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Sabayon Linux 5.4

October 11, 2010

Sabayon Linux 5.0 was released about a year ago, and I did a review of it for Desktop Linux Reviews. Version 5.4 has just been released so I thought it was definitely worth a quick look to see what has been updated and if it’s worth checking out.

Sabayon Linux is based on Gentoo. Gentoo doesn’t have the most user-friendly reputation, but Sabayon Linux goes a very long way toward making Gentoo accessible to folks that want a well-configured desktop “out of the box.”

Sabayon Linux is available in GNOME, KDE, SpinBase (no desktop) or CoreCDX (Fluxbox) versions. For this quick look, I installed the GNOME version.  The GNOME version I downloaded weighed in at 1.56 GB.

The Live CD desktop.

What’s New
Here’s a sample of what’s new in this release:

# More than 1000 updated packages since Sabayon 5.3 and more than 100 bugs (stability, usability and performance) fixed
# Shipped with Desktop-optimized Linux kernel
# Providing extra Server-optimized, OpenVZ-enabled, Vserver-enabled kernels in repositories
# Installable in 10 minutes
# Fast boot time and lightweight default system
# Ext4 filesystem as default
# Official Btrfs filesystem support
# Encrypted filesystem support
# Featuring X.Org 7.5 and up-to-date Open Source, NVIDIA, AMD video drivers
# Containing GNOME 2.30 (with GNOME Shell!) and KDE 4.5.1
# Outstanding 3D Desktop applications (Compiz, Compiz Fusion and KWin) working out of the box
# Bringing Entropy Framework (Package Manager), faster than ever!
# Shipped with OpenOffice 3.2 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!
# Refreshed Skin! (as usual)
# Try it out from Windows, just kick the DVD in and use Sabayon via QEMU virtualization!

System Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this update:

Minimum requirements:
- 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)

This is a Live CD distro, so you can try it without need to do an actual install. When the first screen loads up, you have a number of options to choose from. You can start the distro as a Live CD desktop, start it without boot music, start the media center version, start the netbook version, start the netbook media version or opt to start the install right away, or you can opt for a text install.

I decided to simply boot into the GNOME Live CD desktop, then start the installer from there.

The install is quite easy, and pretty fast. See the image gallery page to see a step-by-step illustration of it. It’s not quite as elegant as Ubuntu’s new installer, but it shouldn’t cause anybody any pain either. There’s a nice slideshow of images of Sabayon Linux that plays while the installer finishes.

All the usual stuff is here:

XBMC Media Center

That’s just a sample of what you’ll find for software. Sabayon Linux pretty much hits all the sweet spots in terms of desktop use, although I would like to have seen Chromium included as an alternative to Firefox. Chromium is available though in Sabayon Linux’s package manager.

Those who are into media, will love the fact that XBMC Media Center is included. That’s not a big deal for me personally, but I know there are folks out there who might find having it really useful.

Sabayon Linux 5.4 uses Sulfur as its package management application. It’s okay but it takes a little bit of getting used to if you haven’t used it before. It’s not nearly as elegant as the Ubuntu Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager. However, you can do a lot with it once you adjust to it.

I especially liked it in Advance Mode, which it should really default to instead of basic mode. I’m not sure why a distro like this defaults to a basic mode, but I’m sure the developers have some kind of reasoning behind that decision. Advanced Mode lets you see available software, while basic mode hides that button in the interface. Again, this makes no sense to me whatsoever. Why hide it? Beats me.

Using Sabayon Linux 5.4
I had no problems using Sabayon Linux 5.4. It ran very well for me and seemed quite stable, and relatively speedy. I didn’t notice any application crashes, bugs or other headaches happening while I was running it.

Firefox had flash installed, so I had no problems with YouTube videos and that sort of thing. The video looked great.

The wallpaper is rather drab and blase though. Yes, I know this is a minor thing but I always notice it when I run a distro. The dark blue and black shapes really sort of took me down mood-wise, I’d like to see something brighter and cheerier next time. Yes, I know I can change it but the default wallpaper always makes a certain impression with people. It’s branding and it affects the feelings of the user when they see it.

Final Thoughts
I’m left with a very positive impression of Sabayon Linux 5.4. This distro is not as well known as some others, but it really does deserve to be considered by those looking for a more offbeat alternative for their desktop needs. It also puts Gentoo into more people’s hands, and makes it pretty easy to install and manage.

I’d like to see Sulfur default to Advanced Mode next time though, I suspect that users new to Sabayon Linux might be confused and put off by the default mode. I hope the developers consider changing that in the next release.

If you haven’t tried Sabayon Linux, give it a download and at least run it as a Live CD. You might find it well worth your time.

Click to the next page to view the full image gallery (22 screenshots) of Sabayon Linux including the full install routine.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments. For full distro reviews, visit Desktop Linux Reviews.


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5 Responses to Sabayon Linux 5.4

  1. Phil on January 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    After 5 years of (mainly) Ubuntu, thought I’d try something new for a change. Was going to try Gentoo once, but was put off by the complex install.
    Tried the KDE version of Sabayon over Christmas, no problems with the install, but could not get on with KDE 4 (much happier with KDE 2 and 3 from Suse/Mandrake days) so ended up with the Gnome version.
    Seems to be faster and less buggy than Ubuntu 10.10, and so far generally a lot easier to work with. Took a while to work out how to get Sulfur to install things, but as a package manager its pretty good. No other problems noted after two weeks.
    Think I will be sticking with Sabayon for quite a while.

  2. Adam on January 15, 2011 at 10:10 am

    The Sabayon 5.4 XFCE spin runs pretty fast–even on a creaky old Celeron. Pretty close to the speed of the Debian Lenny live XFCE distro, actually. If you have an older machine, XFCE is a better choice than Fluxbox, or LXDE, since it has things like a trashbin and other desktop features. The good thing about Sabayon is that everything is pretty much turnkey, including codecs.

  3. mem on October 30, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Sabayon is the most beautiful distro I have ever seen. Really.

  4. Azerthoth on October 11, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Just a quick correction, spinbase is the core that we use to create iso’s, it’s not an installation medium rather a base upon which people can make their own using our iso creator, molecule.

    You will see, LXDE, XFCE, E17, etc etc iso’s as well. These are ‘spins’ that community or staff members have created using spinbase. Just an FYI, thanks for the review and happy computing.


  5. Carling on October 11, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Nice to see a report on Sabayon, I have been using 5.4 since it came out, Like you said it works out of the box it’s a pity buntu don’t work out of the box, I downloaded that on 10/10, and installed it on a friends system sorry to say it won’t be going on any of my systems period.

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