Sabayon 6

The last time I looked at Sabayon Linux it was up to version 5, this time around it’s version 6. Sabayon Linux is based on Gentoo and, as you may already know, Gentoo has not always been considered the easiest version of desktop Linux for non-technical users to install and use. Sabayon Linux does a pretty good job of making Gentoo available to those who simply want to install and use Gentoo without having to roll their own or otherwise deal with Gentoo’s potential headaches.

Sabayon Linux comes in a number of different spins including GNOME and KDE. For this review I’ve installed the KDE version. Note though that there are other spins including SpinBase, CoreCDX, ServerBase and OpenVZ. Most desktop users will probably want to simply opt for the GNOME or KDE spins rather than the others.

Here’s some additional info though about the other spins for those who are curious:

SpinBase is a very minimal environment that can be used for many different purposes: didactical, home server deployment, but even for custom Sabayon ISO images creation, using our tool called Molecule). Any Sabayon release we make is based on SpinBase.

CoreCDX instead, is geared towards very minimal graphical environment setup, no fancy tools, browsers, whatever, just Fluxbox and command-line. You set the rule.
ServerBase is very similar to SpinBase, but powered by a server-optimized Linux kernel (package: sys-kernel/linux-server)

OpenVZ is our official OpenVZ template.

All of them have a smaller footprint making them fit into a single CD, or USB memory sticks.

SpinBase and ServerBase are provided with a very minimal Anaconda Installer and CoreCDX should be preferred for non-standard filesystem/partition layouts.

Splash

Splash

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Linux Kernel 2.6.39.1 and blazing fast, yet reliable, boot
Providing extra Server-optimized, OpenVZ-enabled, Vserver-enabled kernels in repositories
Natively supporting btrfs filesystem
Completely reworked artwork and boot music intro, thanks to our little Van Gogh (Ian Whyman)
Improved theming for 16:9 and 16:10 widescreen monitors
Transform Sabayon into an full-featured HTPC Operating System (Media Center) using XBMC
Entropy 1.0_rc10, bringing outstanding speed and reliability. Entropy Store (Sulfur) went through a massive speed rework. Entropy Web Services foundation library has been introduced in order to support User Generated Content contributions in a more powerful way, bringing our Package Manager in the Social Internet age. Added support to delta packages downloads, parallel packages download, differential repository update through simple HTTPS protocol
Several Sabayon Installer improvements, especially with dealing with crypt, LVM and swRAID environments
Added a non-intrusive firewall tool called “ufw” and its frontends for GNOME and KDE
X.Org Server updated to 1.10
Sane Desktop Compositing now enabled by default
Switched to IcedTea6 as bundled Java VM
Switched to jpeg-turbo library, boosting JPEG images rendering speed
Switched to LibreOffice 3.3.3
Switched to Chromium/WebKit as bundled Web Browser
Split nvidia-drivers and ati-drivers into userspace and kernel modules, improving reliability over kernel migrations
Updated to GNOME 2.32.2 and KDE 4.6.4
Updated to GRUB 1.99
Introduced the “kernel-switcher” tool, to easily switch between available Sabayon Linux kernels
Python toolchain updated to version 2.7
Updated to GCC 4.5.2
Dracut and Plymouth ready (expect them in Sabayon 7)
Thousands of updates and bug fixes that flew in, during these last 4 months
We’re still here! (it’s a feature), only thanks to your donations, please keep donating, donate now!

There’s obviously quite a bit of new stuff in this release. Much of it isn’t necessarily obvious to most desktop users, especially those new to Sabayon Linux.

I’m very happy that LibreOffice 3.3.3 is now included as the default office suite. I’ve been using LibreOffice for a while and it’s shaping up nicely.

I am also glad to see that Chromium is the default browser rather than Firefox. I still like Firefox but I’ve found myself gravitating toward Chromium for a while now and it seems that many distro developers are moving in that direction too. Firefox is still available to install if you want it though, so no worries there.

GNOME and KDE have both been updated in this release. I’m glad to see that the Sabayon developers did not use GNOME 3, given what a mess it is right now.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

Minimum requirements (aka, we don’t underestimate them, like everybody else does):

An i686-compatible Processor (Intel Pentium II/III, Celeron, AMD Athlon)
512Mb RAM (GNOME) – 768Mb RAM (KDE)
8 GB of free space
A X.Org supported 2D GPU
A DVD reader

Optimal requirements

A Dual Core Processor (Intel Core 2 Duo or better, AMD Athlon 64 X2 or better)
1024Mb RAM
15 GB of free space
A X.Org supported 3D GPU (Intel, AMD, NVIDIA) (esp. for XBMC)

Installation
Installing Sabayon Linux is on par with installing Fedora (they use the same installer, though the install is slightly different in terms of steps). The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 9a

Install 9a

Install 9b

Install 9b

Install 9c

Install 9c

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
The Sabayon 6 desktop contains 3 icons: Donate to Sabayon, Entropy Store (software management) and Get Live Help. The wallpaper is dark and subdued for the most part.

Since this spin uses KDE as its desktop environment, I switched the menu to the classic version. The sliding menus drive me crazy after a while. I recommend that you do so if you find yourself irritated by them. Just right-click the kicker button on the panel and you can easily make the change.

Navigating the application menus, etc. is easy and everything is where you’d expect it to be.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
You can access the Desktop Theme choices by pulling up the System Settings tool. There are a few other choices if the default theme isn’t to your liking.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
If the default wallpaper is a bit blase for your tastes you’ll find some much brighter and more upbeat choices included.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Admin Tools

System Management
Here’s a screenshot of what you’ll find in the System Settings tool that lets you manage your Sabayon Linux system.

System Settings

System Settings

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Various logic, arcade, board, card & strategy games

Graphics
AcquireImages
DNGConverter
Gwenview
KSnapshot
LibreOffice Draw

Internet
Akregator
BlueDevil
Chromium
KNetAttach
Konversation
Kopete IM
KPP

Multimedia
Clementine Music Player
K3b
KMix
VLC
XBMC Media Center

Office
Kontact
KOrganizer
LibreOffice
Okular

Software Management
Sabayon uses Sulfur as its front-end to Entropy’s package management. Sulfur is usable but not nearly as slick or easy on the eyes as Ubuntu’s Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager (more on that in the problems section of the review). Users can rate software packages though so that adds some helpfulness to Sulfur.

The screenshots below give you a good idea of what you’ll find when you click the Entropy Store link on the Sabayon Linux 6 desktop.

Sulfur Updates

Sulfur Updates

Sulfur LibreOffice

Sulfur LibreOffice

Adding & Removing Software
It’s easy to add or remove software. Just find the application and click the checkbox then choose Install to install an application. To remove one, find it and then right click the green box and choose Remove.

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash is installed by default so you can experience YouTube content without having to install anything. Here’s a very cool video of a penguin that managed to escape a bunch of killer whales by jumping into a boat. He’s a very lucky and very smart penguin.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Sabayon 6 comes with Clementine, K3b, KMix, PulseAudio, VLC and the XBMC Media Center. It’s a pretty reasonable selection of default multimedia applications. You can find more in the Entropy Store if these don’t cut it for your multimedia needs.

VLC

VLC

Clementine

Clementine

Problems & Headaches
I recommend booting Sabayon Linux without the music. I find the music annoying and distracting. It’s not really a problem though since you can choose whether or not you want to boot with it.

The sulfur interface needs some work in the area of color design. It’s rather on the garish side to look at and makes it less pleasant to use than it should be. I know that this is a subjective opinion but pink text? WTF? Damn, it just irritates me to stare it. I suspect I’m not alone in that regard either. It might seem like a minor thing but it sort of hits you in the face when you open the Entropy Store to manage your software.

While I’m on this subject, why is it called the “Entropy Store” anyway? It makes it sound like you have to pay for the software. That is potentially confusing to newbies. Perhaps a better name such as “Sabayon Software Manager” or something else that is more obvious? I know that some people will think I’m nitpicking here but it’s these kinds of things that tend to confuse people new to Linux.

One other problem I ran into was the XBMC Media Center, which wouldn’t load when I tried to launch it from the multimedia applications menu.

Beyond that I didn’t have much in the way of problems with Sabayon Linux 6. It was pretty stable and speedy for me.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Sabayon forum, mailing list and wiki.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
The Sabayon developers have done a good job at making Gentoo accessible for less technical users. However, this distro is in need of some software management improvements as I noted in the problems section. The Entropy Store needs to be a bit more aesthetically pleasing and it could also use a name change.

Overall though my experience with Sabayon 6 was pretty positive and there’s not a whole lot to dislike about it. It’s a solid desktop distro that should get the job done for most people.

Sabayon 6 is probably best suited for intermediate and advanced users. Beginners can certainly try it out but might find other distros to be a more comfortable fit.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Sabayon 6
Web Site: http://www.sabayon.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Comes in various spins. Updated KDE & GNOME desktops (GNOME 2.32.2 and KDE 4.6.4). LibreOffice 3.3.3 is the default office suite. Installer improvements. Reworked art and boot music. Speed increase for Entropy. Chromium is the default browser.
Cons: Sulfur front-end needs color overhaul. The Entropy Store needs to be renamed.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Rating: 3.5/5

 



Sabayon Linux 5

Sabayon Linux is a remastered version of Gentoo Linux. I first took a look at it when I was writing for ExtremeTech, back when Sabayon Linux was in version 4.1. This latest release is version 5.0.

Gentoo, as you may already be aware, has long had a reputation for not being particularly friendly to folks new to it. Although it has shined as a distribution for Linux power users, it has sometimes scared away less tech-savvy users that might have found it somewhat intimidating to deal with.

Sabayon Linux aims to tame Gentoo and make it more accessible to non-power users and it largely succeeds at this goal in this release.

Note that Sabayon Linux is available in Gnome or KDE. For this review I went with the Gnome version.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a list of the new stuff in this release:

Less than 2GB size (1.6GB for Sabayon5 GNOME x86)
Based on new GCC 4.4.1 and Glibc 2.10
Shipped with Desktop-optimized Linux kernel 2.6.31
Providing extra Server-optimized and OpenVZ-enabled kernels in repositories
Installer now available in multiple languages
Complete Ext4 filesystem support (used by default)
Complete Encrypted filesystems support (via dmcrypt, available in the Installer)
Featuring X.Org 7.5 and up-to-date FLOSS, NVIDIA, AMD video drivers
Containing GNOME 2.26 (2.28 ready) and KDE 4.3.1
Outstanding 3D Desktop applications (Compiz, Compiz Fusion and KWin) working out of the box
Bringing Entropy Framework (Package Manager) 0.99.3
Shipped with OpenOffice 3.1 productivity suite, Multimedia applications
Transform Sabayon into an full-featured HTPC Operating System (Media Center) using XBMC
Shipped with World of Goo Demo – best 2D game ever!
Sexiest Skin ever! (Ian Whyman rocks)

Black is beautiful and the Sabayon Linux desktop is bathed in black.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run Sabayon Linux:

Minimum requirements:
– an i686-compatible Processor (Intel Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Celeron, AMD K6-2, Athlon)
– 512Mb RAM
– 9 GB of free space
– A X.Org supported 2D GPU
– a DVD reader

Optimal requirements:
– a Dual Core Processor (Intel Core 2 Duo or better, AMD Athlon 64 X2 or better)
– 1024Mb RAM
– 20 GB of free space
– A X.Org supported 3D GPU (Intel, AMD, NVIDIA) (esp. for XBMC)
– a DVD reader

The Sabayon Linux install is pretty easy, I’d rate it about on par with Ubuntu’s for the most part.

When you first start the installer you get the option of installing the regular Gnome desktop or Sabayon Media Center or Sabayaon Linux Fluxbox Desktop. I did not test the media center as I have very little use for it but you may want to give it a shot. The Fluxbox desktop environment provides a more minimalistic experience than Gnome or KDE and might be suited for those who are using older computers.

At one point during the install you will be able to pick which categories of apps you want to install and you can view the details of each category before installing. You can choose to install Office Applications, Internet Applications, Multimedia Applications as well as some Basic Free Games. Note, however, that you cannot pick and choose individual apps to install. You are limited to installing the entire category or not.

You can choose between Gnome, Media Center or a Fluxbox install.

You can choose between Gnome, Media Center or a Fluxbox install.

Desktop & Apps
When you first boot into the Sabayon Linux Live CD you’ll note that there is a song being played in the background. I think it’s “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” or something like that. I found this amusing but it did get old after a few minutes. Note that when you first boot into the Sabayon Linux menu you do have the option of loading the Live CD desktop without the rock music playing.

The Sabayon Linux desktop is black. Very, very black. You are either going to like this for its simplicity or you’ll probably change your wallpaper and otherwise customize it to suit your tastes. I personally found it a bit drab and I’d like to see a better default theme released for Sabayon Linux that has more energy and that gives this distro its own unique brand. Something similar to how Linux Mint has its own unique look and feel.

Note the Sabayon link in the Applications drop down menu. That link provides some great resources such as links to places to get help, downloads, documentation and even a Sabayon Shop.

You get a good selection of software with Sabayon Linux and here’s a sample of what you’ll find:

Games
Blackjack
Chess
Gnometris
Mines
Nibbles
Robots
Sudoku
World of Goo (Demo)

Graphics
GIMP
OpenOffice.org Draw
F-Spot Photo Manager

Internet
Firefox
OpenOffice.org Writer/Web
Pidgin IM
XChat IRC
Deluge BitTorrent Client

Multimedia
Audacious 2
Brasero Disc Burner
Movie Player
Pulse
XBMC Media Center
DVD::RIP

Office
OpenOffice.org
Dictionary
Evolution Mail and Calendar

Use Sulfur to update your Sabayon Linux system.

Sound and Multimedia
When I tried to play my Superman test DVD, I got a message saying that the Totem Movie Player did not have the right plugins and I apparently had to download them. I tried to find the missing plugins in Sulfur to get my test DVD to play but was not able to do so.

I had no problem playing YouTube videos, however. The sound and video worked fine without me having to do anything.

When I tried to play my test DVD I got a plugin error message in Totem Movie Player.

When I tried to play my test DVD I got a plugin error message in Totem Movie Player.

Problems & Headaches
I first booted into Sabayon Linux 5 using VMWare. When I tried the install it hung on the disk partitioning and I was not able to get it to continue. So I switched over to Parallels and found that Sabayon Linux 5 booted faster and seemed to run much better in Parallels than in VMWare. The install completed successfully in Parallels but I was not able to boot into Sabayon Linux. The system hung after I restarted it.

So I did another install in VirtualBox. Thrice pays for all they say and the third time was indeed the charm as I was able to boot into Sabayon Linux without any problems. I had no problems running Sabayon Linux at all in VirtualBox.

Note that the install seems significantly slower than installing any of the versions of Ubuntu. I’d like to see it speeded up in future releases. If you decide to install Sabayon Linux make sure you have something else to do while the install proceeds.

I was also irritated that I couldn’t choose individual apps to install rather than entire categories of apps during the initial install. It seems to me that if the developers have gone so far as to let users choose categories of apps then it makes sense for them to take even further and allow each user to choose the applications to be installed within each category. I’d like to see this in a future release.

Pick the application categories you want installed on your Sabayon Linux system.

Pick the application categories you want installed on your Sabayon Linux system.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Sabayon Linux Wiki and also the Sabayon Linux discussion forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Sabayon Linux is a good way for folks to get a taste of Gentoo without having to actually install or configure it. Just boot into the Live CD and you can play around until your heart’s content.

However, having said that, I think that Sabayon Linux is a slightly better choice for experienced Linux users rather than newbies. Newbies can and should play with the Live CD if they want to but it might prove better for them to go with Linux Mint or one of the other Ubuntus rather than try to use Sabayon Linux as their main desktop distro.

Summary Table:

Product: Sabayon Linux 5
Web Site: http://www.sabayonlinux.org/
Price: Free
Pros: A good way to experience Gentoo Linux via Live CD. Lets you choose categories of applications. Provides a good range of software. Also allows for Fluxbox, KDE, Media Center or Gnome installs.
Cons: Install is slow and Sabayon Linux didn’t work well in VMWare or Parallels. Only lets you choose categories of apps, doesn’t let you choose individual apps during your first install.
Suitable For: Intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: Sabayon Linux provides an easy way for the curious to experience Gentoo Linux without requiring an install.
Rating: 3/5