Is Gentoo a faster-running distro than SuSE?

A friend of mine wants me to install Gentoo on a separate hard drive. He says that since I have an AMD x2 processor, that Gentoo would fly on my computer if I used the Gentoo AMD64 CD. He says it would be an installation customized to my CPU’s architecture. However, I’m thinking that with today’s modern hardware, the performance increase would be insignificant. What do you all think? On a computer with a dual-core 2 GHz CPU and 4 GB of ram, will I notice any difference in speed?

I realize this is probably a question for the Gentoo forum, but I already asked there, and the responses I got were very short and didn’t make much sense. I politely re-phrased my question but still didn’t get a reply that I could understand. I didn’t want to be rude or exasperate anyone, though. I thought I’d ask here. I love SuSE, but I thought I’d take Gentoo for a drive on another hard drive I have lying around, just to see what it’s like.

It all depends on how aggressively you optimized your Gentoo build.

Some packages are very math intensive, and with certain flags turned on, can see some noticeable improvements.

However, Gentoo takes extra time to maintain. I found Gentoo to be a great learning experience, and I enjoy tinkering. The extra time maintaining and compiling easily outweighs the performance benefit in my opinion.

However, the great advantage of Gentoo is USE flags. If I want ldap support in, I can add it with a USE flag. I don’t want the “bloat” of unwanted features, I can turn them off with USE flags.

It makes more sense now that you explained it. For me, I don’t know if it would be worth the time it takes to install it. I watched my friend install it on his machine, and it took several hours just to get the base system running. That wasn’t even with fluxbox or KDE installed yet. I think you’re right about the time that it takes to maintain it outweighing the speed increase.

There’s an analogy I thought of, in which a guy wants to go get an ice cream cone from the store down the street. Does he take a week to put together a car from scratch, then go drive it down there, or does he hop into a car that’s already built, and get it in minutes? The analogy isn’t perfect, but that’s how I look at it. I probably won’t install Gentoo. I’ll just stick with good ole’ SuSE.

I in agreement with enderandrew. I loved Gentoo for it’s configurability; you can essentially make it into whatever you want, but the time investment in keeping a system current is enormous. And while the ricers will insist that every tweak has some measurable performance increase, I never found much difference performance wise between a well maintained binary load and my Gentoo installs.

Instead of installing Gentoo, it would probably be better for someone who is new to Linux to install it on a fast hard drive. 10,000 or 15,000 rpm hard drives, or SCSI drives, could be used for the operating system, and additional storage drives could be ordinary PATA or SATA drives. That would give the system a performance increase regardless of what Linux distro is employed.

Due to the updater problems (and general performance issues with openSUSE 10.0 → 10.2) I did a bit of distro-hopping, eventually running Gentoo. I’ve came back to openSUSE 11, so I thought I would share my thoughts on your question.

The short answer, in my experience, is “yes”, Gentoo is faster (in some situations, and on some systems, MUCH faster) than SuSE. BUT (and this is key), there is a flip side to running Gentoo in that the installation, maintenance, and time you’ll spend getting everything up and running takes days / weeks, if not more. Prepare to use google and their forums quite a bit, as well as their wiki site, to set things up such as networkmanager, printing, scanning, wireless, and multimedia — just to name a few. Plus, if your computer isn’t the fastest thing around, compiling things like Xorg and KDE take a l-o-n-g time.

If you want to learn quite a few things about Linux, by diving in deep to config files and learning how it works, then run Gentoo (I personally think that it’s a good idea to check out the distro, you’ll learn a lot). If you want to use your computer (vs tweek it all the time) then run something else like openSUSE.

Just my 2 cents worth … not trying to troll on Gentoo but fanboy-ism aside, there are pros and cons to running it besides “it’s faster” and “less bloat”. I mean, if you custom-compile your kernel, then attach some new device to your machine, chances are openSUSE will recognize it out of the box, whereas Gentoo you may not have the driver installed, and might have to hunt down for quite some time what you need to do to get it working.

Good luck!

On Mon, 21 Jul 2008 20:46:04 GMT
katanacb <> wrote:

>If you want to learn quite a few things about Linux, by diving in deep
>to config files and learning how it works, then run Gentoo (I
>personally think that it’s a good idea to check out the distro, you’ll
>learn a lot). If you want to use your computer (vs tweek it all the
>time) then run something else like openSUSE.

I agree with this. At work, all of our servers run Gentoo and the admin
loves it. They are all compiled, initially, for the exact configuration
and backup copies are kept for quickly adding a new server. When the
hardware changes, he compiles a new system from scratch and makes a
backup copy of that.

For a while, I tried using Gentoo on my development workstation, but
when it took an entire weekend to compile the latest KDE (several years
ago), plus most of Monday getting all the odds and ends upgraded, I
went back to SUSE and will be upgrading to 11 in the next few weeks.
It’s just far too inefficient (work-wise) to run Gentoo on a
workstation when time is money . . . :slight_smile:

Kevin Nathan (Arizona, USA)
Linux is not a destination, it’s a journey – enjoy the trip!

10:32pm up 2:10, 15 users, load average: 0.25, 0.22, 0.34

From which SUSE in particular?
In my system, Windows XP was faster than openSUSE 10.3
But now that I have upgraded to openSUSE 11, my Linux box works like a speeding bullet!
If I were you I would try both gentoo and openSUSE 11 and decide.
Do you have any particular interest or requirements for high performance on some particular applications?
Please state for which intent do you plan to use your linux box?
In terms of performance, for some applications the choice of a linux distro can mean very little compared to the proper choice of hardware and application configuration.

Compiling KDE takes me hours, not days. Modern systems make Gentoo much more feasible by cutting down on compile time significantly.

Yes, that’s true on the hours vs days part … unless you get your USE flags wrong (or leave something out, or want to add another USE flag later when you want another feature, or forgot one when you did your initial compile), and you have to re-compile everything. I’ll admit this is more a problem when setting up the system than when you use it day to day, but it still is a huge drawback to gentoo in my experience / opinion.

I will have to say that Opensuse11 is definitely the way to go for 64bit.

Out of the box, my setup is incredibly rock solid and very responsive to the three other distros that I tried.


A suit comes to you “Hey, I need a server ready to ship in 2 hours with X software configured” - there you’le be :eek: and think "Ohnoz, it’ll take at least 24 hours to compile Gentoo and required software on it! :eek:

After which you’ll have a boot mark up your tushy.

Gentoo is great if you’re into placebo speed increases.

I keep images of stock server builds. We don’t use Gentoo at work, but I need to compile one version for my server, and then I can propagate that build to all my other servers with the same architecture. Or I push that image out to other servers with an imaging solution.

We just moved away from Ghost to Altiris, even though I was pushing for Clonezilla.

Great - if you happen to only ship one type of machine with a pre-built set of software, always the same hardware and environment - once you start customizing for clients you’ll run straight into a wall.

It’s simply not flexible enough and whatever minor speed increases you may see on binary level do not translate to real life performance increases - the time it takes you to deploy compared to actually using the system completely obliterates any gain.

On both our Windows boxes and Linux boxes we have a policy of not having any applications or software on the boxes that we don’t need for our servers.

The great advantage of Gentoo is USE flags. I get exactly the customization I need.

I have a very fine-grained level of control with Gentoo.

I think that’s a telling point about Gentoo.

I’m not sure that many sites running 100’s of Linux servers do (or would) use Gentoo – I’ve yet to see a Fortune 100 (or even 500) company have a Gentoo server in production – it’s always RedHat or SuSE in the USA. Sysadmin’s in these organizations just don’t have the time or bandwidth to install, configure, or maintain Gentoo systems. They want a package (or need one) in a pinch, it’s just much easier to install an RPM or DEB than compile something, figure out the USE flags it needs, and place it in production.

Im my opinion, Gentoo will always be relegated to hobbyists and people who want to learn the deep inner parts of Linux. Nothing more.

I’m not slamming the distro (I’ve run it, and appreciate what it’s good for) but the speed increases that you might get just aren’t worth it when you want to USE your computer – you’ll spend too much time tinkering vs using it. And that was the OP’s question…

Couldn’t of said it better myself,


We run Red Hat because the suits won’t allow us to use an OS on a server without a support contract.

Mind you we never contact Microsoft for support, not Red Hat, but we must absolutely have those support contracts for every server. We must for some reason. Don’t ask me why, but it is crucial.

A distro sans a support contract just scares people. We have CentOS on a few older boxes, and those are going to be replaced with Red Hat, again because of support contracts.

Gentoo isn’t used much by major companies, not because of some failing of the distro. It doesn’t have major corporate backing or support contracts however.

Interesting! I understand your boss’s thinking behind the “we need support” idea, even if you don’t really need it.

I think that there are a few reasons for this. the first is, of course, if something major goes wrong, your company has someone to point the finger at (I work for a large software company, so I am familiar with this). It’s also so that they can hire people who may be a little less seasoned, yet use TechSupport as a fallback when they can’t resolve an issue (or, don’t have the expertise TO solve an issue.

So think: accountability. Who’s accountable with Gentoo (or debian or any other free OS)? No one. With RedHat and SLES, RedHat and Novell are accountable and can own problems.

I think that’s only part of it. The other is the setup and maintenance I spoke of before. Can you imagine, for example, a trading system on the NYSE (which may run on 1,000’s of Linux servers) running Gentoo, and the maintenance associated with that? Man, not me. Given the way that resources are stetched thin, when a kernel advisory comes out, shops want to do a quick fix (ie, install an RPM or DEB) and be done with it, and not worry about what has changed between kernel versons, then go through the compile, etc etc etc.

Or, update a single package, which then requires the additional compile of several others that depend on it. Ever upgraded glibc or gcc in gentoo? ACK. Yes, I know you don’t have to do that, but there will come a time when you HAVE to because the current version is obsolete, and isn’t maintained.

I think smaller sites could get away with it, larger ones, there’s no way in h*** they could. The time investment just isn’t justified. Gentoo’s greatest strength (compile from source, USE flags) are also it’s biggest weakness.