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For a more sensitive server than my test system, you’ll want to simply retire the system whenever a new profile comes out. In all fairness, Gentoo has an experimental command called ‘glsa-check’.
Just start over fresh with a new Gentoo installation on an alternate machine and go through the setup process. This command automatically examines whether your system is affected by vulnerabilities described in Gentoo issued security advisories.
The Gentoo manual page about it is filled with warnings that this is a tool under development.
In the meantime, Gentoo rather encourages you to update the whole system.
Unfortunately Gentoo encourages you to update software on a frequent basis, just for the sake of updating. Gentoo is rather a moving target where emerge will forever cause your system to approach the cutting edge.
From the Gentoo handbook: If all you’re concerned with is keeping your web server up, what you usually want to do is to set up a stable system and then forget about it.
This is in fact exactly what happened to me, despite a substantial time spent updating /etc files.
The end result: the machine had to be resuscitated on-site with associated downtime.
The easiest way to describe the benefits of this is by comparison to a normal Free BSD server and the installation process. Suddenly, X11 becomes a dependency and you find yourself hitting Ctrl-C rapidly! As we have mentioned in this blog before, there is an excellent forum for Gentoo users.
Yes, especially if you compile big application (Firefox, Chrome, or KDE) by yourself or if a heavily used library (libc, openssl, or libpng) has been updated (since all depending ports need to update).
Since all updated ports/packages need to be rebuild from source it might take sometime, especially if it has been a while since the last update.
What’s worse, there will on occasion be a sort of ‘system update’. The Gentoo documentation and the handbook will at this time encourage you to update to this new profile. If you are a system administrator, rather than a desktop user, this should be enough to scare the living daylights out of you!
A profile update will touch a very large number of configuration files, and it may even alter your startup process.
A well thought out system called USE flags complement this system well.