The advancement of modern day hardware has made using Gentoo a less time consuming experience.
What would once take days or weeks, now takes hours.
The end result is an optimized system tailored to your needs.
My needs are quite simple, good multimedia functionality, web browsing and office use. So with Gentoo I am able to create a system that can meet my needs and there is the added benefit of that little extra nippy feel and quicker application load times.
Initially I was relying on default use flags set by the kde desktop profile, lets look at an emerge --info output for this profile.
USE="X a52 aac acl acpi alsa amd64 berkdb bluetooth branding bzip2 cairo cdr cli consolekit cracklib crypt cups cxx dbus dri dts dvd dvdr emboss encode exif fam firefox flac fortran gdbm gif gpm gtk hal iconv ipv6 jpeg kde lcms ldap libnotify mad mikmod mmx mng modules mp3 mp4 mpeg mudflap multilib ncurses nls nptl nptlonly ogg opengl openmp pam pango pcre pdf perl png ppds pppd python qt3support qt4 readline reflection sdl session spell spl sse sse2 ssl startup-notification svg sysfs tcpd tiff truetype unicode usb vorbis x264 xcb xml xorg xulrunner xv xvid zlib"
It seems like a lot but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. If a software package has support for ipv6 and it is defined in your use flags, it will be built to support it. If however, it doesn’t have support for ipv6 it wont magically be built in.
I was quite happy with the performance my Gentoo install had using the kde desktop profile but decided to see if I could improve it. So after much tweaking I was able to reduce the use flags to the following,
USE="3dnow X a52 aac acpi alsa amd64 bzip2 cairo cdr cli consolekit cracklib crypt cups cxx dbus dri dts dvd dvdr encode exif firefox flac gif gpm hal jpeg kde libnotify mad mmx modules mp3 mp4 mpeg mudflap multilib ncurses ogg opengl pam pcre pdf perl png ppds python qt3support qt4 readline reflection samba sdl session spell sse sse2 ssl startup-notification svg sysfs tcpd tiff truetype usb vorbis x264 xcb xml xorg xv xvid zlib"
So what was the outcome?
The outcome was, packages had fewer dependencies and as a result a few less packages were installed.
Performance / memory consumption wise, absolutely no difference.
Not that I expected to see any. Most of the 485+ packages I happen to have installed use few to none of the use flags.
You can only tweak your system so far. Beyond that you are only engaging in a pointless exercise.
Based on my experience, I see no point in trying to tweak the kde desktop profile.
Infact I am now wondering what would happen if I build all packages to support as much as possible, which is what all your major distributions do.
Will I notice a difference?
I have my doubts.
I stated above that the modern day hardware has made using Gentoo a less time consuming experience but there is also another consequence of having more powerful hardware.
As software packages support more and are built with more functionality, its code size typically increases. Memory consumption therefore goes up and so does execution time. However modern day hardware is having a counter effect on these negative aspects.
Modern day hardware can process code quicker and more memory is readily available. So despite your binary distribution being compiled with generic optimizations and software packages being built to support as much as possible, the performance in most cases is getting better providing your system isn’t old.
Gentoo has lost its appeal on the performance front because for many users the gain ranges from minor to negligible. When you also take into consideration to time it takes to setup / update Gentoo, it simply isn't worth it.
Infact what is the general consensus concerning Gentoo today?
Is it about performance or control?
Interestingly, OpenSUSE 11.3 was released not so long ago and the performance is very nippy. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do.
My utter disappointment with OpenSUSE 11.2 (it was very sluggish) is what made me try out Gentoo.
Funnily enough, OpenSUSE 11.3 has changed some of my thoughts about Gentoo.
I once said,
"Gentoo, If you have the time and are willing to put in the effort then why not?"
I now say, because the gain is so small it becomes a pointless effort.
OpenSUSE 11.3 takes 10 to 15 minutes to install and performance is great. Even though I can still feel a little more nippiness in Gentoo and applications load that bit quicker, common sense rules in favour of OpenSUSE.
A superb effort by the OpenSUSE team, they have delivered a well polished and professional product with good performance.
I still believe Gentoo is the most innovating distribution to exist, their package management portage is truly a piece of art. The level of control, the ability to tailor the system and the learning experience cannot be matched by anything else.
The only problem is I am just using it for the wrong reason.
Gentoo and KDE 4.4.5 - A snapshot of the past...
Gentoo isn't about performance, that is only a side effect. The real power behind Gentoo is it's control.