When you Can’t Compile ‘Em, Virtualize ‘Em (in VirtualBox)

That’s the approach I’m taking when it comes to Gentoo right now. September, my deadline for all computer projects, is my hard deadline, because that’s when college starts, and that’s when I expect my free time will be dramatically shortened, if not entirely consumed, as far as my computer projects are concerned. Because of that, I can’t waste a lot of time patching and hacking. If it doesn’t work in Gentoo Prefix like I want it to, I’ll throw it into VirtualBox’s copy of Gentoo and use the Shared Folders feature to keep data synced in and out of the virtual machine.

First off, don’t even think about doing this if you don’t have x86 virtualization extensions. You may survive the experience, but you won’t be able to stand it for much longer after. On my ol’ 1.8GHz Pentium 4, the speeds were always at least twice as slow. With my new Core 2 Duo processor with VT-x, the virtual machine can let the real processor take on most of the processing needs. If I had a “Core i7” Intel processor, or something else with Nehalem, I would also have Nested Paging which can give as much as a 1/3 increase in speeds.

But never-mind, because VT-x gives me near-native performance, which is absolutely necessary for Gentoo. Another good thing to have is a bigger-than-8G hard-drive. (In other words, the default Linux size is not good enough.) I gave the machine 512M out of my 4G total, which is more than enough for a Linux desktop. I turned on 3D acceleration and gave it 64M of VRAM, because I want to try KDE4.3. Everything else are defaults, pretty much.

The kernel is pretty easy to figure out. AC97 for audio, and Core 2 Duo as my processor works. Most of the info on the kernel can be found here.

The one snag I hit that I couldn’t figure out for a while was GRUB. Apparently GRUB v0.97 is extremely old and no longer supported. GRUB2 is a much better idea. I’m running grub-9999 no problems, but that’s probably more due to luck than anything. πŸ™‚

Besides that, not a whole lot to talk about. I’ve got the desktop profile enabled, and am recompiling everything with that before I autounmask what remains of KDE4.3 after I used kde-testing‘s package.unmask and package.keywords files. Things are compiling right now, which is why I had time to write this. πŸ™‚

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