Getting my next Linux distribution

As of this morning, the dual celeron server box that connects my apartment to the Internet (as well as serving this very page) has an uptime of 372 days! It has been the longest uptime I've achieved for the 6 years I've been running dedicated Linux server box at home. I was quite impressed (and pleased) with the stability of my current set up, which is an up-to-dated Mandrake 9.0 running vanilla SMP kernel (2.4.19). I was quite impressed by the stability of Sydney's power grid as well, as I usually reset my uptime due to temporary lost of electricity. Finally, I think the busyness of past year also contributes to the uptime, as I did not have enough time to tinker with the system...

However, recently I have been thinking of getting my Linux distribution up to date. The 15-month-old Mandrake 9.0 is really showing its age, i.e. it does not have the latest and greatest applications. Usually it is just a matter of downloading the ISO for Mandrake 9.2, shut down the machine, pop in the freshly burnt CD into the drive, boot into upgrade mode, and then just let the RPM do the rest. However, after 4 years of running Mandrake exclusively, I am wondering whether I should continue. Mandrake 9.2 has been pretty buggy so far from the volume of its updated packages. While I actually quite enjoyed Mandrake's urpmi system, which has helped me keeping up all the security updates, but I still desire for something that is superior and elegant.

Something like BSD's port system.

Having played with FreeBSD earlier this year and tinkered with Darwinport on my iBook last month, I think I am in love with the port system. It helps to keep your distribution up to date - but not force you to do a great leap at point releases like many RPM-based distributions out there. You can just upgrade the parts you want, and the port system automatically downloaded the source package and compiled it against your current system - not against a reference system that is just different from yours!

That's where Gentoo Linux comes into the picture - a Linux distribution that is famous for its Python-based portage system that has similar philosophy as BSD's port tree. Besides having a cool cow as logo, one single emerge command can get you manage all the software packages including building, installing, packaging, etc. After reading through reviews and people's comment, it sounds like Gentoo is going to be the Linux distribution for me. Bye bye Mandrake. Welcome in, Gentoo.

Currently I planned my upgrade to the middle of January when I need to move house. I have already downloaded the 2 Live CD of Gentoo 1.4, and wanted to try to install it on some other computers to get familiar with the installation process. So far it did not boot on my Dell Inspiron 8000 if I turned on the PCMCIA scanning (doh!) but I'll persist. The idea is to minimise the downtime for this website - I will see how it goes. I might do stage3 first to reduce the compilation time to get it up and running quickly, and then gradually recompile the installed binary packages.