end though... not for the faint of heart!

I agree about the rolling thing, but I get about the same rolling ability from Debian Testing/Sid. I have tried installing both now, but I get hung up at various points where the install differs from the user guide. I'd like to figure it out, but I usually don't have the time (maybe this weekend if I have some time). I do understand the benefits of having new releases very quickly (much faster than debian), but as far as I understand Sabayon and CinnArch have similar benefits. I'm trying CinnArch right now, and its very nice. Maybe once I have more experience with it I will be able to understand Arch more. As for Sabayon using binary packages, its true but I think (I'm not sure) that you can compile packages, too. Finally, I acknowledge that there is a speed increase, but I can't verify how much because I haven't installed it. I don't really need too much of a speed increase, although its always welcome, because I have decent specs. Also, on my old desktop, debian runs in 104 MB of RAM idle.

mmix wrote:i am using funtoo/clfs/snowflake, so i can give some hint.
automated/already built package doesn't works always, sometimes, it failed, it failed enough to newbie/user can't use the distro anymore.

manually build package or source package distro is DIY-style, when problem occurred, user know what he/she should do.
plus system-upgrade is my way, not their way.
just my 0.002 cent.

Honestly, I've never had debian packages not work, and I'd hope I could resolve the issue. I guess manually building stuff is easier to fix, but again I've never had a problem.

So here's the list of benefits so far (AFAIK):
  • Very Detailed Customization
  • "Hands on approach"
  • Simplicity
  • Rolling Release - Never have to re-install
  • Rolling Release - Very new packages
  • Lighter System Resources
  • Updating is easy once you learn how
  • You can fix packages when the don't work because they're from source
Note: I am going to compare Arch/Gentoo to Debian Testing/Sid a lot because for me that's their main competition, and I'll compare them to Sabayon and ArchBang for pre-configured vs. self configured.
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Re: Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby cwsnyder on Sat Oct 27, 2012 2:20 pm

Benefits of Gentoo and Arch not touched on yet, as I understand them (I have not run either of them, this is just my reading): Gentoo specifically doesn't install any drivers for hardware or architecture for which you are not compiling. If you have an AMD processor, there is no support loaded for any Intel processor. If you have an nVidia display board, no Intel or ATI drivers, even generic are loaded, and only the particular driver for your nVidia board. If you change your display card, you will have to re-compile.

Arch, Gentoo, and to a certain extent, Slackware, allow you to go very, very close to the bleeding edge of Linux software development, possibly even closer than Debian Sid, if you choose.

Arch is all about simplify, simplify, never asking a GUI to do what a config file or CLI can do for you, but giving you a GUI to play with also. Arch is also, at present, the most likely to have one of those oddball Linux software packages ready to install in AUR.
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Re: Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby claudecat on Sun Oct 28, 2012 2:18 am

Just to clarify a few things visa vis Arch/Gentoo vs Debian testing/unstable:

Arch/Gentoo will always be more current, particularly for things like LibreOffice, KDE, vlc, etc.
Debian testing is basically not going to change much until it becomes stable (within the next year?), and unstable will also be less fluid until then.

To the OP, good luck with the Gentoo install! It really is a chore... I'd hate to have to do it again. I think it took me almost a week before I was satisfied that I had things the way I wanted them. Also, I'd recommend Bridge as the best of the easier-to-install Arch's - if only because it's a newer iso than Archbang and there will be fewer update hoops to jump through (the changing of /lib to a symlink can be a gotcha). That's probably also true for Cinnarch, but I haven't tried that one yet.

Also worth mentioning is Manjaro, which is Arch-based, but uses its own slightly less up to date repos, though there is a testing repo for more currency. Manjaro is my favorite new distro to play with right now - really nice xfce implementation, some nice tools for graphics card detection/kernel maintenance/etc, and a great wiki/forum. It's for xfce what Chakra is for KDE - in fact the lead developer is a Chakra refugee.

It's worth noting that Slackware-current can also be a very up-to-date rolling release of sorts when you make use of alienbob's KDE, LibreOffice and vlc packages (obviously I find all 3 indispensible). Search Alien Pastures for more info on that.
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Re: Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby phdp on Sat Jan 05, 2013 5:08 pm

cwwgateway wrote:People say that, for example, when you install Gentoo, you compile everything, which "optimizes it" for your hardware. Honestly, I don't know what that means. I do understand that with Gentoo and Arch you get to customize everything, but at what point does that actually significantly differ from a distro like Sabayon with a graphical installer? There obviously is a good reason to use them (or people wouldn't go to the trouble of installing them), so I want to know what that reason is.


There are basically three reasons:

(1) Flexibility. You get what you want with Gentoo or Arch. Of course it takes more time to install but you end up with exactly what you want. You get the desktop environment/manager you want and can update as soon as new packages are available (or you can wait, again it's up to you).

(2) Learning. I installed both Gentoo and Arch during the holidays and I learned a lot about Linux. If you need a working system now, Arch or Gentoo are not the way to go, and if you do not have the patience to play around and read documentation: go with Mint/Ubuntu. Not everyone is going to be interested in how the operating system works, and that's fine, but if you don't care about that, Arch/Gentoo will likely make you feel miserable. The fact that we have both Gentoo and Mint is what makes Linux so interesting :P

(3) Performance. Binaries provided by Mint/Arch/Fedora are compiled to run on all computers for a given architecture (x86_64, ARM, ...), but they are not optimized for your computer. When compiling with Gentoo, you can ask gcc (or another compiler) to compile optimized binaries for your computer. For example if you run

Code: Select all
$ echo | gcc -dM -E - > generic.txt
$ echo | gcc -dM -E - -march=native > opti.txt
$ diff generic.txt opti.txt


...you'll see the flags gcc can use when compiled with -march=native. In practice it will often make little difference, but sometimes it does make a good difference, and when every single program is optimized for your computer it generates an appreciable boost in performance.
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Re: Reasoning Behind Gentoo and Arch

Postby cwwgateway on Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:43 pm

Thank you phdp, and everyone else for replying. I've been playing around with Arch and Arch-based distros recently, and I'm starting to "see the light" :lol: . Once I have more time, I will do a real arch install somewhere (I have to find an extra computer/partition). I'm going to try to do "baby-steps" first, similar to how I learned Debian (Ubuntu -> Mint -> LMDE -> SolusOS -> Swift Linux -> LMDE/CrunchBang/Debian). I'm going to start with manjaro and figure out how pacman works in a more... "stable" environment, and then Bridge, then ArchBang, and then Arch itself. I've began to appreciate the ability to choose your apps (I've been doing a lot of Debian NetInsts lately and not installing a GUI). I'm not sure how deep I want to go, but it is very interesting to learn more about linux (I think I draw the line after Arch, so no LFS for me :lol: ). Compiling is definitely helpful, although I still don't know how much because... well... with my Debian Testing NetInst, even on an old Gateway desktop with 490 MB of RAM and a P4 everything runs very smoothly (most programs open within a second, and some larger programs take 2 or 3 seconds). Anyways, I think I'll stick to Debian primarily, but I've decided to give Arch a shot (if only to learn how to do it).
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