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Sabayon Business Edition Review

Sabayon Business Edition 1.0: Easy Gentoo for the office?

Written By Guest poster Thomas Allen.

Want to be our second guest poster? Contact me by email with your idea, kingofallhearts999 (_/at/_) gmail (/./) com (Obviously reformat that one)

Sabayon Business Edition 1.0 is the latest release from Sabayon Linux, the distribution developed by the famous (in Gentoo circles) Fabio Erculiani, also known as “lxnay.” Sabayon is a pre-compiled version of Gentoo with many tweaks and a bent for the cutting-edge. The distribution at first glance is geared to those looking for the maximum in eye candy and gaming ability, which is what makes the latest release surprising. Business Edition aims to be a stable OS aimed at productivity.This OS is based on the Gentoo “stable” branch, whereas all previous Sabayon releases have been based on the “testing” branch. As the names suggest, the system’s software is well-tested and should be very stable.

Live CD

The Live CD (technically, DVD) took quite a while to boot. I notice that much of this time was spend setting up OpenGL, which was surprising, mainly because this version includes no 3D desktop software whatsoever. This is one kink that needs to be worked out of the Business Edition Live CD. Beyond that, the Live system works as perfectly as a live system can. My wireless was detected, and all applications worked as expected.

Installation

Although there are FTP and HTTP mirrors to download Sabayon, users are strongly encouraged to use the torrents, as it usually ensures that the downloaded file will have no flaws, while reducing the strain on Sabayon’s servers. Download speed for me varied, slowing to 40KB/s at times, but at other times topping out my bandwidth. In the end, it took about five hours to download the 1.8GB file, which isn’t too bad.

The install disc was fine, and unlike in previous version of Sabayon, I experienced absolutely no problems during installation. No unhandled exceptions, no freezes! Sabayon’s installer, based on the ancient Anaconda Installer, is clearly maturing. One nice new feature is a very basic software selector that enabled me to, in this case, exclude Games which I have to need for.

You’ll get to choose between GNOME and KDE at this stage as well. For this review, I chose KDE, but it’s a matter of preference. Hopefully another reviewer will take a look at Sabayon’s GNOME, but because the Live CD boots into KDE, I chose that.

The installer is also visually appealing. I must say that this is the best-looking installer I’ve seen to date. The install took about half an hour, which is average on my laptop. But this is all foreplay: How was the system, you ask?

For those interested, here is my test machine: IBM ThinkPad T41, 1.6GHz Pentium M, 1.5GB RAM, ATI Radeon Mobility 7500, Atheros AR5212 Wireless card.

Test Period: A weekend, or about fifteen hours. Spent mostly at home, at the office, in a library, and at my local coffee shop.

The Sabayon Experience

Working with Sabayon Business Edition was a bit disorienting at first. The first five to ten times that I booted the system, everything was painfully slow. I clocked two minutes from boot to login, and another two minutes from when I logged in to when all System Tray applets had loaded. However, things gradually began to speed up, until my system was running at about the same speed as when I’m using Ubuntu or Mandriva. I never re-compiled anything, so there’s no quick explanation for this. Viewing system processes didn’t show anything hogging my memory or CPU either.

I experienced some bugginess while using this distro. Editing KDE settings sometimes crashed the panel, and logging out took me to a text login. I rebooted, and the issue never showed up again. NetworkManager (not KNetworkManager) also crashed on me from time to time.

A shot of Sabayon BE In action

Sabayon, 3D desktop or not, is the best-looking Linux distribution out there in my opinion. Microsoft fonts looked more polished on this system than they do on Windows XP in my office! With subpixel hinting enabled, the polish is even greater. These are the small things that really make a distribution worth using. The default theme is unique and looks great. I themed my desktop with a plain blue KDE wallpaper, and changed the titlebar color to blue. The system has a red look by default, but the last thing I needed was a color that inspires passion and often anger while being frustrated by the initially slow system speed. As you can see in the screenshot, Sabayon is truly beautiful for an OS.

Applications

Sabayon BE comes with a very solid productivity suite. There are graphics programs (Inkscape, GIMP, and Blender, amongst others) and your typical office tools. MySQL comes installed but not configured, as does PostgreSQL. As expected, the prize KDE apps are bundles as well: Amarok, K3B, Digikam, and others. Here’s a complete package list for those interested.

There was one thing that peeved me in particular: In spite of this rich set of applications, Vi(m) is not included, but Emacs is. This is the first Linux distribution I’ve ever used to not include even a minimal Vi installation, and the developers make it clear that they want Vi out: the Visudo command even launches in Nano. We’re far past the days of editor wars, and it’s positively absurd that a user (or, most likely, a developer) should have to manually install Vi, which is one of the most important productivity tools for many.

Besides the above gripe (which is not a minor one) the application suite performs very well, and is a pleasure to use for those who want all multimedia support working out of the box. DVDs played fine, my iPod worked perfectly, and Amarok could play every song. I threw a variety of audio and video at Sabayon, and it gracefully handled all of it.

My wireless card also worked out of the box, but this is nothing to write home about: My card is supported by the Madwifi project, meaning the majority of distros support it out of the box. One annoyance was that, in KNetworkManager, all signals displayed a 100% signal strength, which made selecting the strongest open network impossible. But it connected reliable to the networks I typically used, which made writing this review far easier.

 

Installing new applications, on the other hand was very difficult. I’m no Gentoo pro, nor is the average target Sabayon user, and about half of the packages I wanted to install wouldn’t because they were “masked,” according to Portage. I took the time to read through the Gentoo Handbook’s chapter on Portage and still didn’t find my answer, which was disappointing. I was also bothered that I was being prevented from doing things on my system because of settings I never configured myself, couldn’t understand, and were not accessible to the average user.

 

But life goes on, and as a reviewer, I’d leave it at this: Package management in Sabayon is a pain for new users, and is definitely not user-friendly. Going on trust, Portage gives the user more control than any automated package manager out there, so I’m sure there’s potential here.

Conclusion

Overall, except for the few bugs I experienced, I got the feeling with this release that Sabayon Business Edition has its shortcomings, but that a knowledgeable user could overcome them and really take this system to the next level. And that brings me to what I really appreciate about the Business Edition: Much like the original Sabayon, it’s essentially a way to jump into Gentoo with a working system in under an hour, allowing a user to slowly grow into Gentoo until their Sabayon system is a highly-customized Gentoo. In reality, Sabayon is a highly-customized Gentoo installation.

 

Then what sets this apart from the original Sabayon? For one, it’s based on the stable branch of Gentoo, which one would hope would bring greater stability. It would be wrong for me to doubt this, but to really get a feel for a system’s stability, you usually need to use it for at least a few months. Second, this is a sober release without all the games and other fluff that makes the original Sabayon disk top 3GB. You can call it Sabayon Business Edition: Sabayon for grown-ups.

 

Overall: Three out of five stars

One-liner: Sabayon BE is a unique and powerful system with usability issues to fix, which will put off inexperienced Linux users.

Written By Guest poster Thomas Allen.

Want to be our second guest poster? Contact me by email with your idea, kingofallhearts999 (_/at/_) gmail (/./) com (Obviously reformat that one)

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