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Sabayon Linux 3.2

Date: November 26, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams

We took a look at Sabayon 3.0 a few months ago and were greatly impressed. The developers haven’t taken a break since that time, and now 3.2 is upon us. We are diving in heads first to see what’s new and what’s been updated.



Introduction

It’s been a full four months since we have taken a look at the “sequel” to the RR4 distro, Sabayon. Named after an Italian dessert, I am not sure how that relates itself to Linux. Perhaps because it’s a tasty distro? There’s no denying that this is one of the most robust and fresh looking distros out there, so that may very well be the case.

When I first touched Sabayon, I was immediately impressed for a variety of reasons. The first being the superb hardware detection, which was the best I’ve found in any distro. Upon initial boot, everything was detected. Sound, graphics, network and even power saving capabilities if you are on a laptop. The distro is built on top of Gentoo, one of the more popular source based distributions. Although Gentoo by itself is strictly for people who enjoy a learning curve or people who understand the ins and outs of Linux to begin with, Sabayon caters to everyone. Those who understand Linux well, and those who don’t understand Linux at all.

You could say that I am a fan of Sabayon, although I don’t personally use it as my regular everyday OS. I personally use Gentoo on my regular system, primarily because I like to start from scratch and build it up. Sabayon is a distro for those who love having a complete system, without having to worry about many add-ons. As you will see shortly, after installing Sabayon you will have a complete system ready for anything. That includes browsing the internet, photo editing, playing music, watching DVD movies… ripping/burning DVD’s… and so on. All of this can be done after the first boot -without- any user intervention, or having to load up the konsole.

That all said, let’s jump right into it and see what we have new and updated.

Sabayon Boot

Upon the boot you will be greeted to a slew of various options, the primary being the main mode. This is a Live DVD, so anything you boot up with will bring you to a live KDE environment where you can go ahead and install. Music Edition is primarily there to play a cool song (Song 13 on this page) during the boot sequence. Since it takes around 5 minutes to get to the desktop, it is a welcomed feature if you have nothing else going on in the room. Staring at boot screen is hardly fun!

Other options are self explanatory… quick installation methods and also a console. If you want to get your game on quick, you can choose the Quake IV options which will boot the OS and immediately begin the demo for playing. Since the distro will automatically detect your ATI/NVIDIA video card, this should prove no problem unless you have an ancient one.

Well, that’s not always the case however. For whatever reason, my AMD AM2 system dislikes most versions of Linux so I have to use workarounds to get anywhere. At the main option screen you will be able to choose to press the F5 key which will allow you to edit the boot query. In order to boot I had to remove the “quiet –” at the end of the query and add in “noapic”. I have had to do this is every single distro on this machine, irregardless of kernel version.

One thing that Sabayon is known for is the fact that you can boot/install an XGL based environment with ease. When you finally make it into the desktop you will be prompted for AIGLX or XGL, if you have a capable card. This is where I ran into another issue, oddly enough. I run an ASUS 7900GT card, which is obviously still well supported by NVIDIA. Booting up with this distro using an ASUS 7950GT proved no problem at all… XGL worked like a dream, however it was not the case with the 7900GT despite being almost the identical model. In order to get support, I had to manually add “opengl=nvidia” to the end of the boot query, which gave me support for both AIGLX and XGL.

I am the type of person who runs into far more problems than most people, so I’d imagine you will run into much less issues than I mention here. Booting up this distro on my workstation AMD 939 (7800GT) system and also my moms Intel 775 Dual Core (6800GT) proved to work without issues.

Ahem. That all aside, the developers are working on fixes for the GPU, although the AM2 specific issues are kernel related. 2.6.19 will be taking care of those once it goes stable.

If you have used Sabayon 3.0 or 3.1, the first thing you will notice here is that the theme has been completely overhauled, although the basic layout is still intact. In case the OS improperly detected your resolution, the first thing you can do is adjust it accordingly.

Like the previous versions, the top menu bar acts as your system tray complete with date and time, and also your different desktops. The bottom bar obviously includes your K menu, quick shortcuts and also inserted media along with your trash can. Regardless of whether or not you have 3D support, Cold War and Quake IV (both demos) are available on the desktop. Google Earth, NX Client and GParted is also here. Note that GParted is renamed to “Partition Editor” to help newer users understand where to look.

In addition to being able to install the OS, you can first update the actual installer before proceeding. This essentially will download the latest version available, and takes half a minute. Once done you are good to roll.

One thing that Sabayon veterans will catch right away, is that the standard KDE “K” has been replaced with a cool “Menu” button graphic. Upon hovering over this button however, you will be welcomed to the exact same kicker as seen in SUSE Linux. This makes Sabayon the first distro to port this special menu over, and from what I hear it was a huge pain in the rear.

The menu completely replaces the K Menu in order to be more user friendly. There are five primary tabs, the first being for your favorite apps. The second is for your history which includes recently used applications and documents. Computer gives you quick access to your media and also various control panels. Then there is an applications tab that allows people to find their programs. Lastly there is the Leave tab, which allows you to log out or shut down.

Probably the most beneficial part of this menu though, is the search feature. If you are unsure where an app is located, simply type in it’s name and you will be brought to the right location. Overall, I found that this kicker was not my cup of tea… I enjoy the standard K menu more. However, this kicker would be great for newer computer users, or those regular Linux users who simply love the look of it. If you don’t want the kicker, you can right click it to bring back the old K Menu style.

Menu aside, for those who have no interest in actually installing the OS, there are plenty of programs pre-installed and ready to go. Some may give you issues however, since you are essentially using an OS on a CD and not a hard drive. To do quick work, you can simply use a thumb drive to save the data, or another burner rom to save it that way.


Installation

One thing that many people complained about with 3.0 was the fact that the installation took at least an hour, if not more. Huge improvements have been made here however, and the developers boast an incredible 30 minute installation time. How accurate were they?

First up you will see a welcome screen followed by language.

The time comes to choose a desktop environment. I personally love KDE so that’s what I chose, although you have the other standard ones available also. If you are a new user, you will probably want to stick with default.

I cheated with the partitioner, I admit. Before I booted up with Sabayon, I booted the GParted Live CD and took the easy route by creating the partitions that way. For some reason, GParted did not work on the desktop off the Live CD, which doesn’t surprise me since my system has lots of Linux related issues to begin with. The process is easy though, you can use an automatic scheme or manually accomplish what you are looking for. The installer takes care to recognize Windows partitions and will leave them in tact, unless you choose to install to the entire disk.

Bootloader is pretty simple also, and chances are you will not need to touch it. If you are a more experienced user and have more than one Linux installation, you may wish to edit it here or manually edit the grub.conf post install.

Before you proceed with the network configuration, you should check to see if Sabayon picked up on it automatically. Since I am under a DHCP capable connection, mine was so I could continue.

Time Zone.. again pretty straight forward.

Setting up a user is a real breeze, as you can see below. You also have the option to add additional users if you wish to have more than one account on your rig.

Boom, done! Time to install.

From the time I began the installer to the time it said “Install Finished”, was a 27 minute span. They certainly lived up to their 30 minute estimation!

Post Install

Once rebooted, the system is cleaned up a lot more than it was on the Live CD. For instance, I no longer had a Bluetooth kicker in the tray, which makes sense since I don’t have Bluetooth. The desktop is also cleaner, with only relevant programs. The game demos on the live disc are not included here.

One thing that struck me was the Live Help icon. Intrigued, I clicked it. Up popped an IRC client that automatically brought me to the Sabayon chatroom on OFTC. Very cool.

One thing I have to say, is that I was immediately impressed with the overall performance of the machine after the initial boot. Being the robust (read: lots of stuff) OS it is, I expected it to run slower than it had. Especially with the XGL enabled. However, this is by far one of the speediest distros I have used in quite a while. Menus flashed up quick and the system reacted fast to any random command.

One reason that this is a good distro for new Linux users is due to the fact that everything should be set up for them. That includes the audio and 3D acceleration, in addition to other mundane things that others may make you add manually, such as DVD video playback or MP3 audio playback. It’s all ready to go right out of the box.

Since this is a distro based on Gentoo, it means even newbie Linux users will have to sit down and read through some Portage information to learn how to update their system. Kuroo (Portage based GUI) is placed on the desktop, and it’s a great program. I use it on my primary machine whenever I want to simply skim the program trees for new apps to try. But, there are a few things Kuroo simply won’t take care of (don’t quote me), such as dealing with blocks.

After the fresh install, I ran an “emerge –sync”, followed by an “emerge –update –deep world” but immediately had a block. Even Kuroo recognized this. As Gentoo users know, the package in question can usually be added to the packages.unmask file under /etc/portage, but this is something new Sabayon and Gentoo users alike will need to learn. Portage is incredibly robust, but is not always jump in and go for new users. Some reading will be had to say the least.

Some of the software found in 3.2 has since had newer versions released as stable in Portage. After removing the blocks and rerunning an emerge -uD world –pretend, it was shown to have over 350 programs in the queue! It’s recommended to stay away from -uD world here, unless you really don’t mind waiting a while (read: a day) for your system to update. With the use of Kuroo or the command line, you can update your favorite apps that way.


Final Thoughts

That aside, if you had AIXGL or XGL enabled during the initial boot off the Live DVD, you will have it enabled for your regular installation. Overtop of this is Beryl which offers even more special features, or toys you could say. Yes, these special affects really can make you waste time when you should be working, but it’s way too fun to ignore. So overall, the entire distro is a real visual treat, but amazingly still retains some incredible speed.

Thanks to Beryl on top, there is a lot of customization and extra functionality. By far my favorite would have to be the blur feature, which essentially blurs everything you are doing on the PC. So, after a while of opening programs, minimizing them and closing them, you will wind up with a desktop like this.

Of course, one of the most interesting, and fun features of XGL are the wobbly windows and the method to cascade them on your screen.

Because XGL has the potential to bog your system down, this version of Beryl includes a benchmarking tool to see if your FPS are up to snuff.

As I mentioned earlier, Sabayon is not a regular distro. It includes many, if not all of the programs that users will need. Of course things can be installed manually later, but there is a robust selection here. Thanks to this, a lot of things you wish to do works out of the box, such as ripping an audio CD or working on a spreadsheet.

In terms of bugs, I actually ran into a fair amount. I believe this to be a number of faults on my part though, as I tend to have a lot of issues on this specific machine with any distro. Apparently the 2.6.19 kernel is set out to fix up AM2 specific bugs, so I am looking forward to seeing immediate improvements. That aside, there are a few bugs I encountered that were blatant.

First was the fact that my native resolution was not detected, and in order to use that resolution (1680*1050), I had to remove -all- modes in the xorg.conf except for that one. If I left more than one in there, 1152×864 would be used, with 1680×1050 not even being an option in the drop down in KDE. After putting 1680×1050 as the sole mode, it worked fine.

I had a lot more trouble with a few bugs though, one actually was show stopping. Keyboard stopped functioning, and programs would not launch. This could be due to XGL/Beryl not acting nicely on my rig. I re-installed using non XGL and the system seemed better behaved. I am confident I will be one of the few to suffer these pains. I believe the biggest problem to be the motherboard (DFI M2R/G). After using the OS for about a half hour on your rig, you should easily know how well it’s going to behave.

Final Thoughts

Despite all of my issues, I love this distro. Again, it’s not one I personally would use day to day because I prefer having only what I need installed. I am also not a fan of “fancy” GUIs, so I only use XGL for fun or to show friends. However, for users who want a robust distro that detects all of their hardware and is easy to get in to, SL fits the bill. I’ve tried numerous distros, and this is certainly one of the most polished. I didn’t have any problems with any of my hardware being detected except for the native resolution of the monitor. This seems to be a common problem with this release specifically. So you may need to manually change your xorg.conf file after the installation.

The fact that things work out of the box will be welcomed to many new users. Most anything you need to do can be done immediately after installing. Ripping DVDs or Audio CD’s, re-encoding a FLAC file to an MP3 with soundKonverter, updating your spreadsheets, playing with Google Earth or even using NX, Tor or the other many programs installed. No other distro comes close (to my knowledge) of the sheer amount of potential after initial install. This could be one thing that drives a few people away also. The fact is, there are a LOT of programs pre-installed, but that is made better with the mini-edition. Either way, if you are an experienced Gentoo user, then uninstalling a whack of programs is pretty easy to do through the konsole or Kuroo.

I didn’t touch on half of what this distro offers, but if you download the full blown DVD version you can also have access to the GeeXbox media center, which is an option in the bootmenu. Really, this is one full featured distro regardless of how you look at it. Of course, that is once you get all the bugs out of the way, should you run into any. The exact theme used here is unique to the distro also, created by lnxay while the Ksplash theme was completed by cvill.

If you are in the market for a new distro or simply like playing the field, give Sabayon 3.2 a try. The developers are currently seeking donations as well, so you may wish to keep that in mind should you use Sabayon on a regular basis. As it stands, Sabayon is a great distro, and I really look forward to seeing what improvements and upgrades are in store for the future.

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