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:

World of Goo (Demo)

F-Spot Photo Manager

Firefox Writer/Web
Pidgin IM
Deluge BitTorrent Client

Audacious 2
Brasero Disc Burner
Movie Player
XBMC Media Center

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:
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