Gentoo Sucks, Ubuntu Doesn’t.

I used Gentoo for a few years, and at first I loved it. Mainly because of portage, but the only distro I had experience with before Gentoo was Slackware, and I used to install packages and dependencies manually, so you can see why Gentoo would was so appealing to me.

When I first began my new job, the only distro available was Ubuntu, which deep down I hated without any real reason. I guess I saw Ubuntu as being “too user-friendly” and Mandrake-ish: Bloated and sluggish. But 10 minutes into using it, I made the decision that as soon as I get home, I’m wiping out Gentoo and installing Ubuntu.

You Learn From Compiling Apps Yourself

This is somewhat true, but I don’t believe it applies to Gentoo/portage. There’s nothing educational about watching shit scroll across the screen. None. If you want a real learning experience, try Slackware or Arch. You’ll learn if you’re forced to figure out what an app depends on, and what the most efficient compile flags are for your system. With Gentoo, the app is being compiled from scratch, but you aren’t doing any work, or research, for that matter. Running 1 command and then grabbing a bite while you wait for portage to do all the work for you isn’t going to teach you more than installing an RPM.

Gentoo’s installation isn’t going to teach you much of anything either, except maybe that patience is a virtue. The Gentoo docs are great, but each step is spoon fed to you. You’re basically copying and pasting commands so you can compile all the necessary files to get you started. After installation, Gentoo is as user-friendly as Ubuntu, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.

Compiled Apps Are More Efficient Than Packages

Maybe. Prebuilt packages are usually compiled independently for each arch, and are already optimized, probably by people way more experienced in the field than you. Compiling your own apps can be slower if you don’t know what you’re doing, but even if you optimize your portage compile flags, the peformance difference between a prebuilt package for the specific arch vs an app compiled on that arch is minimal. There are too many drawbacks to compiling every app from scratch to make this tiny performance boost (which is just theoretical) worth it.

Compiling takes time. Not only does the app need to be compiled, but so does each of its dependencies. Compiling Xorg, OpenOffice, Gnome, or any big app will require that you leave the computer for a few hours, as the high load when you’re compiling something makes it unusable. System updates also take a long time, which means that…

You’re more likely to avoid updating. If you’re busy, the last thing you wanna do is drop what you’re doing for an hour just so you can update ABC app from version 2.3.0 to 2.3.1. Even security updates can be ignored if the app is big enough. I just installed about 15 new apps on Ubuntu, only took around 5 minutes in total, and 80% of that time was spent downloading the packages.

Gentoo Uses Less RAM Than Distro X, Y, or Z

By default, Gentoo is usually leaner than most distros, but that doesn’t mean you can’t easily tweak Ubuntu or any other distro to only run the apps and modules you want. Most distros use up a lot of memory because they offer a lot of functionality. Sure, you can disable nearly everything you “don’t need” and you’ll get a speedy system that runs on a stick of 256 megs of RAM, but why sacrifice functionality and aesthetics?

I’m also lazy and I hate closing programs, so I like to just keep my most used apps open. This means keeping Gimp, Mono+Tomboy Notes, Firefox with 50+ tabs (uses up 600 megs of RAM, at least), numerous gvim windows, terminals and SSH connections, numerous servers and services, Pidgin, Rythmbox, Compiz (which increases productivity, mind you), and misc apps like Agave, GColor2, MySQL query browser, etc…

I need the functionality, so I’m willing to put down money for more power instead of sacrificing my producitivity just to save a few bucks. Besides, RAM is damn cheap. I just picked up 8 GB of OZ DDR2800 (4 sticks total) for $20, brand new.

Ubuntu Has Excellent Support

This doesn’t apply to Ubuntu exclusively, but to any distro (or OS) that has an active community and great hardware support. Somewhere down the line you wake up and realize that you just want to get shit done and you want your computer to Just Work. Eventually you get tired of spending half of your time tweaking and hacking away and would like to devote as much time as possible to actual projects and work. I was shocked that my wifi worked out of the box with Ubuntu, as did everything else.

You can say that Ubuntu is to other distros what Rails or CakePHP are to CGI programming.

Ubuntu really demonstrates how far Linux has come. There’s a reason it’s so popular: It pwnz. If you want a “lean Ubuntu”, you can try Debian, which Ubuntu is based on. I use Debian for most of my servers and old boxes.

26 thoughts on “Gentoo Sucks, Ubuntu Doesn’t.”

  1. Hello,

    I recently (after almost 10 years) moved away from Gentoo to Fedora.
    I have managed many servers and workstations over the years using Gentoo out of familiarity with the distribution but recently a new colleague installed Fedora on a bunch of the machines so I thought I would give it a try at home to get used to how things are done there and give this guy some rope, as the saying goes…

    To cut a long story shorter, managing Gentoo over the years was not that much of a time problem, I used my big powerful machines at work to create chroot’s to test and roll out updates very quickly, the tipping point for me was actually at home when I need the OpenShot video editor, on my Gentoo machine the application and its deps took a total of just under 40 minutes to install and build. I installed it (OpenShot) on Fedora test machine just out of curiosity (knowing it would obviously take much less time) and it took just over 40 seconds.

    The amount of time saved if I had just used the binary dist in the first place made me seriously re-evaluate if Gentoo is worth my time any more, especially since I saw absolutely no speed decrease or lack of responsiveness when using Fedora on the small and less powerful test box I also saw no loss also on the Fedora boxes at work (The rest which we plan to move from Gentoo to Fedora next academic ‘holiday’). I wont babble on too much more but after a lot of thinking I decided Gentoo was not worth my time at home OR work.

    There are also some nasty Gentoo community issues, there are a lot of poisonous users and developers that create lies and malice against other projects, the most recent I saw was mention on the forums of people against systemd, the people against systemd on Gentoo claim that RedHat/systemd/lennart are “greedy jews” and there are people trying to actively prove system “fanbois” are of jewish decent to have them banned. That alone has me convinced more then ever to heavily distance myself from both the Gentoo project and its user community.

  2. Yah, I just gave up on Gentoo after I installed the Apache2 webserver daemon and discovered I only got a minimal install because I didn’t enter a bunch of crap variables in that stupid make.conf file or whatever it’s called. There’s more than 1,500 binaries sitting in /usr/bin and many of them I never really wanted. Ubuntu also has a crufty crap problem putting everything in /usr/bin.

    I’m going back to Linux From Scratch. There isn’t a wall between my and my software like Gentoo puts up. I can install whatever I want and don’t have to wait for the distro to wrangle a new ‘package’ that fits in their byzantine structure every time the author releases a new version. Linux From Scratch runs faster than Gentoo and in the end compiles faster because you don’t have to wait for unwanted packages to download and compile. You get what you want when you compile, as in ‘configure –enable-mod-php –enable-mod-mysql’.

  3. Why not try Sabayon rolling-release distro based on Gentoo ? Pure binary-based. I didn’t have to reinstall my system in 3 years, in ubuntu a system update can destroy your system. But mind one thing, if you want to use Sabayon … you need to know how to handle Gentoo first and second : learn entropy package management. You need to know a lot of things to handle your Sabayon system , so it’s not just for newbies ;)

  4. I bet both my balls that Archetype lives in his parent’s basement and does not need to actually earn his beans. When (and if) he got kicked to the real world and got a real job, he will learn something really useful, something about productivity.

  5. I recently decided I needed a Linux install because for much of my work I have to remote into a linux server to run packages like TiMBL, Sphinx 3 and Moses. A friend told me that the best thing to do was to wipe my entire hard drive clean and install gentoo. Installation took a few days, and now nothing on it works. Gotta install wifi. Gotta install my camera. Gotta install my vga. Gotta install my HD video output. Circular dependies. Use flags. Applications that won’t start because of other missing dependencies. KDE sure is pretty, but it took 10 hours to download and install. My opinion on it is this:
    1. No noob should use Gentoo (I wish my friend had considered this)
    2. For a regular computer, compiling everything yourself is micro-optimizing and is not worth it. I need my computer NOW, not in a year.
    3. Out-of-the-box distributions rock more than I ever knew. That’s what I learned from installing it myself.

  6. i’m a gentoo user myself (used slack before… almost 8 years…).

    even if i don’t like ubuntu, and i hate binary i have to admin ubuntu does a great thing: it actually has a HUGE number of users

    users = support

    may that be from hardware(ati anyone?) / software (games? loki games FTW we want u back) vendors or simply more programmers that’ll dedicate time to develop Open source

    so yeah… i would never use ubuntu (i hated debian too…) but still it’s doing a great job for both linux AND the opensource community… even for distros like gentoo and slack (red hat wanted to achieve theese levels.. and now fedora) so i think ubuntu is actually the winner, and i don’t need to use it to be gratefull it exists

  7. I agree somewhat about the hardships of compile time on a desktop machine. For that reason I have been using Sabayon Linux. It is a Gentoo fork which has a binary package manager (entropy). It also has portage too! A distro that has two package managers! I can mix as well, it’s really nice. My gripe with the RedHat clones is there is never anything I need in the default Repo’s compared to Gentoo. As for my servers I still choose to run Gentoo, using ccache I compile Apache in about 3 minutes. Compiling does have benefits when it comes to servers, say I need thread support, or want a different worker process for Apache? Just change USE and emerge. Gentoo keeps it flexible and SCALEable as the industry buzzword will call it. Which makes me a believer in Gentoo. Also, I’ve seen CentOS systems that have not been updated in months, break on update.

  8. Where did you get 8GB of DDR2800 for $20?? I need that!

    btw, gentoo ftw!

    I send anyone I know that asks about linux over to Ubuntu, but I am strictly gentoo myself..

  9. Bunch of pussies. Gentoo’s easy. You get to choose. I have an idea. You can do your updates at night! woohooo!!! Ubuntu’s easy too if you don’t want to choose as much.

    Stop being so pussy, it’s just computer shit!

  10. First off, you say you don’t learn anything on Gentoo. You don’t learn shit on ubuntu either. Same concept.

    Besides, Ubuntu is trash. You’re better off using Redhat or something that requires you to actually find dependencies. Ubuntu finds the dependencies for you. That’s useless. What a way to learn you guys!

  11. Ubuntu is dogshit. Linux is not the ‘everyman’ OS; it is a UNIX clone, designed for those who actually want to interact with their operating system.
    Ubuntu is bloated, slow, poorly packaged, and drags in loads of garbage with every package install. It’s a dumbed-down *nix system that keeps the user dumb. When something goes wrong, its target user base will be at the mercy of the useless and chatty Ubuntu forums, which suck as much as the distro itself.
    If you want to use, learn and embrace UNIX, use Slack, Arch or BSD.
    If you want a castrated Windows clone, use Ubuntu.

  12. I found out that Linux distributions have been going in and out of fashion. Lamewarz everywhere. Distributions aren’t important — the point is what can you do with your favourite distribution.

    Those gentoo/arch/and other who consider *hardcore *nix* always dislike the wanna be ubuntu/fedora userz. Anyway, Donald Knuth(mathematician and computer scientist) uses Ubuntu. Linus Torvald uses Fedora. So do you think they are newbie too?

    I was from to *BSD(lasted a year).. than all the way debian. Nothing to be proud of about being able to compile everything from scratch. Able to solve *nix problem wt programming language is much more interesting. I always prefer the minimalistic Ubuntu installation. From there..i can have my fluxbox, latex, mathematica, mplayer..all within 10mins. Plus 5 min tweaking for 5seconds boot up speed :)

  13. I agree to 100%, it is exactly the thoughts I had when using Gentoo for some weeks on a spare partition. Most of the uptime, the computer was busy compiling stuff -> what a waste of time. I had to leave the machine on over night to get done. What a waste of energy in these days of climate change. It is just so much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly to have the packages compiled once than on thousands of machines…

    And I also found the gain negligeable, if there was one at all. I found the dependency handling miserable. After updating vital parts of the system you had to do so many checks to ensure reverse depends are not broken. And you have every freedom to shoot yourself into the foot. And you will, at some point. If you stick with the stable branch, Gentoo is not particularly up-to-date either. Using the unstable is a pain in the behind.

    And, well, at some point I forgot about my Gentoo install. Recencently I booted it once again, tried a system update only to see that it was ultimately impossible because of some complete dependency mess. It was something about a quite central library. If you had been lazy with updates for some time, you had not choice but to reinstall, as was confirmed by several authoritative sources. Would not happen with Debian…

    And yes, I bet most ubuntu users skip security updates at least of larger packages, because of the long compilation runs invovled. In Ubuntu, Debian and many others by contrast, security upgrades go largely unattended, they don’t require user intervention.

    So, while Gentoo may still retain a high coolness factor, its practical benefit over other distros is by far outweighed by the disadvantages.

  14. I don’t understand haters of anything. Yes sure, you don’t like gentoo, ubuntu, fedora, debian, linux from scratch, etc… It’s really not that different to hating on a person because of race, sex, or even eye color. We all do our own exploring and we all have our own opinion. After all, why else are there so many large and active communities for that flavor of linux? We need to stop the fighting and join teams to further linux. Doesn’t it all come down to a free OS that you can do modify how you see fit if you choose? Sure you can get one that runs out of box or you can build everything from scratch. In the end “You call it tomato, I call it tomatow…”

  15. I’ve just installed Gentoo over the weekend, wanted something that was a bit more of challenge but have realized there’s not much point if you can’t get on do what you want afterwards. Compiling from source is such a time waster for little gain IMHO, it’s almost self defeating you want to “optimize” your system so it’ll run faster in order to be able to get your work done quicker presumable only to sit there having to wait half the time for an app to compile before you use the damn thing, then have an epiphany that if you just installed from a binary you’d already been up running and had the job finished along time ago.

  16. I agree totally!

    I have used many distributions dating back to the early 90s. To this day I am still testing other distributions but always end up with the latest release of Ubuntu back on my system. The number of packages available and their ease of install make Ubuntu my distro of choice.

    Just because you are running Ubuntu doesn’t mean you can compile your own source code. If you enable the repositories you can pull down the source code for just about every precompiled binary offered. You can pull down tarballs and compile them yourself just like any other distro.

    The key for me is to have a base install that is clean and works with minimal maintenance. Anything else I need that isn’t in the vast repositories (which isn’t much) I compile myself.

    I won’t say that Gentoo sucks, but I doubt I will ever use it again.


  17. I agree. Not all distros are for everybody. I use the easy-to-use kubuntu, But why the F·ck the robotics teacher want us to use Gentoo? Nobody in the industry will change to linux when we go there to work. Why so elitist?

    Im not saying that there no are people might find it usefull. Even if the teacher had a reasonable point to use it I wouldnt complain. But no, he has zero reasons other than “you will be more “smart” that the other ones in the industry”. All the packages for the class are fully compatible with ubuntu, indeed, some are not compatible with Gentoo (well, they are, but it takes too F@cking much to make it so).

    The worst thing is that we didn´t get linux classes before, because in the college program there is no f@cking linux teaching, not even in robotics class. But the first homework in robotics is to install Gentoo on minimal in OUR LAPTOPS!…. if I pass this class I will go to the teacher and say “f@ck you and your stupid gentoo and your stupid Phd that you make in Japan (yeah, he has a damn Phd in robotics from Japan, what is he doing now? Teaches in a crappy college, I think he wasnt that good at all ha?. Is not a crappy college is a crappy robotics team… I bet he was the last one of his class).

    And the lucky ones that passed his class (maybe there were some “favors”, because the homeworks are only tons and tons of papers to read and not touching the damn robots or computers, very very little programming…. ) are some stupid arrogant pieces of students that feel that they are the f@cking sh!t because they installed Gentoo, now us, the ones that are still using Kubuntu are the noobs and we should be punished with more homework. Gentoo is not for men, is for programming engineers and nothing more. There is no other thing to celebrate, if you want to get elitist too, pull a 360 double flip body varial on a skateboard, I can do it (and maybe no one else) and is not that great.

    Gentoo it takes too damn much for a damn operative system to install, you can say “use the guides”, the f@cking guides are too long, sometimes incomprehensible and techincal for an OS. Not even Red Hat in 98 took that long to install, and back in the day the computers had very very very low RAM and CPU capacity. For a mechatronics engineer is useless, indeed for everyone else. Just programming engineers will find it usefull if they hate windows and love and marry linux, they have children Tuxs and find a way to support their linux familly programming for a company without touching windows. Yes, I do think that windows sucks big time, but no company will change to linux because you use it. Also the mankind will die and we will erase the forests, as you see. There is no happy ending, there is no fairy. We are doomed and money beats all sadly.

  18. About your comparisson.
    Rails and PHP suck.
    Rails is for fan boys who get wowed by the wizardiness of creating a website.
    Here is how Rails development goes:
    + Use wizard to create a base site and jump up and down.
    + Find out performance sucks, throw more hardware at it and use Mongrel instances.
    + Spend bunch of time refactoring automagically generated controllers only to realize that ORM’s are slow.

    + throw a site togther in php, ignoring good design techniques and mashing code and html code together.
    + find out it lacks namespaces (pre 5.3), inheritance has issues with staic methods and etc
    + find out php bloats the memory memory bloat

    Debian/Ubuntu is really quite nice, excellent for servers and desktops

    One thing they lack is flexibility, which is Gentoo’s strength.
    Its not easy to throw an ebuild together or update it to the next version of some software.

    1. Rails wowz me all the time, primarily because prior to it, I used C to write web apps (CGI, baby!)

      What would your take be on PHP5 + an MVC framework? Also garbage or best of both worlds?

      I see Rails development as going more like this:
      + Use “wizard” to create a base site.
      + Code in whatever the client/project require.
      + Profit (literally) and jump up and down.

  19. Installing Gentoo from scratch learns me how Linux works ! => Educationnal purpose.
    It’s NOT with ubuntu or mandriva that you’ll learn how to configure daemon starting à runlevel X.

    Compiled Apps ARE More efficient than packages. Because packages must be compatible with the i686 standard. Because i’m not stupid and have some skills in C/C++. And because packages are compiled with full options (the USE flags in gentoo)

    Gentoo has too an excellent support.

    The aim of gentoo os has never to be used by beginners !!

  20. I don’t understand why there are so many Ubuntu-haters, Ubuntu is a Popular Desktop Linux OS and it is the only Linux distro that could seriously attack Windows OS.

    The performance and the stability of Ubuntu depends of the kernel or the packages you use, it works OOB, then remove the software that you don’t need or do not enable 3rd part repositories.

    Archlinux, Gentoo,.. are good to be forced the Linux OS internals but then, for everyday usage Ubuntu offers the best desktop expirience without compiling by yourself.

  21. I’ve been using Ubuntu now for several weeks and haven’t had any issues with it over all. I went from xp to Ubuntu and have no plans for switching back. It does everything I want and is something new and fun to learn. It’s table and I can customize it how I like. Never tried Gentoo but I have a friend who uses it and loves it and he used to use Ubuntu. Well, this is just my experience with it… I’d recommend Ubuntu to anyone new to Linux:)

  22. Ubuntu is horrible trash – period.

    Arch, Gentoo, Slackware, Debian — Use one of those.

    Ubuntu is about as stable as Windows – Go look at Freenodes IRC channel for it. It slows down with X on and you either have to restart Xorg or deal with it. I’ve never had this happen so quickly on any other distro! BSD’s and the above mentioned linux’es can stay on with x for weeks without noticeable slow downs.

    And Ubuntu is the only Linux I can think of that has hard crashes IE –You must reboot the machine to correct whatever it is that crashed the machine.

    1. Hey thomas,

      I get frustrated if I have to reboot, even if it’s once a year, but so far I’ve never had to reboot in Ubuntu unless I was updating my kernel (hell, you can load up a new kernel without rebooting). The only times any Linux distro has crashed in my experience has been when dealing with setting up wifi cards (which as of 2009 is still damn primitive on Linux). Ubuntu always says you have to reboot, but it’s joking. You can reload a module or restart X/Gnome, or do whatever you can do in another distro, for the new changes to kick in without rebooting.

      I haven’t experienced much slow down with Xorg on Ubuntu (or any other distro), though I do find X to be sluggish compared to Explorer or Aqua. Ubuntu does enable compiz by default, so maybe that could be what’s causing the noticeable performance drop?

      Oddly enough, and it’s probably just placebo, having compiz on makes X/gnome feel snappy on my box. The difference is almost as noticeable as turning on Quartz Extreme on OS X.

  23. when i took my first hack at linux i used andlinux with an arch base (andlinux is a distro that runs within windows i wasnt ready for a full install just yet) i still couldnt work arch and ive been happly using ubuntu for over a year

  24. if you don’t mind compiling but still wnat the flexibility, the KISS, the simple config files, the speed. I recommend you to try ArchLinux. It is rolling release as gentoo and althought Arch is binary-based if you desire there is ABS which is wonderful if you want to compile you own pieces of software. the wiki is excellent also. bye bye

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