So here we go again, another distro has made it to the front of the queue and this time it’s the relatively new release Sabayon 1.1 Professional. I tried out version 3.2 of the main distro a while back but it was only on a virtual machine and I wanted to give it a proper test drive. I had some trouble at first working out what the difference was supposed to be between the standard and professional editions but is seems that it’s just a slight focus on office and business apps in “professional”. I spent a couple of days with it as my main OS and here’s how I got on:
I downloaded the 2.2gb DVD version of the distro and fired up the machine into the LiveCD mode which worked well. The initial boot menu had many options in addition to the usual “Run Live Version” allowing you to skip that if you like and just go direct to install, there was also an option called “Internet Kiosk Mode” which sounded interesting. I was greeted by an Nvidia splash screen during boot which indicated that my graphics card had been successfully detected. The live CD loaded up with the correct 1440×900 screen resolution for my monitor which was great, not many distributions do this with my card for some reason.
I decided to proceed with the install straight away and fired up the wizard. It took me through a large amount of options screens. I chose to keep my existing disk partitioning and use my 12gb drive for the system root, placing the home directory on the remaining 180gb(ish) as a separate partition. At this point I was warned by the installer that 12gb is not enough to install Sabayon for some reason. I threw caution to the wind and installed anyway, I couldn’t see how Sabayon was going to use more than 12gb with the home folder on a separate partition.
The first install didn’t go to plan and froze at about 67% for some reason. I left it a while wondering if it was just going slowly but it was definitely dead. I wondered if I should have taken more notice of the disk space warning and did a hard reboot. This time I just chose the install option from the menu rather than boot the Live CD again, it seemed pointless as all I wanted to do was install anyway. This loaded the desktop with the XFCE window manager which is obviously meant to save resources but the automatic login failed this time. I noticed that the login prompt had the user name “sabayonusersabayonuser” and a blank password so I shortened this to just “sabayonuser”, it then logged in and launched straight into the installer. This must be a little bug in the installer I think, it had obviously put the user name in twice by mistake but it didn’t take much to get around it with a little lateral thinking.
The second time around the installer worked fine with the same partitioning setup so I don’t think that was the problem the first time, it did give the same warning though. Anyway, it all installed fine and I was prompted to reboot. Incidentally when I did I checked the disk usage on my system drive and found that 3.6gb was still free. It obviously didn’t need more than 12gb to install but even so I have to say 8gb is a large footprint for a Linux distribution it seems to me. This is probably due to the amount of applications which come installed with the system I expect but I’ll get to that in the next section. IF you want a blow by blow account of the install check out the link to the Flickr slide show below.
INSTALLATION SLIDE SHOW
Configuration And Use:
I booted into the newly installed system immediately received an error from the sound server which you can see below:
It seemed as though there was an error which prevented my user account for accessing the sound device. I did a quick search in Google for the term “sabayon professional 1.1 sound server problem” and the top result was a thread in the Sabayon forums containing a fix. The fix basically involved editing a config file in the terminal which wasn’t a great challenge as I’ve done it many times. Not something a brand new Linux user would particularly relish I think. I modified the file, logged out and then back in, sound was now working and that was a great relief. It seems this is a known bug with the release and while it’s not a great problem to fix it does detract a little from the experience.
I was struck at first by the sheer amount of applications which come installed with this distro. Every menu seemed to go on for a mile and you would be hard pressed to find many things you need to add. It’s obviously designed to be a complete office system out of the box and it certainly would do well in that role. Being the picky bugger that I am though I still found a few things I wanted to add which were: Ktorrent, Pidgin, IcePodder, Compiz Fusion and KCheckgmail. Sabayon is based on Gentoo which sadly is not a distribution I’ve used (I plan to fix this) but I knew of it’s reputation, mainly for the need to compile everything you want to install. I’m not averse to this, I can compile stuff in the terminal it just wouldn’t be my method of choice for most things. Luckily Sabayon aims to make software management easier by offering tools such as Portato, the Gtk front end for the Gentoo software management tool Portage and it’s “emerge” function. This is a very powerful tool and I can see the advantages of it in some ways. It still compiles your software for you which can have performance benefits while removing some of the work by automating a lot of it. It basically compiles the software using guides or maps called overlays to simplify the process. There is a large repository of software available via this interface and it seems to install stuff pretty easily. I simply searched for the items I wanted with the text box and clicked the “emerge” button to install. The installations took a while to complete I must say but that’s largely due to the compilation overhead. I got Ktorrent, Kcheckgmail and Pidgin installed and they were also automatically added to the system menus. Pretty impressive.
SIDENOTE: I apologize for my lacklustre explanation of Portage and the “emerge” function, there are a great many people out who know a lot more about this than me. I read up a bit about it in Wikipedia and you should look at further sources if you wish to know more about it. I was basically concerned with installing the software I wanted and it did that pretty well so I didn’t worry about the internal workings too much.
When it came to installing IcePodder (my podcast aggregator of choice) I couldn’t find it in the repository so I went to the website and grabbed the source code. It comes with a shell script you just run to install the software and it’s pretty easy. I ran the script which installed the program for me but when I tried to run it I received a Python error. My reasonably limited Python programming knowledge suggested to me that it couldn’t find the appropriate wxGtk modules in my Python install to build the GUI. I fixed this by opening Portato again and installing wxPython from there. The program then ran perfectly and I created a desktop shortcut to the run command. This was a little involved I suppose but it didn’t take long to get around. You can of course use many of the popular Linux media players such as Amarok, Rhythmbox and Banshee to manage podcasts for you. I just find IcePodder to be a better and more reliable solution for me.
I tested out my music in Amarok which just worked as I expected it to and I was also able to play Xvid encoded videos fine with Kaffine and Mplayer. No problems there. I noticed that Innotech’s VirtualBox came installed with a prominent desktop shortcut so I gave that a little try. I haven’t used VirtualBox much sadly (another thing I need to fix) as I tend to use VMware Server on my machines mostly but it does the same job, allowing you to create virtual machines and install the OS of your choice natively. Handy when testing things out in different environments for programmers and packagers possibly. It’s very useful having a tool like this installed by default I must say and along with the inclusion of other things like Skype, it all adds to the feel that this is a competent business desktop. I connected an NTFS external disk to test out write support and this worked perfectly, the system must come with NTFS-3G by default, again probably handy in an office with those ubiquitous Windows machines, damn them!! 😉
Adobe Flash, Quicktime and Java plugins for Firefox were all present and correct with the install too so no hassle there. The glaring omission from the default install were 3D desktop effects, it seems strange to include the binary video drivers for Nvidia and ATi cards and then leave effects out. Maybe it was decided that this wasn’t appropriate for a business desktop I don’t know. Anyway, it was off to the Sabayon forums again to work out how to install this. I found a solution which again involved editing low level config files through the terminal but got the job done after a reboot of the X server. I soon had 3D graphics working just fine.
Overall I quite enjoyed Sabayon 1.1 Professional. It’s a nice distro but seems to lack some of the polish novice users would expect from things like Ubuntu or Mandriva I think. I’m not sure I would recommend it to new Linux users based on my experience of it, I think there are still other easier to use distributions out there for Linux newbies to cut their teeth on. Having said that Sabayon has a lot going for it, the solid Gentoo base is obviously a plus and I quite liked the Portato interface to software installation. Little bugs like the sound server problem let the release down a little in my eyes but it’s certainly progressing well. It should be remembered that this is a relatively young distribution and it will continue to grow in strength as time goes on. This position is confirmed by a quick look at the Wikipedia entry for Sabayon which says the development of a new package management system called Entropy is currently under way:
From Wikipedia: “The Sabayon Linux developers are currently working on an infant project called “Entropy”, which will take a different approach to managing packages. Among the early highlights is a binary package installer utility/script “binmerge”, which shipped with the 3.3 miniEdition. binmerge sits atop Portage’s native “emerge” utility and uses Sabayon Linux’s pool of binary packages to install them.”
One major plus for this distribution I think was the ease with which I was able to locate help in fixing the few bugs I encountered via the community. The forums seem very active and the official wiki was also helpful. I don’t think it quite has the user base of Ubuntu yet but this may grow and a little diversity is good for us in the Linux community I think.
As an office solution I think this succeeds quite well, it offers an awful lot of tools out of the box which would be very useful in a small office location. I’d put it on a par with OpenSUSE from my personal experience. I’m not sure quite what the goal of this “professional” release is but I assume it’s to get a foothold with business users. I certainly think it’s a good release in itself but I can’t see how it will compete with giants like Red Hat and Novell in the corporate market. Mainly because of marketing and so on rather than any technical inferiority. I certainly wish it well and I will watch with interest.
In previous articles I’ve closed by proposing imaginary slogans for each distribution and to be honest nothing really startling stands out to me with Sabayon so I think I’ll go with these:
“Sabayon: It’s making great strides but still has a little way to go”
“Sabayon: It’s a nice introduction for those scared by the prospect of Gentoo”
The Journey Continues:
Well that’s it for Sabayon for the time being, I will be back to check on it in the future though I’m sure. I’ve pretty much covered all the distributions I planned to when I set out on this tour. There is one notable exception in the shape of Fedora but as the release of Fedora 8 is imminent it seems pointless reviewing Fedora 7 now as I’d planned. I will head for simplyMEPIS next I think before moving on to Fedora 8 later in the week. Where I will go from there is anyones guess but I don’t think I’m quite ready to settle down again just yet so I’ll continue to explore, as always you are all more than welcome to join me if you like 🙂