The latest Gentoo release is upon us and I am going to take a look at what’s new. Promised updates include a revamped installer and the latest versions of your favorite applications.
The install process may have appeared smooth, but I have to say that it was a bigger chore than I had anticipated. If you are familiar with the previous GUI installers, you likely noticed the big differences.
Instead of everything being completed towards the end of the installer, it’s now done throughout. Why is this a bad thing? It forces you to stay near the computer because you will need to wait for emerges to finish and the next option to arrive. Previously, you could essentially set and forget it. Now, you cannot even save profiles in case you want to use the identical settings with another install.
That much I could live with, but the new installer is not only clunky, but riddled with bugs. The first problem arose on initial boot, when GDM failed to load, thanks to a screen being undetected. Error logs didn’t help out much, but I attributed the issue to be related to the NVIDIA 8800GTX card installed. Being an NVIDIA card, the installer set the driver to “nv”, which is incompatible with the 8800 series of cards. Editing the xorg.conf and restarting GDM solved that problem.
The second “problem” arose with the partitioner. I say that with quotes, because it caught me by surprise and cannot really be considered a problem, as it’s properly documented. 2007.0 introduced the side panel which explains all actions, but if you have installed using their installer before, what would make you stop and want to read everything? Certainly, it would be the sensible thing to do, but when in a hurry, you want to get things done.
Pressing Recommended Layout in the past simply showed you the partitioning scheme. It did not apply it until after the install process began. Now, pushing it and agreeing to the prompt will automatically format and repartition the entire drive. The very second you click the “Ok” in the prompt, you can say good bye to the other partitions, as the installer will lag until the process is complete.
The installer now installs along the way, but I believe that the actual partition process should occur when the user moves onto the next page. Ideally, pushing the Recommended Layout button would show the scenario and not prompt anything. Instead, it would prompt when moving to the next screen, when quick-click users like myself would actually notice a wrong partitioning scheme.
Ever since the Live CD became a reality, users have complained about a less than ideal partitioner… one that tends to cause issues from time to time. At least those versions would take other partitions into account. Instead of fixing whatever problems were there (I had great luck with previous versions), they took out that functionality entirely.
Another instance I found odd was when I came to the kernel selection screen. At first, I decided to choose to build with the kernel off the CD. Once making that decision, the kernel off the CD began to compile. I then decided that it would be fun to build with my own, so I pushed cancel on the popup to cancel the process, and to my surprise, it exited the entire installer after agreeing to that prompt. This wasn’t such a big problem, but it was an inconvenience since I had to begin over.
I had other minor issues along the way, but they range from small errors and odd behaviour that’s not much of a surprise when using a Live CD. Overall though, it was less than an ideal experience.
Gentoo purists may ask why I choose to install with a GUI installer. It’s there, that’s why. I’ve installed Gentoo via command line numerous times and the introduction of a GUI installer was a welcomed feature. Being able to deploy a Gentoo system quickly and efficiently was great. 2006.x installers had their issues, but nothing like evidenced here. What’s the point of it being an option if it’s this unreliable?
I still give kudos to the Gentoo developers. Despite hardships over the past eight months since the last release, they have pulled through and continued to deliver an exciting distro enjoyed by many. I do believe the installer could have been better overall though, as I’m sure you can tell. I love the clean new look, but the clunkiness overshadows it. I look forward to giving it another try in 2007.1. Until then, I will stick with my 2006.1 Live CD if I need to set up a Gentoo install on my benchmarking computer.
If you enjoy using the Live CD as a… Live CD, then by all means give the new version a download. Many applications can be found on the Live CD and many, many more on the Live DVD. If you happen to like the look of the wallpaper but don’t want to download the Live CD to grab it, you can grab them from us here. All resolutions are available inside, with props to blackace for giving us the best Gentoo wallpaper to date.
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