2011-06-25

Review: Sabayon 6 KDE

Sabayon needs no introduction here, considering I've reviewed 4 previous versions of it here. So why am I reviewing Sabayon 6 KDE?

Main Screen + Kickoff Menu
Well, the Sabayon developers have a laundry list of improvements for this new major release of Sabayon. The most significant, if you ask me, is the claim of huge improvements in speed and functionality to Sabayon's GUI package manager Entropy. Aside from that, the included and available programs are newer, and there are many other bug fixes and speed improvements to go around.

I tested Sabayon 6 KDE in a live USB made with UnetBootin. I tested the installation procedure in VirtualBox within the live USB system with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see what the latest release of Sabayon is like.

After changing the BIOS, rebooting, and getting past the boot menu, where I opted to boot with music, I saw a typical Sabayon splash screen...but no music. Anyway, that gave way somewhat quickly to the Sabayon KDE splash screen, and only then did the music play. The fact that I was able to hear it out-of-the-box meant that my laptop's sound card was fully recognized and the sound settings were properly configured, which is certainly a big improvement over Sabayon 5.5. (The music itself is pretty cool and is a nice departure from the heavy metal rock that has been used in past Sabayon releases, but that's beside the point.) After that (while the music continued playing for a little while longer), I was led into the desktop.

YouTube on Chromium + LibreOffice Writer
The desktop is pretty standard for Sabayon. The wallpaper seems changed from last time, as the nice black grass silhouettes are gone, as is the Sabayon logo from the wallpaper, though I would prefer that the logo had remained. The Plasma theme has gone from dark to gray, which I suppose brings Sabayon more in line with upstream KDE. The other themes are fairly standard for KDE 4, though more and more I'm seeing distributions like Sabayon 6 ditch the Oxygen-style folder icons for plainer, blander substitutes, and I'm not sure I particularly like that. Overall, the desktop looks as nice as ever.

Mozilla Firefox is the...wait, no it's not. Chromium 12 is the default browser here. That's a surprise! In fact, I don't know of many other distributions with KDE that use Chromium as the default browser; it's usually Mozilla Firefox, Konqueror, or Rekonq. Anyway, Chromium is as fast as ever, and most multimedia codecs seem to be included out-of-the-box in typical Sabayon fashion, as I was able to watch YouTube and Hulu just fine. This was further confirmation that my laptop's sound card was fully recognized and properly configured, though unfortunately Sabayon didn't respond to the volume keyboard shortcuts, which is a little annoying but not a huge deal. One weird thing was that when I right-clicked on the titlebar and unclicked the "Use System Titlebars and Borders" option, and then clicked it again, the KDE titlebar refused to reappear. That's weird. Oh well. Also, although Chromium doesn't look particularly out-of-place, it also doesn't try to look like a KDE application; for example, the navigation buttons are reminiscent of those from stock Google Chrome in Microsoft Windows, which I suppose isn't a bad thing. Finally, for some reason Chromium isn't present in the "Favorites" section of the Kickoff menu, so I had to actually search for it; that's easily fixable, but considering that in previous versions of Sabayon Mozilla Firefox was always in the "Favorites" section, I don't know why the same wasn't done for Chromium here.

LibreOffice is the default productivity suite, and it's well-integrated with KDE. Furthermore, it even has its own splash screen customized for Sabayon, which looks really nice.
Other installed applications include VLC, Clementine, KDE Games, XBMC, and other KDE utilities.
Skype + Desktop Cube + Yakuake
Sabayon used about 480 MB of RAM at idle, which I guess is average or slightly better than average for a full KDE 4 desktop. Plus, aside from one or two times, it never felt slow or sluggish (or crash-y) like Sabayon 5.5 did.
Desktop effects worked really well; though KWin effects are a little slower than corresponding Compiz effects, I find them to be a little smoother too, and this was no exception to that.

One of the important features frequently touted about Sabayon 6 has been the thoroughly improved Entropy GUI (now called Entropy Store). As I was running all this from a live USB, I got a message saying that running Entropy in a live session may severely compromise performance, which is what happened when I tried that in previous versions of Sabayon. At least now there's a message acknowledging that, so that's an improvement. Anyway, I clicked past that message, and I let it download and update all the repositories. Unfortunately, after it did all that, it decided to hang there and not progress, which to me is no real improvement at all. That's a shame. Hopefully it'll be better post-installation, as I was warned by that message after all.
After that, I went to Yakuake, the drop-down CLI, to install Skype using Equo (instead of Entropy, as I originally wanted to do). That occurred in good time, and I was able to use Skype fine. Skype, at version 2.2 (a beta version), was able to recognize my webcam and mic just fine, and I was even able to carry out an hour-long conversation with relatives many thousands of miles away. In fact, when the call got dropped due to a faulty Internet connection on their end, Skype automatically called back. That's really cool! Finally, Skype for Linux is being treated slightly better than a second-class citizen of the Skype world.

At this point, I decided to proceed to the installation procedure. Unfortunately, after following all the instructions on the Sabayon wiki for installing VirtualBox, there was no "VirtualBox" executable program in /usr/bin/ (or anything like it), so I couldn't run VirtualBox at all. I needed to run it from a different live USB system, so I quickly made a Pinguy OS 11.04 live USB, rebooted, installed VirtualBox, and went on my way.
After creating the virtual machine and starting it, I found that 12 MB of video memory for the guest OS was too little. That was unfortunate. I shut that down, increased it to 128 MB, and restarted it. That seemed to work a little better. I started the installer, which is the latest version of Anaconda, the same one used in Fedora. It seemed easy enough until I got past choosing the host name, at which point the installer crashed. The error information was rather cryptic and not particularly helpful, so I tried it again just to make sure that wasn't a fluke. It wasn't, and this time I clicked "debug". When I did that, the installer crashed again, at which point I forcibly closed the virtual machine and ended my time with Sabayon.

So what's the verdict? Sabayon 6 KDE seemed faster and more stable than Sabayon 5.5 KDE, and the replacement of Mozilla Firefox with Chromium was a pleasant change, I suppose. On the other hand, the Entropy Store didn't work as advertised in the live session, though that can be attributed to it running in the live session as opposed to running in a fully installed session. Then, when I tried to install Sabayon in a virtual machine in order to try the Entropy Store there, the installer crashed, which is a serious problem. Therefore, while Sabayon has certainly become a better live distribution than before, I remain ambivalent about it on the whole, and I'm hesitant to recommend it for installation and daily use; I say this not just for newbies, but for really anyone except die-hard Sabayon/Gentoo users or people who love to fiddle with these things and live on the bleeding edge of software.
You can get Sabayon here.

9 comments:

  1. I also had performance issues after installation of programs via Entropy in Live mode.
    Nice that developers warn about this now.

    And... I like movement from Firefox to Chrom(-e, -ium).

    ReplyDelete
  2. It looks really nice and neat.
    I've not used Sabayon since three years ago more or less.
    Gentoo appeared to hard for me, don't get me wrong I like the idea behind but I just do not have time to tweak everything.
    And Sabayon, well some time ago I've read it was not stable enough, maybe it is time to give it a try again.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I installed Sabayon 6, the Gnome version and am very happy with it. I didn't bother futzing around on the live-cd and trying to update the entropy store, I went straight to install. I had no problems booting off a USB key make with Unetbootin. The install went smoothly, without incident.

    My opinion: Sabayon 6 rocks! This is my first 64-bit Linux and it feels faster than my 32-bit Ubuntu. I switched from Metacity to Compiz, because I love eye candy.

    Years ago I was a Gentoo user, then moved to Debian, then moved to Ubuntu. Why did I move to Sabayon? I wanted a rolling release and a friend who loves Gentoo recommended it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I used Sabayon for quite some time but eventually gave it up because of my complex setup. Three SSDs as RAID0 (I want performance and I know what a backup is) system (and backups) encrypted with LUKS on LVM2. The sabayon installer would crash if I didn't severely tweak my system first. Arch Linux is the only distro I have ever been able to convince with little or no effort to install GRUB on all three disks so that I can boot from either one. Sweet!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I considered Arch, but last time I looked they didn't sign their packages and they didn't think that was a big deal.

    Maybe Sabayon could use a different installer than Red Hat's Anaconda.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "sudo liveinst-update-quick" fixes installer issues for me

    ReplyDelete
  7. @DarkDuck: Yeah. Now I can't exactly blame them per se anymore for those issues. I can only blame myself. (Take this how you will.)
    @Go2Linux: I certainly think you should give Sabayon a try, but I don't know if it's really significantly more stable than before. Use it at your own risk, and your mileage may vary.
    @Async: It's great that Sabayon is working so well for you. Also, are you saying Anaconda has stability issues or usability issues? If it's the former, I agree at least in the case of Sabayon 6, but if it's the latter, I would say Anaconda is the second-easiest fully-featured installer I've used, behind Ubiquity.
    @KairTech: Well, it's good that you have something working!
    @Mr.Awesome: That's interesting. Did you need to do that before or during the installation on the live medium?
    Thanks for the comments!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Before you launch the installer.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Mr.Awesome: Thanks for the clarification!

    ReplyDelete