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Distribution Watch: Gentoo Linux

Introducing Gentoo Linux 1.1a

April 15, 2002

Gentoo Linux is a relative newcomer to the world of Linux distributions. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, this distro is tightly targeted at software developers and network administrators, which means that the new or even average Linux user may not be too interested in trying it out.

You won't know Gentoo Linux 1.1a for its installer bells and whistles. That's not expected after all, not for an audience that's more concerned with what's going on under the hood than the flashy racing stripes and spoiler. What you do get is a distribution built mostly from source code, optimized to your personal specifications, and one killer tool for handling compiles and development: Portage (a French word meaning "carrying," often referring to carrying your canoe across a stretch of land before putting it in the next stretch of water).

Portage is best described by the Gentoo Linux team, themselves: "Portage is a true ports system in the tradition of BSD ports, but is Python-based and sports a number of advanced features including dependencies, fine-grained package management, "fake" (OpenBSD-style) installs, path sandboxing, safe unmerging, system profiles, virtual packages, config file management, and more."

If I was a software developer, this is a distribution I'd watch.

Supported Platforms

The Gentoo Linux distribution is specifically designed for the x86 architecture, so you'll need a PC for this one. You can't use antiquated hardware but you don't have to have the latest and greatest either:

  • CPU of 486 or higher
  • 64 MB of RAM or more

As usual, the faster the CPU and the more RAM you have, the happier you'll probably be.