I’ve used gentoo on and off for around 3 years now, since I got my last box, it’s been powering my main production machine at home. I’m a fan of it’s structures and concepts. Sure it’s not really a typical-user distro, but I’m not really a typical user. PClinuxOS is perfect for typical users (and I run it on my laptop where I develop software for them), Ubuntu and many other systems also target that market.
If anything there is a major shortage in hacker oriented distro’s today.
The only two worth mentioning in fact are gentoo and that old standby Slackware. Slackware was my preferred distro for a long time and I know it well, but sadly, it’s age is showing (the details may be a matter for another blog). Gentoo however has rightfully become the distribution of choice among hackers. It’s powerful, fast, and extremely customizable. The source based builds lets you tweak packages to your needs with a powerful and (comparatively) simple set of structures.
While it’s true that portage was inspired by FreeBSD ports – it is a much more powerful and reliable version of the idea (I know, I use both systems – this server is running FBSD).
And the man most primarily responsible for this is Daniel Robbins – the man who started gentoo. And if you’ve been following his blogs over the past few weeks – it’s scary. While gentoo the distro is strong and powerful – the gentoo foundation appears to be in a downward spiral that isn’t getting any better. First their charter was revoked because apparently nobody bothered to keep their legal papers up to date. Then there was a massive leadership vaccuum – and now there is an election of trustees scheduled. Somebody wanted to nominate Robbins – but apparently he cannot run.
And guess what – users cannot vote – only developers.
Hold on… what is the foundation’s purpose ? To oversee the development and growth of gentoo – surely then to do so with the best interest of the users in mind. After all it’s a non-profit community project – and if you don’t take care of your users – where will you get your future developers from ?
So the foundation truly must then be said to exist in service of gentoo’s users – yet we get no say in who runs it.
This suddenly makes me a lot less eager to become a gentoo contributor – it makes me scared that gentoo as we know it won’t exist a year from now. This kind of strife needs to be resolved here and now with decisive action by people with genuine passion for gentoo – or it will kill the project. Sure we can always fork it, but rebuilding the infrastructure gentoo had obtained over the years will be an arduous and divisive process – one we should avoid at all costs.
I for one would not mind seeing Robbins back in the saddle at Gentoo – but whether that is likely (or even possible) I cannot vouch for. Robbins has stated that he will either lead the foundation, or not be involved at all. But to whomsoever gets elected in this election, I hope they will make it a matter of serious priority to resolve all the issues in the foundation fast and effectively. I would hate to see gentoo destroyed – and I hope that whoever becomes the new leaders of the foundation hates that idea as much as me and will do everything in their power to prevent it.