Everybody who went to LCA entered their distro, editor, and shell upon registration. Gentoo made an excellent showing, coming in 4th after Ubuntu, Debian and Fedora.
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My Linux roots actually started back at Indiana University (Bloomington) where I was a graduate student. I was never a happy Window’s user. By mid-September, I had installed Red Hat Linux 7.3 on my custom Pentium 3 desktop. It did not impress me due more to my ignorance of Linux and RPMs then with Red Hat. Yeah it was nice to SSH to one of Unix boxes at the GIS lab so I could run ArcGIS but after the class ended, I lost interest. Red Hat Linux 8.0 did not switch me. I tried SUSE Linux but I could not install it. Finally I settled for Red Hat Linux 9.0.
In April, 2003, the Linux guys from UITS at Indiana University were promoting Gentoo Linux at the 2003 Linuxfest. UITS gave a great presentation of Gentoo and I can see why they were one of the first ones to host a Gentoo Mirror in the US. They kept telling us that installed Gentoo for the first time was not easy. They even demonstrated a Stage 3 install, which at that time, was not easy. I just remembered that I wanted to try Gentoo when I got the chance.