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This shouldn't be discouraging for anybody. I've been running Gentoo for two years with a single install, and it is certainly more current than Ubuntu. I'm using the 2007.0 profile with the latest gcc, glibc, kernel, openoffice, etc. and it runs great (though updating the toolchain [gcc/glibc/linuxheaders/bintools] is not for the faint of heart).
I don't use gnome, but maybe you need to be in the <tt>wheel</tt> group. Perhaps the gentoo install should ask if you want to be in the wheel? It should not be a default, though.