Time for Change: Gentoo Focuses on Binary Packages

In a surprising move, Gentoo Linux now offers binary packages for download and direct installation to speed up working with slow hardware.

When I saw “Gentoo goes Binary!” on the Gentoo website, I immediately checked my calendar, half-expecting it to be April Fools’ Day. But nope, it’s actually December 29th. So it turns out Gentoo really is making a big change. Here’s what it’s all about.

A New Era for Gentoo: Embraces Binary Distribution Model

First, no need to worry! Gentoo is still the source-based Linux distribution we all know and adore. But guess what? Its developers are taking an exciting step forward. They’re now also focusing on offering precompiled binary packages that are prepped and ready for installation. Isn’t that great?

Yes, I know; Gentoo did have some prebuilt binary packages that you could easily blend with others using the Portage package manager. However, their number was limited, and, more crucially, they weren’t always the most up-to-date versions. Well, that’s in the past now.

To speed up working with slow hardware and for overall convenience, we’re now also offering binary packages for download and direct installation

In other words, what’s happening with Gentoo is pretty exciting. Before, binary packages were kind of in the background, not the main thing for the distribution. But now, things are changing! They’re getting just as much attention as source packages. The cool part? The developers have assembled a 20-gigabyte repository full of precompiled binary packages.

We’re talking about complete desktop environments like KDE Plasma and Gnome and client software like Firefox and LibreOffice. And the best part? This repository will be kept up-to-date with the latest package versions, and they plan to add even more stuff to it. Now, let’s take a moment to consider the reasons behind this decision.

Breaking Traditions: From Source to Binary

Let’s begin with a friendly question: How many of you have ever tried to compile something like the Firefox web browser on Gentoo? For some, it might take just a few hours. But for others, particularly those without the latest hardware in the face of a powerful CPU and tons of RAM, it can be a bit of an overnight adventure.

You might start the process in the evening and then check in the following day to see if Firefox is ready for action. From my experience, tackling Linux From Scratch (LFS) is the only thing more challenging.

Gentoo's equery command.

When we think about it, this kind of experience isn’t quite what most Linux users expect in 2023. So, to keep up with the times, the Gentoo developers have made an exciting decision for 2024: they’re planning a big change in their approach.

Gentoo’s new step of adding binary packages as an equivalent alternative to traditional source ones is wise. It will make this legendary distribution look more attractive among Linux enthusiasts. It’s a move that happened many years ago to FreeBSD and worked out great.

Furthermore, this exciting change will likely catch the attention of fans of rolling release distros such as Arch and Void, drawing them towards Gentoo. Because using binary packages just makes a lot of sense.

What’s more, Gentoo has a big plus on its side: unlike Arch, which supports only the x86-64 architecture, Gentoo boasts compatibility with a wide array of architectures, including alpha, amd64, arm, arm64, hppa, ia64, mips, ppc, ppc64, sparc, and x86.

In conclusion, we’re just about ready to welcome 2024, and it’ll be interesting to see if Gentoo’s move to binary packages turns out as great as we hope. As always, time will tell.

For more information, visit the official announcement. Gentoo’s binary package quickstart documentation is here.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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