The everyday ramblings of an everyday geek.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gentoo

OK, OK. I know I said that I'd finished with this project. But I couldn't just stand by and see a perfectly good system go to waste, 64MB RAM or not, it has more than enough resources for the a few tasks, after 640k should be enough for anyone...right?

I set my sights on Gentoo. The way I figured it, I needed every ounce of performance to get The Beast to run adequately. Gentoo offers this by compiling every single line of code specifically for your machine, making it the tailored suit of distributions, but this comes at a price. You have to make every single choice yourself and compiling takes time: source takes longer to download than binaries, and compilation is itself a complicated task. This leads to an install time measured in days... no seriously.

To make a long story short,
after two days my installation was slower than Ubuntu, but I learnt more in those two days about Linux than I have done in the last 5 years. Configuring a kernel? Pah, child's play. Resizing partitions, gcc optimization, where everything lives, how the kernel is pulled together, installing and configuring GRUB and LILO, how cron works, an easy way to get things started as services... the list is endless.

So where am I now? Well I had a think about it and decided that I didn't like Gentoo. As much as it had taught me, and as powerful and well supported as it is, the fact of the matter is I'm simply not man enough. I'm a bit too much of a Mac wuss to really want to spend all my time tinkering with the inner working of my computer. If I kept Gentoo, I would never be satisfied with The Beast. I would constantly try to fine tune the myriad of options, in a vain attempt to get a more responsive system - when what I really need is more RAM (a fact that is impossible to escape). So I'm going with Debian: the install was painless; I'm used to apt-get because of Ubuntu; its as stable as a rock and its pretty nippy. OK, so the kernel may be a bit behind the times, but I'm running on a legacy system, so I don't need all the bells and whistles that are required to eek the last cycle out of an AMD 64X2 - and anyway I'm a dab hand at kernel configuration now ;)

Why Debian? I like apt-get, emerge is really good, but apt-get works for me. Why not *BSD? Java. I know you can get Java working on the various BSD but they all run through the Linux compatibility layer which sounds like a lousy solution, you can apt-get JBoss on Debian which makes it a clear winner in my eyes. 



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