"Most LJ readers are familiar with the various commercial
distributions of Linux available for desktop and server systems.
When one thinks of these commercial versions of Linux, one
naturally might gravitate toward such names as Red Hat, SuSE or
Mandrake. Some may even go so far as to think of UnitedLinux or,
dare I go there, SCO Linux. Then, of course, there are your
non-commercial community-supported distributions, including Debian
and Slackware. When I mentioned to a friend that I was going to
install Debian on a system so I could learn more about Linux, he
suggested I try the Gentoo distribution.
"According to Gentoo's architects and developers, Gentoo Linux
is a 'special flavor of Linux that can be automatically optimized
and customized for just about any application or need.' Depending
on how deeply customized you want your system to be, this
customization can be as simple as selecting only the applications
and services you want on the system. On the other end of the
spectrum, you could go as complex as instructing the compiler
directives to utilize instruction sets that render executable code
compiled specifically for your processor. The ease with which this
customization occurs is part of what gives Gentoo its strength.
Modify one file (/etc/make.conf) with the processor directives you
wish to use, and let Gentoo's Portage system build executable files
optimized for your exact needs..."