Why did Gentoo Linux fade into obscurity?

Also in today's open source roundup: DistroWatch reviews the Gentoo Linux live DVD "Choice Edition," and Google will kill Chrome apps for Linux

Why did Gentoo Linux fade into obscurity?

Gentoo Linux was fairly well known at one point, with many tech-savvy Linux users opting to run it on their computers. But Gentoo Linux slowly lost popularity over time and is now a pale shadow of its former self in terms of usage and mind-share among Linux users (though there are still some die-hard Gentoo users left on Reddit).

What happened to Gentoo Linux? A redditor asked this question in a recent thread on the Linux subreddit and got some very interesting answers.

Walfers: “Why did Gentoo peak in popularity in 2005, then fade into obscurity?”

gentoo linux fade away

XANi: “Well in 2008 Gentoo Wiki died, taking a ton of good documentation with it, and they didn’t have backups.”

Px403: “Every distro switch I ever did was primarily about security. Around 2006 I started moving everything from Gentoo to Ubuntu, mostly because Gentoo refused to actually sign packages, and tools like Evilgrade for injection malicious updates were becoming more common.

The whole X to Xorg switch happened around that time too, then the subsequent Compiz/Beryl drama, which broke the hell out of graphics on Gentoo for years.

Gentoo also refused to properly package NetworkManager, so connecting to WPA required a...ton of manual wpa-supplicant.conf tweaks that were easy to...up, whereas Ubuntu just worked as expected out of the box.”

32bitwhore: “It seems rather counter intuitive, but I think you’re right. I loved bootstrapping my own system and loved the control and speed that Gentoo offered, but eventually as Ubuntu matured, I switched directly to it and that was it. Last time I tried to install Gentoo for fun (2010 or something) there was zero documentation for newer hardware and I gave up and installed Ubuntu again.”

Abalamahalamatandra: “I’m going to say Ubuntu. I ran Gentoo back then too and rather liked the control it gave me, but compiling updates with the hardware available at the time was rather a pain. I switched to Ubuntu right about them, as it had matured enough.”

Mnzi: “I don’t really think Ubuntu had much to do with it, their userbases don’t really overlap a huge amount. Internally Gentoo went through some disruptive organizational changes, the wiki was broke for awhile (wiki and forums were very rich and constantly updated by the community) and the community just drifted apart.”

Letmebeme: “Well, don’t forget that it was an unofficial wiki and the official developers hated the guy maintaining it.

Also at that time, Gentoo was struggling a lot with stability. Many highly experimental packages got pulled into stable, and on the other hand, many very old stable packages kept being hard masked. It was a mess.”

PearlyDewdropsDrops: “I ran gentoo for a couple years and toward the end I got scared to emerge because I knew the system would break. I can’t tell you how many hours I wasted because of some 40kb script-package failed because it wanted python– and I had already “upgraded” to python–

I finally realized my time is worth something, and I’d rather use my OS than…with it all the time, so I went to linux mint.”

Thepatman: “A few things. As others have pointed out, the rise of Ubuntu and related distros helped.

Another issue was the relative rise in capability for home computers. Gentoo is great when a little bit of performance means a lot, or when your hardware or needs requires specific and strange configuration to work properly. As computers got faster, Linux got more efficient, and more hardware was supported, it made less sense to spend hours re-compiling something to get a slight performance boost.”

Cacatl: “As a former Gentoo user, I can tell you that 99% of users don’t care about the performance benefit. For me, Gentoo’s main feature is convenience. Of course, setting up your own system and compiling everything you needed isn’t ‘convenient’ per se, but having certain things being completely automated like setting up a cross compiler or compiling and deploying images really helped.

For the end user, stuff like choosing your own window manager could be accomplished easily with Arch. But for the developer, a modular, easily programmable package manager and tools like crossdev is a godsend that very few mainstream distros offer.”

Bnolsen: “As a former gentoo user the reason i left was because of the inconvenience of the use flag system. There’s way too many and they change way too often. There really needs to be 2 orders of magnitude fewer use flags to cover major features, not individual ones. I left for arch and due to the systemd fiasco i’ve mostly moved over to void linux, although i still have my core dev ones on arch.”

Countzero11: “Obscure? I guess.

I’m still running it on my main computer, and have been since 2004. Things have changed a lot–many things “just work” now, where they used to require a lot of work to get up and running. The new Dell laptop I just got worked out of the box.

The thing I (still) love about Gentoo is that I control and customize every aspect of my box–I only have the programs and daemons I need, I build my own kernel, I choose my own init system (no systemd here). I don’t have to worry about configurations hidden behind a GUI. Emerge is a fine package manager, compile times are now less of a burden on my i7, so I really don’t see a downside. I’ve tried a few different distros over the years, but keep coming back to Gentoo.

I just hope it’s still chugging along in another 12 years.”

More at Reddit

DistroWatch reviews Gentoo Linux live DVD “Choice Edition”

Speaking of Gentoo Linux, DistroWatch has a full review of the Gentoo Linux live DVD "Choice Edition" and found that it still has much to offer users who want control of their Linux systems.

Joshua Allen Holm reports for DistroWatch:

At 3GB, the live DVD contains far more software than the typical live image. Instead of curating the selection of software included to use the “best” programs or to create a consistent user experience, the Gentoo live DVD includes multiple programs to do just about everything. For web browsing there is Aurora, Chromium, Links, and Otter Browser. For email, the options are Claws Mail, EarlyBird, Evolution, and Slypheed. For editing documents and spreadsheets, LibreOffice is installed, but so are AbiWord and Gnumeric. Other software is featured and this is just a partial list: Blender, Bluefish, GIMP, Inkscape, and VLC media player. If you are looking for a live DVD that has all the major Linux applications, Gentoo’s live DVD is it. Having a copy of this disc on hand is a great way to showcase a wide variety of open source applications to users who may not be familiar with the wide variety of open source software that is out there.

Gentoo is a great choice for users wanting a little more personal control over their system and a more hands on experience. Installing Gentoo is certainly more complex and more time consuming than, for example, Debian, Ubuntu, or the legion of Ubuntu derivatives, but it is not that hard. The documentation is thorough and well written. All one has to do is read and follow the instructions. If something does go wrong, there are plenty of answers in the Gentoo forums.

Any user wanting to dig a little deeper into Linux should consider trying out Gentoo. Going through the steps of installing Gentoo is a great way to learn. While the distribution might not be for everyone, it certainly has a place in the Linux ecosystem as a learning tool and as a wonderful, functional, distribution that offers users plenty of choices and options. As for the live DVD, like I stated above, it contains such a wealth of software that is very helpful to have on hand to use to demonstrate open source software to people.

However, the time it takes to load to a functional desktop is much longer than the alternatives, so I am not sure about using it on a regular or occasional basis for real work. The live DVD is a great, and positive, introduction to Gentoo, but Gentoo truly shines once it has been installed and tweaked for a particular set of hardware.

More at DistroWatch

Google will kill Chrome apps for Linux

Google is a company known for killing products it no longer believes in and one of the latest casualties is Chrome apps for Linux (as well as macOS and Windows).

Carly Page reports for The Inquirer:

Google has continued to wield the axe with the announcement that it plans to dump Chrome apps for Linux, OS X and Windows. Google’s Chrome Apps were introduced in 2013, giving developers a way to write one app that would run across Windows, Mac, Linux and Chrome OS.

The Apps are available in two formats: packaged and hosted. Only around one per cent of people, across all platforms, use Chrome packaged apps, according to Google, while most of the hosted apps from Chrome are already implemented as web apps.

The axing of Chrome Apps for Linux, OS X and Windows will be a gradual move, however, and the firm will give developers around 18 months to migrate apps or build new versions.

Chrome apps on Windows, Mac and Linux will not be available in the Chrome Web Store from the second half of 2017, although the Store will have extensions and themes. Finally, in early 2018, it will not be possible to load Chrome apps.

More at The Inquirer

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