I have changed over the past two years, and one of those changes have been what I value in a computer. I own a M1 MacBook Pro and love it to bits, and even tho I still run Gentoo on my desktop computer, I have shifted my focus from having a pure bloat-free system, to a more compatible machine, with a display manager built on the same flexible Gentoo as before. I now use Gnome, the same display manager I would have hung out to dry a couple of years ago because of how slow, bloated and ugly it was. Now I love and use it every day. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it works great for what I need it to do, and I really love it’s design and function. I’m no longer hyper fixated on having a minimal and bloat free system, but still want absolute control over it, that’s why I still stick with Gentoo. I have yet to find another distro that’s as reliable and understandable as Gentoo if you want to have total control if your system, down to your own custom kernel.

A screenshot of my current Gnome desktop showing a terminal window running neofetch with Gentoo Linux info

Wallpaper by vector_control from Reddit

I still won’t compile bluetooth support into the kernel unless I really plan on using it, and I still compile my own bleeding edge FireFox. But I don’t feel like I need to customize every minute detail of my system, down to the exact amount of pixels the top bar should be on my suckless, 500 lines of C, window manager, and I don’t feel like I need to understand how every component works. I now seek a more traditional “desktop” system, and Gnome fulfills that role perfectly. It has grown out of its slow and glitchy phase, and the only growing pain I have noticed recently are some small troubles with Wayland, as programs still transition from Xorg, but that's a whole ‘nother discussion.

I love that I can run Steam, Adobe and DaVinci Resolve on my computer with no real problems. I tried using a “works out of the box” distro like Manjaro for a while, and it was pretty great when things worked, but the second something wouldn’t work right or you stumbled on a problem, you would often just be kinda stuck? There is always some troubleshooting you can try to fix the problem, but when push comes to shove, you really have no clue what exact part to try and fix. I think I would compare Gentoo and something like Manjaro or Ubuntu to a car from the 1950s and a brand new Prius.

A picture inside the open hood of a Prius. You can see that the engine is really compicated and intricate

Image by Davgood Kirshot from Pixabay

Whilst the new Prius has a lot of bells and whistles that works automagically, the second something goes wrong you have no idea or ability to fix it, because it is so complex and abstract that no one individual can be expected to juggle the entire system of the Prius in their mind at the same time.

A picture inside the open hood of a 50s car. You can see that the engine is relatively simple where you can easily see all the components, especially compared to the Prius engine

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

Gentoo on the other hand is something more akin to a 50s car, where it doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but if something were to happen, you can definitely fix it with a basic understanding of the systems, some time, a willingness to do some research and some elbow grease.

The same mentality of excitement when something breaks in the system is definitely still there, where I itch to do some engineering problem solving on the system. The only difference is that I am willing to let go of a little bit of that control and allow some abstraction into my system in the form of a display manager, and haven’t regretted it for a second, and I can’t imagine that I end up going back to the barebones window managers anytime soon.

And I will still continue loving using the M1 MacBook Pro as my main portable computer, but I will most likely install Asahi Linux onto it as soon as it’s stable, because no matter how much I love the hardware, I am definitely not using Macs for their OS and would much rather use Linux than MacOS, no offense to any fans 😅.

I think I started using Gentoo by pure chance, because I had the displeasure of using the biggest garbage pile of a laptop I have ever seen in my entire life, and after sending it for repairs over 6 times, I had to give up on it ever becoming reliable and stable. If I booted up a fresh install of Windows 10 and opened up three tabs in Chrome, the laptop would become so unbearably warm that I couldn’t physically touch the keyboard without it burning my fingers. That’s why I chose to try Gentoo Linux, because I heard that it was a ridiculously light and blot free distro, to an almost exaggerated degree. And after using two weeks to successfully install Gentoo, I finally had the closest thing to a stable system as I could expect. I think that’s when I started to fall in love with its simplicity and 50s car mindset, and thanks to that garbage laptop, I have never looked back.