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Gentoo 2006.1: A Thing of Dreams?

Gentoo Linux 2006.1 is now out offering users the latest in package updates for the community-built meta-distribution.

The release also offers support for an interesting processor, the Hitachi SuperH, which is included in Sega's long-dead Dreamcast game console.

The 2006.1 release is the second official milestone release from Gentoo this year and follows the 2006.0 release by six months.

Unlike other Linux distributions, Gentoo developers considered their distribution to be a "meta-distribution" since users can customize their distributions with the Gentoo Portage system of more than 6,000 continuously updated packages.

The release serves as a marker for progress made in the Gentoo project.

"As with all new Gentoo releases, this one brings new packages to the 'out of the box' install," Gentoo Developer Christel Dahlskjaer told internetnews.com

"The most noteworthy aspects of this release will be that it's built with GCC 4.1 for AMD64, x86, HPPA, and 32- and 64-bit PowerPCs."

GCC 4.1 was released in March and provides a high degree of optimization.

Originally standing for GNU C Compiler, GCC now refers to GNU Compiler Collection and is in every GNU/Linux distribution. The 2006.0 milestone used GCC 3.4. By using GCC 4.1, Gentoo developers were able to achieve a certain degree of improvement in their release.

"Although I am not a toolchain chick, some improvements worthy of mention are faster code on some architectures, better conformance to various language standards and improved optimization for C and C++," Dahlskjaer explained.

"As well as library support for a large number of the features in C++ TR1, support for Fortran 90 to mention some."

The installer in 2006.1 is also improved over the one that first appeared in 2006.0.

When 2006.0 was released, Gentoo developer Daniel Ostrow told internetnews.com that the installer was still pre-1.0 and, as such, it may have a few rough edges.

Dahlskjaer noted that the installer was ready for prime time, otherwise the Gentoo project wouldn't have released it as the default method for x86.

"However, at that time we weren't confident to ship it with any other archs," Dahlskjaer said. "For 2006.1? Absolutely!"

2006.1 also now supports the Hitachi SuperH embedded processor, which is found in some HP PDAs as well as in the discontinued SEGA DreamCast gaming console.

Don't expect to be able to turn that old DreamCast you've got lying around into a Gentoo-based Linux supercomputer just yet, though.

"Technically speaking, yes, it can run Gentoo if you're inclined to tinker about with it a bit," Dahlskjaer said. "However, we do not yet support Gentoo on the DreamCast."