Distro Review: Sabayon 4.0

Booting Sabayon 4

It may have been a while but I decided I should really get distro hopping again seriously. I like to try out new software, it’s almost a geeky form of OCD and besides, it makes for great review fodder I hope. Today’s candidate is the latest release of a distro I first looked at some time ago, Sabayon. I’ve had mixed feelings about it in the past, I found 2.2 Professional to be very bloated, capable of interesting innovations but overall slightly disappointing. It’s a Gentoo based distro from Italy and it seems there’s no love lost between the Gentoo and Sabayon camps so I’ve been told. I wanted to see how it had developed now they’d reached version 4.0, so here goes nothing…

Vital Stats:
Distro base – Gentoo
Packaging – .tbz2 (Binaries managed by Entropy) Source installations also available with Portage
Linux Kernel – 2.6.27-sabayon
Default Desktop – KDE 3.5 (edited after a comment, I thought it was KDE4, my bad), Gnome 2.24, XFCE, Openbox, Fluxbox and almost everything under the sun it seems


The Boot Menu
The Boot Menu

I downloaded the main DVD installer image and burned off a copy. My test laptop is a Dell m1330n which a lot of you will already know, I’ve talked about it before so won’t go into the details now, you can read more here. Upon booting the DVD the first thing I noticed were some rather exotic options on the boot menu. The usual install options you get with all distributions were there of course but so were more interesting things such as: Boot without music, Play Sauerbraten, Anonymous Web Browsing and eeePC boot (640×480). Despite this bewildering array of choices I stuck with the default and just booted Sabayon into a live session, I could install from there. The drivers for my freedom hating nVidia graphics card were automatically enabled and I was asked whether I wanted the 3D Compiz Desktop or not, so I switched it on. This was all very painless and similar in experience to Mandriva or some other distros I’ve tried. It was around this time the “boot without music” option began to make some sense to me. I noticed some strange sounds faintly coming from the speakers at a low volume so turned it up and instantly recognized it as Pornophonique, a band we’ve played on Linux Outlaws before. Their work is Creative Commons licensed and published on Jamendo so well worth checking out. I like the band but I’m not sure the wisdom of putting music in the background of your installer, it reminds me a little of those awful rave tracks you used to get on Warez installers years ago. Not that I would know about that of course *ahem*. I let the boot continue and was greeted before long by a KDE desktop.


The earlier versions of Sabayon I tried had a slightly garish red theme which felt about a subtle as a slap in the face with a wet trout, and while aesthetics are not usually my primary concern, I do have to say this new theme is a great improvement. It looks slick and much more toned down with grey and pastel colours. I shall move on from that before I begin to sound too much like Brian Sewell but rest assured it looks good, you can judge for yourself from the screenshots. I clicked the install icon on the desktop to get things under way. The installer itself is pretty straightforward and includes an interesting option to update from the Internet before starting. I’ve never seen this on a distro before and it’s a cool idea. I added my wireless settings to the little KDE widget and got online quickly enough but still had to close and reopen the installer to actually get past the offline error message. I got the installer updated and proceeded to manually partitioning my drive as I always do, a 12gb root partition, a 140gb (ish) /home partition and the remaining space left as swap. I stuck to  the default install options most of the way through to get a feel for what most people can expect with Sabayon. The black background of the windows made it hard to read some the text and use the interface effectively at times, worth mentioning I thought. I timed the install from this point onwards and it took well over 35mins, hardly speedy by Linux standards but then I’ve been told both Vista and OS X are slower to install, I’ve never used either so can’t really say.

In the end I had to actually perform the install twice when the it crashed and failed the first time. The installer window kept greying out and freezing for periods during the process which usually indicates processor strain in Compiz or at least an operation stalling. Then a message popped up  which read “Exception occurred – check crash report”. I had to reboot the system and decided to try booting from the hard disk to see if the install had taken. Sadly it hadn’t and I was left to go through the whole process again of booting from the DVD. It took just as long the second time around but at least it did complete. I ejected the disc, rebooted and I logged into the KDE desktop. The reason for the slow install would soon become apparent. Read on fellow travellers.

You can see a full slide show of the process here

The Kitchen Sink and More:

Not A Slim Install
Not A Slim Install

This distro seems to contain almost every piece of software you could possibly think of, all installed by default! It’s nice in some ways but bad in others. Having the likes of Picasa, Google Earth and Skype installed will please a lot of users but it takes up a lot of space. My 12gb system partition was already feeling the strain with 10gb of data. People call Ubuntu bloated but even after running it for over a year and installing a hell of a lot of addition software I’d only used about 3gb on my system disk. I quickly noticed that not only had KDE been installed but also Gnome, XFCE, Openbox and Fluxbox. This is the default behaviour it seems, when in doubt install everything. I’d wrongly assumed choosing KDE from the wizard would only install this desktop.  Another reason for the large footprint and slow install could be the source-based nature of the distribution. I’m not 100% sure of this as I don’t have a lot of experience with source-based distros but it seems possible.

Spritz in action
Spritz in action

If you want a big selection of software by default then this is the distro for you I’d say, right down to things like Ardour. I found almost everything I could want was already installed and there’s something to be said for that I suppose. There’s also a package manager called Spritz which allows you to install binary packages rather than compiling everything, it’s a lot faster but some would say not very efficient. It was very buggy for me and probably needs a bit more work. I found Spritz froze a lot and the range of packages seems paltry when you’re used to something like Debian. I installed a few things such as Rhythmbox but couldn’t find Tasque, gPodder or Gwibber. This is a minor complaint as most things are already installed or available but I did have to resort to using Portato for compiling the extra things I wanted. Portato is a front end to well known Portage package manager from Gentoo, it uses what are called ebuilds (triggers of a sort) to compile the software you want from source trees. I’ve been told by a few more knowledgeable Gentoo fans this is not a good idea on Sabayon and you should only install new software using tools like Emerge and Portage, updating your system with an “emerge world” command can break things pretty badly apparently. If you’re not an experienced Linux user of even a Gentoo user it’s probably best to be wary of this. I found Gwibber 0.7 and Tasque in Portato and installed them both. This took well over an hour to complete and it’s not a speedy process. The virtue of compiling your software is the performance benefit of having it tailored to your system proponents of the art say but I find it a bit too time consuming personally. I left the machine while I retreated to get some dinner but when I returned over an hour later it was still compiling some of the dependencies for Gwibber. Tasque worked well enough once installed but Gwibber wouldn’t display messages and after a near 2 hour wait this can be very frustrating. I’ve been advised since that this was probably down to a Web Kit library problem, either the wrong version or a fault but I didn’t manage to get it fixed. I’m sure these things could be fixed with time and expertise but it’s not an ideal situation. I should point out that there really were only a couple of things I wanted but couldn’t find in Spritz, most of the things I needed were already installed and a whole lot else besides.

Disaster Strikes:

Over 3gb of updates
Over 3gb of updates

I used Sabayon for about a week and at one point I was prompted by Entropy (the back end to Spritz) to install updates to 277 packages. 277?! This seemed a lot to me but without thinking I foolhardily let it start it’s business of installing 3gb of updates, only realising about half way through this was a stupid thing to do as my 12gb root partition was already over 10gb full. Unfortunately by this time it was too late to stop it and my whole drive had been filled. The system became unstable pretty quickly, just changing work spaces was taking a long time so I shut it down. On reboot I wasn’t able to log in at all and it seemed the only course of action was to reinstall the whole thing from scratch. Another 40mins of my life I’ll never get back, yay!

This time I was a little smarter during the install, I chose the Gnome desktop and went through the list of packages removing all the KDE and XFCE stuff. I figured this would slim down the install but it still took up 8.5gb of space. Not a light distro in any sense but then to be fair it doesn’t claim to be.

Interesting Innovations:
I don’t want to sound like I’m being negative about Sabayon, there are some really interesting things in it. Original little touches like the option to update your installer, prompts to accept licenses for restricted software like Google Earth and Picasa in the update wizard, the amount of different ways to use the live CD, the binary packaging system with Entropy, it all has potential. I was able to do all the things I needed to reasonably well and spent about a week testing it day to day, so it’s a usable distro it just has it’s quirks. All the multimedia codecs and tools I needed were installed out of the box so I didn’t have to set up any of that which saves time. Flash, Java and all the other things you could need are there right away.

Ease Of Installation & Use: 3/5
Speed & Stability: 3/5
Community Support & Documentation: 4/5
Features: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

Running Sabayon
Running Sabayon

Overall I think Sabayon has the potential to be a really good distro but for me it’s incredibly bloated and though some of the ideas are ambitious, they lack a little finesse in the execution so far. It was pretty fast to run, the boot was quick and applications seemed snappy enough despite the bloat. There’s a hell of a lot of software in there but if by some chance you need something extra, installing from source is time consuming and can be risky. I’d say it’s probably not a distribution for users who are very new to Linux, it’s not scary or particularly hard to use, I don’t want to give that impression but if you run into problems it’s easy to get lost. There are a lot of good resources on the Sabayon website it has to be said, an active forum, IRC channel and pretty well stocked wiki are all at your disposal. So there is help out there, I just found it wasn’t quite for me. I’d be interested to try Gentoo some time to compare and contrast, see what I could learn from it. I expect it would be quite a project though and probably take a week to set the system up with my lack of knowledge. I like to test on my main everyday laptop to give an authentic feel for what people can expect, so it’s all on the line and I’m not sure I could get Gentoo installed quickly enough while going about my daily work on the same machine. When I get a spare test box I think Gentoo will make a nice side project.

Firefox 3
Firefox 3

If you want to try something different then you could do a lot worse than take a look at Sabayon but for me it’s still not quite there yet. I admire the ambition and the goals of the project, I think you have to take risks sometimes and while everyone else is racing to make the smallest distribution they can these guys have gone the other way, I like individuality. It has potential but still needs some development I feel. Take a look for yourself and see what you think, then you can let me know in the comments.

You can download Sabayon 4.0 here

Moving on…
So next up for me it’s the recently released Debian Lenny, I’m actually typing this in OpenOffice on Lenny right now. I’m an unashamed Debian fan and also a Gnome fan so I’m expecting to like it but I’ll try to be fair and honest about any shortcomings I find, it won’t be getting an easy ride. You’re all welcome to join me of course, expect that review in the next week. From there I’m not sure where I’ll go. I’ve threatened a BSD for some time, still need to do that. I’d also like to take a look at Sidux and perhaps Foresight. I know all you Arch fans out there have been asking me to try that for a while and I will but I fear it’s the same situation as Gentoo, not sure I could install it and go about my daily work quickly enough on this machine. It would require a lot of reading and learning which are both good things to do, just not when you have someone on the phone asking you why their website doesn’t work. If you have any suggestions for me please feel free to post them and I’ll take a look. Till then, see you over the hill, I’ll race you…


  1. Funny thing is installing Arch is slightly less complicated than installing Debian. There is a one page Wiki explains just about everything to get an Arch box up and running.
    It shouldn’t be a problem if you have a normal (good) Internet connection (just as you need in Debian network install).

    Installing Arch and Debian over network/Internet is almost an identical procedure.

    Gentoo is a really lot more time consuming. I can’t stand the principle of compiling every bits of its package. I’m a distro hopper so taking a lot of time in installing a distro is not a feasible option for me.

  2. This was a good review, please don’t compare Arch with Gentoo. Arch is easy to setup net install is fast use the beginners guide it gives every step to setup. if you follow the instructions you get a very fast stable Arch Distro. also try Parsix boss 2 when its released Debian with a twist.

  3. I have been wondering about your comments on Arch – Arch is like a base install of Debian. The Pacman installer is much like Apt. if you install the basic system and call
    # Pacman -Ss gnome firefox banshee
    it is going to download and install. I got the impression you were expecting to have to compile something?
    There is a system for doing this, but the Arch package database is impressive with very up-to-date software.

    • Ok just wanted to reply to everyone mentioning Arch installation. I don’t mean to compare Arch and Gentoo installations in the sense of compiling everything. I’ve used Pacman and it’s great. Maybe I misworded that. I installed Arch on a testing machine about a year ago and followed the guide but it took me almost the whole day to get to the stage where I had Gnome installed and even things like the Gnome volume control still weren’t working. I needed to connect them with daemons I think or read up about it. That’s what I meant by it takes a lot of “reading and learning” which I also said are not bad things. Both expand your knowledge and I could definitely use that. I left it overnight and unfortunately when I was rebooting the next day the hard disk failed and I lost all the work I’d done. This was a hardware failure and absolutely nothing to with Arch I know that, it was just bad timing. Since then I haven’t had time to get back to it. Once you know what you’re doing with Arch I’m sure you can install it in an hour or two. The documentation is very clear and I liked Pacman a lot. It’s all good, I just haven’t had time since to spend 2 days setting up my everyday system whilst trying to get on with other work like editing podcasts, web development and more on the same machine. That’s all I was trying to say. Once I have a bit of space in my schedule or a spare machine I will try Arch again and hopefully get it right this time. Perhaps I could make an extra partition on here to try it on and still keep another install to hop into for work but it seems risky. I am very interested in the distro and I have no problems with it at all. Hope that clears up what I was trying to say a little. Thanks to everyone for reading, I really appreciate that you took the time to do that 🙂

  4. awesome review, waited for quite a while for this ever since you talked about it on identica and the linuxoutlaws, and i most say it was worth the wait. i dont like distros with the kitchen sink approach. i love a slim base like arch and gradually build the distro to my lifestyle. that is while i use arch as my home media center. and ubuntu for my everyday task.

  5. Hi Dan,
    Thanks for another great review – and I really like the fresh new look of your blog (I haven’t visited your site for a while so forgive me if it’s not exactly a new look – it still looks good!).

    I hope you’ll forgive me for this but there’s a spelling mistake in there that made me smile – ‘poultry’? I think you meant ‘paltry’?

    Sorry, don’t mean to be a smart-ass, it was just a funny one.

    I totally agree with pretty much everything you say about Sabayon. I tried the media centre edition myself, which is perhaps a little more focused than the full-blown version 4, but even that is stuffed to the gills with packages.

    I’ve often thought that by trying to cram in so much software and so many features the Sabayon team maybe take their eyes off the ball a little when it comes to usability and stability.

    I mean – choose a DE and stick with it, while offering users the option to add others from a repository if they want to. Who needs that many DEs on one disk?

    At the risk of being accused of self-publicity, I recently reviewed Lenny LXDE edition on my blog – I prefer the lightweight DEs myself and it’s definitely worth checking out (the edition, not the blog!).

    Thanks again for a great review and keep up the good work 😉

    • @Red Devil – Thank you for the kind words and you’re right about that spelling mistake. Thanks for pointing it out! I didn’t mean to refer to chicken hehehe 😀 Sadly this is something a spell check can’t help me with as it’s spelt right just in totally the wrong context, oh well. I’ll update it now. It’s good that you told me so please don’t worry about that, I need a pointer sometimes. I haven’t tried the LXDE version of Lenny yet, I’m typing this on the full Gnome version right now. Don’t worry about mentioning your blog either nothing wrong with that, you never posted a link, please feel free to do so, people may find it interesting 🙂

  6. Im not sure what these “issues” are with Gentoo vs Sabayon, we cooperate and contribute our code back upstream? Its important to remember that Sabayon IS gentoo, at least I think so and so do all the other devs afaik. Generally speaking most of the gentoo devs have no problem with sabayon at all, however many gentoo’ers belive that if you even use an overlay on stock gentoo, that you are no longer using gentoo 😀

    We dont try to be bloated, thats not what we aim for but including lots of software, drivers and 3D games does take space, we are focusing on a possible new approach with the next release however.

    If you wanted a small install simply do a core install and pull your favorite DE from entropy, simple.

    Sabayon is Gentoo and as such using portage on your system will not give you any problems at all, I run portage purley on 2 of my Sabayon installs and never have any issues.

    We dont ship KDE4 on the DVD, we ship 3.5.10, I know – Im an awesome themer.

    Thanks for this review however, shame about the overall negitve tone.

    Good luck with your gentoo install btw 😛

    • @Ian Thanks for the comment, it’s nice to hear from someone who knows about the inner workings of the project. I would like to point out however that I never said your aim was to be bloated but that the aim was to include everything possible under the sun, hence the “kitchen sink” comment, a side effect of this is bloat. I stand by this comment as it seems to be what you’re saying even in your reply. You want to include all the software possible, I never said this was bad, I said it was different and not for me but may suit others, that’s why I always encourage people to try out anything I review for themselves, one size doesn’t fit all. The review is meant to be balanced and not overly negative OR positive that’s all I aim for, do I always get it right? Probably not, who does?

      I referred to problems between Gentoo and Sabayon and explicitly said they were different because this is the overwhelming response I have received from angry Gentoo fans. A few weeks back I mentioned Sabayon on Linux Outlaws and said something like “if you’re interested in Gentoo have a look at Sabayon”, I got emails, Identica messages and all kinds from angry people saying “don’t call Sabayon Gentoo, we have problems with them…” yada yada, they went on listing their issues which I won’t get into and I’m not taking sides, they may be completely invalid I don’t know, I was just given the impression from this response that there is no love lost between Gentoo and Sabayon so I mentioned it. This may only represent a small proportion of Gentoo users and I don’t know the politics of it, nor do I care to be frank. They all seemed to find the time to tell me anyway, nobody stepped forward with a different view so I could only speak as I found in saying there were disagreements, not taking one side or the other. Like I said I have no interest in becoming involved in developer disputes. I put the “Sabayon isn’t Gentoo” line in there to avoid more angry comments. It has differences to Gentoo which are not good or bad just, well, different 🙂 I’m not trying to promote a puritanical view in any way and I have seen the same thing between Debian and Ubuntu at much closer quarters, some people don’t like change. You always get this. I hope that answers some of your points.

      I must hold my hands up in being wrong about the KDE version then, I’ll accept that. I don’t know much about KDE I admit and quickly moved into Gnome as you can see from the screen shots. The theme is very nice btw, good work!

      Thanks for the sarcastic encouragement about installing Gentoo, this is just the sort of attitude we need more of in the Linux community, it really endears us to others and helps our cause *bang*… sorry sarcasm overload there 😉 Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate all views even those that differ from my own, this is the nature of free speech. I may look at the LiteMCE edition to see if I prefer it as someone pointed out earlier. I had forgotten about it doh

      • I have a quick question for all the people replying about Arch. I was told by some Arch users I know getting everything working on my laptop with wi-fi, nvidia glx etc might take time. They suggested trying on a more generic desktop system first. Have I been misled here or do you think that’s fair? I’m interested as I know it’s a gap in my knowledge I need to plug. Thanks for your help 🙂

    • @mjjzf I’ll have to look into Arch again on this machine then and find a day or two when I have the time to play with it and read the docs. Maybe I’ve been deterred by listening to other people

  7. Good to see another Sabayon review. I’ve been much happier with Sabayon than Dan has. I’ve been happily using Sabayon for a couple years now. I love the Sabayon Kitchen sink approach. Sabayon is the only distro that has worked for me on several PCs that have messed up, or obscure hardware. I can’t say enough how much luck I’ve had with Sabayon just working compared to the many other distros I try. Feel free to repost these comments on other sites.


    • @elcaset That’s great to hear, as I said I like to partition my systems in a particular way and maybe if I repartitioned the drive with say 20gb on the root I’d be ok and wouldn’t have run into these problems. I think that’s fair to say. I’m not one for the “install everything by default” approach though, I can see why it works well for others. Glad you like Sabayon and it works well for you, I wouldn’t deter people from trying it. I’m sure it will suit some people, just not me 🙂

  8. About Sabayon 4 LiteMCE: The default install (with all the preselected packages installed) is around 6G, which may not sound like the lightest distro around but it’s a big improvement over the original Sabayon 4. The installation took around 35 mins.

    But it definitely FEELS less bloated. The desktop (gnome) is responsive and the app menus have 0 to 4 more applications installed per category than a stock ubuntu 8.10 installation (mainly internet and sound/video apps).

    Not sure exactly what the case deeper into the system is (e.g. are there apps installed that are just hidden from the gnome menus?), but i think for an end-user LiteMCE is a far better experience than the original sabayon 4.

  9. Sabayon’s inclusion of all the DE’s in my opinion is not bad. They have done all the work for you. And if you do not like the other DEs then dont use them.

    I like variability and options. Sabayon is Gentoo made very very easy.

    Arch is great also, but requires some work to get things configured. Once done, it is a joy to use. Sabayon has a newbie friendly installer. And although the system has a great deal of things you may not require,. they are there incase you do.

    Better to have too much, than not enough – is my motto. It still performs great inspite of the kitchen sink.

    Great job again to the developers.

  10. @ Dan

    “I got emails, Identica messages and all kinds from angry people saying “don’t call Sabayon Gentoo, we have problems with them…” yada yada, they went on listing their issues which I won’t get into and I’m not taking sides, they may be completely invalid I don’t know, I was just given the impression from this response that there is no love lost between Gentoo and Sabayon so I mentioned it.”

    This is a shame to be honest. You will never get emails from people who use sabayon claiming its not Gentoo. Its a shame in my opinion. I suppose that this is similar to the early debian/ubumtu issues, its a shame certain members of the community cannot cooperate

    • @Ian I agree that this is unfortunate and I wish people could cooperate more. The comparison to the early Debian/Ubuntu days is an interesting one, I hadn’t thought about that. I love Debian but I was all for Ubuntu adding new developments and bringing it to a wider audience. Perhaps I was railroaded by some of the anti-Sabayon people a bit and I’ll try to bare that in mind. Thanks for the comment, I really do mean that and it’s interesting to discuss these things 🙂

  11. Dan:
    You did it again. You shouldn’t say “spelt” right. It should be “spelled” right. I thought it was funny that you made a mistake while correcting your mistake. HA.

    • @proofreader Actually in British English we use the term spelt instead of spelled and it’s perfectly legitimate. Spelt is the past tense of spell, I’ve just looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary and I’d say that’s a fairly credible source wouldn’t you? We only invented the language. I get plenty of thing’s wrong I know but on this occasion I don’t think I did 😉

  12. @herath I didn’t have any speed issues with Sabayon on my system. It was snappy and the applications loaded as fast as with any other distro I’ve used. My machine is pretty powerful so I don’t know how it would fair on older hardware but no complaints on that front from me.

  13. Wow… As close as you come to a proper booting, right? I like it. 😉

    Re Arch: As far as I know, Arch does not have a graphical installer so at that point it already fails any comparison in easyness with Debian (even the net install). It might very well be that all you people found it easy to install, but let’s not get carried away here. I am very confident my ma could install Debian if I just hand her a CD, Arch… probably not.

    I realise that I haven’t looked at Arch myself in depth but I will do that soon. I will be back to berate you even more then… 😉

  14. Dan,

    Your review was fair, but a little shall I say, unenlightened in some respects. Let me explain. You’re right, Sabayon does by default install all those DE’s however, the installer permits you to pick and choose which DEs (and also which applications) to install or not. So you can (with careful package selection in the installer) really pare down Sabayon’s size. I’m not sure that your review fully developed this feature of the DVD installer.

    Your problems with the installation were most likely do to you NOT updating the installer prior to installing. Installer updates are there to make sure that bugs get squashed and that fixes to known (post-release) installer issues don’t affect your installation. You yourself admitted that you didn’t update the installer (shame on you :D).

    As for the Sabayon/Gentoo pique, it is entirely one-sided I assure you.

    Also, using both entropy (Sabayon’s binary installer) and portage (gentoo’s source PM) is possible, however, not officially supported for the very reason that you ran into. If you change USE flags or recompile some base packages with non-standard (entropy) USE flags, then entropy at the next world update will try to reinstall a metric S-ton of packages and probably break things. So to do package management using both entropy and portage requires careful use and pruning of /etc/portage/package.* files.

    Like I said, though, your review is fairly even handed, even though I disagree with the overall tenor (that Sabayon is not ready for prime-time).

    • @chickpea Fair points, I did try to slim down the install by removing extra packages where I could but didn’t want to spend ages going through hundreds of packages individually. Some more sensible defaults wouldn’t be a bad idea I feel. As for the installer, I did update it. Maybe that wasn’t very clear in the text. This is the sequence of events: I opened the installed the first time and saw the update option, connected to the net but still got the offline error when trying to update. Closed the installed and reopened, this time I was able to update it and was keen to do so. It crashed half way through the install. The second time I installed i didn’t do the update through laziness I admit but the install worked.

      I understand that you disagree with my overall view but I stick by it. I think this distro has a lot of potential and is going the right way but needs a few refinements. That’s purely my personal view and it works well for many other people. Each to their own I say, that’s cool.

      P.S I am definitely unenlightened at times 😉

  15. @Dan, I must say I love your description of the old red theme. I refer to it as “the red, it burns!”. As far as the “disaster strikes” portion of your review, had you asked any of us in the support channel why it wanted to update that many packages we’d have told you why. One gnutls update required many things to be recompiled. The number surprised us a bit too.

    As far as Sabayon Bloat, there’s a purpose for it. The 4gb image is great for the person who knows little about linux, and wants to have all kinds of neat little toys installed and not have to go looking for much afterwards. LiteMCE is less bloated, and there is also the option to do a core install and add xorg and a WM/DE afterwards. There also will soon be a “core iso” for those who want no bloat, as well as some other options that are being discussed. Hopefully you will be able to have surprisingly positive reviews of Sabayon in the near future.

    @Ian – you need to rephrase your earlier comment from “I know, I’m an awesome themer” to “I know, I’m THE awesome themer!” (‘cept that would leave out star_ – and you guys did do some kick-butt artwork!)

    • @lythandrel Thank you for the information. I agree the artwork is lovely btw I hope I made that clear enough 🙂 As I said I can see that if I was working on a system with one large partition the size of the install and updates wouldn’t have caused the problems I had. I could also have a much larger / partition but this would take up valuable space I use on my data partition and no other distro has come close to filling the 12gb, over 5gb is a real rarity. I understand the philosophy of giving users everything in one go and I respect that but I guess it just didn’t suit me. I didn’t know about the core install option and I’ll hold my hands up there, perhaps a core install and then Gnome would suit me better. I look forward to the core installer disk and I will be back to check on Sabayon in future, which I will try to do objectively. I always try to give everything the best chance I can and not dismiss things out of hand. There’s a lot of good in Sabayon as I said and I look forward to sampling it in future. Thanks for the comment

  16. The Arch documentation is very good, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without it last time but perhaps I’m a little wiser now… ok maybe not 😀 I’m really interested in Arch now though with all this talk about it, the rolling release thing interests me greatly. I’ll bump it up the list to look at sooner. I need to write about Lenny and then I might go straight to Arch. We’ll see

  17. I am using Sabayon 4 on an AMD based computer and while it might take up a lot of disk space it is nothing compared to Vista; on another computer I use with just Vista and Skype installed on the disk it manages to take up a massive 24 Gigabytes of space!

    • @Sean Wow that’s incredible, 24gb! I’ve heard from people that OS X uses somewhere around 20gb but I don’t know how true that is as I haven’t used either. It does make this look like a small install in comparison but then most distros still only use 3gb. It’s all relative I suppose. Thanks for the comment

  18. I liked most of your review, but I agree with the other posters that maybe a core ISO would have been a better option for you.

    It has been a while since your last review, and I am happy that you found time to write this piece.

    I know you have tons of real life stuff keeping you occupied, so I have resigned myself to the fact that you may never review a BSD distro. 🙂

    • @Jay – Thanks for reading I appreciate it. I do have the best intentions when I say I’ll try things but I’m probably always a bit optimistic how much time I’ll actually have. I want to do everything but there’s just not enough hours sometimes. I will try a BSD at some point, I’m determined in this. I can’t say when it will be but it’s something I’ve promised myself I MUST do. With all the talk of Arch on here I’ve been quite tempted to spend my weekend playing with that. I have to edit the Software Freedom Law Show and write about Lenny before leaving it though, so I doubt it’ll happen this weekend. I have played with FreeNAS briefly on a spare box and enjoyed it so I suppose in some ways I could claim to have used BSD, it’s a bit of a tenuous claim I admit. I need to try it on a proper desktop.

  19. Sabayon 4.0 has been wonderful for me. From the first time I put in the liveDVD, and my AR5007EG wireless drivers worked. (They do not work in Ubuntu without downloading and compiling Madwifi tools snapshot).

    I will agree that Spritz was quite buggy at first install – but that went away after updating Spritz.

    I don’t think ‘bewildering’ is an appropriate word to describe the live DVD choices. Giving more options may be bewildering to someone who can’t read, but I don’t think boot without music is a complicated phrase.
    Someone might find it bewildering that in those options were 2 different Media Centers..

    And stop talking about how confusing things would be for new users. There are several distributions geared specifically toward new users, gOS and Mint for example. Complain when they would be complicated for beginners. The strength of the Linux movement is it’s diversity.

    • @Steven – I’m glad that Sabayon works well for you with the wi-fi drivers, that’s good to know. I do exaggerate things very slightly for comedy effect now and again, using worlds like “bewildering” because I like the sound of them and the phrasing works for the peice. All writers do this, it’s an entertainment medium but I’m always conscious not to publish things that I don’t believe to be true. The phrase “boot without music” could easily be misconstrued to mean load the system without sound drivers by some people I think. As for your comments about new users, I try to evaluate distributions for how they will apply to all users. I’m not saying something is necessarily bad if it’s not easy for new users but I do think it’s worth mentioning briefly. A lot of the people who will read this are new to Linux and I don’t see how making the point once, in one sentence “I wouldn’t recommend it for new users” is such a problem. I didn’t harp on it or expound the point I don’t think, certainly not consciously. I always try to answer some basic questions in my head about any product “who will like this? who will it suit?” and so on. I don’t see a problem with this. As for diversity, if you look at anything I write or broadcast you will see I always try to encourage diversity. I think one of the real core strengths of Free Software is precisely that. We have options! I posted a funny picture a while back of flavours of ice cream which demonstrated this. 3 cones, one with just vanilla (Mac), one with a dog turd (Windows) and one with about 10 different scoops for Debian, Gentoo, Slackware, Red Hat, Suse etc etc. This is how I see the situation pretty much, if a little graphic 😀 Thanks for you comment, I take your points on board and thank you for reading.

  20. @Dan. I love your Ice cream analogy! I would also embed shattered glass in the Mac & Windows cones to represent Digital Restrictions Management. Cheers!

  21. @Morten: Anything can be done “by most just a little experienced Linux users who bother”. You can install pretty much anything if you read the documentation. But you can install Debian even without reading the documentation or even knowing much about Linux. That’s the difference. I am not saying it is hard to install, I am just saying comparing it to the Debian install is bullshit.

  22. Hi,

    Very Nice review, Dan. I’ll agree with you on Sabayon 4 being bloated, but you gotta try Lite version.

    I’ve been using openSuSE for the past 2-3 years and i used to like it but, Just few days back I got Sabayon Lite on my PC, and I have to say that its the Best Distro I’ve ever tried. I mean looking at it from the end user’s point of view, Its quite easy to install, Hardly requires any codec downloads as everything works out of the box, and the Media Center is AWESOME! works flawlessly… and updating is a piece of cake and its fast(well compare to my previous distro)!!!! ya but i have to say that Synaptic is much more user friendly.

    • @Rohit – Thanks for the comment. I haven’t looked at Lite MCE and I have to admit it didn’t occur to me. I don’t have a media center machine in the house you see I use a Freecom hard disk media player for that kind of stuff, it’s Linux based and works well. Glad MCE works well for you and perhaps I’ll try to give it a look in future 🙂

  23. Thanks for your review Dan, as a Sabayon user for the past three years or so I have to compliment you on your review and quietly disagree with most of your ‘not so good’ comments about the distro.

    The bloat is there, true. The distro is on a DVD -of course it’s huge. The main thing is it works, the excess HD storage does not effect OS performance, and it ‘works’ better than any other distro I’ve tried out of the box – including Ubuntu, Suse, Mint, Fedora, blah blah. My definition of ‘works’ is “start program, use program, complete task, exit program”.

    I’m writing this in the ‘live environment’ of Sabayon 4 as I make an image of my ‘Vista’ partition. This image will have an updated version of Vista with openoffice.org, Firefox, x3 (game) and a couple of disk tools. Size of image = 57.2 Gb. It took me the best part of 2 days to install and update Vista to this point. Sabayon is quite a midget by comparison, and takes around an hour to install from insertion of DVD to surfing with Firefox.

    It’s a shame you didn’t get on too well with Sabayon, I came to Sabayon after Gentoo, and have not looked back. If you do intend to try Gentoo please go the live dvd way. A stage one install took around 7 days on my old 2 gig Celeron tester, 90% of that time was downloading and compiling.

    Again, thanks for having a look at a solid distro.

    • @Marteni – Thank you for the kind comment, especially in the light of your disagreeing with some of the article. I respect that. As I said earlier in the comments, the disk space thing might not have been a problem if I’d had a different partitioning scheme on my hard disk. I accept that portion of the blame but when you’ve got 12gb of space and you try as many different distros as I do and never use more than 5-6gb on the biggest install, it’s a shock to run out of space and experience a system fail. As I tried to point out I never found the system slow but always responsive despite the size. Some key packages I like were difficult to get and use, nothing major just worth noting I thought. I certainly wouldn’t want to compare Sabayon to Vista in any way and I hope I didn’t do that. I hear Vista needs 20gb for a base install and so does Mac OS, I’ve never tried either so can’t say personally. Sabayon is a good distribution and I think it’s a few points off being a really world beating product, I like the innovation and the guts in the design, I hope they keep striving to make it better. Thanks for reading 🙂

  24. After installing, [and mostly also re-installing], over 50 Unix variants over the last year plus, I still do not have a favourite flavour… Each had its own bag. I loved Sabayon slick desktop & toolset, but the first few (3.1 & 3.2?) were not able to detect my HW and didn’t fully install. Recent variants (late 3.x, early 4.0) installed, but due to their Gentoo heritage, soon became unstable. I can’t live with hung or crashing system. I’m installing a new machine now, and probably give 4.1 a spin. But my expectations are I’ll revert to Fedora, or maybe even CAOS. I maybe “old fashion”, but I yearn for the old times where my Linux boxes would run for months on end w/o a crash (of course, the variety of both HW and SW was much much smaller). Ok, nuf lamenting 🙂


    • erez – I like a pretty stable system too and I know what you mean. There are plenty of distros which should support your hardware and be very stable, Debian springs to mind of course. I like that there’s so much choice in Free Software. There’s something for everyone. Thanks for reading.

  25. I’ve been using Sabayon for a couple of months now, and it has been working beautifully. although, like you said the kitchen sink approach lends much to this.

    entropy + emerge = breakage, I believe someone else already mentioned this.

    I’m also on board with the view of Arch. I would LOVE to use it, as it sounds incredibly interesting, and right up my alley as a tinkerer and such…but the time is very lacking to set up such a system. The same reason I probably won’t get around to checking out gentoo.

    maybe once the kids are in school though…

  26. Great article but greater because of the debate around it.

    You write well and because of that the wealth of comments around your articles make them a lot richer than other reviews out there. Thanks to this very article anyone can get a useful insider about Sabayon -thanks to your review and the comments of your readers- and while nothing can replace personal experience like installing and trying it for yourserlf, it gets a long way ahead. Congratz!

    I’ll go too with the review of Arch, StormOS, Gentoo and general source-based distros. I’m on board too for OpenSolaris and every other desktop OS you may think it could be useful; I now I’m asking *a bit* too much but hey! Asking is free xD

    Last but no least I keep with this phrase which I liked most: “it reminds me a little of those awful rave tracks you used to get on Warez installers years ago. Not that I would know about that of course *ahem*”… AHEEMMMM!! xDDD


  27. @acidtoy – I’ve reviewed loads of things over the last couple of years and I think perhaps a proper index page listing all reviews on the site would be useful. People often ask for things I’ve already reviewed, I’m sure I can make it easier to see what’s been done and what hasn’t. Thanks for reading, I’m really glad if you get something useful out of the articles and discussions around them. There are plenty of commenters who probably know more than I do. It all adds to the overall experience I hope 🙂

  28. “It all adds to the overall experience I hope”
    Be sure it really do.

    And hey, I put my bean for the index.


  29. […] by Becky Hogge at these proceedings. This is definitely worth a read! He also finally released his mammut Sabayon 4 review which we hinted at in Episode 78 — this might be the most scathing review Dan has ever written. […]

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