Daily Archives: May 14, 2006

All-new but no different

Now that I have a few more hours in the day to devote to random stuff, I’ve reinstalled my server. I’ve switched from Red Hat 9 to Gentoo 2006.0, which is quite a change.

It’s been an interesting, but moderately tedious, exercise. Given the hardware involved (my old desktop PC at Tarantella, a Dell PIII 500, liberated when we got the chop) the tedium is entirely down to the long build times – Gentoo packages are almost all source-based. I naturally considered the hand-me-down approach – buy new fast PC, turn current PC into server, eject old server onto street – but given my top-secret plan to buy a Mac Mini I don’t think I should spend even more money right now. (I’d also have to reinstall all my PC apps, a special kind of hell I’m happy to avoid.)

The Gentoo Portage system is pretty amazing. I might rethink that opinion when I start hitting bugs, but today it’s working fine. Any program you want seems to be sitting there ready to be downloaded, configured, built and installed with one command (along with all its dependencies). But it’s not for newbies, and comes complete with rope and copious noose-tying instructions.

The trick now is to keep the whole thing relatively up-to-date. It’s easy to do: one command syncs your cache of the package definitions with the master list, and another command updates everything that needs updating. But it’s not something I particularly want to blindly automate. For one thing, certain config files are “protected” so the portage system doesn’t clobber your changes with its own (post-install, you run a command to merge the affected files in a semi-automated you-do-grok-diff-don’t-you kind of a way).

Anyway, enough nerdliness.

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