Ok, so you're an open source convert, you've tried Knoppix, you've installed red hat, maybe you've even tried some other flavors? Well, you're on your way to true geek-ness, but you are no geek, until you've mastered the art of installing Gentoo Linux.
Before I tell you about Gentoo and me, I'd like to mention how I first heard about Gentoo and then I'll tell you why I love it so much. I first heard of Gentoo a few years ago, I was taking a C programming with a really fun teacher at my local community college. I was taken aback in this class by the seemingly huge differences in the ability of the programmers in the class. All year long I tutored other students during my spare lab time, debugging their shitty code, and producing some quality code that really just confused the shit outta most of my class mates.
One of my classmates seemed different from the rest. At first glance I could tell that he marched to the beat of a different drum. He rarely went to lab, only lecture, so I asked him why. He told me that, he doesn't use windows, and he prefers to work on his laptop running Gentoo. One day he explained to me that his choice to run Gentoo was one of a philosophical choice. I didn't understand, and unfortunately, I never tried Gentoo either.
Until now that is. I setup Debian on a PowerPC last month. I was reasonably impressed, but I didn't like dselect very much, and it seemed like there was just WAY TOO many options. I surfed around to check out some other the other Debian based distros. When I was at the Gentoo site, I read their philosophy. I immediately remembered my good friend from my C class, and the rest is history.
I liked the Gentoo philosophy so much, that I decided to install Gentoo on one of my machines. I selected a poor neglected 300 MHz machine that used to be my router, before I upgraded. I downloaded and burnt the bootable LiveCD version of Gentoo, placed a CD drive in my 300, and rebooted. I was awe struck by the sexy console screen. Ok, so I like it so far. It boots up fine and I get to bash. Ok, now I'm ready to start the install. I surfed over to gentoo.org again, clicked on docs and found the Gentoo installation handbook. I also found the Gentoo Quick Install Reference really handy.
Ok, so this is where it gets exciting. To my surprise, there is no gui. That's ok, I like text. I dig a little deeper, wow. There's not even an installer really. Ok, so before you get scared away, know this. The Gentoo installation process is simple. Once you've done it once or twice, it really becomes second nature. Every other version of Linux I've used tries to obfuscate or hide the true process that is happening when you install. In Gentoo, you get your hands dirty and dig right into the system. You format the drives your self, you create file systems, you compile the kernel yourself. Every thing you do your self. The Gentoo install was so slick, when I was done not only did I have a pretty responsive system, optimized for my hardware, I also had something much, much more tangible. I had power. I truly learned more about Linux, during the Gentoo installation, than I ever did with Mandrake, RedHat, and Debian combined. Next I'm going to do a completely different install, on my 1.7 GHz workstation. I'll let you know how it turns out.