My MacBook Pro (v5,3) and Gentoo Prefix

As noted in a previous blog post, I am now an owner of the latest (as of this writing) 15″ MacBook Pro, the 2.66GHz model, and, let me tell you, it’s a superb laptop. (I don’t think I’ve gotten this excited since I took home my Wii.) I wanted to go in-depth on each thing I’ve done with it, so instead of covering the same topics twice, I decided to summarize my experience here, and write in-depth in other posts instead.

How has my experience been overall? OSX is not flawless, but it’s brilliant. For example, I’m constantly switching from Ctrl+Tab to Cmd+Tab to Cmd+` to Ctrl+A Ctrl+A depending on the application I’m using. (Ctrl+Tab for tab switching, Cmd+Tab for app switching, Cmd+` for window-in-an-app switching, and Ctrl+A Ctrl+A for terminal screen switching.) Another example is Finder. The fact that the Open dialog looks exactly like, and yet is different from, other Finder dialogs makes me do summersaults in my head when I try to do something in Open that I did in Finder or vice-versa. The library of software for OSX is lacking, but I supplement it with Prefix (more on that later). The hardware is sheer awesome, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave it now.

I’m a Linux fan. I’ve been using Linux for who-knows-how-long now, and I know exactly what pieces of software I want where and with what features. So, it’s no surprise that, when I moved to this new operating system, that within days of playing around, I looked around as to the best way to tweak it to my interests, true to the stereotypical Linux geek in me. That’s when I decided I wanted Linux on my Mac.

The first option that presented itself was Boot Camp. However, I got hit with three major problems. First, I booted the minimal CD, and found that the keyboard didn’t work. I rebooted into an Ubuntu LiveCD, and found that the wireless was yet to be supported by Linux in general, and the drivers provided by the manufacturer were horribly out of date. Ignoring all these issues, I then found out that simply booting Linux on a MacBook was complicated and perhaps even slightly messy.

My next option was to use a virtual PC. However, after exploring various options, I realized I’d never be comfortable in a VM. I’d have two separate browsers, two separate terminals, potentially two separate IM programs, and I’d have to boot two operating systems before I got to do whatever it is I wanted. Not fun.

So, I googled “gentoo mac osx”, and I found “Gentoo for Mac OSX” which then led me to “Gentoo Prefix”. Wow. (A little cool note: three months ago, the way Gentoo Prefix works would’ve been very odd to me, and I’d have been learning a lot of the Prefix concepts for the first time. However, thanks to the Gentoo for Pandora project, I’ve actually been prepared for the ideas behind Gentoo Prefix.)

Gentoo Prefix’s documentation lists instructions for x64 processors, like the Core 2 Duo Penryn processor I’ve got, but the catch is it isn’t supported as well as x86 is. After doing a lot of unmasking with my handy unmask utility (coming in a later post), I quickly discovered that 64-bit was critically buggy in many things, such as ssh. Having learned my lesson, I am back to x86. Never fear, though! x64 is on my list of things to fix up/play with.

So, now I’m running OSX with Pidgin, screen+irssi, a full portage tree, quite a few lively developers to back up Gentoo Prefix, and speedy Safari.

Oh, yes, on that subject: Firefox is great. Safari 4 is even better. I had AdBlock Plus, DownThemAll, and Google Gears for add-ons. I never used DownThemAll, AdBlock Plus I could live without (besides, that’s how websites earn money nowadays!), and Gears supports Safari. I stopped saving passwords once I learned how dangerous that is, even with encryption and whatever else, and my History will come back on its own. Safari’s speeds are blindingly fast, at least on OSX anyway, and since I went straight from 1.8GHz P4 + Firefox 3 to a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo + Safari 4 combination, I was wow’ed by the speeds. I opened Firefox 3 in OSX, and pretty much closed it and moved it to my trash right away.

Alright, that’s all for now. I’ve got the nitty-gritty details of exactly how I settled into OSX, and how I got all my favorite Linux, or their equivalents, to act like or cooperate with other OSX software. Stay tuned. 😉

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  • Marco  On July 12, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Nice to hear of your experience!
    I just bought a macbook pro as your and I’m experiencing problems with gcc 4.0.1 and openmpi ( the same program (fft computation) is perfect on my old laptop while provide different results on the macbook! ) so I’m just looking for a way to update gcc and open mpi. Currently I’m using macport but since basically it compiles alla applications from scratch I think I will soon move back to gentoo-portage after some years of absence! 😉
    Hope to hear from you in future posts how is your living with OSX and Prefix! 🙂

  • Mike  On July 27, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Just tried this and got hung up when executing:

    ./ $EPREFIX portage

    as per the instructions.

    I got this:

    config.status: WARNING: ‘’ seems to ignore the –datarootdir setting
    config.status: creating Makefile
    config.status: creating src/Makefile
    config.status: creating man/Makefile
    config.status: creating bin/Makefile
    config.status: creating pym/Makefile
    config.status: creating cnf/Makefile
    config.status: WARNING: ‘cnf/’ seems to ignore the –datarootdir setting
    config.status: executing depfiles commands
    Makefile:90: *** target pattern contains no `%’. Stop.
    Did you come across this and if so, how did you get around it?

    • javaJake  On July 27, 2009 at 10:08 am

      I did not come across that. Those warnings, while somewhat nerving, shouldn’t cause you any issues. As long as you run Prefix under your normal user, it cannot hurt your system. And, if it is installing to the wrong place, it will attempt to install to / and fail. Therefore, if it works, don’t worry about it. It worked. 😉

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