First of all, what is Gentoo, why do I use it, and who is it for.

What is Gentoo

Gentoo Linux is a Linux meta-distribution. A meta-distribution for those who don't know is a Linux distribution that doesn't work out-of-the-box, but rather has the end goal of becoming a functional Linux system. The perfect example of a meta-distribution is Linux From Scratch (LFS), witch is nothing more than a book that guides you through how to make and compile a Linux system yourself. Gentoo fortunately isn't that bare-bones, but rather gives you amazing tools to compile your very own kernel and software. My Gentoo system will most likely be very different from yours under the hood.

Other than that, Gentoo is a distribution that's heavily based on compiling your own software and open-source software in general. If you want to install Spotify you have to specifically go into the software managers config files to allow for the installation of software that has proprietary code and a restrictive license. This is a clear way to gain a clear understanding of what software is open and what is not. But this can also be repelling to new users who might not care all to much about the nature of the software's code, and might just find the whole "pure" software ideology of Gentoo to be too much, and too elitist in some cases.

Gentoo aims to be as minimal as possible, with the smallest footprint obtainable. This is the reasoning behind compiling everything yourself, including the Linux kernel. When you compile everything by yourself you can choose exactly what you wish to include or not, this ties very deeply into Gentoo's minimalist nature. Everything that isn't necessary will be considered bloat, and bloat is to be reduced as much as possible. When you install Ubuntu, it will most likely contain kernel modules and components that you will never use. It may contain components for AMD even though you have an Intel CPU. It may include components for a touch pad, even though you're running a tower PC with a mouse. These things are completely unnecessary and will only slow down your computer, and hog up space. To be fair, an unnecessary component or module will not cause too much bloat in and of itself, but hundreds or thousands of different unnecessary features will add up to quite the clog. This is the principle that drives the whole system. That's why when you install Firefox you have to choose what to compile into the browser, because there's no reason to install Firefox's audio components if you don't have speakers at all.

All of these measures will aid you in getting a complete Linux system that contains only what's necessary for you, and will give you the most optimized and tuned experience without any of the extras that hogs up everything.

Why do I use it

I personally use Gentoo Linux because it's what suits me best, and that's what everyone should strive for. It suits me best for multiple reasons, some including:

  • That I personally want to have complete control over my system, and an understanding of what makes it tick.
  • A system that's as minimalist as i want, whilst still looking and performing beautifully.
  • A system that's from my experience as rock solid as they come. I've personally tried a lot of operating systems, and Gentoo is the only one I can truly count on as my rock.
  • The difficulty of using and making the system is at a comfortable level for me.
  • That I like to have an OS that's also a project that I can continuously tinker with.

I love the idea of having an OS that's as me as possible, and that's exactly to my liking. That's the reason it looks like it does:

A screenshot of my chadwm desktop

My desktop current looks absolutely stunning if you were to ask me. It's a colash of different sources through the years. It's currently basically a fork of chadwm, witch I randomly stumbled upon when looking at /r/unixporn.

Who is it for

If you look at a computer as only a means to an end, I don't think you should touch Gentoo with a 5 meter stick, and rather go with a more "out of the box" system like Ubuntu, Mint and others. But if you want to learn more about how Linux works under the hood, and you want a solid grasp on how each of the components that make a modern Linux system works, Gentoo could be perfect.

If you simply want to have a bit more control over your system, and wish to minimise bloat, Arch Linux could be a suitable distro. But if you wish to tune not just wich audio driver you use, but tune the kernel itself to what audio hardware has kernel modules, Gentoo gives you the tools and guidence to both understand and successfully make your own system with their tools.

Gentoo will for many people only be a learning platform, but for some, it will be their best toy to tinker with. I remember reading a post in a Gentoo community that said that if we in the hardcore Gentoo community were to be honest with ourselves, we get a little bit excited every time something breaks, or we discorver a new bug, because it's another problem to engineer a solution to, or an unknown dent we can polish out so we get one step closer to our perfectly optimized and tuned system. So you have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy Gentoo, and you have to become a bit excited every time you system breaks, not just furious at the inconvenience.

So Gentoo might remind you of the early days of Linux with Slackware, where you needed to write your own drivers and have at minimum a 30cm beard, but it still serves as a great learning tool and a great platform to make your very own system, just as you like it.