What is happening to Gentoo Linux?

Three, perhaps four years ago I began looking to replace FreeBSD with Gentoo Linux.

The reason was simple. FreeBSD had become mired in politics, members of the core team were leaving, and their next major release was behind Linux 2.6 in functionality and performance. What was once an icon of stable and elegant operating system development was quickly deteriorating.

Gentoo presented itself to me at the time as a young, fresh approach to a ports system. It assembled all the functionality of FreeBSD’s ports tree into a system that aggregated all the required components of a basic Linux installation. This, to me, was the first Linux distribution that ‘made sense’, as it assembled the distribution from its disparate parts, forming a coherent whole that was as the user saw fit to shape it. It lacked the weaknesses of established distributions – the aging Debian, the inflexible SUSE, which required most everything to be done through YaST for fear of some kind of implosion, the flighty Red Hat distributions which added and removed features unpredictably from release to release, providing no easy way to add third-party software until very recently when repositories run by the community came to the fore, and so on.

Gentoo pulled off a package system where all the packages were up to date, and where the ports tree was simple and discoverable, making it easy to add additional packages by hand and change core functionality as needed. A true successor to FreeBSD.

Enter late 2006. Developers are arguing with each other. They’re spending time on projects that distract from the original purpose of the distribution (including, ironically, an attempt to pull FreeBSD into portage). They’re leaving the project out of boredom and frustration. Packages are aging. The GNOME desktop remains months behind its current upstream release version despite the able hands of FreeBSD, Ubuntu and RedHat maintainers to deliver the current version in sync with their latest releases.

Debian remains ancient. SUSE users remain inflexibly bound to YaST. Fedora Core’s last two releases have been a slam dunk as far as stability and consistency. Gentoo is slowing down.

Is the sun setting on Gentoo Linux?

3 responses to “What is happening to Gentoo Linux?”

  1. >>Debian remains ancient.

    I’ve just been taking a look at Debian Etch and I wouldn’t say it’s ancient. It’s very up to date (being testing and soon stable branch), it has most of the goodies that other distributions have, but keeping fast, stable and flexible. I’d recommend you to look at it.

    Have you tried Arch Linux? It’s the one I use and it’s an excellent choice.

  2. I left Gentoo while waiting patiently for Gnome 2.8 to be synced. Waited….Waited…used the another gentoo portage overlay and hosed my system. I chalked this up as user error and when I started from scratch again a glibc error they forget to fix broke 80% of my packages. I did a 180 and spent the next years on FreeBSD and now a Mac. I love Linux, but Gentoo has fallen to the wayside, a good example of bickering ego maniacs ruining a good thing.

  3. Hmmmm, SUSE users remain inflexibly bound to YaST? I don’t think so, in fact YaST is the most powerful config interface I’ve ever seen on Linux, you can configure almost everything in there, from software repos to the /etc/sysconfig directory & scripts. I LOVE YaST! 🙂