Wednesday, February 04, 2004

No posts for the last few days because I've been mucking around trying to get Gentoo Linux working on my spare PIII-800 box.

Now I'll confess that I am bit of a Linux newbie, I did install a version of SuSE on an older P2-233 machine a few years ago, but with limited success - the internet connection worked for a bit and then gave up the ghost - and I ended up reinstalling windows and selling the machine. I do have a limited knowledge of basic Unix commands from a combination of mucking around at University on the SunOS system and auditing various Unix systems for security in previous role. (Mostly AIX, HP-UX.)

So the idea of compiling a linux distro from scratch was a little daunting - but I felt like a challenge.

In the end, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. Their installation guides are great, the LiveCD detected my network immediately and grabbed itself an address from the DHCP server - and after that it was a case of following the instructions. I went for a stage 2 install - which avoids some configuration, but still allows a fair bit.

The kernel compilation was surprisingly easy, the menuconfig system is quite intuitive, and the installation guide helpfully points out must haves. One point I'll make here, it does say it in the install guide but I missed it, make sure you add you network card drivers in. I'd recommend adding them as a module, rather than built in to the kernel though - as I couldn't get my 3com card to work from the kernel, but once I installed it as a module it seemed to work great. The Gentoo site forums were invaluable - I didn't need to post myself, since the search facility is superb, but they were where I found the solution to my network card problems.

I've had to recompile the kernel three times so far (twice relating to network card, and once relating to some MTRR thing that my NVidia graphics card wanted) - and its pretty painless in Gentoo.

One thing to consider is that whilst the installation is intuitive, and the portage package manager is great, the initial emerge system command (that compiles the core system) takes ages - and I mean 12 hours or more and the emerge (kde or gnome) command for the X-Window manager takes a day. Obviously these times will vary considerably if you are using a faster system.

Anyway - its still compiling kde at the moment - so hopefully when I get home it will be working.. :-)

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