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I like the "compile it yourself" philosophy that Gentoo runs on, but how is the support for non-ebuild programs? That might just mean binaries, but also programs in general that were not acquired through Emerge.

Is it a big problem when the actual stuff installed on the system gets out of sync with Emerge's bookkeeping?

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Such software usually better to install in separate tree, such as your home directory or /opt. In general, things may gone bad if you will install software manually in the same directories as portage. Most obvious problem - conflicts, when your software overwrites files from some package or vice versa.

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If you want to manually manage a package (as opposed to creating a custom ebuild in your own overlay, which is to be preferred) that is required by others, what you can do is to uninstall that package and then put it in /etc/portage/package.provided. That way portage will "know" it's there and dependencies will work with it. In general though it's much easier to either have a custom ebuild or for small changes use /etc/portage/env/.... That way you can have portage work for you.

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I install custom packages in the /usr/local tree. No official packages should be installed there, so you should be able to experiment without consequence.

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I use Paludis, which is an alternative package manager for Gentoo. It offers good support for manually installed programs through the cave import command. Here's a blog entry about the importare client, which was what cave import was called in older versions of Paludis. The new command works pretty much the same way.

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In the cave import help, when it says "Import a package from a directory containing its image", by "its image" does it just mean a collection of files that will comprise the new package? –  Faheem Mitha May 15 '11 at 8:39
    
@Faheem, yes. For a simple example, if you wanted to install /usr/bin/foobar, you could create /tmp/img/usr/bin/foobar and then import /tmp/img. The usual method is to use make install DESTDIR=/tmp/img. –  cjm May 15 '11 at 9:07
    
thanks for the confirmation. I personally would have used different terminology in that help page. –  Faheem Mitha May 15 '11 at 9:28
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