Is Gentoo worth the compile? – Managing your servers can streamline the performance of your team by allowing them to complete complex tasks faster. Plus, it can enable them to detect problems early on before they get out of hand and compromise your business. As a result, the risk of experiencing operational setbacks is drastically lower.
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I’m working on getting my first server up and running and my dad is trying to convince me that Gentoo is the way to go. Is it worth the compile? I was just planning on using Ubuntu.
The answer really depends on your objective.
gentoo is not worth the effort if you want to get a server up quickly and easily or think that you will get noticeably better performance. Other distributions (ubuntu, RHEL, CentOS) are easier to set up and operate. I do not believe the typical user will notice much of a performance benefit from controlling the compile flags.
gentoo is worth the effort if you want to learn how Linux works below the surface. I learned more from using gentoo for a couple of years than all the many years of using other distros. There are many things to configure and tinker with when using gentoo that make it a lot of fun to use and a good learning experience.
The reason to use Gentoo is so that you can install packages with the features you want.
What I mean by this is: if you get a RedHat/CentOS/Debian/Ubuntu package for, say, Apache, you’re going to get the features that they decided that you needed. If you want an additional feature, your only recourse is to download the source and compile. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it can be a pain. For one thing, you’re used to just typing “yum install apache” or whatever. For another, now you have an application that exists outside your package management tools.
On the other hand, if you have Gentoo, you can define in your emerge configuration files the sorts of features that you want, and you’re compiling it anyway; it’s just automated. And if there’s no flag to enable what you want, it’s relatively trivial to modify the ebuild. This way you can use Gentoo’s package management even when you want options that no one else considered building into the package.
There are minor performance improvements involved with compiling only what you want, but they really are minor, and this notion is used as a red herring to dissuade people from using Gentoo.
All that said, it is complicated, you will learn a lot (though not as much as from Linux From Scratch), and it may be total overkill for what you want. If it is, I would go with Ubuntu in a heartbeat, and stay away from RedHat/CentOS where possible. (I find the RedHat system configuration style to be difficult to work with from both an administration and a WTF-were-they-thinking point of view, and I find that it’s much easier to find up-to-date packages for Ubuntu than any of the others.)
If you do want a learning experience, there’s nothing like the trial-by-fire of installing a production server that you know nothing about, but if you’re interested in a less stressful learning experience, try Linux From Scratch on a virtual machine.)
Also, your dad is the man. I’m sure my dad would be trying to convince me to downgrade to Windows 95. Heck, probably a chalkboard.
For a server I would recommend CentOS. It is Red Hat without the support or trademarked logos, but line for line the binaries are identical. The amount of documentation available for a Red Hat server is far greater than for any other distro. At the very least it is worth a look.
To a Linux beginner, Gentoo may be overwhelming. I’d recommend getting your feet wet with a pre-packaged distro.
It all basically comes down to personal preference. Linux distributions are sort of like cars. All of them will get you to where you want to go, it’s just that individually they look different, have different feels to them, and that some may require more maintenance than others. If it is your first go around, I would use Ubuntu. That being said, don’t hesitate to check other distributions out.