Fun with gentoo linux.

See, today – more precisely yesterday night, while I should have been sleeping – the idea crawled into my head that I should setup a gentoo linux station at work.


  1. The server we’re getting setup for our soon-to-be-released product/service runs on gentoo linux, for starters.
  2. I never successfully set up a Linux box, and its an experience that leaves a gaping hole in my life.
  3. I want to run some of our webpages againsts safari, I don’t have a recent bleedin’ mac and I’ve heard safari runs on KHTML for its rendering, which Konqueror uses, which Windows can’t run.

So see, the perfect excuses.

Never mind that I have so much stuff to do I actually have to schedule time for my lungs to actually suck air through my facial holes.

So yeah, I’m green at this, but I’m far from stupid, so I figure I should be able to get this running, right?

After all, if there are some people writing articles like this about how friendly Linux is, should be no problem.

Some people need to take the stupid red pill and smell the real smell of the end user (and I’m not talking about the proveribal they – not the guy who wrote the previous article. I don’t care what pills he takes, really. It’s his own business – I’m talking about the ‘they’ that compares setting up a Windows end-user desktop with setting up any flava’ of ux.)

I’ve heard (and almost witnessed) that Red Hat is easier to setup than gentoo, but, for christ sake, let’s not compare apples and oranges. But I digress. I’ll expand on my thoughts about software communism, software capitalism, its followers and all that jazz some other time.

I’ve had a blast starting to set up gentoo (cuz I ain’t done. heck no.) I love this hard core techie stuff.

There were two blunders worth noting during my day of setup – during which I was able to actually get some work done. I mean, recompiling a kernel under an old celereon 400mhz processor is not exactly something you sit in front of with a bag of popcorn, expecting to be entertained.

First think that got me and most of my community of open-source lover friends bogged was that the boot CD – that actually booted from the CD – did not detect my CD, my hard drive or anything else for that matter.

Now, its an old computer, so I figure, ok… that’s possible. BUT YOU JUST BOOTED FROM THE DANG CD!! Why can’t you detect it!!

Well, screaming at it didn’t work. So I messengered a few friends who told me run this piece of code, run that piece of code, execute this or that program.

Most of the commands they wanted me to run were just not there. Which got them kinda screwed.

But I had a nagging suspicion about the CD not being detected. I figured I was most likely on a ram drive – which can’t be big, the fraggin’ machine only has 128 megs of ram. So, if the CD was not detected, maybe the drivers for the HD could not be read (and all these nifty alien commands my friends got me to try and execute).

Maybe I’ve got an old CD. (but you freakin’ booted from the CD, you moron! It’s there! I see it!!!). Eventually, someone mentionned that maybe, since my CD was an old creative lab ATAPI drive, that I needed some kind of special cd-rom driver or package or something.

Well, fine.

After some arguing and some browsing, I saw somewhere someone mentionning to go and try to add a kernel parameter command when you boot from the CD.


Why not? It’s better than kicking a wall, or trying to bite your own forehead off, no?

Maybe I should get this stupid parameter tatooed. Or just plain fraggin’ mentionned somewhere in the doc. That’d be nice and would mutilate me less.

So, the CD got detected and – lo and behold – so was the hard drives and stuff.

The rest of the procedure ran as expected – I was following a walkthrough (if you have no fun playing the game, you can always resort to cheating) to get it done as fast as possible. After all, I don’t care too much about knowing how to tweak a kernel and optimize a network or whatever. I just want to get the damn server working. I’ll hire real pros for the hard stuff.

So, I finished the basic config, which was so intuitive and user friendly, my dad could’ve done it. That’s sacrasm.

If I had given this to my dad and said – “hey, dude, that’s an easy-to use OS! Install it on your system and tell me what you think!”, there’s only one thing that could’ve happened.

I would’ve seen my father cry… for, like the second time in about 30 years of existance. (I did the same thing with a windows 95 setup CD, though, and he barely had to ask me for help.)

Anyway, who cares. These kind of setups are not for the same kind of end users. Lets move on to blunder #2.

That was my day-ender, really.

I had to go and forget to set the stupid root password.

How stupid can you be? (How hard could it be to fucking ask to set it during the normal setup process? Oh, wait, I forgot – there’s no such thing :P)

It was a few hours of pleasure, trying to get a root password set in. I forgot the commands, but I have it at work somewhere.

Basically, I had to boot back from the CD and redo a mounting of my hard drives onto /mnt/gentoo, /mnt/gentoo/swap and /mnt/gentoo/proc or something like that.

Then, I could chroot into my almost-completely set system, from where I could change the root password.

Well, if worked! But I forgot to set a stupid DHCP client and so the station was not connected to the Internet (which was my goal) and I thus cannot access it remotely.

Still, it was fun. I love puzzles. But it takes training to actually understand most of what I did in there. I suppose after you did a few setups in the same week, it starts to look rather easy. But it’s not.

I follows a rule of software design that cannot be circumvented.

More flexibility == less clarity

You can streamline flexibility up to a certain point of elegance, of course. But ultimate elegance and clarity usually means less options.

5 thoughts on “Fun with gentoo linux.

  1. ‘Almost’ normal for the CDRom.. The OS doesn’t load itself: the bios bootstraps the contents of the CD..

    You just had a smarter BIOS than kernel 😀

    I’m not terribly surprised – while Creative CDs were really common back then (still easy to find) I could see dropping most support to save a few Ks here and there nowadays 🙂

    New drives use DMA for high transfert rates.. guess its questionable if it’s really a good thing to _assume_ you can use it on new kernels. oh well.

  2. Though the Safari project began with the KHTML codebase, as time passes the projects are more and more distinct so keep that in mind.

    As personal experience, strict HTML/CSS/Scripting renders really alike in Firefox/Opera/KHTML, tweaks are usually needed only to flatten out the slight differences in the default stylesheet of each of them.

    The biggest problem with Safari right now is compatibility with proprietary MSIE hacks (like the awful document.all); Firefox and Opera show better support for this crap. In 1995, when a site didn’t render correctly, it was a designer’s mistake; now in 2005, it’s the browsers’ fault 🙂

  3. Dang! Well, I’m not about to buy a Mac just to test out some pages in Safari… Let’s just all hope that Konqueror will have the same ‘display bug’ that the one I had reported in Safari.

    I see the “who’se fault is it” thingie to be the other way around, nowadays. If you stick to proper, not-too-modern design, it’ll be the designer’s fault if it wasn’t working. Back in ’95, it was just Netscape’s fault if you were developping and testing mainly on IE – or IE’s fault if you tested mainly on Netscape. Multiply that times two if you tried to cross OS as well… Sigh. The bad, old, rotten days of cross-browser design. A whole lot easier nowadays!!

  4. Wow…gentoo…your a gentoo master?…lol…Why dont you just fire up PC Linux and install it on your harddrive then go fishing lol…ya…zirrrr

  5. LOL! I’m no gentoo master! I’m manage rather well, though…

    I am aware that I probably chose the hardest to use distribution, though 🙂

    But gentoo is the distribution that is used in our production servers, so I figured that I rather learn to use the same distro that I’ll work with…

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