I was first introduced to Gentoo Linux back in April, 2003. when I was a graduate student at Indiana University – Bloomington. The Unix Student Support Group organized a LinuxFest on campus. The previous year I had been introduced to Red Hat Linux 7.3 by my GIS Instructor but I was not impressed (The Gnome Desktop just would not install on my desktop and KDE seemed a bit flaky back then). On the otherhand, the demonstration of Gentoo Linux at the LinuxFest so impressed me, I decided that when I got the chance, I wanted to install it on my computer. It reminded me of the days using the Commodore 64 or Amiga computers (It may surprise some that I used my Amiga 500 desktop until 1996 when I graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle).
I did not start using Gentoo until September, 2004, after I moved back to Seattle. My first install failed and I nearly gave up. During my second install, I got to the part of configuring XFree86 but it looked so funny, I thought I had failed again. Luckily for me, the local Linux User Group was just walking distance from where I lived and they had a meeting the very next day. Several Gentoo users were in attendance, some a bit too geeky for my tastes I might add, and I learned from them that XFree86 was supposed to look like that. Thus, I had successfully installed Gentoo Linux but since I really did not know what I was really doing at the time, I did a third install. Eventually I selected KDE to be my windows manager. Within a month, I was a full-time Linux user and I owe all this to Gentoo since it was the first distribution to actually got me interested in study Linux.
As an avid web developer, the move to Linux, via Gentoo, was a god-send. Quantas Plus turned out to be the perfect replacement for Macromedia Dreamweaver, The Gimp replaced Fireworks, and I loved secure shell since my web hosting packages, at the time, allowed me to SSH to all of my Linux accounts. I also give Gentoo credit for opening the world of XHTML and CSS to me. If I had stayed with Windows, I would never had learned how to optimize and validate all of my websites. Gentoo turned me into a avid system administrator and advanced web developer.
Unfortunately, the announcement by Daniel Robbins, the Chief Architect of Gentoo Linux of his departure in February, 2004, put the doubt of my favorite Linux distribution’s future in question. The new Board of Trustees for the Gentoo Foundation just did not seem to get their act together from the beginning. That was one of my worries when I heard that only the Gentoo Developers were allowed to become members of the Gentoo Foundation. From my long experience with computers, over 26 years now, I never met a computer programmer that knew how to manage their own business or company. Can anyone say dot.com boom? These guys, the IT geeks, usually hired their own managers and/or consultants but this never happened to the Gentoo Foundation for one reason or another. Instead, problems started to emerge within the Gentoo Developer community that even us, the end-users, could notice. We started to look elsewhere…
For me, the switch from Gentoo Linux to Kubuntu Linux, and later, openSUSE Linux, was a result of miscommuniction, or more correctly, my misreading the update notices, during one of the updates of x.org that eventually killed my AMD64 Desktop (this same AMD64 is now running a Gentoo, Ubuntu and openSUSE Linux Mirrors in Vietnam). I could no longer use x.org and I had no time to go back and fix the configuration files. I had no choice at the time but to switch to another distro, and I did. Normally I would have asked for help but by the Summer of 2005, it was no longer worth it. I stopped visiting the Gentoo Forums at this time, I thought I left Gentoo for good.
It is now 2007, Linux has come a long ways since I first started using it wasy back in September, 2003 (Red Hat Linux 7.3). openSUSE and Kubuntu Linux were just are not working for me. I get very frustrated because I feel that I do not have the full control of my computer that Gentoo gave to me. Even worse, I do not even know my way around the directories that I once knew in Gentoo. Things seemed much easier to do in Gentoo than with openSUSE. Thus, I started looking to make my move back to Gentoo, or possibly even FreeBSDor NetBSD.
When I formed the Saigon Linux Group last April, I knew that eventually Tony and I would be installing Gentoo Servers as the company starts to get bigger. It is just much easier to maintain a Gentoo server, in my opinion, than with Suse Linux Server. A recent update of SLES crashed our mail server because YAST installed sendmail which conflicted with postfix. When the problem was corrected, YAST again installed sendmail creating the same problem. Arghh!!! Yeah, it was definitely a user error but with Gentoo, you tend to be, I hate to say, much SMARTER, when it comes to updates. GUIs, such as YAST, just makes you lazy similarly to how Microsoft made computer users lazy with Windows.
But the real big question on my mind, as the proprietor of a new start-up IT company, will Gentoo Linux have a future or will another fork of Gentoo, such as Sabayon Linux assume the role to provide support for a possible Gentoo-based Enterprise Server? For many of us, if Daniel Robbins decided to assume to role either as President of CEO of any Gentoo-based entity, I think we would support him. Financially, many of us would pay for support services from Daniel Robbins. I am not sure he knows that. His coming, if he is patient, something I noticed he seems to lack sometimes, his company will be successful.
Despite what he may think, he did build a solid business model for Gentoo. Looking at the large Gentoo community around, active developers, and various forks of Gentoo, he has actually been successful in promoting Gentoo as a business tool, per se, around the World. Gentoo Linux became an international distribution. We just need our Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc. That person is Daniel Robbins. Come back, Gentoo needs you!
Daniel Robbin’s Blog: http://blog.funtoo.org/