Ah, the big question. I had a fierce debate with a friend over this one. I’m +1 for Gentoo but that’s a biased vote.
It’s quite simple really. The choice depends on who you are and what you want. Me being a developer and a linux enthusiast found the Gentoo installation in itself a very enlightening experience, which is nothing short of nightmare for a person who wants to switch from windows. Sure, it took 3 days, but I sure learned a lot.
Of course, saying that Debian is linux not suited for developers is stupidity, it is after all one of the most preferred and popular distros out there which has managed to capture both the hardcore dev crowd as well as the n00bs. But I found it quite silly that I had to “apt-get install” to get “make” or “autoconf”. Ubuntu was even sadder. Not even a kernel source!
The point is not that you can’t do something in Debian, the point is that Gentoo forces you to do it. The installation is in itself a “Linux Tutorial”, you learn the nitty-gritty of kernel configuration, learn about gcc flags you never thought existed, learn about configuring your obscure graphics card to work with X. Truly eye-opening. And this is the advantage people who installed and work with Gentoo have over those you pointed-and-clicked their way through Debian, Ubuntu and RedHat: Complete control and Knowledge of your PC, apart from the happiness; “YES! It Works!”. So what if I couldn’t sleep for 3 days?!
The final word? Here it goes:
Developer + Guts = Gentoo
Developer + Lazy = Debian
Newbie = Ubuntu/RedHat/Whatever
And arguing that Gentoo is “not meant for server-class installation” is total crap. More on that later though…