Gentoo, AMD64

As my harddrive died a few days ago, I’ve been toying around with Linux distributions on my Athlon64 machine. Your mileage may vary, and I’ve run through numerous installations of Gentoo on x86-64 before. However, when I went to install it on my desktop today, the kernel I compiled didn’t boot. When I rebooted, my partition table was zeroed and I had to use gpart to recover it (using the excellent Knoppix).

Looks like I’ll be sticking with Debian for x86-64. I’ve gotten sick of trying to maintain Gentoo on my server (wichita.tcwonline.org, which hosts SourceMod and AMX Mod X) and have sorely missed a dependable package management system. Eventually, when Sarge is released, I will be moving Wichita to Debian 4.0.

So, I’ve also installed a 32bit distro for beta testing, called Xandros. It’s actually quite a nifty package.

The idea behind Xandros is that the OS should be – gasp – user friendly! I know, I know, in the world of Open Source this is virtually unheard of. Xandros makes a considerable and valiant effort, and in my opinion, is one of the best desktop distros of Linux I’ve ever used.

1. The installation was a breeze. Instead of confusing the user with a myriad of options, it kept everything simple. Instead of letting the user choose between eight different (and bad) incomprehensible window managers, it simply uses KDE for everything. Instead of asking which media players the user wants (such as mplayer, xine, xmms, noatun, etc), it simply has an option for “Media Player”. While some users might find this restrictive, I think it’s wonderful. This is how a distribution should be – not a conglomeration of random packages, but a set of packages that work together. The 1CD install’s most difficult portion was configuring the partitions.

2. The bootloader was well done. Other distros have border-line tolerable bootloader displays. While I’m no LILO fan, Xandros makes pretty usage of it and the boot-up process looks very similar to Windows XP. Familiarity is key when making something for migration.

3. The login process and window manager weren’t plastered with random, unnecessary things. Again, this is similar to Windows – a very simple login box.

4. The package management system is apt. For those of you unfamiliar, apt is the packagement system Debian uses. No other Linux distro has done something comparable, as far as I’ve seen. While Xandros doesn’t have a lot of packages in its apt repository yet, it has huge potential.

5. It felt fast. A default install of Fedora Core 3 on a 2.4GHz machine makes me feel like I’m using Windows 2000 on a 800MHz Celeron. Xandros felt very lightweight. This, of course, is completely anecdotal.

6. Aside from a few framebuffer problems, it just worked. Out of the box, it detected all of my drivers and everything. This is light years ahead of Mandrake, which, get this – didn’t detect my CD ROM drive from its own installer. I am not kidding – the installer said “Could not detect CD ROM drive”. I was able to install it by forcing the CD to use kernel 2.4. However, kernel 2.4 did not support my network card, so when Mandrake finally finished its six CD install, I decided to upgrade the kernel using Mandrake’s own GUI. After selecting the 2.6.9 kernel off the CD and installing it through the package manager, my Mandrake install never booted again. Not even when using the older kernel.

This was a boxed copy of Mandrake 10.0 “Power Pack”.

The only three distributions I can honestly say have impressed me are Debian, Xandros, and Knoppix (note the latter two are based on Debian, and both use KDE).

Next on my list of “Distributions to try” are Yoper and Ubuntu, but as the past few days have been a disaster with regards to my using computers without breaking them, I’m not too eager to start installing operating systems.

3 Responses to “Gentoo, AMD64”

  1. PM says:

    It’s all your roommate’s fault…

  2. BAILOPAN says:

    Well, he _is the one who recommended Gentoo ;] but he also had the Knoppix CD and knew about gpart.

  3. a10waveracer says:

    Tried slackware yet? I use it and absolutely love it, provided you use swaret to get packages. If you have a few hours, try it.

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