Review: Sabayon Linux

There is a newer distro in town, gaining traction. Sabayon Linux is an installable, Gentoo based live Cd/DVD. It has the stated goal of being 100% Gentoo compatible. A lot of attention has been paid to the Sabayon brand. Theming is consistent and striking. Sabayon is one of the best looking distros I have used. They use a yellow,orange and red theme that is fresh and unlike any other Linux distribution. Beryl is used by default. It is a KDE distro with the option to use Fluxbox as your Desktop Environment. Sabayon gets it’s name from an Italian desert, to quote the website and Wikipedia: “Sabayon is an Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, a sweet liquor (usually Marsala wine), and sometimes cream or whole eggs. It is a very light custard, which has been whipped to incorporate a large amount of air.” Sabayon refers to its users as “Hens” which isn’t as off putting as you might think.

Sabayon uses the Anaconda installer, from Red Hat. It is fully themed and consistent with Sabayon’s desktop look. The install goes as painlessly as an Anaconda install should, the difference is that instead of Fedora you have a fully running and configured Gentoo system without the hassle of a Gentoo install. You are left with a metaphysical question, am I using Sabayon or Gentoo? Is Sabayon a flavor of Gentoo? What was your original face before you were born? I can say that I don’t feel as if I am running Gentoo, I feel like I am running Sabayon.

I installed using the Mini Edition X86_64 3.2 as opposed to the full edition. My DVD burner is on the fritz, so it was my only choice. It was easy to add the programs I need and use. I prefer this method, actually. It is nice to build my system from a smartly configured base. 3D effects worked right out of the box. Package selection was intelligent. It contains proprietary and non-OSS software, which you can disable with the “noproprietary” boot flag. The mini edition gave me a fully featured operating system. It includes the Koffice office suite, the Amarok audio player, Codeine for video, K3B for Cd/DVD burning. Post install I emerged Mplayer, LibreOffice and other programs without a problem. Need your Google apps? Google Earth and Picasa install very easily.

Portage is your package manager. A graphical front end, Kuroo, is provided. I found Kuroo a bit confusing, and felt safer working through the command line. Kuroo is nice to see what if available, then emerge from the command line. Since it is Gentoo, expect installing packages to take some time. It isn’t as if your computer is rendered useless while programs compile, so that didn’t bother me. Sabayon uses Portage with a Sabayon overlay. Before installing and upgrading anything with Portage, be sure to read the forums. You need to mask packages, specifically dbus and qt or you may break your KDE, as I did. Be careful updating. Do not do an “emerge –update world” just because you can. You really need to take the time and make sure you understand Portage before doing anything. Sabayon recommends waiting for a new release and updating using the ISO. You can save yourself a lot of trouble following that advice if you are new to Gentoo. You are given the power to completely hose your system. Use it wisely.

I use the 64 bit version, Sabayon installs 32 bit versions of packages that have trouble running in 64 bits or are unavailable. That means you get Adobe’s Flashplayer for your browser. Mplayer uses 64 bit Realplayer for its codecs, so they are truly 64 bit. I have run into no problems or slowdowns. Everything runs seamlessly, whether it is using 64bit or 32bit libs. All of my multimedia needs are met with Sabayon.

As I mentioned, Sabayon uses Beryl by default. I run Compiz on my Arch install, so it was interesting to see what Beryl brings. I am running Beryl 0.2.0 beta 2. It is snappy and running without problems. Kudos to both the Compiz and Beryl teams. 3d effects are moving along very rapidly. I find it hard to work without the cube or transparency (Alt + mouse scroll) now. There seems to be a lot in this Beryl release, more than I have had time to play with. The new Beryl Settings Manager is nice and clean looking. There are still so many options that I end up getting overwhelmed and closing it. I read that “Beryl-settings-simple” exists, but it isn’t part of my install. Sabayon has a partnership with Beryl, so if you are a Beryl addict, this is the distro for you.

In the few weeks I have been using it, Sabayon has become one of my favorite Linux distributions. The developers have done a very nice job, particularly for a newer distribution. It is great for the whole spectrum of Linux users, from a new user to a seasoned vet. It is very simple with the potential to be as complicated as you wish. If you have been curious about Gentoo but put off by the installation, I heartily recommend Sabayon. They have a great and helpful user community that is growing. They have the weight of Gentoo’s documentation behind them. In this age where most new distros seem to be Debian based, Sabayon is a breath of fresh air. It is a great Distribution.

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