[Novalug] Rolling distribution
drwho at virtadpt.net
Wed Mar 30 11:58:13 EDT 2011
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On 03/29/2011 04:56 PM, Mark A. Metz wrote:
> Can any one recommend one?
I can recommend two of them, Gentoo Linux and Arch Linux. I ran the
latter for approximately five years on all of my boxen and the former as
a server, desktop, and netbook distro for about one year now (I'm
migrating everything else to OpenBSD).
Please keep in mind that these distros have different advantages and
> Is it really an advantage over upgrading desktops?
The advantage is that you won't have to take a machine offline, rebuild
it, re-harden it, restore all of the applicable data, and then bring it
back online for the users. What you do is update the collection of
packages available for that system and install updates extant for that
particular copy of the OS. This will also have the advantage that all
of your systems will be running more or less the same revision of
everything. The downside is that if things break, they break hard.
Gentoo's downsides involve the time required to compile everything, as
it is a source-based distro, and the USE flags. It can take a very long
time for your average system update (emerge --update --ask --verbose
- --deep --newuse world && emerge --depclean && revdep-rebuild) to finish
depending on how many packages you have installed). On Leandra (shell
machine/web server/DNS/other stuff) it usually took somewhere in the
neighborhood of six to eight hours to complete, including debugging. I
never got that particular string of commands to work all at once, so I'd
break down system updates into blocks of ten or fifteen packages at a
time rather than using the 'world' keyword. Also, it can be frustrating
to get all of your packages playing nicely together with the same set of
USE flags. It was fairly common to have to emerge one or two dozen
packages (out of hundreds) with the variable USE="-foo" just to get it
to build. There are ways to set -flags on a package-by-package basis,
but whether or not that kind of administrative overhead is worth it to
you is a personal decision.
If you want to use Gentoo on more than a few workstations, patience will
be more than a virtue, it will be a survival trait.
Compiling Gnome under Gentoo is enough to drive one to drink. You'll
grow to dread seeing the error string "!!! Error: circular dependencies:..."
Note: I was running x86 and amd64 on my systems, not ~x86 or ~amd64, so
blaming the bleeding edge ebuilds would not be exactly correct.
One way around this problem is to use quickpkg
on a prototype system to make binary packages of the entire system once
they're compiled so that they can be deployed on all of the other
machines using emerge.
Arch Linux, on the other hand, uses precompiled packages with fairly
sane default options, in my experience. Installation of software is
much faster because no compilation is required (save for certain kernel
modules, such as VirtualBox's). If you need software which isn't part
of any of Arch's package repositories the AUR
(http://aur.archlinux.org/index.php) contains thousands of unofficial
packages that are automatically compiled and installed for you with the
makepkg utility. makepkg will use sudo to install supported
dependencies, but if an AUR package depends on other AUR packages you're
pretty much on your own to resolve it. I've only had to install a
handful of things (30 packages at most). I've found that the Arch
repositories are as diverse and useful as Gentoo's Portage tree is so
the growing pains were minimal ("What do you mean, I don't have to set
up an encrypted root partition by hand?!"), and the few binary only
stuff I have runs without great difficulty (Steam, Uplink, Skype).
As for upgrade pain, the only problem I've run into in the year I've
been running Arch has been that sometimes shutting down the machine from
inside of a Gnome session will only drop me back to the GDM login
screen, and I have to shut down the machine from there as a Gnome
Action. That's about it.
The Doctor [412/724/301/703]
PGP: 0x807B17C1 / 7960 1CDC 85C9 0B63 8D9F DD89 3BD8 FF2B 807B 17C1
"I'll keep those vultures guessing!" --Rotti Largo, _Repo!_
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