You’re putting your mum on Gentoo? You’re mad.

This is the second time I’m putting Gentoo on my mum’s computer. The first time was a good year or so ago – however my own old laptop got a hardware failure soon after and so I *ahem* took her computer. (I’m innocent I swear!) She’s decently computer illiterate and has always wanted to learn. She recently got a new laptop, an Acer Aspire 4535 (it comes without Windows pre-installed).

Had to install it using the SystemRescueCD as Gentoo’s minimal install didn’t have the module for my NIC. Xorg is compiling, the holidays are almost over, and it’s time to overload my schedule again.

To make this a bit more computer-relevant, I ask you: what do you suggest I do to help make it “easier” to use for someone like my mum? I am planning a cron-scheduled usual sync, update, revdep-rebuild. I don’t think I can automate the etc-update but that could pretty easy to train I think. Kernel updates is going to be a hassle. She wants KDE and so that means unstable packages.

Sounds fun.

Dion Moult

I've been developing software for well over 10 years, work as an architect (not the computer kind, the regular sort), and am classically trained as a pianist. I try to do the right thing when I get the chance in my field, such as through contributing to open-source communities and promoting sustainable living.

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  1. No. She’s mine. MINE.

    Well since Windows is out of the picture I honestly don’t see the difference between putting her on Gentoo compared to, say, Ubuntu. Using Gentoo doesn’t mean you have to become a computer genius – just that you like the way Gentoo handles things. I admit I spend more time using my computer than tweaking it – so I only know as much as I bother to tweak.

  2. First something that I need to get out of my system:
    Acer Aspire?!? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhh, run, run for your lives!!!!

    OK, done. Sorry for the outbreak.
    *group hug of people having an Acer Aspire*

    If you’re relying heavily on cronjobs, I’d suggest you take a good look at FCron — it can handle jobs by
    * fixed time (as Vixie-, D-, and other *Crons),
    * uptime (as e.g. Anacron)
    * intervals — this is the most useful on laptops; if the system is up at some point in time in the defined interval it triggers the cronjob (e.g. run ‘updatedb’ every monday and wednesday, sometime between 10:00 and 16:00)

    The thing is that *Cron as we are used to (Vixie-, D-, etc.) does not work well if the box is not up 24/7. FCron handles such cases perfectly :]

    Take a look at its man page or e-mail me, if you want more info about it ;)

  3. I’ve had my Acer Aspire 5022 WMLi for almost 4 years now and everytime I bring it to the service, they wonder how come it’s still alive …frankly, I do too O_o

    Maybe their quality has changed in the past years, but the one I has had several faults:
    * foo battery
    * foo hinges that broke the lid twice already (and I can see the cracks for the third time already)
    * dead pixels on display (the second time now, as well)
    * left mouspad button works only 3% of times
    * heats up quite fast (quite annoying on Gentoo)
    * Linux-compatibility was poor back then, but that’s improved a lot …now I can say that 90% of its HW is supported
    * frankly, the keyboard is not the best out there and neither is the housing itself.

    I’m not saying it’s all bad, I’m happy that I have it for my first laptop, but I’ve learnt from its mistakes and will look out better with my next choice. When it finally dies, I’ll probably go get a ThinkPad. While my Acer was in a coma (RAM died, looked like laptop was dead), I was using my dad’s old ThinkPad and it’s great! Even after I tested dozens of laptops out in the shops, I still think the ThinkPad’s the one for me :]

    Well, that’ll be my choice and just wanted to share my view on it. But you (or in this case you mum) know what you want and need ;)

  4. If you’re insisting on using Gentoo have you though about Sabayon?

    It would be very similar but your mum’s PC wouldn’t risk being foo bar’d by an automatic update

    Or at the very least consider not using an auto sync emerge and do it your self when you have free time either via ssh or when you bring your laundry home ;-)


  5. Mike, not so much insisting just that I couldn’t find any other LiveCD with the module required for my NIC. (Well, Sidux did).

    I think SSH is the best option to go with here. You never know what mess a cron-set system update task could get you into. I’ll have a look into bash (or if not bash I’ll script something up quickly) and see if I can get it to perhaps send me periodic status updates somehow.

  6. I would avoid cron based updates. I also would say that if you are not physically present to administer the host, then what is the point of using Gentoo exactly? ;) Surely other distros can achieve the goal. I don’t know what your goal is though, just use the right tool for the job.

    Finally, have you filed a Gentoo bug for your missing module? I’m assuming you were using one of the weekly minimal install cds?

  7. Mike, surely you’re home now? :P
    Jeremy, no, I haven’t yet. I will do so after I work out some of the other quirks I’m currently experiencing.
    p., where would the fun be in that?

  8. #!/bin/bash
    cd /usr/portage/
    git reset –hard
    layman -S
    emerge –sync
    mv /usr/portage/profiles/package.mask/gentoo /usr/local/portage/bugfixes
    mv /usr/portage/profiles/package.mask/funtoo /usr/local/portage/bugfixes
    mv /usr/portage/profiles/package.mask/sunrise /usr/local/portage/bugfixes
    mv /usr/portage/profiles/package.mask/funtoo-cautionary /usr/local/portage/bugfixes
    touch /usr/portage/profiles/package.mask/gentoo
    touch /usr/portage/profiles/package.mask/funtoo
    touch /usr/portage/profiles/package.mask/sunrise
    touch /usr/portage/profiles/package.mask/funtoo-cautionary
    emerge -avDu world –newuse –with-bdeps y
    prelink -afm

    I use funtoo so you probably don’t need the git commands or the messing about with the package masks

    The 9999ebuilds.sh is a shell script with all my live ebuilds in (the whole of xorg, ffmpeg multithread version and google chromium)


  9. Gentoo/Arch etc are good for people who like to have everything configured in a very specific way, but they are not good for general users who do not know there way around Linux and know the CLI. Distros like Ubuntu require far less manual config and are better for less technically minded people.

  10. I will probably change it to an “easier” distribution later when there is a release that supports my hardware. But at the moment none of them do, and it’s a pain otherwise.

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