My experience using Gentoo Musl

For the past month to month and a half I have been playing with musl on Gentoo as well as Clang/musl this post is a collection of my experience using it full time. For starters I think more people should switch to musl sounds like a bold statement for sure but majority of software is working fine out of the box and that's on Gentoo I would imagine Void and Alpine are easier however you would lose the ability to easily use the package manager to test and fix packages not installing without downloading the source code on those distros and manually building it. I installed apps like Lutris, Wine, OBS Studio, Kdenlive and Krita. Everything working just fine with GCC, with LLVM/Clang I did encounter a lot more issues and needed to mess around a lot to get things working but you can still get all those packages working by using the following 2 repos. You should also add the gentoo patch set they are using to /etc/portage/patches they can help you compile things if you are using LLVM/Clang sometimes they make the packages not compile at all and you need to remove them no big deal.

12101111 Overlay -
Clang-Musl Overlay -
Clang Musl Patch set -

Void Linux -
Alpine Linux -

For GCC the process is a lot easier you should only need the native Gentoo musl repo however it seems a lot of those fixes are pushed to main repo these days and are working fine. If you just program its a great way to lighten your system as there is no 32 Bit ABI Support which will save you on compiling things twice if you are doing this. As to a performance increase I would say there is none, however if you are looking for that lighter system this is an option to choose. Competition is good and supporting musl into mainstream is also good so we don't have to rely on GNU Apps for linux to function as much. You can read more about the functional differences between musl and glibc here.

So what doesn't work on musl can I replace my gaming setup from glibc to musl? Well no because there is no 32 Bit Support. You can run games with Wine 64 bit only through Lutris not a lot though you will need to not use system libraries either, Steam however is not open source and thus can't be compiled. Discord is also not open sourced and can't be compiled thus can't work. You however can set up a separate chroot or use some like Conty to set one up for you to play games inside the performance difference is a couple % basically native. We will never get support for musl from Steam or Discord without having people running it creating demand similar to Linux support for games in general without people daily driving Linux.

Conty Chroot -

If all you do is program and use a web browser you can make your system more light weight than just using Gentoo and installing KISS Linux. I recently tried this in a chroot and it works very nice around 100 packages installed. I think this is a great amount for people using lower powered devices like a laptop where compiling all your own software will take to long to be worth it. KISS Linux however has similar to flaws to Linux From Scratch for anyone who has used that before in the fact that you

A) Cant download packages from a server near you and download directly from the source repo (unless setup in your own repo). This is a pro as you don't need to rely on a distro to handle packages for you. If that distro is abandoned you are left to move to something else. However it's also a con as it leads to slower download times something to be aware of.

B) Have to make your own repo to download packages that are not currently in other people's repos. This is why I mentioned if you just do programming and basic tasks this is a better distro for you as everything will work with a few repos even Kdenlive and Krita. Making your own repo will require making package build files using shell. This is personally recommended so you can customize what's being installed into the packages similar to USE flags in Gentoo.

C) Main repository in the install guide is basically dead you need to use the community forked repo to get updated packages as some outdated packages are no longer kept on the sources servers.

If these are ok compromises to you I would recommended checking it out otherwise a bare bones Gentoo musl setup will be fine for you with slightly more packages and compiling needed, but you will be able to access new released packages manage USE flags easier and not forced to run your own repository.

KISS Linux -

So even after these minor flaws I would still recommend people switch to musl? Yes! Not everyone for sure don't go recommending your grandma's first linux install to be on some musl based distro but those who are somewhat familiar with Linux and don't mind spending time here and there figuring things out to get them working I would recommend it runs very good. What about Clang/musl? Clang/musl is another beast I've spent literal days messing with this to get things working then it will work then mess up again I would say it needs a lot more love and care to get working and wouldn't recommend it for a daily driven system unless you have a lot of free time to maintain it. I would recommend compiling all your smaller packages with LLVM/Clang and use GCC for the large ones and the ones the small ones that failed using LLVM/Clang by setting Clang system wide and using GCC in your package.env for those few packages and then go from there. Will I be sticking with musl full time? Sadly not at this time. Gaming through a chroot just annoyed me having a system overtop of my current system. I have switched back to Gentoo glibc with GCC for the time being I may mess more around with system wide LLVM/Clang in the future on glibc. I will be trying musl again sometime in the future and watching it's development however it's more on apps like Steam and Discord not being open sourced holding me back. Another option is for them to release a binary compiled against musl but again this is also unlikely.