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Arch Linux, Sabayon, Gentoo


Arch Linux

I am an Arch Linux user, and I tried Arch Linux since March 2011. So far, Arch Linux works fine in almost everything. However, sometimes there are some issues which I face.

  1. Upgrading some libraries especially glibc, may cause Java related software cannot work, because these Java packages is not updated yet. Besides that, library like “icu” also causes LibreOffice cannot work sometimes.
  2. Sometimes, the latest software with new file format may not be supported in other computers. Similarly, some latest features does not work on other computers. For instance, when using PHP, in the later version we can write a statement such “$item = myFunc()[0];” where myFunc() is a function returning an array, and I want to access the first element immediately. By uploading such PHP script to the web hosting, because of the older version of PHP on the web hosting server, this statement does not work. That is, the best is not the best.
  3. Bluetooth problem. This is quite a long term problem. Pairing with bluetooth device is not smooth. I cannot mount the ObexFTP on the Android phone. Yet, there was no problem at all during the early time when I just using Arch Linux. Furthermore, I never successfully receive the file sent by phone through the bluetooth. Thirdly, sending the file to the phone through the bluetooth does not work with “blueman”, but only with “gnome-bluetooth”.
  4. Missed upgrades. I have one netbook, which is installed with Arch Linux but seldom used. When I want to use it, this requires a “great” upgrade. Sometimes this requires some manual configurations. Besides that, sometimes I need to download more than 1G size of packages for the upgrade. Thus, I will copy the cached packages from the frequently used computer to this old laptop. However, since it is a great leap, some dependencies are missing. This can be solved by checking the dependencies with “testdb”. Yet, the process is not easy. Because I experienced once which the upgrade caused the OS unbootable, due to the changes of systemd.

However, there are some advantages that I like about Arch Linux, which make me reluctant to look for alternative.

  1. AUR and PKGBUILD. This allows me to make my own packages easily and share to AUR. Then using the pacman helper such as yaourt to install all the packages by resolving the dependencies on AUR. To simplify it, this AUR and PKGBUILD allows me to extend my custom packages easily, far more easier than Debian package manager.
  2. Again, package manager rules. To use a distro, we must learn to use the package manager. Learning other software is not learning Linux, but learning the software themselves. The beauty of pacman is the simplicity. The categories of the packages also as simple as “core”, “extra”, and “community”. Searching, installing, uninstalling, cleaning, listing installed packages, listing files owned, and so on, are easily be used through the pacman command.
  3. Rolling release. Because of this, I no need to upgrade and see a surprising yet useless feature.
  4. Latest software. This is a double-edged sword. Latest with the new and useful feature, which may not be supported everywhere.
  5. Wiki, comprehensive instructions to configure the system.

So, why don’t I try out other distros which may have these features and yet more stable (in the sense of non-latest software)? So, I firstly tried Sabayon.

Sabayon

I tried Sabayon, since it is based on Gentoo, another rolling release distro. Yet, Sabayon is different from Gentoo, because the package manager, Entropy, will download the pre-compiled packages; Gentoo requires to compile the packages (except the packages like firefox-bin and libreoffice-bin).

I tried Sabayon with VirtualBox. Installed, yet I failed to upgrade. This is because the virtual hard disk is not enough, and my actual harddisk free space is also not enough. Thus, I gave it up.

The installation is easy, as it is using the GUI installation. However, I always wondering, after installation, I still need to do a lot of customisations. There is no much different from minimal installation then customisation and GUI installation then a lot of customisation.

Gentoo

So, because of not enough disk space, I installed Gentoo on VirtualBox. The official handbook, I personally found that it is not very clear, especially emerge-webrsync and “emerge –sync”. Because of network connection interrupted, I cannot update the Gentoo. Then this caused a lot of troubles.

Besides that, since I am using Arch Linux, I did not know that Gentoo is using OpenRC instead of systemd. Thus, in the make.conf file, I added the systemd and try to installed systemd as written in the official handbook. As a result, emerge produces dependency hell. And because I lack of knowledge about “emerge” usage, I did not know how to resolve all of these problems.

As a result, I tried again, re-install Gentoo, and learn more about emerge. Now I have successfully installed the desktop environment, Xfce4. There are more things to go, especially “overlay”. Because I have some software that I must use, which are not provided in the repositories.

Now, one disadvantage I found about Gentoo, is the compilation time of the packages. This is because compilation requires quite a lot of time and also high CPU usage. I wondering how much time I need if my laptop is not very powerful. Is it worth to compile these packages? Does these cached packages require more disk space than pre-compiled, or just similar? Or Sabayon may be more suitable for me, because no need compilation with Entropy?

 

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About Allen Choong

A cognitive science student, a programmer, a philosopher, a Catholic.

3 responses »

  1. This is funny. I switched from Arch to Gentoo, because Arch is too fast in introducing new software and I could not choose to have some programs in an older more stable version. And now I am little bit stuck with Gentoo, because I want some packages in a more recent version than available or not marked at least as unstable. Currently that affects Gnome 3.10 (for now I am using Gnome 3.8). So, I remember that Arch has Gnome 3.10 available but unstable packages from other programs as well. I thought of Sabayon, but I don’t want to start with a rolling binary distro again like I did with Arch, even if I can use portage besides entropy in Sabayon. And than I read that sabayon is just an overlay for Gentoo. I could try this and hope that their gnome-packages are not hard-masked like in the gnome-next overlay.

    So my conclusion for now is: There is still a chance to remain on Gentoo. (o: Or I just wait if Gnome 3.10 is stable in Gentoo and than I cannot wait for Gnome 3.12 because my Fedora-laptop will have it 6 months earlier.

    By the way, I am currently testing Fedora on my laptop. Not so bad, but missing media-codecs is a problem. Before that I thought of Gentoo on the laptop but didn’t finished the installation because of lack of time and overheating-fears during compiling.

    Reply
    • Hi poink, I tried Gentoo. But gave up at the end. Because I found that compiling Chromium is too time consuming. And I remember that Arch Linux has the ABS. If I like to compile (seeing those output feeling great), I can still compile everything from the ABS. Another minor reason that I still stick on the Arch Linux is due to the package FreeFileSync. Though it is not available in the official repository, yet AUR works fine.

      I gave up Gnome since version 3. Due to the unfamiliarity when doing a lot of works with the workspaces. That is why I am sticking on the Xfce. I think Xfce in Arch Linux is very stable.

      Reply
      • Indeed, it’s not just Chromium. Firefox, LibreOffice and Epiphany take their time after every update, too. Maybe I have to change the way I do my world updates. Maybe without “–deep” and “–bdeps”. The other way would be to only update once a month, but this could mean that I don’t get security patches soon enough. I have to keep track of GLSA: http://www.gentoo.org/security/en/

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