Gentoo

Linux Journal has a monthly column by Marcel Gagne , called "Cooking with Linux." In the August, 2006, installment, Mr. Gagne searches "for the Ultimate Desktop Enhancements," and to this end reviews a number of applets. Only until he mentioned Beagle did I really take notice. Beagle "is a search tool that ransacks your personal information space to find whatever you’re looking for," rather like Google Desktop Search, except for Linux. How exciting!

Little did I know (nor did the Beagle site mention explicitly) that Beagle essentially requires the entire Gnome 2 platform (with Mono), and that one cannot simply install the pieces that Beagle uses piecemeal. I came to realize this at about five levels deep in the dependency chain (tree would be more accurate,) after building and rebuilding about fifteen libraries, not counting those that had several incompatible versions.

After a while it became clear to me that I would have to install all of Gnome from scratch. I decided to try GARNOME. I mean, what the hell, I use Konstruct to build KDE, and that works like a charm every time. It’ll be a snap, right? Wrong. It appears that the configure scripts for a number of the packages it builds are faulty. Such as with dbus, which is where my troubles began. After that point, GARNOME would periodically crap out, and I would discover that I would need to find and manually install, say, Perl::XML, or Pyrex (and I would then need to upgrade Python), or qt (which, as a KDE user, I have, but the build can’t find,) or the kernel headers.

Fine. I could use a new kernel anyway, especially since at some point in this process, my CD-ROM, sound card, and USB storage devices quit working. The kernel upgrade, at least, worked the way it was supposed to and didn’t crap out halfway through. Unfortunately, upon reboot, I discovered that the version of the nvidia driver I had didn’t like the new version of the kernel, and since the new kernel didn’t like my wireless adapter, I decided that enough was enough.

There comes a time in a Linux system’s life when it becomes so full of cruft and entangled dependencies that trying to install anything results in the entire structure collapsing like a house of cards and the user has no choice but to start over. This first happened to me with Red Hat 5.2, which is why I hate RPMs. This eventually happened again with Red Hat 7.2. You would have thought I’d have learned my lesson, but I installed Fedora Core 1 after that.

Anyhow, I decided I’d install Gentoo on Sunday night, and by this afternoon my system was not only fully operational, but optimized for its hardware, with nothing nonessential installed. That is, until I finally work up the nerve to type "emerge beagle."

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