Gentoo Frustrations – Back to PC-BSD


    Using Gentoo Linux, you have to get used to things just breaking, especially in the last couple of years. Portage is probably one of the best package management systems in the open source community. I have been quite impressed with Portage 2 the last couple months. Things seem to be improving.

    Yesterday I woke up to check some email. Later I needed to do some web development for an NGO. I booted up and by the time I got to the graphical login screen, I noticed that I had a problem with my screen resolution.

    I checked xorg.conf but there was nothing wrong with it. I kept restarting X only to get a very low resolution screen. Everything worked fine. I experienced this problem before with Sabayon Linux and an earlier version of Gentoo. No configuration files were changed in the last couple of days. I had not emerged and updated newer versions of nvidia-drivers, xorg, or KDE.

    Sadly, the same thing happened back in 2005 which forced me to switch to Kubuntu. Yesterday I really needed a stable desktop to do my work. It was my fault, I should not have used Gentoo in a work environment.

    Since I did not have the whole day to figure out what my problem was, I decided to back everything up on my Linux Mint Thinkpad. Back in came PC-BSD on my desktop. Within 10 minutes, I had a working FreeBSD desktop. Now I am using portmanager to update my PC-BSD system.

    I still consider Gentoo one of the best Linux distros ever. It brought me to Linux but in the last couple of years, Gentoo users have watched developers, after developers leave in large numbers. Packages are no longer maintained and updated in a timely manner. Gentoo is no longer bleeding edge. It is no longer suited for the desktop.

    Instead I will focus on using Gentoo more as a server. I will stick with PC-BSD and Linux Mint as my choice for desktop distros.

    Amazingly, PC-BSD is the only distro out there that can detect my Intel hda sound card and play sound on all 5 speakers. VirtualBox will be ported to FreeBSD soon as well. Things are looking good for PC-BSD.

    Edit: Seems that Compiz-Fusion was the culprit here.  I am not a fan of Compiz so I just needed to remove it and everything worked fine.


    1. When I realized that I’m doing more maintenance than work, Gentoo had to go. I hadn’t been “ricing”, hadn’t been living on the bleeding edge, yet things broke ;_; – and the distro hopping game began (unfortunately bsd doesn’t like some of my hardware, so that wasn’t not an option).

    2. One can also come across blogs and forum posts complaining about distros labelled as beginner-friendly, such as Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS, giving trouble (I use and like both of those distros, although I’ve had a few rough rides with Ubuntu). Perhaps I’m lucky: Sabayon Linux, which is essentially a themed version of Gentoo with an overlay, works very well on my Acer TravelMate 8215WLMi laptop, and I do use it successfully in a work environment. Portage is a good package management system, but it can be hard work sometimes as it does depend on very hands-on management of the make.conf, package.use, package.mask and package.unmask files in particular. I’ve found that optimisation of make.conf and package.use is particularly important, otherwise things can break. But then things have broken for me under Ubuntu too. Another thing in Gentoo’s defence is that I would expect a binary distro to be less easy to break than a source-based distro. Furthermore, for some reason the power of Portage does make me want to update more, whereas with Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS I’m content to just use them and leave well alone. But, once I had it fully configured, Sabayon has been very stable, and I have no reason to believe that plain vanilla Gentoo would be any different on my laptop.

    3. @deadcabbit: I found that BSD seems to be more hardware friendly, at times, than with Linux. In my case, that is. Have you tried PC-BSD or DesktopBSD? They are pretty good in getting hardware to work. Oddly enough, the FreeBSDs are the only distros where my Intel hda soundcard works out of the box on all 5 of my speakers. A feat that even Linux Mint or Ubuntu could not do (I can only get 3 speakers working with my other soundcard, the Intel hda soundcard did not work).

      Oh, I find that I spend a lot of maintenance time on my PC-BSD desktop as well. My PC-BSD system did break on two occasions.

      @Fitzcarraldo: I used Sabayon for over a month on my Thinkpad. I really liked it. I can’t wait until Entropy is stable. The idea of running a binary package manager will finally bring the Gentoo distro in line with the Ubuntus, SUSEs, and Red Hats. I now know that Compiz-Fusion borked my configurations. Still, I will stick with the BSDs on my desktop for awhile. I have been a Gentoo user for nearly 4 years now so I hope it can return to it’s former glory.

    4. I left gentoo a while ago. Mainly as I too noticed that I kept working with the system more than I was using it.

      Now I happily run OpenBSD on my server and laptop. Desktop belongs to dual-boot with XP / Slackware.

      I would be dual-booting with OBSD but it failed to start on my brand new PC, slackware worked straigth from the dvd.

    5. @Zmyrgel: I hear alot about OpenBSD nowadays. There is a blogger who blogs about using it as a desktop as well. I think I will test it on my Dell Inspiron 8100 notebook, when I get it repaired.

      Do not get me wrong, when I get some more time, I will play around with Gentoo, minus Compiz. I still think it is great for servers. I do prefer Ports make config over Portage’s USE flags as a couple guys pointed out.

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