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Distro-Hopping from Arch to Gentoo

This past weekend (starting on a Thursday) I decided to scrap my Arch install and install Gentoo. I suppose you could say I fell for the old 4chan meme.

Distro-hopping History

~2005 Ubuntu Installed on old laptop from a disc I got in a PC Magazine. Smashed the wifi card into the motherboard and that was the end of that install
2010 Ubuntu On Macbook. This is how I learned to program in a Linux environment
2012 Crunchbang Deleted Windows for a bit to learn Linux better
2013 Arch Started "ricing" on the Macbook
2019 Manjaro KDE + Linux Gaming (daily driving Linux)
2020 PopOS Searching for better desktop/Nvidia experience
2021-2024 Arch/Artix Using Ubuntu full-time at work
Apr 2024 Gentoo

Arch has probably been the best distro I've experienced. I don't really need to explain all its benefits since they have all been answered elsewhere online. For me it was a great balance between customization, productivity and minimalism.


Thanks to the System Crafter's IRC channel, when everyone was discussing distros to try or ones that they use, I began contemplating (again) what my perfect distro would be.

The answer that I always land on is not Gentoo -- it's a BSD. After some time experimenting with FreeBSD, I really enjoyed the ecosystem and documentation that they had. It does come with a few quirks that I can't come to terms with, like having to use Linux emulation for some programs. It always seems possible to use it full-time but then a program sneaks up on you that only works under Linux. Perhaps once my Nvidia hardware dies then I will try out FreeBSD or OpenBSD again.

So, for GNU/Linux distributions, it came down to Artix vs Void vs Gentoo. Switching to Artix, something I've done before, would be trivial.

I spent a day looking into Void and experimenting in a VM, but I didn't really find it to be any better than Arch/Artix or have something beneficial that it could sell me. Unless the system has something drastically different to offer, like Nix/Guix (and I don't need extreme reproducibility), then it just seems not worth the time investment.

Gentoo Linux

Gentoo seems to tick a lot of boxes for me:

At first, I was intimidated and irritated at the complexity, but the more I read the more I was convinced this is a great distro. Things started to make sense and I was actually learning and re-learning more about a GNU/Linux system under the hood.

It only took me a couple days (without full attention) to get up and running back to where I was with Arch. I utilized a few binary packages for large, compile intensive programs, like Firefox and a kernel.

Compiling everything might deter a lot of people, but for me it is a way to be conscious of what I am installing and how to maintain a system that isn't full of random packages. If I see that the dependency list of a package is much too large, I'll reconsider using that package and look for an alternative. It was annoying when I wanted to install shellcheck and saw how many Haskell dependencies it uses. I ended up installing the binary for it, which I was thankful existed.

I still need some time to adjust to the utilities for maintaining a Gentoo system, so I can't really speak about much more yet.

Will I Hop Again?

Like a lot of people, I tend to go through tech phases. Eventually, I may just get tired of compiling stuff, especially if the time comes when I don't have a separate PC for work and have to quickly install some tools to be productive.

As I said before, I'd still like to try to work towards daily driving a BSD. There is also the possibility of looking for an even more hardcore Linux distro like LFS in order to really learn a system in and out. I could even take a completely different direction and install Debian and then manually compile fresh versions of programs that I frequently use.