24 June 2012

Sabayon 9 review

I used Sabayon for the first time when version 5.4 (or 5.5 can't really remember which) was released. The intention back then was just to try it alongside my beloved openSuse. I soon after the installation realized I never booted up openSuse anymore and when I had to choose one of them to replace, Sabayon became my main dist.

The things that really hit me back then was the beauty, the smoothness and the amazing out of the box experience. Later I found Crunchbang, fell in love again and soon replaced Sabayon. The main reasons for that was sheer speed, Openbox (or rather the Openbox implementation in Crunchbang), Debian as base, or more precisely: I finally got tired of Sulfur (graphical front-end to the package manager in Sabayon).

Still, no Linux dist has ever "wow:ed" me as much, out of the box, as Sabayon 5 so it was with great expectations I decided to try the latest release, version 9, especially since I'd heard many positive comments about Rigo, the replacement for Sulfur.

One final note, I decided to go with the Xfce edition this time to get some lightweight options for common tools and to save me from the heavy dependencies in Gnome and KDE. Of course this changes the experience in some cases.

I decided to give the graphical installer a shot this time. The installer turned out to be fairly standard (Anaconda so maybe I shouldn't had expected anything else), it's stable, quite straight forward, asks the common questions and doesn't really excite you in any way.

I have one thing I certainly dislike though: The first question you get is "what kind of storage do you want to install Sabayon to", soon after you get a question about "install system or only boot loader" after that you have to setup all you passwords, user name, host name etc. before, finally, you get to setup your exact hard drive config. I swear, every time I pressed next before that I just begged that it wouldn't say "Starting to install", meaning I would have wiped both my store partition and my current Crunchbang installation. To me, saving time (and my nerves) by setting up user info during the actual installation would have been a better choice... or at least put hard drive setup immediately after the "system or only boot loader" option.

To end with something positive, the installer after all did its job. The actual file copying felt quick for the size of the system and I liked some of the comments in the presentation shown during the file copying, especially "Debian Stable? Pfft! OLD!", also nice to be able to setup root user's pass.

Summary: Nothing new or fancy (which I actually hoped for a bit) but smooth and solid.

First impression
Boot up and general artwork just didn't feel as beautiful and exciting as it did in version 5, maybe I'm just harder to impress these days but to me it may be slicker but not as impressive. Apart from that all the positive things I loved in version 5 remained or was improved. It's really quick to boot, my notoriously problematic Wireless was handled perfectly as well as graphic card, web cam, sound and all other hardware. When it came to media mp3, mpeg4, flash, wmv etc. worked out of the box, heck it even handled the weird avi codec some of our old LAN movies use (which, in case unclear, most distros don't).
To end all the positive critique it ran smooth, really smooth, especially considering some of the enabled effects.

I only found a couple of problems. The major one was that LibreOffice crashed upon document loading (known bug, apparently present in Sabayon 8 as well) and the other was Midori crashed quite frequently. The two bugs were easy to get around but it still lowers the initial impression.

Summary: With my personal preference in artwork I don't think it beats my old favorite Sabayon 5 but it's close! The only really problem I found was the two bugs I mentioned.

One of the big changes in version 9 addressed one of my own concerns my first time around; the GUI for Entropy. The buggy, slow and annoying Sulfur was now changed to Rigo. Before installing I read conflicting reviews, one suggesting that Rigo was a ground breaking tool that will influence Ubuntu's, and other major distros', software center while the other suggested it was just another not mature enough front-end. After trying it myself I stand somewhere in the middle. I think there are stuff to learn from it but to me the search function is not good enough for a tool that lacks a browsing feature and it had some other quirks. However, it did a great job providing me with all essential info without cluttering the interface. It was also a lot snappier than Sulfur and finally on a comparable level as the general tools. Plus for different/innovative design and the general feeling, thumbs down for its lacking maturity and small quirks but then again, this is the first release for Rigo so expect a lot of improvements going forward!

Summary: All and all, it's seems I won't ditch Sabayon for the lack of a decent package manager graphical front-end this time.

Who is Sabayon for?
Sabayon is easy, maybe not Linux Mint easy, but I guess at least openSuse easy. Media is there, hardware supports seems good and the only reason I find it a little less "beginner friendly" is that it's still a bit rough around the edges and I don't think you will survive without open the terminal every now and when. Also, in opposite to the major distros, like Ubuntu and Fedora, the community is a lot smaller making it a little harder to quickly find solutions to your problems.

One thing I have to point out (and I expect this to be true to at least the Gnome version as well) is that it's smoother than for instance Mint. I would say anyone looking for a drama free distro that is actually decent in speed should take a serious look at Sabayon. Personally this one will stay and we'll see if it overtakes Crunchbang or not this time, at the moment I have not used it enough to really tell, but looks promising.

Really solid distro! Just like the first time around I have this crazy feeling of "this is exactly what I want", only time can tell if that changes. I really recommend you give it a try if you want something really easy but still powerful. Sabayon 9 is definitely not going to disappoint you!

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