Gentoo Linux Installation Journal

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Gentoo Linux Installation Journal

Postby Jonathan » Mon Aug 11, 2003 3:36 pm

I've gone over to the dark side. I'm installing Gentoo, the first Linux distribution whose Time To Install isn't measured in hours or minutes but days, on Amber's 350 MHz Dell. This article is intended as both a mini review of Gentoo and chronicle of the installation process.

Why Gentoo?

I believe I first installed Debian in early '99 (Martin?). I've used Debian exclusively at home since and used Red Hat and SuSe at work and school respectively. Debian's a great distro and I recommend it to everyone. They keep working on the installer and eventually they'll get it right. Debian's package management tools, apt-get and dpkg, are excellent. Over time, however, I have grown dissatisfied with Debian. The advent of the testing version of Debian alleviated this somewhat, but not altogether.

My desire to use exim 4 for SpamAssassin was the final breaking point. The current stable package for exim was, at the time, exim 3. In fact, so was the current testing package. However, exim 4 had been out for months and was routinely used by every other distro. Users desperately seeking the functionality of 4 had even rolled their own .debs and mailed them to the package maintainer, to no avail.

This is not an isolated case. I upgraded my machine from potato to woody when I tried to install the latest version of FreeCiv, because the library version of FreeCiv required something different from what was in stable at the time.

Gentoo is a source-based distro, which means you as user have the option to compile your whole system from source. Needless to say, this takes a few days, depending on the speed of your machine and the amount of software you want to install. If you've ever confused the hell out of apt-get, wanted some feature that could be only installed at compile time, or are desperate to know exactly what commands you type to install Linux, Gentoo might be for you, too.

The Gentoo Installer

There is none, not as such. Gentoo, like Debian, is generally installed from a small bootstrap system which downloads and installs the real system from the Internet. Unlike Debian, Gentoo has no installer program which prompts you to configure things. Gentoo presents the user with a root prompt and says, "Good luck." If the idea of installing your OS by hand doesn't sit well with you, don't install Gentoo.

I, fortunately, have 2.5 more computers than the one being wiped and installed. Otherwise, I'd be in serious trouble already, as I ran out of printer paper before I finished printing the installation instructions. Last night I bootstrapped my system from a stage1 tarball. This morning I told it to emerge world. Tonight or tomorrow I'll compile my kernel.

I used the Gentoo basic LiveCD. It autodetected all my hardware and net connection. I picked ReiserFS because I wanted a journaling file system and the install instructions recommended ReiserFS over ext3. With my longtime familiarity with the crappy Debian install process, I can tell what the install instructions are telling me to do. The old Debian boot-floppies was nothing more than a prompt to run all the commands Gentoo wants you to run. (I haven't tried the new debian-installer.)

So far, so good.
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Postby Peijen » Mon Aug 11, 2003 5:02 pm

It took me three days to install gentoo on my laptop senior year. then I couldn't get the windows emulator to work so I deleted it.
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Postby Jonathan » Tue Oct 07, 2003 8:49 pm

Installing Gentoo from a stage1 tarball is a waste of your time. Use the Gentoo Reference Platform and you'll be happier. In retrospect, I should have used the GRP as well.

I still haven't done much with this box. There is a linux-wlan-ng ebuild in Gentoo already, so I don't need to download it or configure it manually, which is nice. (Debian has a debian package for linux-wlan-ng as well.) I need to get around to configuring the WLAN so I can use this box for good instead of evil.
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Postby Jonathan » Mon Oct 13, 2003 8:23 pm

Still not actively using this box, though I made another attempt this weekend. The linux-wlan-ng ebuild has been Gentoo-ized, as it should be. However, this completely changes the installation procedure as detailed in the README for the package, and nowhere can I find installation directions for Gentoo or a concise list of what's different. Eventually I gleaned what I needed from assorted Gentoo docs, poked around /etc until I changed what needed to be changed, and got the driver some kind of installed. In the end, this was not difficult: I had to edit a file to tell it what my SSID and WEP key are, run "rc-update add wlan default", and then reboot my machine. This probably about what I'd have to do with Debian, though Debian may very well have a configuration script built into the package.

The net result of all this is that I get blinking lights on my adapter, but I can't ping anything. I'm pretty sure the driver is getting loaded correctly. My best guess as of this morning is that I just need to tell dhcpcd about the wlan0 interface and everything will be peachy. We shall see.

The main stumbling point is this collection of Gentoo-isms that I need to learn, like /etc/init.d and rc-update. Granted, there's plenty of Debian-isms that one has to learn, too, only I know a lot of those already.

If I ever get this working, then I'll set up port forwarding to my Windows box, eliminating the need for another wireless adapter, configure my router to forward SSH connections to this box, and install Samba.

At this point, my impression of Gentoo is that it is a quality distro that has a very small target audience. If you're doing a first time installation, you want Redhat more than likely. If you want an easier to administrate box, pick Debian. If you have Debian, there's probably no reason to switch to Gentoo unless there's something about portage that you really need. Perhaps if you have a Slackware or from-scratch installation, you should consider moving to Gentoo.
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Postby Jonathan » Mon Oct 13, 2003 8:29 pm

A small caveat: With the release of SSE2, Intel has provided a more or less fully featured replacement for the x87 FP stack. Using scalar SSE2 instructions is a lot faster than using x87 instructions. So, if you have an SSE2 processor and you have source and the source is floating-point intensive and performance is an issue, then maybe Gentoo is a good idea for you.

I'm not expecting some kind of miraculous speedup from my -march=pentium2, however.
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Postby quantus » Mon Oct 13, 2003 11:11 pm

Dwindlehop wrote:A small caveat: With the release of SSE2, Intel has provided a more or less fully featured replacement for the x87 FP stack. Using scalar SSE2 instructions is a lot faster than using x87 instructions. So, if you have an SSE2 processor and you have source and the source is floating-point intensive and performance is an issue, then maybe Gentoo is a good idea for you.

I'm not expecting some kind of miraculous speedup from my -march=pentium2, however.


Isn't SSE2 SIMD? This wouldn't really help my tight loop that's just multiplying itself by 1.1 repeatedly...
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Postby Jonathan » Mon Oct 13, 2003 11:19 pm

quantus wrote:
Dwindlehop wrote:A small caveat: With the release of SSE2, Intel has provided a more or less fully featured replacement for the x87 FP stack. Using scalar SSE2 instructions is a lot faster than using x87 instructions. So, if you have an SSE2 processor and you have source and the source is floating-point intensive and performance is an issue, then maybe Gentoo is a good idea for you.

I'm not expecting some kind of miraculous speedup from my -march=pentium2, however.


Isn't SSE2 SIMD? This wouldn't really help my tight loop that's just multiplying itself by 1.1 repeatedly...

For some reason the media focus for SSE2 has been on the SIMD capabilities. However, it's plenty capable of doing scalar floating point calculations. It's the preferred method of doing floating point calculation on P4 architecture machines because it doesn't generate lots of crap fmulp ops and whatnot; the ucode for it is optimized because it's all register-register operations and not this stack crap, among other things; it handles denormal situations and other kinds of assists better, which is one of the major glass jaws in the P4 architecture. When you see someone ranting about a factor of 4 speedup on Athlon versus P4, it's because his code has a lot of divide-by-zeros or something, so he hits these fp assists big time.
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Postby quantus » Mon Oct 13, 2003 11:31 pm

So basically, the long pipeline in the P4 hates having to recover as we've all known forever and ever. People still haven't got a clue that if something hurts, DON'T DO THAT!
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Postby Jonathan » Mon Oct 13, 2003 11:33 pm

quantus wrote:So basically, the long pipeline in the P4 hates having to recover as we've all known forever and ever. People still haven't got a clue that if something hurts, DON'T DO THAT!

Yep, that's the short version.
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Postby Jonathan » Tue Oct 14, 2003 12:55 am

Success! Suprisingly, my Speedstream USB Wireless Network Adapter worked without really any trouble at all. Had I known the right steps to begin with, all I had to do was:
Set "usb" as one of my USE flags. I did this without having to futz with it, amazingly enough.
emerge linux-wlan-ng. I also managed to do this without too much trouble.
cp wlanctl-ng-DEFAULT wlanctl-ng-xanadu; vim wlanctl-ng-xanadu. This took forever to figure out. They really hid this file.
rc-update add wlan default. Also took forever to figure out. I tried to doing all this modprobe shiznit which was completely unnecessary.
Reboot. Also could have reloaded the init scripts, but whatever.
dhcpcd wlan0. Boom, baby.

All in all, not too shabby.
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Postby Jonathan » Sun Oct 19, 2003 8:43 pm

gcc apparently doesn't support SSE2 extensions at this time. So the above point is invalid.
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Postby Jonathan » Mon Oct 20, 2003 8:07 pm

Doing anything new with a Gentoo box is slow. I'm setting up cups and samba so I can use this box as a printer server. I have to install libxml2, a jpeg and tiff library, foomatic, and lord knows what other packages in order to get everything set. Compiling all these packages took most of Sunday afternoon, of course. I'm strongly considering installing Genius on this machine, since Intel's RH7 installation doesn't have GTK >= 2.0. However, I cringe at the thought of compiling X from scratch on this machine. This is a necessary dependency for Genius, though.
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Postby Peijen » Mon Oct 20, 2003 8:18 pm

hehehe, good luck

I am temped to install Gentoo on my dad's computer since he is not here to use it.
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Postby Jonathan » Thu Oct 23, 2003 6:51 pm

I have installed cups and samba and attempted to set both up. Samba is actually working well. From Amber's laptop, I can view the Linux box's shares and attempt to connect to the printer. However, I can't actually connect to the printer. This appears to be due to the fact that I haven't set up cups and the whole printing toolchain correctly.

These problems have probably more to do with the fact that I've never actually tried to set up a printer on a Linux machine before now than with Gentoo itself. I do think another distro could probably automate this to the point where I wouldn't have to think about it, really, but I am learning more, which was one of the points of this whole enterprise.
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Postby Peijen » Sat Oct 25, 2003 6:52 pm

seeing how is is the installation journal

stage 1 starts at 1:20 pm local time here. Preparation time not included.

stage 2 starts at 6:16 pm local time
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Postby Peijen » Mon Dec 15, 2003 7:36 pm

hehe, I forgot about this thing completely. I have just finish setting up the bare bone system. it's has xfce4 wm and uses firebird. any suggestion for useful cool apps?
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Postby Jonathan » Mon Dec 15, 2003 8:16 pm

I used my Linux box as a firewall/router for a number of months. Look at the ipchains howto or install a wizard script and go to town.

I'm currently running SETI@home on my Gentoo box. emerge setiathome.

I've been meaning to learn more about Python, since I hear lots of good things about that. However, my group is moving towards Ruby as a Perl substitute, so I don't really know how that works out.

I recommend Mozilla Mail, Enigmail, and GPG for all your encryption needs. I hear Thunderbird is still immature.

eMule is good. So is Freenet!

Gaim is all I use. I've started to use OpenOffice.org at work on my Windows 2000 laptop. So far, no issues, though for really work-critical formatting I open up Word and Excel.
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Postby Peijen » Tue Dec 16, 2003 1:45 pm

how do I tell the computer to use firebird as the default browser. some programs try to use mozilla whenever it opens html files.

and I couldn't find the option to tell firebird to open new pages in new tab instead of new browser
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Postby quantus » Tue Dec 16, 2003 3:53 pm

Dwindlehop wrote:Look at the ipchains howto or install a wizard script and go to town.

mmm, I had fun playing with ipchains a while ago.
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Postby Jonathan » Tue Dec 16, 2003 3:56 pm

Dunno about Firebird. I'm waiting for a 0.9 release or greater, so I haven't used it yet.
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