Over the last few days, I've been installing gentoo on my laptop. It's a funny thing; thanks to the online handbook and genkernel, the difficulty doesn't really live up to the hype. Still definitely the most involved install I've ever done. I've learned quite a bit doing it, and hope to learn quite a bit more.
I'd definitely recommend giving gentoo, or some other more involved install a try, if you're up for it. It's a lot of fun- from the right point of view! I'm pretty excited about getting all the same systems running on two different computers and synchronysing config files between them. (rsync and cron?) I'm put in wonder, sometimes, that any of this works.
I sat and watched thousands of lines of debug information scroll accross the screen as the gentoo live-install system emerged vim (and all the other utilities I needed to get the system working without the live CD).
People made that happen. They wrote and tested and rewrote programs that other people packaged up (with more programs), and and other people in a university in the Netherlands hosted that big package on their servers, and then those 200MB or so of ones and zeroes made their way to me through copper and optic and airwaves, a catastrophe of systems that WORKS, and I burned it all to a CD and ran it, and the world turned a tiny little bit more and barely noticed. I'm sure something blipped on an NSA server somewhere.
Just how big is the universe, if something as giant and heroic as that war against entropy, thousands of programs and layers of protocols all the way down to the metal working, reworking, checking, the lifeblood of countless minds, moving a library across the world and back, is just some little thing? Tiny compared to the informational content of just the earth's volume, let alone the universe?
In conclusion, installing gentoo's pretty fun if you can handle fucking up once or twice. Use the online guides, use genkernels, reread everything twice, obtain a radically unearned sense of superiority.