The folks at work delivered a spanking new machine to me about a week ago. A dual-dual-core Xeon. It looks a little like a mini-refrigerator. Pohl once posed a question to me after I had finished building my dream rig some four years back: "So, what operating system do you intend to run all that nice hardware with?"
My new rule is not to get comfortable. Ubuntu had become too easy. And mind-numbing: I didn't know what was going on under the hood any more, or I didn't have to worry about it. But isn't that half the fun?
I downloaded the Gentoo 2006.1 CD, and peeked at the excellent installation documentation. Even if you aren't going to install Gentoo, but want a good reference on what a Linux installation does, this is a fantastic resource. Going through the installation is like a practical exercise in understanding a lot of basics. The documentation even has links to further reading.
The biggest hurdle I encountered was trying to get my new kernel to boot. The problem turned out to be a non-issue. I didn't realize that the box was equipped with Serial Attached SCSI, and assumed that the disks were attached to a regular SATA-2 port. With that figured out, things went real smooth. The last time I had built a kernel must have been on 2.4.x, but with the 2.6.x builds, the process is really much simpler.
The package management system on Gentoo, Portage is about as simple to use as the APT system. Except, that you get to configure what your builds compile in via a make.conf file that provides explicit flags on library support you want or not. I've eschewed gnome, and found XFCE to be a comfortable, light environment that really does everything that Gnome did for me, with a little more ease, and quicker. Really- when was the last time that the wireless-networking applet worked better then a couple of iwconfig calls?
Oh, and then I accidentally stumbled on a fancy little music player called waif. Dubbed the "Console Audio Unfrontend", it approaches the concept of an audio player without the need for a front-end at all. Needless to say, I'm hooked.