Gentoo Linux

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Gentoo Linux
Gentoo Logo
Developer Gentoo Foundation
OS family Unix-like
Working state Current
Source model Open source
Initial release 26 July 2000; 17 years ago (2000-07-26)[1]
Latest release Rolling release[2] / 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[3]) is a Linux distribution built using the Portage package management system. 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 larger packages or those with no available source code.[4]

Gentoo Linux is named after the fast-swimming gentoo penguin. The name was chosen to reflect the potential speed improvements of machine-specific optimization, which is a major feature of Gentoo. Gentoo package management is designed to be modular, portable, easy to maintain, and flexible. Gentoo describes itself as a meta-distribution because of its adaptability, in that the majority of users have configurations and sets of installed programs which are unique to themselves.[5]


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.[6] At least one version of Enoch was distributed: version 0.75, in December 1999.[7]

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[8]). The modifications to EGCS eventually became part of the official GCC (version 2.95), and other Linux distributions experienced similar speed increases.[9]

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."[10]

Gentoo Linux 1.0 was released March 31, 2002.[11] 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.[12]

The current board of trustees[13] is composed of five members who were announced (following an election) on March 2, 2008.[14] There is also a seven-member Gentoo Council that oversees the technical issues and policies of Gentoo.[15] 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.[16]

The Gentoo Foundation is a 501(c)(6) non-profit foundation, registered in the State of New Mexico.[17] In late 2007, the Foundation's charter was revoked,[18] 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.[19]


Gentoo appeals to Linux users who want full control of the software that is installed and running on their computer.[20]: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.[20]:386

Gentoo is a good distribution for fairly technical people who want to learn more about Linux,[20]: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 who are able to assist with problems.[21]

A very large collection of software is available. Each package contains details of any dependencies on other software, so only the minimum set need be installed to run the required applications. Optional features of individual packages, for example whether they require LDAP support, can be selected by the user and any resulting package requirements are automatically included in the set of dependencies.[20]:386

As Gentoo does not impose a standard look and feel, installed packages usually appear as their authors intended.[20]: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 19,000 packages ready for installation in a Gentoo system.[22]

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 built-in features can be set for individual packages, or globally, with so-called "use flags".[22]

Pre-compiled binaries are provided for some applications with long build times, such as LibreOffice, Apache OpenOffice 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;[23] package compilation may also be distributed over multiple computers.[24] 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[25] 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.[26]

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.[27] It is also officially supported but considered in development state on MIPS,[28] PS3 Cell Processor, System Z/s390,[29] ARM,[30] and SuperH. Official support for 32-bit SPARC hardware has been dropped.[31]

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,[32] while Gentoo/NetBSD, Gentoo/OpenBSD and Gentoo/DragonFly are being developed.[33] 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.[34]

It is also possible to install a Gentoo Prefix (provided by a project that maintains alternative installation methods for Gentoo) in a Cygwin environment on Windows, but this configuration is somewhat experimental.[35]


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, the Gentoo foundation no longer recommends them. Stage1 and stage2 are meant only for Gentoo developers.[36]

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,[37] Gentoo provides documentation and tools such as Genkernel to simplify the process and make it straightforward for novice users.[38] 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.[39]


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

  • Stage1 begins with only what is necessary to build a toolchain (the various compilers, linkers, and language libraries necessary to compile other software) for the target system; compiling this target toolchain from another, pre-existing host system is known as bootstrapping the target system.
  • Stage2 begins with a self-hosting (bootstrapped) toolchain for the target system, which is then used to compile all other core userland software for the target.
  • Stage3 begins with a minimal set of compiled user software, with which the kernel and any other additional software are then configured and compiled.

Since October 2005, only the stage3 installations have been officially supported, due to the inherent complexities of bootstrapping from earlier stages (which requires resolving and then breaking numerous circular dependencies).[40] 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[41] and moved into the Gentoo FAQ.[4] As of September 2015, only the supported stage3 tarballs are publicly available; stage1 and stage2 tarballs are only "officially" generated and used internally by Gentoo development teams. However, if so desired, a user may still rebuild the toolchain or reinstall the base system software during or after a normal stage3 installation, effectively simulating the old bootstrap process.[42]

Gentoo Reference Platform[edit]

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.[43][44] These packages included KDE, X Window System, OpenOffice, GNOME, and Mozilla.[45] 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.[46][original research?]


Once Gentoo is installed, it becomes effectively "versionless"; that is, once an emerge update is done, the system is completely current, with all the latest software readily available to it (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.[47] On 20 December 2008, the first weekly builds were published.[48] In 2009, a special LiveDVD was created to celebrate the Gentoo 10-year anniversary.[49]

Release media version history[edit]

Name Date
(Enoch Linux) 0.75 December 1999
pre-1.0 July 26, 2000
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[50] (versioning changed to four releases a year)
2004.1 April 28, 2004
2004.2 July 26, 2004[51]
2004.3 November 15, 2004[52]
2005.0 March 27, 2005[53] (versioning changed to semi-annual releases)
2005.1 August 8, 2005[54]
2005.1-r1 November 21, 2005[55] (maintenance release 1)
2006.0 February 27, 2006[56]
2006.1 August 30, 2006[57]
2007.0 May 7, 2007[58]
2008.0 July 6, 2008[59]
Weekly Releases started[60] September 22, 2008

Special releases[edit]

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/info
Unreal Tournament 2003 LiveCD September 18, 2002[61] - Bootable NVIDIA GPU-accelerated Unreal Tournament 2003 LiveCD, demoed at LinuxWorld Conference and Expo 2003.
10.0 October 4, 2009[62] (special edition LiveDVD for the 10th anniversary)
10.1 October 10, 2009[63] (Bugfix release of Special LiveDVD)
11.0 April 8, 2011[64] (Anniversary LiveDVD is updated to latest package versions)
12.0 January 2, 2012[65]
12.1 April 1, 2012[66] (With an April Fool's joke named "Install Wizard")
20121221 December 21, 2012[67] (LiveDVD - End Of World Edition)
20140826 August 26, 2014[68] (LiveDVD - Iron Penguin Edition)
20160514 May 14, 2016[69] (LiveDVD - Choice Edition; UEFI, ZFSOnLinux, and writable file systems using AUFS)
20160704 July 4, 2016[70] (LiveDVD - Choice Edition Part Dos)

Practical jokes[edit]

The developers and community behind Gentoo 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 Gentoo since its creation.

On July 28, 2017 the Gentoo wiki had a satirical news announcement entitled 'Word crimes'. Embedded in the announcement was a link to the Weird Al video under the same name.
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 [...] with a 16-colour palette and an optimal screen resolution of 640 x 200 pixels". The joke website was displayed with the appearance of a CGA (16-colour) palette. According to the release announcement the new site was available via the Gopher protocol at gopher://[71]
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[edit]

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.[20]:383

The official Gentoo logo is a stylized 'g' resembling a silver magatama.[72] Unofficial mascots include Larry The Cow[5] and Znurt the Flying Saucer.[73]


Upon launch, Gentoo quickly became a popular distribution, with 326 hits per day on average in 2002 on – 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, 38th in 2014, and 45th in 2015. In 2016 it became slightly more popular, climbing back up to 35th place, but has since fallen to 41st (averaged out over the last three months).[74]

Derived distributions[edit]

There are a number of independently developed variants of Gentoo Linux. The following overview (July 29, 2017) is non-exhaustive.[75][76][77]

Active distributions in the last year[edit]

Distributions Latest release Purpose
Argent Linux December 4, 2016 Server and enterprise oriented distribution based on Gentoo.
Chromium OS Chromium OS is an open-source project that aims to build an operating system that provides a fast, simple, and more secure computing experience for people who spend most of their time on the web.
Calculate Linux July 7, 2017 The Calculate project features several distributions, optimized for two distinct groups of people: home users as well as small and medium businesses that prefer open-source to proprietary solutions.
CloudReady December 22, 2016 The desktop operating system, reimagined. Built for security, manageability, and performance.
CloverOS GNU/Linux July 26, 2017 CloverOS GNU/Linux is scripts that creates a Gentoo image and a packages repo (Binhost) that contains unique USE flags and CFLAGS. It aims to be a fast, poetterfrei, lightweight out of the box desktop.
CoreOS Container Linux July 19, 2017 Tectonic ships with CoreOS's signature Automated Operations, enables portability across private and public cloud providers, and is always upstream open source.
exGENT Linux April 13, 2017 Linux Live DVDs are - as the name suggests - based on Gentoo Linux. The best thing with exGENT is the premier auto detection of hardware and the ability to relatively easily install the system to hard drive during a live session.
Exherbo Some of our ideas differ greatly from other distributions and it’s much easier if we don’t have to fight legacy code and ideas. We need the freedom to break things when necessary.
Funtoo Linux July 23, 2017 Linux-based operating system that is a variant of Gentoo Linux. Funtoo Linux is a meta-distribution that builds packages automatically from source code. Installation images are optimized for the best possible performance on the latest Intel and AMD hardware.
Gentoo4Raspi Deceber 11, 2016 This is an image for a 16GB SD Card with a minimal gentoo system for the raspberry pi 3.
GentooCNC March 29, 2017 GentooCNC is a Gentoo-based Linux didtribution designed to support hard real-time control of equipment such as industrial machine tools, 3D printers, laser cutters, robots, and coordinate measuring machines using LinuxCNC. GentooCNC is designed to target embedded platforms such as the BeagleBone, Mini2440, as well as conventional desktop platforms.
PBXware April 17, 2017 PBXware is the world's first and most mature IP PBX Professional Open Standards Turnkey Telephony Platform. Since 2003, PBXware has deployed flexible, reliable, and scalable New Generation Communication Systems to SMBs, enterprises, and governments worldwide by unifying the most advanced of latest technologies.
Pentoo August 1, 2016 Pentoo is a security-focused livecd based on Gentoo.
Porteus Kiosk June 1, 2017 Porteus Kiosk makes securing your public access computer easier than you think. You no longer have to be a technical guru to customize, lock down and install your own kiosk. No need to worry about virii, malware or users installing unwanted software.
Rsdcore Linux Redcore Linux targets casual Laptop/Desktop users and, to some extent, Workstation power users. It will nicely fill any gaming, multimedia, office and internet browsing needs. Some development tools are also available.
Sabayon Linux Sabayon is a beginner-friendly Gentoo-based open-source Linux distribution. We aim to deliver the best "out of the box" user experience by providing the latest open source technologies in an elegant format. In Sabayon everything should just work. We offer a bleeding edge operating system that is both stable and reliable.
SystemRescueCd June 11, 2017 SystemRescueCd is a Linux system rescue disk available as a bootable CD-ROM or USB stick for administrating or repairing your system and data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the hard disk partitions.
Zentoo Linux Zentoo Linux is variant of Gentoo Linux with an emphasis on server deployment on x86_64 platforms.
Ututo February 4, 2017 Ututo XS is a free (as in freedom, that is, it consists entirely of free software licensed under GPL-compatible licenses) GNU/Linux distribution that uses the Linux-libre kernel.

Inactive distributions[edit]

3viltoo, AnikOS, BinToo GNU/Linux, BOO Linux, Clumix, Dalai Lama GNU/Linux, Echse Recovery Cd, eHorizon, enVision Linux, Flash Linux, Fireball ISO, GaryOS, Genesis, Gentoo Studio, GentooTH Live CD/USB Linux, Gentoox, GuARD, iBox, Jollix, Knopperdisk, Liberté Linux, Litrix, Mac-TV, Mayix LiveCD, Mediabox, Minimax livecd, OpenNAO, PapugLinux, Phaeronix, PixieLive, PrometheOS, redWall Firewall CD, Securix, Shark Linux, Spike Linux, TinHat, Toorox, TsGoo, Vidalinux, Vinque GNU/Linux, Virtualtoo, WiiToo!, ZerahStar Zesktop

See also[edit]


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  51. ^ //
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External links[edit]

Official documentation
Unofficial documentation and other resources
Articles and media coverage