Comparing Linux distros: gentoo vs. Mandrake

Want help choosing your Linux distribution? I use both gentoo and Mandrake… Let’s see if gentoo is right for you.

About gentoo

Short story: great for a machine you really care about and plan to keep a long time. Bad for a machine you rarely use and just want to work now.


  • Installation might be manual, but it is very well documented… See…/handbook-x86.xml. Comparatively, Mandrake doesn’t need documentation for the installation, since the installation takes half an hour and is automated.
  • Community support is excellent. Bugs get fixed quickly. bugzilla is beautiful and works well. See Comparatively, Mandrake has nothing like bugzilla, but rather “paid support”.
  • They support far more packages than RedHat or Mandrake (see No more “hunt down this RPM” crap. This morning, I wanted spamassassin… I did “emerge spamassassin”… it went through, downloaded the necessary packages and installed everything. One command and the stuff is installed. Comparatively, Mandrake doesn’t have RPMs for everything and when it doesn’t it is really a pain. Even if Mandrake has the RPMs, finding them can be hard.
  • [main argument in favor of gentooo] I don’t see the day when my gentoo install will be outdated. I started out with kernel 2.4, I’m now using kernel 2.6… and if there is a kernel 2.8, I’ll move to it. No problem. You do “emerge sync; emerge -uD world” and your machine is
    synced with the latest packages. You can do this nightly though I don’t recommend it. Comparatively, my fresh Mandrake install is already outdated and short of reinstalling the whole thing, I have no way to upgrade it.


  • It takes longer to install, because you have no wizard. You do have a CD that gives you a nice shell, but from there, it is manual labor. Allocate a day to have something ready for actual work. Mandrake installs in half an hour.
  • Setting up stuff is all done through command line utilities, except for what KDE or Gnome provide. You basically cannot stay away from hacking /etc files. Comparatively, with Mandrake, you have GUI tools for everything.
  • You compile everything from source, so installing software takes longer. On rare occasions, something can fail to compile and you have to check up the bug reports.
  • The portage system is great, but there is a small learning curve. You have learn about package masking, portage keywords and so on. There is a tool called “epm” which allows you to mimick the “rpm” command under gentoo, but it is not the good old rpm. Comparatively,
    Mandrake uses RPMs which I knew well.
  • The portage system (“emerge” command) is relatively slow. There can be a 5 seconds delay before the emerge plan gets computed. Comparatively, installing a rpm is very quick.
  • I find that some programs like OpenOffice are snappier under Mandrake. Probably has to do with compile options. You could tweak gentoo to get the same results, but I don’t have time for this.

Daniel Lemire, "Comparing Linux distros: gentoo vs. Mandrake," in Daniel Lemire's blog, September 1, 2005.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

6 thoughts on “Comparing Linux distros: gentoo vs. Mandrake”

  1. I use mandrake in all my machines

    Here’s the bug tracking website for mandrake:
    mandrake bugzilla:

    I found that once you have the 3 repositories at your disposition, most (not all) packages you need should be a urpmi command away. Not perfect, but good enough.

    I agree that gentoo makes it easier to stay up to date. But you can upgrade mandrake also. I usually do “urpmi –auto-select” and the system upgrades itself.

    How does uromi compare to portage? Are they basically the same or do you like portage better?

  2. Thanks for the link to Mandrake’s bug tracker. I couldn’t find a link to it anywhere on their web site.

    Which 3 repositories? There are definitively way more packages in gentoo. I didn’t count them, but I’m sure the number is much larger. I had to install all sorts of things from tar balls at the office.

    When you say “the system upgrades itself”, you mean that Mandrake 9.0 becomes Mandrake 10.2, or merely that whatever updates for whatever version of the distro you have are applied?

  3. “There is a tool called “epm” which allows you to mimick the “rpm” command under gentoo, but it is not the good old rpm.”

    Did you try “emerge -av rpm” ?

  4. seems like a common problem on the gentoo forums but even searching through the old posts at the gentoo forum i haven’t been able to find a solution to this problem:


    eth0 does not exist

    now i’m using the integrated Marvell Yukon Gigabit nic integrated into my asus k8vsedx and there are 2 options when compiling the kernel under networking support -> ethernet (1000mb). one is deprecated and one is experimental. i’ve tried marking both with a “*” and neither of them have worked…

    i’m using the instructions for recompiling and installing the kernel found here. i’m manually confguring so section 7.c is what im using .

    any advice?

    edit: i’ve also downloaded a bz2 file from for the nic but i don’t know exactly where to extract it. i know i’d have to modularize it in menuconfig and probably add it to the /etc/modules.autoload.d/kernel-2.6.12-gentoo-r4 file right?

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