Pro/Cons on Mint vs. Gentoo?

Eric Wald eswald at brainshell.org
Sat Dec 7 12:41:25 MST 2013


On Dec 7, Dan Egli wrote:
> So, while I love Gentoo, I hear a lot of people talking about how they love
> Mint, and that Mint has the same flexibility as Gentoo, but is easier to
> install/configure/update.
>
> So, I ask those who may have had experience with both to rate your
> experience on each. How was the initial setup? Maintenance of config files?
> Updates? Package/program availability (especially in pre-compiled binary)?
> Granularity?

I don't have experience with Gentoo (my source distribution experience
has been with LFS), I have had both good and mediocre experiences with
Mint.

I originally set it up on my wife's new laptop, when she discovered that
her Apple software could no longer be upgraded because it needed a new
operating system, which needed new hardware.  She had originally bought
that Mac after getting fed up with Windows, but before meeting me, and
had seen me using Linux, so decided to try it.

Initial setup was a breeze, and she was happy enough with the music,
office, and other programs.  It was able to use all Ubuntu packages,
and many straight Debian ones, so program availability was fantastic.
Even Google Chrome was a breeze to install.  Mint's custom configuration
editor meant that I rarely even touched a configuration file.

That laptop ran Mint 7 (Gloria) for over two years, until websites
started complaining about the age of the browsers. However, the
maintenance window for that version had closed, so neither Firefox nor
Chrome could be updated.  I couldn't even compile new versions, because
I hadn't installed the header files for a few key libraries before the
package repositories moved on.

Unfortunately, upgrading to a new version was painful.  Mint had
completely replaced Ubuntu's upgrade manager, with one that had no
ability to switch distributions.  Their website also strongly
discouraged upgrading by any means other than backup and re-install.
Therefore, instead of upgrading incrementally, I had waited so long that
even Mint 8 was no longer available, so we had to switch straight to
an even later distribution.

I backed up the home directory, but not the operating system itself,
which proved to be a mistake when my first attempts at a system upgrade
completely failed.  I eventually managed to get Mint 11 (Katya) running,
but it never worked quite as well as Gloria.  In particular, X would
freeze for no particular reason.  By the time that laptop's battery died
a year later, my wife was frustrated enough with the random crashes that
she wanted to try Windows again.

To be fair, Windows 7 has been suddenly rebooting or shutting off almost
as often, and Ubuntu 13.10 has been freezing even more frequently.
Ubuntu on a desktop has been somewhat more stable, but one version had
serious NTP issues, another version randomly corrupted Git object files,
and just about every upgrade breaks one of the work-related programs I
run under Wine.

I have also tried PCLinuxOS, but failed to keep up with the distribution
fast enough to keep the package manager working, so I refuse to try any
other rolling release.  Another desktop used Debian stable, but it tends
to feel old, and distribution upgrades are potentially worse than Mint.

On the LFS front, my server has been rock-solid for years, but when I
tried to roll up a desktop machine, Firefox failed to compile.  Then
something got fried by a lightning storm, so I never got to use it much.

- Eric


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