Re: pros/cons of installing from source
For every report of "Woot! Compiling from source kicks butt. Why didn't
I do this earlier", I can find 1 that disagrees with you and 1 that says
"maybe it is worth it for max performance, but WOW, 196 hours to get a
workable complete system, I'm not so sure"
The reason I say this, is even if you get 1%-5% improvement in
performance, are you really going to see (really and truly "feel") it?
The answer is: no.
Biggest contenders for optimisation are the kernel and libc. Most
applications are mainly a series of calls to these two so won't directly
benefit from by being compiled with *magical* flags.
Debian supply both optimised kernels and to a lesser degree optimised
libc packages. Use of SIMD extensions etc is something totally
different, and compiler flags aren't going to do all that much there
Think of all the dolphins that will die because of the electricity
wasted pointlessly compiling packages. ^^
Well, I have no experience whatsoever with gentoo, but I have
experimented with sourceMage. And I have most things compiled for the
systems I need, and it doesn't' take that much time as I've heard
about gentoo (no discussion it requires quiet more time to build a
system than to install it). The most time I've spent is to learn
about the new packaging system for the sources (taking care of
dependencies, automatic download, testing/stable, etc, not that much
though), and also about what is really required and what is not for a
package (this requires the most time for me, since I'm used to just
"aptitude install" what I need).
BTW, the kernel is a good example not for optimization flags, neither
dependencies, but for configuration. The stuck kernel supplied by
debian is compiled to work for most systems, and supports a lot of
hardware one might not need. A bit of optimizations can be granted by
correctly selecting the cpu also, and by tuning the configurations as
well (example, one might want to select pentium M for cpu architecture
and the like). Of course this doesn't require a source based distro
though, debian provides pretty good kernel
Also It's not only compiler optimizations what you get from source
base distros, it's dependencies control. There are things one might
compile against, that others might think as irrelevant. On binary
based distros one can't control how the packages are compiled, thus
one need to comply with the dependencies set by the developer. Which
is OK for the most part, except if you want customized systems
(whether lighter or even more blotted).
It all depends on one's tastes and necessities. I for example am
trying sourceMage in some machines, and found it amazingly easy and
fast enough for the building part, and still I have debian installed
in some others. I have to recognize that things given by granted on
debian, need to be sometimes carefully looked on sourceMage though.
Any ways, it's true that if you're planning to try a source based
distro, you need to save time for that purpose, not just because of
compilation time though, but also for learning about some packages and
their lots of optional dependencies offered. If you still have
doubts, you need to try, and then generate a personal criteria.
You asked for pros and cons. I think the cons are very clear, but I
wanted to complement the pros, because IMHO it's not just the
optimizations flags what gets provided...
BTW, you might still use a binary distro, and compile some critical
things, as implicitly suggested by a previous post. The best example
for such thing, as stated in a previous post is the kernel. Maybe