Rich Freeman on 29 Dec 2011 12:21:36 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] Keeping Gentoo updated?

On Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 3:00 PM, JP Vossen <> wrote:
> I like a lot of the ideas in
> Gentoo, but I tend not to reboot my Ubuntu workstations for many months at a
> time.
> ...
> It sounds like that would get me into trouble in Gentoo?  The real killer
> for me is FF, which I tend to use a lot and have many, many open tabs.  I
> know it'll (usually) recover, but it's time consuming to get everything back
> where it was...

I probably only reboot my server maybe once a month - I update it almost daily.

It is pretty rare to have issues with updating software and not
rebooting.  It can happen, but I don't reboot even after things like
KDE upgrades and don't usually see problems.  If an issue does come up
then a full reboot is seldom necessary to resolve it.

What you do need to be careful about is security updates.  If apache
has some vulnerability and you upgrade it, but you don't restart it,
then the apache you're actually running is the old one.

The big category of software that tends to be susceptible to security
vulnerabilities is, of course, web browsers.  So, if you want to be
secure you'll probably need to restart your web browser more often
than every six months.

Oh, and portage (the gentoo package manager) has had its behavior
change lately.  A big problem in the past was having to rebuild things
when libraries change versions since the so name changes and software
would be linked against the old version (and hence will have unmet
dependencies after the old version is removed).  Two things have
happened since then to mitigate this.  One is that --as-needed has
become a default when linking (which means a LOT less libraries get
linked to executables).  The other is that portage detects when old
libraries are linked against and doesn't delete them until this is
resolved.  The downside to that behavior is that vulnerable libraries
can stick around.  Usually packages prone to this tend to include
instructions for how to search for these dependencies and rebuild
them, but at least now software doesn't die in the meantime.

The other danger you run if you reboot VERY infrequently is that you
could make a mistake in configuring things and have an unbootable
system and not realize it.  Then after a few months you need to reboot
and you don't know what broke (as opposed to rebooting weekly and
being able to quickly narrow it down).  The aforementioned portage
behavior should cut down on this, but I did tend to be careful when
updating stuff like coreutils, openrc, glibc, expat, etc (stuff used
to boot or with LOTS of dependencies).  Gentoo QA has improved over
the last few years but I still have memories of when this used to be a
bigger problem.

Oh, and be sure to use "eselect news read new" before doing updates if
you haven't synced portage in a while.  Known upgrade issues tend to
be announced in advance and have links to howtos, forums, etc.  Gentoo
tends to have a pretty skilled user base on average, so forum help
tends to be good.

While I'd never recommend it as a user's first distro I find Gentoo to
be something I can't live without.  Anytime I try something else I
usually run into something that I want to tweak, but can't without
having to manually maintain it forever.  Sabayon might be something to
try if you want to have a gentoo-on-training-wheels experience - it is
a good distro in its own rights, and tends to be a blend of something
like mint and gentoo (it uses portage but with a binary repository and
default USE settings).

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