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Eduardo Trujillo
2 minutes

After using Gentoo for a while, I’ve noticed that while the main portage tree has many up-to-date ebuilds, there are still some that lag behind upstream.

The good news is that, if you’re a bit adventurous, you can add overlays, which, like the name implies, are ebuild trees that are overlaid on top of your local tree.

Overlays usually contain software or package versions that are not available on the main tree. However, it also means that they might not have gone through the same amount of quality assurance than packages from the main tree.

Overlays may be personal or maintained by a small group of developers. They can also exist just locally on your machine or they can be hosted on a git repository.

There’s also tools like layman which can help you manage overlays used on a machine.

So far, my favorite overlays are gnome, steam-overlay, and haskell, which provide a recent version of GNOME (3.20), Steam, and up-to-date Haskell packages respectively.

However, not everything has an ebuild, even if you look on overlays, so you might have to write your own ebuilds.

I’ve been collecting a couple of these and putting them on my own personal overlay hosted on git. This has allowed me to version them and share them across Gentoo machines.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can try it by adding the following file to /etc/portage/repos.conf/chromabits.conf:

location = /usr/local/overlay/chromabits
sync-type = git
sync-uri = https://phabricator.chromabits.com/diffusion/PORT/portage.git
auto-sync = yes

However, I cannot guarantee that they will build, install correctly, or not start a fire given that I lack the time resources to perform something more advanced than “It works on my machine(s)” in terms of QA.

Here a quick summary of a few goodies included:

  • iio-sensor-proxy: Allows GNOME to automatically adjust the screen brightness.
  • nm-applet: A recent version (1.2) of the NetworkManager applet.
  • corebird: A recent version (1.2) of a great GTK+ Twitter client.
  • slack: The official Slack client for Linux.
  • networkmanager: The latest version of NetworkManager, which has nice features like Wi-Fi power save and MAC address randomization.
  • softether-vpn: The SoftEther VPN server and client.
  • syncthing-gtk: A GTK GUI for Syncthing.
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