2011-01-30

Review: Sabayon 5.5 KDE

Main Screen
If you are a regular reader of this blog, Sabayon needs no introduction. Suffice it to say that version 5.5 has been released, and as has become tradition for me (so to speak), I am testing the KDE version of this new release.
It seems like there aren't really a whole lot of new heavily-advertised features in this release; it mostly consists of bugfixes. Let's see how true that turns out.
I tested this as a live USB made with UnetBootin. I did not test the installation.
Follow the jump to see how this version of Sabayon stacks up in terms of making Gentoo friendly (or, at least, friendlier) to newbies.
After the boot menu, the boot process was fairly quick. This time, I elected to listen to the heavy metal rock music, but ironically enough, the one time I wanted to listen to it, it didn't work. This led me to believe that the sound card wasn't being properly detected or the wrong channel was selected as the master channel — more on that later. After the boot splash came the KDE splash screen, which quickly led into the desktop.
The desktop, at first glance, seems virtually unchanged from the previous (5.4) release, except that there are a couple fewer desktop icons present. The default icon theme is the standard KDE Oxygen theme, as is the default KWin window border theme; that said, the default Qt widget theme is Plastik (from KDE 3.5), which doesn't mesh as well as the Oxygen Qt widget theme with the rest of the desktop. Furthermore, the Oxygen widget theme isn't even present as an option; I'm not at all sure why this is so.
As I was testing Sabayon as a live USB as opposed to inside a virtual machine, it performed much better. However, as you will see shortly, there are still issues.
Mozilla Firefox + OpenOffice.org + Kickoff Menu
Mozilla Firefox is still the default browser (at version 3.6), and it integrates very well with the default KDE theme. Furthermore, it seems like all relevant codecs are included out-of-the-box.
Speaking of which, the sound problem was in fact due to the sound card not being recognized. Unfortunately, the only fix was a long list of commands at the terminal. Thankfully, typing just the first one (after "su" to gain root privileges) fixed the problem. I hope that on installed systems, this is a one-time occurrence and not a recurring issue.
OpenOffice.org is also included and also integrates well with the default KDE theme.
However, it was at this point that I encountered a stability issue. When I had both Mozilla Firefox and OpenOffice.org Writer open side-by-side along with KSnapShot to take a screenshot, the desktop just locked up on me. The only solution was to hold the power button down long enough to bring up the KDE shutdown prompt (but not long enough to force a cold shutdown). That's unfortunate.
Other than that, the application list is almost entirely unchanged from Sabayon 5.4 KDE. The one notable omission is the demo of World of Goo. It seems like the Sabayon developers want to make it a more serious/business-oriented distribution (maybe?), but in that case, why include KDE Games? I was a little disappointed by the lack of World of Goo.
Desktop cube effect + Dolphin + KDE System Settings
Desktop effects worked smoothly and without any hitches. That's good. Also, my webcam and mic were recognized out-of-the-box (once the initial sound card problem was resolved).
At this point, I wanted to see if I could install Skype (because I use that on a regular basis) so I headed to Sulfur, the graphical package manager. This was the source of my other two large gripes with Sabayon, one of which I don't consider to be such an issue any more. That concerns the issue of naming; the names Sulfur, Entropy, Equo, Portage, and Emerge seem to be thrown around all the time in Sabayon, and they're certainly going to confuse a new user. As far as I know, Entropy is the basic package management system while Portage is the Gentoo project providing programs' source code (for users to compile and then install); Sulfur is the GUI package manager, while Equo and Emerge are CLI package managers. In that sense, I guess either Entropy or Portage is analogous to Debian's APT, while Sulfur is analogous to Synaptic Package Manager and Emerge and Equo are analogous to Aptitude and apt-get. In any case, it's just confusing. All that aside, my bigger concern is that Sulfur seems to still be fundamentally broken. After I loaded Sulfur, it took a long time to load and update the repositories, and after that, it claimed it was doing something, but it seemed to have frozen up. After holding down the power button to unfreeze the desktop, I killed Sulfur and loaded up the terminal to type (after "su") "equo update && equo install skype". It's easy enough for me to do that, but for the newbies to which Sabayon is supposedly catering, it'll be tough.
After that little fiasco, Skype worked just fine and recognized my webcam and mic out-of-the-box.
Sabayon uses KDE 4.5.5, though it is possible to start using KDE 4.6 (which was released a few days ago and which I hope to review relatively soon) through updates. No part of KDE ever crashed, which is great news. I think it's safe to say that the issues I had with Sabayon 5.4 KDE were due to VirtualBox, not due to either Sabayon or KDE.
Overall, I think Sabayon has made a good deal of progress since version 5.4. I could probably see myself using Sabayon on a semi-regular basis, but I'm hesitant to replace Linux Mint. Similarly, I'm hesitant to recommend it to new users because of the basically nonfunctional GUI package manager. I'd rather recommend it to Linux users who at least know how to manage packages via the command line and wouldn't be too scared of typing in a few other commands here and there.

12 comments:

  1. I hope this helps with your confusion over package management in Sabayon. The binary package manager which comes with Sabayon is called Entropy. Equo is the command line program for Entropy, and sulfur is the GUI program for Entropy. Being based on Gentoo, Gentoo's package management system, Portage, is available as well. Emerge is simply the command line program for using Portage. Although it is technically possible to use both Entropy and Portage, it is recommended that you pick one package manager and stick with it. If you're a newer user, then it is recommended that you pick Entropy, which means all your updating/installing will be done through Equo and/or Sulfur.

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  2. @Anonymous: Wow, that helps a lot. So I suppose then that Entropy is more analogous to APT, with Portage just being the separate package source manager? That helps a lot in terms of clearing up the confusion. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. Sounds like it might be worth trying.

    I wonder if you might discuss the differences you see among trying as a live distro, the USB distro and the installed distro. I have found many times that the live distro looked good so I decided to install and found that the installed version did not work as well or things that worked as a live distro no longer worked. I even had one distro that worked fine as live but when I installed it from the live CD it could not find the module for my broadband adapter. I had to go search out a broadband adapter module to install before it would work and yet the live distro found the broadband adapter just fine. No idea how that happened.

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  4. @dick: It certainly is worth trying for the live session, but please do check out my articles on Sabayon 5.2 KDE. Enamored with the desktop effects and correct recognition of my old desktop graphics card's full capabilities, I went ahead and installed it...only to have the installed session go horribly wrong. I eventually had to delete that partition. At least in terms of speed, installed > USB > CD, as far as I've read; though I haven't rigorously tested this myself, I've found this to be mostly true. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. About the frozen desktop, is your graphics card an ATI by any chance?
    ATI + free drivers causes KDE to freeze when enabling the 3D effects. The proprietary ATI driver works well with KDE and 3D.

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  6. @Anonymous: No, I have a dual GPU (Intel GMA 4500 + NVidia GeForce 310M), but the Intel card is the only one recognized by default in most distributions. In any case, I don't have an ATI card. Thanks for the comment!

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  7. Great article about a so so distro. personally I've never
    had much luck with Sabayon. I do enjoy reading your writings as I find them right on. Its just that I'm getting old (lazy) and just won't bother much any more. As a matter of fact I'm quite happy these days with FC 14
    on my main box and a re-spin combo called Fuduntu on a tester. Do keep up the work though Prashanth...

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  8. @Mr Green: Thanks so much for the support. I've heard good things about Fuduntu, as well as another Fedora respin called Fusion Linux. As the latter respin is still in development (though I think and hope a final release will come soon), I'm planning to write a comparison of the two, as they are both Fedora remixes that aim to make the experience more user-friendly. Thanks again!

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  9. I have been using sabayon for the last couple of weeks now, and I dig it so far. I wanted a distro though with a nice build enviroment like gentoo has without requiring all the time needed to do a full gentoo install from scratch. This setup worked out nicely for that. So far I have been using it as a gaming distro with many ported to linux games on it. It has been a real champ so far. Though I didn't pick the kde version since I am partial to gnome myself. I like how sabayon doesn't assume that you want the awful free nvidia driver unlike other distros I have tried. But that option is there for the taking later if you insist on it.

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  10. @RabidWeezle: Well, no distributions has ever forced the free NVidia driver on me, just recommended it. Also, for a Gentoo-based distribution, yes it is pretty darn good. But it still has ongoing problems with Sulfur, and that could be a dealbreaker for many people (including myself -- I would like to know what packages are available without having to strain my eyes trying to read monospaced reverse high-contrast single line-space terminal font). Thanks for the comment!

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  11. Hi PV, a bit late but hey...
    I've spent my past two weeks ironing out Sulfur, should work much better on latest releases (1.0_alpha30). Consider that Sulfur is still heavily developed and we also offer kpackagekit (and gnome-packagekit), same you can find on other distros. Nice review though, we'll take your criticts into consideration. Next time, please test the distro once installed, it's unfair to test high I/O applications that require write access (the package manager) on a Live environment.

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  12. @Anonymous: Hopefully I'll be able to see the improvements in Sulfur in the next release. Also, I've been able to use other package managers (mostly APT) fine in live sessions, so I think I have a right to expect Sulfur to work in a live session as well. That's just me, though. Thanks for the comment!

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