Gentoo Linux

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Gentoo Linux
Gentoo Logo
Developer Gentoo Foundation
Written in {{#property:p277}}
OS family Unix-like
Working state Current
Source model Open source
Initial release 31 March 2002; 16 years ago (2002-03-31)
Latest release Rolling release[1] / weekly (approximately)
Update method Emerge
Package manager Portage
Platforms IA-32, x86-64, IA-64, PA-RISC; PowerPC 32/64, SPARC 64-bit, DEC Alpha, ARM, Motorola 68K
Kernel type Monolithic (Linux)
Userland GNU
Default user interface KDE Plasma Desktop from LiveCD, GNOME, Xfce, Fluxbox, LXQT
License Free software and other licenses
Official website

Gentoo Linux (pronounced /ˈɛnt/ JEN-too[2]) is a computer operating system based on the Linux kernel and built using the Portage package management system. It is distributed as free and open-source software. Unlike a binary software distribution, the source code is compiled locally according to the user's preferences and is often optimized for the specific type of computer. Precompiled binaries are available for some very large packages and for packages whose source code has not been released.[3]

The "Gentoo" name comes from the fast-swimming Gentoo penguin. It was chosen to reflect the potential speed improvements of machine-specific optimization. Gentoo package management is designed to be modular, portable, easy to maintain, and flexible. Gentoo is sometimes described as a meta-distribution, "because of its near-unlimited adaptability", in that the majority of users have configurations and sets of installed programs which are unique to themselves.[4]


Gentoo Linux was initially created by Daniel Robbins as the Enoch Linux distribution. The goal was to create a distribution without precompiled binaries that was tuned to the hardware and only included required programs.[5] At least one version of Enoch was distributed: version 0.75, in December 1999.[6]

Daniel Robbins and the other contributors experimented with a fork of GCC known as EGCS developed by Cygnus Solutions. At this point, "Enoch" was renamed "Gentoo" Linux (the Gentoo species is the fastest swimming penguin[7]). The modifications to EGCS eventually became part of the official GCC (version 2.95), and other Linux distributions experienced similar speed increases.[8]

After problems with a bug on his own system, Robbins halted Gentoo development and switched to FreeBSD for several months, later saying "I decided to add several FreeBSD features to make our autobuild system (now called Portage) a true next-generation ports system."[9]

Gentoo Linux 1.0 was released March 31, 2002.[10] In 2004, Robbins set up the non-profit Gentoo Foundation, transferred all copyrights and trademarks to it, and stepped down as Chief Architect of the project.[11]

The current Board of Trustees[12] is composed of five members who were announced (following an election) on March 2, 2008.[13] There is also a seven-member Gentoo Council that oversees the technical issues and policies of Gentoo.[14] The Gentoo Council members are elected for a period of one year, each year by the active Gentoo developers. When a member of the Council retires, the successor is voted into place by the existing Council members.[15]

The Gentoo Foundation is a 501(c)(6) non-profit foundation, registered in the State of New Mexico.[16] In late 2007, the Foundation's charter was revoked,[17] but by May 2008 the State of New Mexico declared that the Gentoo Foundation, Inc. had returned to good standing and was free to do business.[18]


Gentoo appeals to Linux users who want full control of the software that is installed and running on their computer.[19]:402 People who are prepared to invest the time required to configure and tune a Gentoo system can build very efficient desktops and servers. Gentoo encourages users to build a Linux kernel tailored to their particular hardware. It allows very fine control of which services are installed and running; also, memory usage can be reduced, compared to other distributions, by omitting unnecessary kernel features and services.[19]:386

Gentoo is a good distribution for fairly technical people who want to learn more about Linux,[19]:383 as well as for Linux enthusiasts, programmers, and system administrators. The quantity and quality of the documentation is exceptionally high, and there is a large community of users that are able to assist with problems.[20]

A very large collection of software is available. Each package contains details of any other software it depends on, so only the minimum set is installed to run the required applications. Optional features of individual packages, for example whether they require LDAP support, can be selected and any consequential package requirements are automatically included in the set of dependencies.[19]:386

Gentoo does not impose a standard look-and-feel. Included packages usually appear as their authors intended.[19]:387


Portage is Gentoo's software distribution and package management system. The original design was based on the ports system used by the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) based operating systems. The portage tree contains over 10,000 packages ready for installation in a Gentoo system.[21]

A single invocation of portage's emerge command can update the local copy of the portage tree, search for a package, or download, compile, and install one or more packages and their dependencies. The features that are built-in can be set for individual packages, or globally, with what are known as "use flags".[21]

Pre-compiled binaries are provided for some applications with long build times, such as and Mozilla Firefox, but users lose the ability to customize optional features. There are configuration options to reduce compilation times by enabling parallel compilation and using pipes instead of temporary files;[22] package compilation may also be distributed over multiple computers.[23] In addition, the user may be able to mount a large filesystem in RAM to greatly speed up the process of building packages. Some of these approaches have drawbacks and so are not enabled by default. When installing the same package on multiple computers with sufficiently similar hardware, the package may be compiled once and a binary package created[24] for quick installation on the other computers.


As Gentoo is a source-based distribution with a portage tree describing how to build the packages, adding instructions to build on different machine architectures is particularly easy.[25]

Originally built on the x86 architecture, Gentoo has since been ported to many others. It is officially supported and considered stable on x86, x86-64, IA-64, PA-RISC, PowerPC, PowerPC 970, SPARC 64-bit, and DEC Alpha architectures.[26] It is also officially supported but considered in development state on MIPS,[27] PS3 Cell Processor, System Z/s390,[28] ARM,[29] and SuperH. Official support for 32-bit SPARC hardware has been dropped.[30]

Portability toward other operating systems, such as BSD-derived ones including Mac OS X, is under active development by the Gentoo/Alt project. The Gentoo/FreeBSD project already has a working guide based on FreeSBIE,[31] while Gentoo/NetBSD, Gentoo/OpenBSD and Gentoo/DragonFly are being developed.[32] There is also a project to get Portage working on OpenSolaris. There was an unofficial project to create a Gentoo port to GNU Hurd, but it has been inactive since 2006.[33]

It is also possible to install a Gentoo Prefix (provided by a project that maintains alternative installation ways for Gentoo) in a Cygwin environment on Windows, but this configuration is somewhat experimental.[34]


Gentoo may be installed in several ways. The most common way is to use the Gentoo minimal CD with a stage3 tarball (see below for more explanation on stages). As with many Linux distributions, Gentoo may be installed from almost any Linux environment, such as another Linux distribution's LiveCD, LiveUSB or Network Booting using the "Gentoo Alternative Install Guide". A normal install requires a connection to the Internet, but there is also a guide for a network-less install.

Previously, Gentoo supported installation from stage1 and stage2 tarballs. However, this is no longer recommended officially by the Gentoo foundation, and is meant only for Gentoo developers.[35]

Following the initial install steps, the Gentoo Linux install process in the Gentoo Handbook describes compiling a new Linux kernel. This process is generally not required by other Linux distributions. Although this is widely regarded as a complex task,[36] Gentoo provides documentation and tools such as Genkernel to simplify the process and make it straightforward for novice users.[37] In addition, users may also use an existing kernel known to work on their system by simply copying it to the boot directory and updating their bootloader. Support for installation is provided on the Gentoo forum and on IRC.

A Live USB of Gentoo Linux can be created manually or using UNetbootin.[38]


Before October 2005, installation could be started from any of three base stages:

  • Stage1 begins with only what is necessary to build a toolchain (various compilers, linkers, and libraries necessary to compile all other software) for the target system; this is known as bootstrapping the system.
  • Stage2 begins with a bootstrapped system and requires the compilation of all other base system software.
  • Stage3 begins with a partially configured (but not yet bootable) base system.

Since October 2005, only the stage3 installations have been officially supported.[39] Tarballs for stage1 and stage2 were distributed for some time after this,[when?] although the instructions for installing from these stages had been removed from the handbook[40] and moved into the Gentoo FAQ.[3] As of September 2015, only the supported stage3 tarballs are publicly available. However, if desired so, a user may rebuild the toolchain or reinstall the base system software after completing a stage3 installation.

Gentoo Reference Platform

From 2003 until 2008, the Gentoo Reference Platform (GRP) was a snapshot of prebuilt packages that users could quickly install during the Gentoo installation process, to give faster access to fully functional Gentoo installation.[41][42] These packages included KDE, X Window System, OpenOffice, GNOME, and Mozilla.[43] Once the installation was complete, the packages installed as part of the GRP were intended to be replaced by the user with the same or newer versions built though Portage which would be built using the users' system configuration rather than the generic builds provided by the GRP. As of 2011, the GRP is discontinued, the final reference to it appearing in the 2008.0 handbook.[44][original research?]


Once Gentoo is installed, it becomes effectively "versionless"; that is, once an emerge update is done, the system is at the latest version, with the most up-to-date packages available (subject to restrictions that a user may have specified in their Portage configuration files). For example, if a system is installed using a stage3 from March 2011, and the user performs a full emerge update one month later, they will upgrade the installed Gentoo system to the same as they would have if they had performed a fresh installation from an April 2011 CD. Thus, Gentoo users may upgrade to the latest version of all of their installed software the day that new versions are released and have an ebuild available. Like other Linux distributions, Gentoo systems have an /etc/gentoo-release file, but this contains the version of the installed sys-apps/baselayout package.

In 2004, Gentoo began to version its Live media by year rather than numerically. This continued until 2008, when it was announced that the 2008.1 LiveCD release had been cancelled in favour of weekly automated builds of both Stages 3 and Minimal CDs.[45] On 20 December 2008, the first weekly builds were published.[46] In 2009, a special LiveDVD was created to celebrate the Gentoo 10-year anniversary.[47]

Release media version history

Name Date
(Enoch Linux) 0.75 December 1999
1.0 March 31, 2002
1.1a April 8, 2002
1.2 June 10, 2002
1.4 August 5, 2003 (Gentoo Reference Platform introduced)
1.4 maintenance release 1 September 11, 2003[citation needed]
2004.0 March 1, 2004[48] (versioning changed to four releases a year)
2004.1 April 28, 2004
2004.2 July 26, 2004[49]
2004.3 November 15, 2004[50]
2005.0 March 27, 2005[51] (versioning changed to semi-annual releases)
2005.1 August 8, 2005[52]
2005.1-r1 November 21, 2005[53] (maintenance release 1)
2006.0 February 27, 2006[54]
2006.1 August 30, 2006[55]
2007.0 May 7, 2007[56]
2008.0 July 6, 2008[57]
Weekly Releases from September 22, 2008[58]

Special releases

In 2009, a special LiveDVD was released to celebrate Gentoo's tenth anniversary. Initially planned as a once-off, the LiveDVD was updated to the latest package versions in 2011 due to its popularity among new users.

Name Date
10.0 October 4, 2009[59] (special edition LiveDVD for the 10th anniversary)
10.1 October 10, 2009[60] (Bugfix release of Special LiveDVD)
11.0 April 8, 2011[61] (Anniversary LiveDVD is updated to latest package versions)
12.0 January 2, 2012[62]
12.1 April 1, 2012[63] (With an April Fool's joke named "Install Wizard")
20121221 December 21, 2012[64] (LiveDVD - End Of World Edition)
20140826 August 26, 2014[65] (LiveDVD - Iron Penguin Edition)

Practical jokes

The developers and community behind Gentoo Linux have performed many practical jokes, a number of them on or around April Fools' Day. This kind of practical trickery and playfulness has been a tenet of the Gentoo since its creation.

On April 1st, 2015 the Gentoo Linux team, namely Alex Legler and Robin H. Johnson and a few other associates, announced the launch of a "totally revamped and more inclusive website which was built to conform to the CGA Web™ graphics standards." The joke website was displayed with the appearance of an 8-bit color palette. According to the release announcement the new site was available via the Gopher protocol at gopher://[66]
To salute the 2012 phenomenon on December 21st, 2012 Gentoo released an End Of World Edition LiveDVD.
Install wizard
On April 1st, 2012 an April Fools' joke named "Install Wizard" was "released" as part of the 12.1 LiveDVD.

Logo and mascots

The Gentoo penguin is thought to be the fastest underwater-swimming penguin. The name "Gentoo Linux" acknowledges both the Linux mascot, a penguin called "Tux", and the project's aim to produce a high performance operating system.[19]:383

The official Gentoo logo is a stylized 'g' resembling a silver magatama.[67] Unofficial mascots include Larry The Cow[4] and Znurt the Flying Saucer.[68]


The website provides information and download links concerning different Unix-like operating systems, as well as a compilation of respective page hits. The DistroWatch statistics tracks page hits since 2002.

Upon launch, Gentoo quickly became a popular distribution, with 326 hits per day on average in 2002 on DistroWatch – the third highest. However, over the years Gentoo has suffered from a dropping popularity. In 2003, Gentoo was fourth most popular, and dropped to seventh in 2004, ninth in 2005, tenth in 2006 and thirteenth in 2007. For 2008, Gentoo dropped to 18th, but the following year it ended its dropping streak by rising to 17th. Gentoo was placed 18th in 2010, 20th in 2011, 22nd in 2012, 33rd in 2013, and 38th in 2014.[69]

Gentoo-derived distributions include Calculate Linux, FireballISO, Funtoo, Gentoox, Knopperdisk, Pardus, Pentoo, Sabayon Linux, SystemRescueCD, Tin Hat Linux, and VidaLinux. Distributions using Gentoo's Portage system include CoreOS, Chrome OS, Chromium OS, and Ututo.

See also


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External links

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