Dan Callaghan

Experimenting with Exherbo

Despite being a long-time Gentoo user, when I got my new PC last weekend I decided on a whim to install Exherbo. Actually it wasn’t really a whim, I’d been thinking about trying it for some time, and a fresh install on my fancy fast new hardware was a good opportunity.

While Portage has been more or less stagnating lately, Ciaran McCreesh’s Paludis is fast, reliable, and innovative. Exherbo (which is really just Paludis plus a package tree maintained by some like-minded ex-Gentooers recruited by McCreesh) also places a much higher focus on quality than Gentoo does: for example, Paludis (much like McCreesh himself and the other Exherbo developers) is extremely unforgiving of any mistakes or dodginess in packages. And package tests are run by default when building. Of course this means Exherbo requires more patience and effort than Gentoo does (just as Gentoo requires more patience and effort than a binary distro like Fedora does), but I suspect it pays off in the form of a more reliable system.

That said, I still consider my Exherbo installation to be an experiment. If it proves too painful, I will probably go back to Gentoo. I’m still running Gentoo on my home server and my work laptop, and I don’t envisage switching distros on those any time soon. But after a week of bug fixing and writing packages, my system is almost at the state I want it, and so far I’m liking it better than Gentoo. I’m also looking forward to trying out systemd once the 2.6.36 kernel goes stable.

Mainly as an aid to my own memory, I’ve written up the following list of the problems I have run into with Exherbo so far, how I worked around them, and what I would like to do to fix them properly. (In most cases these aren’t really specific to Exherbo, or at least aren’t caused by Exherbo itself, it just happens that I never encountered them before.)

I’m also trying out etckeeper with git, rather than manually keeping /etc in hg as I used to do. It’s quite nifty, although I have seen it create empty commits in git, and its Paludis integration doesn’t understand protected config files, which is annoying.

So now I can throw away the paper notes I kept about this while my system was still unusable. Here’s hoping I have a chance to work on some of this stuff in the near future…