First look at Sabayon Linux 9
Sabayon Linux is a Gentoo-based binary distribution whose goal is to provide an easy and complete desktop experience right out-of-the-box. Sabayon began life as RR4 and, if memory serves, was basically a live system that tried to install Gentoo using a familiar wizard interface. It didn’t really work well. When Fabio Erculiani, founder of Sabayon, decided to go the binary route and adopt Fedora’s Anaconda installer, the distro really began to take off. It usually sits in the DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking chart in the top 15 these days.
Sabayon Linux 9 was released last week, and since I’m still torn between using Mageia and Sabayon, I knew I had to at least test it. I downloaded and booted the 64-bit KDE edition.
I was struck by how soothingly simplistic the default background is in version 9, which wasn’t always the case. The install proceeded without any problems, although I do have a few complaints. For example, after the user chooses the install drive, they need to choose which kind of install and “Replace Existing Linux Systems” is the default choice. I hope no one clicks through there too fast without reading closely. Another is that only the install drive showed up in Boot Loader Device. So, I was stuck installing the bootloader on the install partition and manually adding Sabayon 9 to the legacy GRUB configuration (that I was hoping to replace). No one ever accused Sabayon of being a fast booter, but how often does one restart anyway?
Sabayon Linux 9 – the default KDE desktop
Rigo Application Browser
The big news this release is the new Entropy (package manager) front-end, dubbed Rigo Application Browser. Search is the main philosophy behind Rigo and as long as you know what you’re looking for, it’s quick and easy. It’s a little harder to browse around and see what’s there. For example, “games” pulls up some games and “office” finds a lot of office stuff, but “desktops” doesn’t retrieve desktops. I like a straight-forward category browsing.
Sabayon Linux 9 – Rigo search result
Updates are handled through Rigo now too. The user is informed of any updates available and can choose to Update System, Show, or Ignore. There was only one update offered as I was testing, and I clicked Update System. Well, I sat there and sat there, and finally thought, “oh man, this thing isn’t working.” But when I closed out the Rigo window, I saw underneath the root password pop-up that had actually popped-under. It works real good after you give the password. However, that popping under is reproducible. In fact, it does it every time.
Sabayon Linux 9 – Rigo Notices pane
The development team sends out little notices from time to time and users can receive them in Rigo. It makes it easy to see any issues that may come up like this LibreOffice announcement and workaround (an upstream issue, btw). Clicking More Info on any package does just that, gives all the package particulars. Show Me lets users see the command-line output from any operation. From the configuration screen one can update repositories, clean Entropy web service cache, or view any configuration files that need updating. Rigo packs a lot of functionality in a tiny space and it seems to work well. It’s quicker, more responsive than Sulfur, but some will still prefer equo at the command-line for those quick installs.
Most hardware today is auto-detected and auto-configured, but I still have some old confusing hardware. One thing Sabayon could use is a hardware configuration tool. There are some individual tools, but no centralized control center or anything. First up, I have two monitors attached and the easiest way to a fresh configure is NVIDIA Settings. (Sabayon had automagically configured my graphics card to use the NVIDIA drivers.) But I couldn’t get the sound on my old TV/FM card to work; I’m almost afraid it may not work with the newer kernels. Sabayon 9 ships with Linux 3.4.0. All my other hardware seems to be functioning properly.
Another new feature of Sabayon 9 is for the 32-bit user. According to the press release, those downloading 32-bit editions will get a PAE kernel “to allow systems stuck with this ancient architecture to support more than 4GB of RAM.”
The standard desktop versions of Sabayon usually ship with lots of handy applications, although the list seems to be shrinking more and more as time goes on. The KDE version includes things like Gwenview, Chromium, Clementine, XBMC, VLC Media Player, and Yakuake. I had to install LibreOffice, Firefox, KMail, and GIMP. Of course, all that was really easy with Rigo! You’ll probably find your favorites in the repositories too because that’s one of Sabayon’s best selling points. They have a very large repository of additional software and, in fact, it’s probably one of the best. I rarely attempt to find something that isn’t in there.
Sabayon Linux 9 – LibreOffice, Chromium, VLC, and Dolphin
Users can choose between GNOME 3.2.3, KDE 4.8.3, and Xfce 4.10. As a KDE user and someone who’s been using Mageia 1 for a year, I’ve been anxious to test newer versions of KDE. I’ve been hearing some good things about KDE 4.8.x. My main concern was Kmail, but fortunately, the talk of KDE’s recent improvements proved accurate. Kontact crashed a couple of times while importing and moving folders around, but under normal operation it seems stable (if not exactly quirk-free). Akregator also seems stable so far, but I’ve learned not to turn my back on that one.
Sabayon Linux has been for quite a while a top-flight distribution and version 9 only adds to that reputation. The new package management GUI has a modern or trendy feel to it that could appeal to the younger set, while others might miss advanced features. I worried about the integration of Gentoo Hardened, but I haven’t detected any weirdness from it as of yet. The KDE desktop seems stable so far, which is always a selling point. Everything about Sabayon is easy enough for a newcomer, as easy as any other, unless they have some hardware that needs manual configuration. For me, it just feels like going /home.