Down The Gentoo Hole

My Dearest Mad-Readers,

Once upon a time, a fervent Arch Linux advocate desired to switch to Gentoo. Not only his own kin had recommended it to him, but his research had also led him to believe that it was the promised land from his wildest dreams. Yet he never once had dared and taken the first step on that formidable journey. His eternal thirst for knowledge, but also his quest toward absolute freedom eventually succeeded in convincing him. This is how, after many a year roaming through the Arch realm, dear Phil Wayne made up his mind and took the plunge down the rabbit hole, straight into the abyss of Gentoo Land. At first, there was no Xorg server, nor Wayland. Despite his awareness of the perils he might face, far was he from imagining his wings might get burned. He soon had to fire up a terminal, for darkness was all around and only he had the power to repel it.

N.B : Sit tight, this blog post is lengthy.

From Arch to Gentoo : A Short Reminder

If you haven’t read my previous blog post, nor watched my latest video, I encourage you to check at least one of them out. If you desire to have some context for what is yet to come…

The Installation Process

My Latest Video

I shall remember installing Gentoo forever, for seldom have I faced so great an ordeal. Installing a GNU/Linux usually is such a straightforward process, how could I foresee I might meet my doom ? Such naivety nigh caused my loss. Fortunately, old-sport Google went to my rescue, when I had nothing but my smartphone’s screen to cry on.

I may truthfully affirm that my life as an Arch user was not always peaceful. Issues did rise up, unsurprisingly, since it is such bleeding-edge a system. Yet I cannot complain, for a solution would always eventually emerge. I trusted that fact, and thus I became comfortable…

If I had known. Yes, if only I had known that everything which could possibly go wrong… would go wrong. This is no assumption, but a declaration, to say I would first have done it in a virtual machine.

I’m talking about you VirtualBox!

Monday 12th : Trouble On The Doorstep

I began the installation process on that fateful day. The first morning, things obviously did not go well because… It would not be so fun otherwise, right ?

So, it turns out I did not burn the ISO image correctly and my BIOS was not configured properly either.

Let us start with my ISO error. For the purpose of our demonstration, let us say that our device is /dev/sdb. The dd command should then be as follow :

  • dd if=/my-iso-file/path/bla-bla of=/dev/sdb

Well, I wrote something slightly different : dd if=/my-iso-file/path/bla-bla of=/dev/sdb1

Now, if you think it all wonderfully worked out when I solved that problem, you would be mistaken. Here is the link to the solution I was given by my most faithful follower : click here. The link will redirect you to Gentoo’s wiki and show you how to convert the ISO image to hybrid mode.

Let us now speak about the BIOS.

When installing a Linux system, there are several things to set up in your BIOS. The first one is, logically, the boot order. Indeed, you wish to give priority to the external device containing your new Linux distribution. All other devices should boot after that one device. For instance, I have Ubuntu on a USB flash-drive. I need to give priority to all USB devices at boot time. It is as simple as that.

Secondly, depending on the kind of boot partition the system you want to boot use, you need to enable legacy boot and CSM support (Compatibility Support Module). On modern computers, UEFI mode usually is the default, but it will not work for Gentoo. At least, it did not function for me. Indeed, it turns out the BIOS configuration I had carefully set up for Arch Linux was not enough for a Gentoo install.

In the afternoon, I did my part as an au-pair. I had no time to go back to the installation process before much later. At 10 pm, I started the actual install. I inserted the USB key and got into Gentoo. I connected to the internet, I set up my partition scheme, the time and date and extracted the stage 3 tarball. I could have done all of this in the morning, but the dd command just would not let me… So, as a conclusion of this first day, I would simply say this : please, do learn from my mistakes and do not reproduce them. Except if you enjoy wasting your time… If you wish to remove the random factor of dd, you can still use a USB installer such as the one you can find on Linux Mint or the Universal USB Installer.

Tuesday 13th : Riddles In The Dark

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When you are stuck in a TTY without an X server for 3 days in a row…

That day, everything went rather smoothly. I did not set up LVM (Logical Volume Management) because I was not sure how and did not have the time to over-document myself. Moreover, LVM is of no use to me at the moment. If I ever have second thoughts, I will merely re-install the whole system. Hopefully, it will not be too soon, but I am quite sure that I will distro-hop at least once or twice before being happy. First, I intend to master Gentoo, and then… well, who knows what may come ?

At the end of the day, I was rather happy with myself. I had written manually my /etc/fstab after forgetting to mount a partition, I had set up the various use flags I was interested in, as well as the kernel, and I had also installed several programs I knew I would need : grub, network manager, vim

I believed I was done with the base install. I could not be more wrong…

I suppose this is what happens when you’re tired, but I made many unforgivable mistakes. The biggest one, as I would soon find out, was that my boot partition was actually a ghost partition (more on that later) and that there was no kernel to feed my grub.

Wednesday 14th : Impatience & Despair

Finishing the base install took forever. When I woke up on that day and rebooted my computer without the live cd… Well, there is a good news and a bad news.

  • The good news is that it booted into grub rescue mode.
  • The bad news is that it booted into grub rescue mode.

Yes, it is both a good and a bad news. It is bad because… well, obviously, it hasn’t booted properly, which most certainly means grub cannot find the kernel where it should be and that, as a Gentoo user, you are going to have to recompile the dam* thing. Which is going to take 3 hours.

Happy birthday & merry Christmas at the same time!

It is a good news because it means you can keep everything from your base install, there is just a few things to tweak for the whole distribution to work.

When you have a blog and a youtube channel to maintain, you cannot afford to go many days without your computer, an internet connection and programs such as a web browser or ffmpeg… This is why I had to ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, especially when you are a programmer or someone doing something even remotely related to computer-science. First, I read entries on forums. But then I had to ask someone who knows much better than I, especially when it comes to Gentoo. He will recognize himself.

We spent hours diagnosing issues together (from 9 pm to 1:30 of the next morning, approximately). In the end, we finally found what was incorrect : I needed to comment one line in my /etc/fstab. Just because of one line about my boot partition, which was not even recognized by Gentoo, my distribution would always boot in read-only mode. Gosh…

Have you ever experienced read-only hell ? Tell me in the comments !

Thursday 15th : A Glimmer Of Hope

After 3 long days in the dark, victory was mine. I could finally install programs with the emerge package manager and begin solving all the other minor issues I had. Package conflicts are quite different from Arch Linux, to be honest, so it did take me some time and explanations to get used to them. Because of them, even installing firefox might become an issue…

Anyway, I installed essential programs such as Audacity, Kdenlive, LibreOffice, LaTeX, Neovim, Ffmpeg, Moc, and countless others. I also transferred the backup of my home directory from my hard disk back to my computer.

Everything went rather well on that day. There was still much ado but it solving the issues I had went rather smoothly. It is the next day that I realized I was not yet done with my learning process.

Friday 16th : A Steep Learning Curve

This is the day I actually realized there was so much to learn on Gentoo. It is not only about reading the documentation. There rather is many subtleties with USE flags which may prevent you from using a program properly because it was, say, wrongfully compiled. Emerge installed it for you, indeed, but it did not install it with the options you wished and, hence, you may not be able to use said program however you intended in the first place.

This has happened to me with OBS, but also with mpv, vlc & moc, to cite but a few. For instance, moc was installed but it would only recognize playlists. Other music files simply were not recognized. It was also impossible to play music with it, which is quite a bother when you know it is a music player for console

Last Stage & Conclusion

I still have to finish installing and configuring a bunch of things. For those of you who have had the patience to read until the point, I would like you to know that this was my excuse for taking more time to make my next video. Ffmpeg works on my local machine and my build of mpv finally allows me to use my webcam, after days trying to fix the issue. As for OBS-Studio, it does not yet recognize my video devices, and I have not figured out how to efficiently replace ffmpeg with it. It is no big a deal however, I can continue shooting videos with ffmpeg as long as it does not work properly.

I had to figure out a lot of things, whether with help or on my own, since I installed Gentoo. Overall, I must say I am satisfied with my learning curve. I did make some (significant) mistakes at times, but only those who never try anything new do not make mistakes. I am proud to have accepted this learning opportunity, since it had allowed me to grow both as a person and as a GNU/Linux user.

Gentoo is pretty similar to Arch in many ways, except it offers so many more possibilities. It is scary at the beginning, but if you practice in a Virtual Machine and read the documentation in advance, you have nothing to be afraid of. I, for once, was a little too adventurous…

Signing Off

I do not yet know whether Gentoo will or will not be the distribution I settle down on. Already, I am looking elsewhere. Nonetheless, I believe I will stay on it for a while, for the place is comfortable, and the view is great…

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I hope it was helpful to you! If you liked it, feel free to let me know via email, by subscribingliking, and/or commenting. You may also check out some more of my work. I also have a Patreon page, a YouTube channel, if you wish to support me there, and a GoodReads account.

Are you using Windows, MacOS, Linux Mint, Arch Linux, Gentoo, any other thing ? Do tell me in the comments and let us share our experience! 🙂

I wish you all the best,

Phil.

7 thoughts on “Down The Gentoo Hole

  1. It so much make me adore my trusty old Min Cinnamon; so easy a 5yo can do it. And, as of late, the sweet-running Win 10 Pro that wafts like a spirit over my SSD, its Build 1909 stable, solid, reliable and fast. It wisely doesn’t download that caveat called build 2004 onto my Lenovo, so all is well in my little world, leaving me to do what I need most: twitter and blogs, GoogleMaps as I am a very active local guide, as my interest is travel, photography and surely not the command prompt. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, in my case, there was no emergency. The choice was mine. Whenever you install to choose a program, the choice is yours. The distro doesn’t decide for you. If you install Arch, you agree with their philosophy. Otherwise you stay away from it. Same for all other distros

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My idea of any OS is that it should appear on my computer’s screen within a minute or so after I switch the thing on. Mint booted in 9s from SSD, Win 10 arrives by the 3rd second but some of the others mentioned, just came up blank. As in a black screen, maybe with three lines of alien code typed across the top, but even just black. I don’t bother to fix it, I just unfollow, unfriend and format. I’m here for my browser but I have a file somewhere with some thirty command prompt codes to try in Windows; something I haven’t done since Win98.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As you had solicited comments: my Apple experience was horrid and I unfriended and unfollowed them; they charged a fortune and simply lacked integrity. Microsoft finally built a stable OS that is fast, reliable, updates are seamless on SSD (apparently a horror on HDD, I’m told) and installation is even easier than Linux Mint Cinnamon. Microsoft Edge, like Brave, Chrome, Opera and Vivaldi is a build on the open source The Chromium Project and is a very light, stable and pleasant experience unlike Firefox that had gobbled up more than 6GB RAM on Ubuntu Budgie the other day. I liked the Arch-es but had too many installer crashes and package manager idiosyncrasies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t believe I could ever switch to Apple with all the controversies around them. I must also recognize Windows has been getting better. I wouldn’t say the installation is easy, since there’s nothing to do whatsoever, but it’s also why people love it so much.

      Liked by 1 person

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