Long Time Coming...

My review of Sabayon Linux 3.4e has been a long time coming. It's not that I've been running it for a long time. I've only been using it for about a week. ^_^ No, it's because this is the first non-SuSE distro that I've used since who the hell knows when. So, here's a quick rundown:

What I like
1. This is the most beautiful install environment I've ever seen. You actually boot in to the distro (bootable distro with installer options from the grub menu) and the installer starts. You're in an xfce environment, which is fairly sparse, but it's an actual desktop. While you're installing you can be browsing the web using your browser of choice, mine being Firefox. So when you run in to any sticky bits you're able to search them from the installing machine rather than having to run to the next room to grab someone else's computer. Nice.

2. The startup music is fantastic. Yeah yeah, big whoop, right? While KDE has some nice music it's not very energetic. It reminds me more of MS Win95 startup sounds, to be honest (don't kill me!). Sabayon, on the other hand, sounds like it was put together by Michael Kamen or SqEnix. Seriously.

3. Pretty colors. The default theme is a nice red one. Normally I have problems with the color red but this is really well put together and ties in to all of the applications. Even Amarok's OSD shows up as red.

4. KDE is all set up (mostly). The menus are already set to transparent and it uses the new default KDE menu system that behaves like Vista wants to (did I save that or what?!).

5. It's based on Gentoo. This means that you have access to what I now believe is the nicest package management system ever. There's graphical front-ends, lots of text-based tools and huge repos full of stuff.

6. Default applications are complete. Sabayon includes almost every application you could ever need. K3b, Amarok, Firefox, etc... are all present in their resplendent glory along with a decent selection of OSS games. The distro, since it's actually a live CD that can be installed, also includes some advanced games that can be installed by default if you use Gnome and are available as separate boot games. Pretty cool.

7. Configuration is a snap. For the most part it's just like any other distro: edit config files or use the specific application's configurator. Straight-forward and simple.

8. iPod support. In a world that is dominated by the iPod it's become fairly important to support the device, as well as any others. iPods in particular are a difficult item to support for a few reasons. While mine didn't work straight off (an update was required for Amarok because they're kinda dumb sometimes and journaling was enabled on my pod) it didn't take a whole lot to get things rolling. Once I stopped being an idiot (imagine that) and checked my Amarok version I saw I was out of date. I got one error that Google was able to provide a repair link for (aforementioned journaling) I was up and going. It's so bloody simple that it's like being on a Mac (yes, you need to fix those sometimes too).

9. Ease of use. In large part this is due to KDE. However Sabayon makes things a little more simple. Installation takes less thought than installing OS X (having done it now I can say that with confidence). Most everything is set up and working for you when you first boot. There's really nothing for you to configure unless your anal (high, I'm Mr. Tight Sphincter).

10. It's all inclusive. I haven't had to download anything that a normal user would need. Multimedia, browsing, file support... it's all really there.

Let me detail quickly the problem with the iPod. It's not particular to Sabayon, it's a general problem with a general solution. First, make sure you're running the most up to date version of Amarok (it has the best iPod support from what I've seen so far). If you're running your pod from a Mac primarily then it will have journaling turned on. Linux doesn't like that much (it's a kernel thing) and will only mount the pod as read-only, which Amarok can't have. So, boot in to your Mac and hook up your pod. Open a terminal (if you don't know where that is just go to Searchlight (apple-key + space)) and issue the following command:

mount (this command will give you your volume name which is needed by the diskutil command below; look for what you named your iPod near the bottom of the mount command output. You're looking for /dev/yourJournalNameIsHere)
diskutil disableJournal volumeName (replace volumeName with the volume you found for your iPod from mount)

That's it. Next time you have Amarok running and plug in your pod it'll detect and mount it, allowing you full browsing.

What I didn't/don't like
1. The options for installing on 3.4e are backwards. When you select KDE it takes you to Gnome stuff and visa versa. I had to re-install. Make sure you're paying attention to the packages.

2. It's a long install. Yes, there is a lot of stuff to install but do we really need all of it? A granular package manager would have been very nice here.

3. Config files are loaded with comments. Samba alone, which shouldn't be more than 40-80 lines for a typical, secure configuration was ~300 lines. That's crap.

4. Java was broken out of the box. Sabayon comes with Azureus, my favorite torrent client, but the java classes are broken due to god knows what and there was no jre/jdk, both of which are required. Fixing it was easy for me but an average user is going to be on the phone with someone real fast for this problem.

5. Desktop icons are ginormically huge. I mean really fucking big. Running 1280x1024 the Google Earth icon was literally the size of a golf ball. WTF?!

I like it. I'll keep using it for a while. The problems I had were minor in consideration to the ease of use and the ease of fixing said problems. If you're bored or just want to see something else pull down the iso, burn it and boot it. You can give it a test run with all the cookies enabled (including XGL for fancies).


Gryyphyn, out.

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