The DistRogue

Monday, August 27, 2007

Review: SabayonLinux 3.4e

It's been a while, hasn't it? School really has a way of slowing things down. But now I'm back on track.
Personal problems aside, it's well-known that Gentoo is one of the hardest distributions to install. So well-known, in fact, that there have been a lot of attempts to cut down on the install time by either automating the process or using binary packages. Sabayon Linux is one of the more important results to come out of efforts like these. Based in Italy, and named after a local dessert, you can tell it's going to be good almost immediately- guess who won the World Cup last year?
The basic idea behind Sabayon back when it was still young and was called RR4 (read: late 2005) was to take a Gentoo system, compile it for an i686 architecture, and install it as a series of binaries instead of compiling the whole thing from scratch. But later, Sabayon began taking turns in different directions, eventually moving from XFCE to KDE as the default desktop and even including demo versions of Quake 4 and Cold War, along with other proprietary software that Gentoo would never dream of adding. The system was synced into Gentoo's Unstable repository, and the project took on a bleeding-edge philosophy. By version 3.4e, Sabayon had grown into a monster of engineering, and on the surface, seems like nothing more than a jumble of useless software.
But that's not all.
Sabayon is an entire distribution, not just a remastering of a parent distro. For once thing, Gentoo is notoriously hard to base a distribution off of, but Fabio Erluciani and company managed to get away with it by using a custom system of catalysts and overlays for Portage. It also has its own artwork, including one of the best color schemes I've seen. It has some "glue" for holding the diverse range of software together, such as a custom autodetection program for NVIDIA and ATI graphics cards to select (closed-source) drivers. Finally, in the works (and available as of version 3.4e) is an alternate package-management system called Entropy, featuring the Equo package manager, which works the way apt-get would, installing packages the way the main system is- using binaries instead of compiling everything.
I got a copy of the 4.3-gig x86-32 DVD. It booted into a nice wizard for setting up 3D effects, complete with some music- a nice touch that can be disabled at boot time. After that, it went into a full KDE desktop with shortcuts to an obscene selection of games. Danger from the Deep? Torcs? FlightGear? God only knows how they got in there in the first place, but Nexuiz makes a good substitute to Quake, and Sauerbraten is still a great game.
The install, with everything checked except KDE and 2D arcade games (package selection is new in 3.4, and a welcome improvement), took an hour and a half and took up 9GB of space. Wow. And they say Gentoo is slow... On the plus side, the miniEdition, a CD-sized version of Sabayon 3.3, installed in about 20 minutes, owing to its smaller (but still complete) software selection. For people who still like to build their own desktop, try the Core Install option in the install wizard. It installs a minimal text-mode system, from which you can emerge [insert desktop here] just the way you'd want it (except for the artwork- but that's not a bad thing).
Performance was disappointing. Sabayon is supposed to be fast, but it took almost 2 minutes to boot on the first try, and only improved to 80 seconds on subsequent boots. Even with the "geeky" minimal Fluxbox environment, I could only get 1100 FPS in GLXGears, and Sauerbraten was nothing special- 20FPS. (Note: The map I use to test FPS is metl4, and I measure FPS by crouching behind the yellow armor with a grenade launcher. It's not great, but it's standardized. If you *really* want to give [insert distro here] a workout, try skycastle. It's an awesome map, but it's insanely laggy.) Tremulous was too laggy to play- but it felt cool to be able to tack "@Sabayon" onto my screenname. :)
Entropy is still under construction, making it completely useless at the moment. Binmerge (an older package manager) is still there, but it doesn't work. Equo works perfectly, but so far, nothing can be installed. I had to stick with good ol' Emerge for package management. Sabayon includes a GUI to Portage called Portato, and a KDE version called Kuroo. I tested Portato, and it worked perfectly- just take my advice and don't do a world update until you have a LOT of free time. Update Portage immediately- version has a nasty bug that slows it down.
3D desktop effects are pretty standard by now, but Sabayon, being the bleeding-edge project is, includes Compiz Fusion and Metisse instead of the standard Compiz Vanilla and Beryl. It also comes with the SabayonLinux Acceleration Manager (aka SLAM), an open-source wizard for setting up acceleration through the two desktops.
Overall, Sabayon is a good desktop for beginners who want to live on the bleeding edge. It's a great way to ease newbies into Linux and show them what makes a distro work without the multiple-day installs of Gentoo.
-Fast-ish installs (sort of)
-Considerably easy to use
-Customizable system via Core Install (for advanced users)
-Non-Core-Install systems are slow
Friendliness: 4.5/5-
In marked contrast to Gentoo.
Performance: between 2.5 and 4.5/5- It really depends on how the system is installed. MiniEdition installs are pretty fast.
Features: 5/5- Every conceivable program for Linux is on that DVD.
Packaging: 4.5/5- Portage + GUI = l33t.
Artwork: 2/2.5- Still needs work, but the general red-on-black color scheme is awesome.
Community: 1.5/2.5- The forums are comfortably large, and the Freenode IRC channel is always welcoming.
Overall: 4-4.4/5- Keep an eye on it as it matures.
From Debian 4.0r1 (wink wink nudge nudge),
The DistRogue.

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Blogger annatar said... does SabayonLinux keep up with the ever-changing Portage?

If the user wants to update (elimnate bugs, new features...) , do they have to go through all those commands, or the Sabayon team has already solved that?

6:55 PM  
Blogger DJ Gentoo said...

"All those commands" = ? Just use "emerge --update world" or whatever. You don't even need that, just open Portato and click "World update". Problem solved.

7:17 PM  
Blogger annatar said...

I am sorry that i may have asked a noob question. (i am one anyway :[)

Updating can be easily triggered, but waiting for the process to be completed...urgh. That is not so convenient. 'That's what i mean.

Maybe this is a disadvantage of using Gentoo as a base OS?

7:40 PM  
Blogger gmt said...

Gentoo takes just as long to compile as any other OS. The disadvantage is that Gentoo (and other similar systems) builds from source every time you update.

Sabayon mostly solves this problem. It provides a tool called "equo" which works in a generally portage-like way but does everything using binary packages instead of building from source.

Portage is still in the toolchain and it is not as fast as yum or apt-get, but you get a nice working gentoo-based system. It is possible (but presumably quite error-prone) to mix built-from-source packages with binary packages from entropy.

5:33 PM  

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