Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

SL: further explorations

Operating Systems have a limited life span on my boxes. I can easily use the Microsoft trail DVD’s with their 3 to 6 months of duration. Most of the time the installation won’t last that long. For my writing I install and remove software so often and so quickly that Windows gets corrupted soon enough. So, I also know how long it takes to get a clean system again. About an hour to an hour and a half for Windows XP, another hour to get the security software installed and 30 minutes for Office software. I used to work with images, but even after six months they are already too old and outdated. Already for that reason it is great to work with Linux. You create a separation partition for /home and you can install a completely fresh operating system in 30 minutes (Ubuntu), an hour (Sabayon) or two hours (Suse and Fedora Core). The good thing is that most of the software I could ever contemplate writing about is either installed or easily accessible through the package managers. The bad thing? It’s boring. Installation might have it’s challenges and you may have to tweak here and there. But after that the operating system you have is running like a clock. And you can simply use the applications.

Sabayon Linux is no exception. At least not for me. All three major office packages are installed, Openoffice.org, KOffice and Gnome Office (Abiword, Gnumeric). Of course, I could complain about the fact that KOfice and Gnome Office are perfectly in Dutch and OpenOffice.org isn’t, but that is something that can easily be fixed. Right? Through the package manager of course. In mean time Abiword crashed while closing down, so it is an opportunity to send in a bug report.

SL is Gentoo-based meaning that it uses portage as package manager. Personally I like apt-get/aptitude/synaptic a lot. I love the way all dependency issues are resolved. Portage I don’t know. I read up on Gentoo a while ago and recoiled because of all the available install options. That’s what you get with a key philosophy that you compile everything for your own box. I remember reading in a forum that someone asked whether 10 hours for compiling KDE was okay. It was apparently and it made me wonder whether the speed gain in day to day use was enough to spend that much time on installing. Considering the average life span mentioned before the answer was no in my case. Now that I have a Gentoo-based Linux I can take a closer look at the portage system. And Kuroo is my friend here.

Kuroo is conveniently placed on the desktop and is a graphical frontend to portage, much as synaptic is a fronted to apt-get. When you start it up the first time it wants to synchonize the portage tree and it is definitely a good idea to run that one. It takes some time and I really would have liked a progress bar here. After that I stuck with the default but checking the Configure screen revealed the strength of the portage system. Not for the noobs, but for the experienced users. In CHOST you can select your processor so that is compiled against it. This you won’t find in many other mainstream distributions. Selection a package for installation is as simple as browsing the categories and subcategories or typing the letters of the package in the search field. It updates as you type. When you have found your package, click the right mouse button which reveals three options: add to queu, details and add to world. Add to queu puts the package in the queu for installation. Under details you can see which versions of the package are available and select the one you like. When already installed, you see a fourth option: uninstall. After you have selected all that you wanted you move to the queu tab, press the Check Installation button and Start Installation after that. The log tab will keep you updated on what is happening.

Installing new software is time consuming. Even small packages take their time, a much longer time that packages installed under Synaptic. Most likely this is due to the compiling of those packages. It’s not really a problem. Just something you should know. Is everything you want in there? A bit hard to tell. The portage tree “only” show 11508 packages with slightly over 15% installed already. The Debian repositories are a bit larger, but you would really need to have very specific packages that it can’t be found in the portage tree. Kuroo and Portage are definitely a team you could get used to. It’s at least on a par with Synaptic/Apt-get, but it has some neat extra options. Options that could -no doubt- destabilize your system. Now there’s a challenge.

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