I didn't phrase my posting well. I've found that Gentoo has ebuilds for pretty much all the software I need to use. When I was using RedHat/Mandriva/Debian, there were a _lot_ of things for which packages weren't available from the distributor. Sometimes you could find them from third-parties, but then you ended up in a hellish maze of circular library dependancies. So the only resort was to to go the tar/configure/make/install route, which resulted in a constant series of breakages as libraries got upgraded.
True, but I pretty much never have to do that with Gentoo while I had to do that constantly with Redhat et al. Since the stuff installed manually from tarballs wasn't hooked into the package management system, things were continually being broken by upgrades.
And don't get me started on the disaster recovery efforts that always accompanied major revision upgrades -- I eventually gave up trying to upgrade across major revisions and just did a clean install whenever I got to that point. And it wasn't for lack of experience or trying: I ran multiple RedHat systems starting back when they didn't even have version numbers: I think I started with either Mothers Day or Holloween releases (before that I ran Yggdrasil and Slackware). I ran RH up until 8.00 came out in 2002. 8.00 was such a disaster I switched to Mandriva for a couple years before switching to Gentoo. I've been running Gentoo for almost 10 years now, and since I switched I spend a lot less time maintaining systems. Some of my Gentoo installations are almost 10 years old, and I've been able to keep them up-to-date without the periodic clean reinstalls that were always required when I ran HR/Mandriva. The oldest one doesn't have any of the same hardware it started with except for the case.
Maybe things in binary-distribution land have improved, but my recent brief expeditions into Ubuntu and RH/CentOS territory haven't given any indication that's the case.
If all you want to do is browse the web, listen to mp3 files, and spend the rest of your time trying to learn the desktop du jour, then any of the binary distributions are probably fine. If I had to use one it would probably be either plain Debian or Xubuntu.