2015-04-13

Review: Sabayon 15.02 KDE

This weekend has been a little slower than usual for work, so I have a little more time to do a review. Several weeks ago, I downloaded the latest version of Sabayon and kept it for a time (as now) when I'd be free to do a review. Moreover, looking through the archives of this blog, I realized that it's been almost 3 years since I've looked at Sabayon, so a fresh review is long overdue.

Main Screen + KDE Kickoff Menu
For those who don't remember, Sabayon is a rolling-release distribution based on Gentoo, though unlike its parent, it does not require users to compile packages by hand. It used to have a strong multimedia focus and a bit of a heavy metal-type image, but since then, it has broadened its focus to be a good general-use distribution where things work out-of-the-box. Moreover, its main focus used to be KDE, but now it offers a variety of DEs too.

I don't know exactly when this change happened, but now Sabayon is only usable on 64-bit systems, so take note. I tested the live version of the KDE edition on a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like. This review is a bit short for two reasons: one is that I am mainly pointing out differences compared to my previous review, and the other is something that will become clear by the end of the review.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a splash screen consisting of the Sabayon logo and name periodically pulsating on top of a blue background, with a small, somewhat crude-looking progress bar below the logo filling up. After a few seconds, this abruptly gave way to a giant scrolling wall of text; though this looked to be some horrible error, it thankfully turned out to be nothing, giving way to the desktop. Despite 3 years elapsing since my last review, the desktop is basically unchanged save for the wallpaper. Moreover, KDE 4 itself has barely changed in these 3 years (I say KDE 4 because I know KDE 5 is quite a different beast — also, I realize I am being a bit imprecise in calling the new version "KDE 5" given the splitting of various KDE components), so the desktop honestly looks a little...stale. That said, it works just as well as it did before.

Chromium is still the default browser, and codecs are included by default. Most of the other applications are the same (including the games and multimedia applications), though notably LibreOffice has been removed from the live system.
Chromium
The Rigo Application Browser is still the default GUI package manager, but now that it has been 3 years since it was still beta software, its functionality has (expectedly) improved quite a bit. Its search function actually works, and moreover, it is able to install multiple packages at the same time, though it still aims to be a fairly simple interface. That said, I wasn't actually able to install anything using Rigo. After a few attempts, I tried using the Equo CLI package manager, and installing packages from there failed too (though searching was still fine). I don't know if this is because the repositories were not functioning properly or if the Entropy package management backend was giving trouble, but in both Rigo and Equo, all I could see was the installation process hanging on the first line (resolving dependencies); in fairness, Equo did warn that performance on a live system would be compromised, but as far as I could see, there wasn't any issue with the live system itself. Eventually, I thought of going to the Entropy Store on the Sabayon website and manually downloading packages. Surprisingly, I was able to download all the packages just fine. Even more surprisingly, extracting the package for Skype to another folder and simply running its executable file worked really well; the only minor issue was that I couldn't hear notification sounds, but call sounds and video (in both directions) worked great. Unfortunately, I did not have the same success with other applications like Google Talk and Mupen64Plus; both of those applications complained about not being installed in the correct directories. When I looked up instructions for properly installing these downloaded packages, executions of the next few attempts ended in failure, so I gave that up.

According to the command "free -m", Sabayon used 525 MB of RAM at idle. By contrast, according to the KSysGuard system monitor, Sabayon used about 760 MB of RAM at idle. I'd be curious to know from you readers what might account for the discrepancy.
Dolphin + Gwenview + Desktop Cube
I was able to enable my preferred desktop effects in KDE; although there seemed to be an error message about enabling certain effects, it turned out to not be anything after all. Generally, the system was quite smooth and responsive even with the effects turned on.

That is where my time with Sabayon 15.02 KDE ended. I really would just like to see some information from the distribution about why the package managers might hang when attempting to install packages. Moreover, I always want to test a distribution in the live system to see what it's like before committing to installing it on my hard drive. Whether this is an accurate representation of an installed system also failing to download packages, or whether this live system has problems making it an inaccurate representation of the installed system's behavior, I find this issue to be a deal-breaker. Therefore, I cannot really recommend it to anyone but more advanced Linux users who might have a better idea of what they're doing.
You can get it here.

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