Gentoo is the GNU/Linux distribution that has the users that compile all of their own software. There are other such distributions, including Source Mage, but Gentoo is leading.

The command emerge nethack will probably give the latest version of NetHack to a Gentoo user, though it helps that 3.4.3 has long been current. However, the online package database suggests that emerge slashem will continue to give you SLASH'EM 0.0.7E6F0, unless you request the unstable build for 0.0.7E7F2. Gentoo does not seem to provide 0.0.7E7F3.

Though Gentoo facilitates certain customisations of the system, such as "Hardened Gentoo", if you want to build NetHack with your own selection of patches, you are probably better to do it manually than to go through their "Portage" system, unless you want to generate your own ebuild (configure and build script).

Perhaps a fortune cookie could read:

They say that Debian and Gentoo are the best at providing current versions of packages.

However, another one may read:

They say that "emerge --sync" may give you a broken system.

The emerge --sync command upgrades the scripts that build Gentoo packages to the latest version. This also includes the list of masked packages. Since the ebuild games-roguelike/nethack is masked, further emerge commands tend to fail, because emerge detects an installed ebuild that is masked. The problem can be solved by inserting the line


in /etc/portage/package.unmask. This approach is superior to removing it from /usr/portage/profiles/package.mask, since the contents of /etc/portage are not overwritten by emerge --sync. This same approach is effective for Sabayon Linux as well, since it's essentially a customized Gentoo.

To find out why nethack (and SLASH'EM) are masked have a look at the Gentoo bug tracker [1].

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