How not to Gentoo

February 27th, 2005

It’s been some time since my last posting here. I’ll give you a minute to think up an excuse on my behalf. Here are some to get you started: was travelling, was working, was trapped in a Faraday cage with no radio communication with the outside world possible!

The SuSE 9.1 install on my trusty IBM Thinkpad R40 has been showing signs of aging. There has been too many rpms obtained from too many different sources, there’s been too many self-compiled installs and frankly, it’s been too long on my system now! It’s time for a change!

With those thoughts, I set about the business of updating my system. First instinct was to just go with SuSE 9.2 and enjoy the professional, polished and updated version of Linux that I’ve come to love. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch hold of a DVD writer to burn the iso image that SuSE provides. No problems, we’ll do a network install after booting off a mini-iso.

So I head to my apartment mate’s room and demand the SuSE 9.2 CD he used not more than a week ago. ‘It’s at work,’ he said. ‘Damn!’ I said, ‘What else’ve you got?’ ‘A Gentoo Live CD,’ he said without thinking.

We looked at each other. Neither of us had so far dared to tread the path that Gentoo preaches. But he had said it now and there was no taking those words back. Gentoo it would be.

So we downloaded the install guide, yanked the wireless router off, connected the cable modem to the laptop and booted from the CD.

A brief note of congratulations is in order her for the Gentoo folks who’ve created some very excellent documentation. We followed the guide and formatted the partitions without pain. Having decided to go the Gentoo way, we decided to go the whole way and started with a stage 1 tarball. An emerge --sync followed by an emerge system and the machine was happily chugging away baking the best of open source goodness.

82 packages to go at 4 in the morning. It was time to sleep.

10:28 am. Build stopped because gcc can’t create an executable.

What the #*$@!

How the hell did it build those 50 odd packages before coming up with this error? Some googling later, I find out that my build toolchain probably broke itself in the process of building itself. Confused? Gentoo is full of circular logic fun!

Some folks opined that stage 1 installs are prone to breakages due to circular dependencies. One suggestion was to downgrade gcc and bootstrap again. Another was to go with a stage 3 install. But having come this far, I didn’t want to do a stage3! I wanted my full fix - full optimizations! Especially the -march=pentium-m part from GCC 3.4!

Then I came across this rather elaborate Stage 1 NPTL on a Stage 3 Tarball guide.

… we need to pause for a moment and think about what we’ve done. We’ve just used GCC 3.3.4 and a toolchain built with GCC 3.3.4 to compile GCC 3.4.3. Before we spend any more time building our Gentoo system we should rebuild the entire toolchain, re-compiling it so that we have GCC 3.4.3 that was built with GCC 3.4.3. … The result will be a 3.4.3 tooklit, compiled by a 3.4.3 toolkit that was built with a 3.3.4 toolkit. Clear as mud?

If that didn’t set me thinking, thoughts of having to configure udev, hotplug, powersave and everything else by myself, most certainly stopped me in my tracks! I am too lazy for all that!

Gentoo is certainly a no go. And I can’t go back to SuSE 9.2 now ‘cos I am hooked on to the idea of compiling KDE 3.4 with gcc 3.4 with -march=pentium-m! Time to consider something else.

I looked around and found that Mandrake’s upcoming 10.2 release has everything that I need: kernel 2.6.10 and gcc 3.4! So off I go to my local mirror and download and burn a mini-iso.

Boot the system and start the install. Click, click, click till I reach partitioning setup. I configure everything with the flair of a seasoned pro.

“No hdlist found”


Turns out, my local mirror is half-way through a 10.2beta2 -> 10.2beta3 sync. And this Mandrake boot CD I just made won’t work with 10.2beta3 found on other mirrors. Now I won’t give in and just burn another CD from an updated mirror ‘cos I am cheap like that ;-)

So here I am. Waiting for a Mandrake 10.2 Beta 2 CD 1 iso image to download so I can extract it’s contents and install from the hard-disk.

And posting my travails from XP because there’s no Linux on my laptop any more!

9 Comments to “How not to Gentoo”

  1. Deepak Jois said:

    Sad to hear that your install went that way, but well that is kind of expected.

    Most of the time , I get a very precise answers to build failures and such in the forums. Another option is to be on IRC while doing stuff, has saved my ass more than one time.

    Maybe stage1 right in the beginning was a bad idea, not in the least because of your intention to optimise like crazy, but simply because of your laziness :p.

    Another thing I usually do is use stage3 and then do an emerge -uD world, which basically allows you to get a working system first before you start doing crazy stuff.

  2. antrix said:

    I guess the adage, ‘look before you leap’ holds very true for gentoo ;-)

    Lesson learner - aka how not to gentoo - don’t try it without adequate research and time!

  3. Attila Nagy said:

    I recommend you to forget Linux and use FreeBSD :)

  4. antrix said:

    Thanks for the suggestion. It’s unlikely to happen though. Two reasons: 1) Lack of time and 2) more importantly, I disagree philosophically with the BSD license.

  5. reisio said:

    Yes, that forum post for stage 1 nptl from stage 3 tarball is rather a mess, isn’t it? The notions it spawned from are simple enough, though.

    What you want to do is a stage3 install - the quickest, simplest, safest one. It should not give you any problems.

    Afterwards, If you want NPTL (and you should), follow this guide: .

    If you want to make sure your system is uber-built just how you want it, all you need to do is configure everything properly (/etc/make.conf, etc), then rebuild it (emerge -e system, etc).

    You’ll then have a stage1 nptl from a stage3 tarball, without having to decipher some guy’s forum guide filled with bloat.

    I hope you try it. :)

  6. antrix said:

    Hey thanks for that tip! My system is on the edge of a break-down with the tinkering I’ve been doing these past few weeks. When it completely crashes, I’ll give Gentoo another shot. :-)

  7. ROhan Kini said:

    Awww .. come on guys ..
    Give gentoo on more try.

    I am currently installing Gentoo, I have 2.6.11 and KDE 3.4 …. and its beautiful

    I tried the Stage 1 install and did a veryyyy basic KDE install. Found 3.4 to be extremely fast. Maybe cause I have a very basic system.

    But still. Try once again. Cause Gentoo absoultely rocks !!!!

  8. cm3l1k1 said:

    hey man… U R lame!!

  9. h3lios said:


    just one thing i always wanted to say:

    gentoo is a wonderful distributon, because it gives users a chance to look behind things and get somethig like an idea from the idea, how linux realy works. maybe you will ask: why are you doing all this the hard way if you can get it so easy with suse ? i think this is not realy about like
    compiling things like vi or ed too your architecture, but about to get a little bit nearer to the ‘from scratch idea’ , that is the fascinating thought about linux at all.