Gentoo’s package manager is called “Portage” and provides the capability to download, compile and install the source code of the applications that the end user wants to install – this does mean that packages can take longer to install than on those distros that provide pre-built binary packages. (Some larger applications like the Chrome or Firefox browsers, or the LibreOffice office package can be dowloaded as pre-built binaries if required.)
Portage also provides a feature known as “USE flags” which allow most packages to be built with additional levels of support that may be required by the user – or, alternatively, that the user may wish to omit as an unnecessary feature to keep the size of an application as small as possible.
For example, a user may decide to turn off support for the FLAC audio format in a music player application if all he or she ever plays are MP3 files – a USE flag for that music player application will allow FLAC support to be turned on or off as necessary.
Gentoo also supports a wide range of CPU hardware – as well as Intel/AMD 64-bit architecures, it can also be built on Intel/AMD 32-bit architectures as well as ARM, Sparc, Itanium and several others.
For deploying Gentoo on (usually ARM-based) Single Board Computers like the Raspberry Pi, a pre-built distro can be installed on such computers. In addition, because such SBCs have less powerful CPUs and restricted memory that might make compilation of some programs difficult, Gentoo allows the installation of “tool-chains” for other architectures to be installed on a more powerful desktop PC – the user can then “cross-compile” programs for other architectures on that PC and then install them as compiled binaries to those other platforms.
Contribution by Peter Andrijeczko
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