Benefits of Gentoo

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This page attempts to summarize the benefits of Gentoo as viewed by its users, with regards to other Linux distributions.

Community

  • Due to the structure of the Gentoo system, Gentoo's user community tends to be relatively knowledgeable about low-level aspects of Linux (build processes, kernel configuration, hardware support) in comparison to some other Linux distributions' communities (such as those of most binary-based distributions).
  • Gentoo has fostered one of the most helpful communities of any Linux distribution: there are almost a thousand users in the #gentoo (webchat) IRC channel on Libera.Chat at any time. Almost anyone can help with virtually any issue a user may have.

Efficiency

  • Gentoo has a well deserved reputation for its community's tendency to build optimized code with demonstrable increases in efficiency over binary-based distributions' "one size fits all" model.
  • Gentoo's "USE flag" system allows the user to create an extremely "bare-bones" installation, removing unneeded functions from packages (e.g: removing iPod/iOS support, resulting in smaller binaries that load faster and use less memory). It is straightforward to change these compile flags at a later date, for instance when installing new hardware.

Flexibility

  • Gentoo allows users to configure which software features they wish to install, instead of the "one size fits all" approach of many binary-based distributions.
  • Gentoo can run in a wide range of environments, from embedded systems and virtual containers (LXC, OpenVZ, etc.) through to large cluster machines.
  • Gentoo favors incremental updates (instead of major upgrades every 6 months).

Extensibility

  • Gentoo knows the concept of overlay repositories with which users can add packages not yet provided by Gentoo. Examples of such overlays are Gentoo's own user repository GURU, public third party overlays, and local repositories on local file systems.

Scalability

  • Due in a large part to Gentoo's portage tool's configurability and its source-based approach to software management, Gentoo is relatively well suited to deployment from tiny embedded systems right up to large cluster machines.

Security

  • Due to the flexibility inherent in Gentoo's Portage tool and USE flags, Gentoo encourages users to build software with only the features they need. This decreases code size and complexity, and tends to increase security.
  • The Hardened Gentoo project focuses on increasing the security of Gentoo Linux through a variety of means.

User patches

  • Gentoo allows users to easily patch almost any source-based package during build by providing a patch file in the appropriate directory within /etc/portage/patches.
  • Only a small set of packages are not guaranteed to support user patches, and that set is shrinking as packages get updated.

Software development

  • Because Gentoo is source based, many software development prerequisites are installed. This includes a C-compiler, Linux kernel header files, a Python interpreter, and much more. Thanks to Gentoo's slotting technique it is often possible to have multiple versions installed at the same time. This makes Gentoo very suitable for software development, and testing against multiple versions of compilers, and interpreters.

Tools

  • Gentoo ships a tool set to manage the system right from the beginning. These tools are contained in the app-portage/gentoolkit package, e.g. eclean, equery, euse.

External resources