I was recently working on a personal project to setup a PVR system for my living room. The first part of this project was relatively easy; I just bought another dell computer. The next step was a little bit complicated, see, personally I would typically like to use an OS that has a portage type system (Gentoo, FreeBSD, etc.), but I felt that I needed a little work on my RedHat Package Management skills. This required that I use RedHat Enterprise 3 or 4, since the Fedora code uses Yum (which I ended up installing anyway).
When I first installed the PVR software, it required several dependencies that RedHat did not include on the RedHat Network, that I needed to find manually, after about 2 hours of dealing with finding dependencies, I felt that I might give Yum a try, unfortunately, it is a little harder to find Yum servers with RHEL4 packages than I thought. I finally found one after searching Google for a little while, but it still didn't have a majority of the packages that I needed. I'm going to cut out the hours of pain that I went through to match dependencies and installing software from source, and recompiling SRPM's to get the software installed. For the sake of my article, I will just provide the over all statistics of what was done:
Installed RPM's via up2date:
Installed RPM's required for dependencies from Internet (not found on up2date):
Installed RPM's required for dependencies found in Yum:
RPM's Compiled from SRPM's:
This all in all on a RedHat Enterprise 4 machine took about 6-7 hours.
Just for kicks, I then expanded my experiment to other Linux Distributions to see how long it would take, thinking that I would be wasting the next few days off anyway.
I formatted the hard disks and went on my way with a Fedora Core 4 Install. This actually went a lot better than the enterprise server. This by default comes with Yum, and since most of the packages are developed by the open source community, it appeared to have much more compatibility with the open source packages I attempted to install. I even found a Yum channel for Fedora that had all of the dependencies, including the ones that I had to compile from SRPM's on enterprise. My only problem with Yum, was having to manually find all of the channels to get the packages I needed. Yes, there are several out there, and pretty easy to find, but still not my choice in simplicity. This complete installation took me about 1 1/2 hours, the actual install was actually fairly quick, but again, the dependencies were the problem.
Excited that I did not waste my entire day with Fedora, I was in a rather good mood, and decided to use Debian. Like Fedora, this was rather straight forward, but still required manual editing of the apt-get locations to meet all of the dependencies. This installation took me a little less time, because the Debian apt-get library and the fedora library were both listed on the same page, but I assume it would have taken me the same length of time if I didn't already know where to look. Again, simplicity is not exactly what I'm looking for.
I was still in a pretty good mood at this point; I had gone from a rather long, annoying install, to 2 very short rather quick installs. I went to my next Linux distribution Gentoo. Now, I personally, I've only ever used Gentoo twice, but I loved their portage system they used, but the overall feel of Gentoo was rather complicated to teach my wife, so it didn't last too long on previous installs. I went into this installation with some of the worst expectations, having to manually compile some of the applications that were required etc. This installation went fairly quickly, the application I was trying to install was in the portage system. I emerged the application; it located all of the dependencies and installed everything with very minimal work on my part. This system by far wins in simplicity, and ease of use. The only problem with Gentoo is the installation. This install still took me about 2 hours from a stage 2 install, but the actual install of the application using emerge was by far the easiest package management that I dealt with during this project.
All in all, I would rate the Gentoo package management system the highest, as it took less time to install my specified application, Debian and Fedora come in as a tie for second, and RedHat Enterprise in my opinion, is the worst package management system, out of the ones tested.