Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


Love for gentoo

Filed under: — adam @ 12:41 pm

I’ve been using gentoo as my main linux distro for about six months now, and I still love it.

The best place to start is with the gentoo handbook:

Once you get everything set up, installing new software is as simple as:

$ sudo emerge rails

which will find rails, analyze the dependencies, fetch all of the source packages, and build it for you. Don’t have ruby installed? No problem – it’ll get and install that automatically because rails depends on it. There are plenty of other options as well.

Even better, every package you install is custom compiled for just your options, and targeted at your specific processor family instead of just the regular i386 or i686 or whatever generic binaries. As a result, gentoo tends to perform better than other distros on the same hardware.

Like apt, pretty much everything you need is downloadable with portage, except that it compiles from source for your specific
system. Need ssl support? ruby support? You tell it. All of this is accomplished through the very rich USE environment variable, and all new compilations automatically pick up the dependencies you need.

Here’s the current list:

If you change the list, you can also dynamically recompile everything on your system to update the dependencies (or selectively just the things that are affected).

Yes, compiling takes a long time (sometimes a long long time), but there are ways to distribute it if you have multiple machines, and hopefully, you don’t actually need to do this very often. Also, you can usually just let it run – it doesn’t need constant attention.

If you’re looking around for a new linux distro, check it out. The up-front work may seem intimidating, but it’s really a great foundation for long-term maintainability.

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