After much gnashing of teeth, Gentoo has finally won me over

Last week, I began installing Gentoo on my laptop. I’ve made it a habit to try out at least one Linux distribution every few months, just to see how things are going. Usually I tinker with Linux for a few days, realize I’m still more productive in Windows, and nuke the Linux partition. This time, though, I think I may let it stick around for a while.

I gave Gentoo a shot about a year ago and found that it wouldn’t even boot on my desktop at the time. Something similar occurred this time. After trudging through the long, painful manual installation process (while frequently referring to the online Gentoo handbook via the web browser on my cell phone), I was dismayed to find that, once again, Gentoo refused to boot.

I spent almost an entire weekend reconfiguring and recompiling the kernel, trying various BIOS tweaks, and doing everything I could think of to coax it into bootability. Finally, having exhausted all other options, I went against the advice of the Gentoo handbook and compiled a 2.6 kernel instead of the recommended 2.4 kernel. That did the trick. Figures.

Once I had the system booting, everything else was pretty much painless. Coming from a FreeBSD background, I found Portage to be the best thing since, well, FreeBSD Ports.

Over the last few days, I’ve been spending most of my time in Gentoo (except when I’m playing Doom 3, of course). I bounced between Gnome and KDE a few times before finally settling on the small, fast, and impressively elegant XFCE desktop environment, which does almost everything I want without getting in my way like KDE and Gnome tend to. Plus, it’s pretty.

Today I’m working from home using rdesktop to interact with the Windows session on my machine at the office. With the exception of my wi-fi card, I’ve got all my hardware working like a charm. Everything seems to be going smoothly.

I think the day has come for me to finally start migrating to Linux full-time. Thank you, Gentoo.