Fosdem Hakin9
2005 Edition Free and Open Source Software Developer's European Meeting


2005-02-22 - Marius Mauch


An interview conducted by FOSDEM & the LinuxFR readers
FOSDEM - First and traditional question: please present yourself !

Marius Mauch - I'm a 23 year old student from Bremen, Germany currently studying at the local university and hope to get my masters degree next year. I'm also a member of the core portage development team in Gentoo and package maintainer for a few packages, so I get to see both sides of the problem.

FOSDEM - How and why did you start with working on Gentoo ? What are the top 3 reasons for you being a Gentoo user? And a Gentoo developer?

Marius Mauch - Back in 2001 I was a rather happy Redhat 7.3 user, although a little bit annoyed by the lack of a usable rpm frontend and the stupid subpackaging performed by binary distros in general (separation between "normal" and "devel" packages). In 2002 Redhat 7.3 started to get quite old, so I looked at 8.0, but found it very buggy. I was thinking for some time already about building a LFS system (as I like the idea of compiling from source) but never got around to it and didn't want to replace my main system with it anyway. By the end of 2002 I had seen several comments about Gentoo (don't remember where) being quite similar to LFS without most of the drawbacks and decided to try it, and well, was quite impressed, so I stayed.

Reasons for being a Gentoo user:
1) The package manager does what I want, not the other way round
2) I have a modern system without reinstalling every n months
3) Switching to a different distro would cost a lot of time ;)

Reasons for being a Gentoo dev:
1) I can fix things without waiting for someone else
2) Lots of nice people to work with
3) The shiny adress ;)

FOSDEM - What are the specific goals of emerge, what makes it so particuliar ?

Marius Mauch - First, I guess you mean portage, not emerge which is just a frontend to portage. Personally I think the thing that gets the most users is the convenience and the size of our repository. Portage does all steps from installing dependencies over downloading the packages and compiling them to actually installing them. And our repository is probably the second largest after Debians (although you can't really compare them due to the mentioned subpackaging). For devs I think the most attractive feature is the simplicity of ebuilds as they are just an enhanced form of bash scripts, so you don't have to learn a lot to make an ebuild for a package.

FOSDEM - Don't you think that a "common" packaging project should be initiated to"standardize" Linux distributions packaging, so that every (or at leat most of them) distributions could benefit from it?

Marius Mauch - Actually this is something we're looking into, although not for the near future. There are many problems with this though, both technical and political, it would go too far to list them here. It's definitely an interesting topic and portage-3 will be a huge step into that direction, but we'll need an even huger step to really close the gap.

FOSDEM - what do you think about "build" package (by build, I mean not compiled at installation / on the fly) ?

Marius Mauch - There are good reasons for both source and binary packages. Source packages give you all the flexibility you want and binary packages allow for better QA testing and fast deployments. It's not so well known, but Portage can also operate with binary packages, the same like rpm can deal with source packages. It depends what's more important for someone.

FOSDEM - what do you think about the other distro like Source Mage ie ? Is Gentoo more developed ?

Marius Mauch - To be honest I don't know that many other distros. I think the big rpm based distros, Debian and the *BSDs have more experience and an established user base, Gentoo is still trying to find it's role there. Haven't really heard much about Source Mage and its siblings, so I can't comment where we stand in comparison.

FOSDEM - there were talks about a rewrite of emerge in C++. Is that still in the works?

Marius Mauch - Oh, this topic ;) Yes, this idea has come up often by users who think it would make portage much faster, but this simply isn't the case and we (the Portage developers) never considered it. Then there was the Portage-NG announcement by Daniel Robbins about a year ago, which didn't specify an implementation language (so C++ was in the talk for this too), but it died rather quick, partly due to Daniel leaving the Project, but also some other political reasons. It simply was overhyped at the time and we decided to concentrate on improving the current portage.
And finally there are several projects working on portage replacements in different languages with varying success, but so far I haven't heard of one that's fully operational.

FOSDEM - What do you expect from your FOSDEM talk ?

Marius Mauch - I hope I can fix some of the myths and wrong assumptions that many non-Gentoo users and developers have and remind people that there is not only rpm to care about.


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