26 Feb 2012

Sabayon 8.0: slightly burnt dessert

February 2012 brought us some fresh releases of Linux-based operating systems. These systems are not as big and famous as Ubuntu, Fedora or OpenSuSE, but still have a considerable army of fans.

I have already written about the PCLinuxOS 2012.02 release.

Today I will tell you about another, Sabayon 8.0.

It is not my first, or even my second trip to the Sabayon camp. The first time I tried Sabayon 5.5 XFCE. The second trip was to Sabayon 6.0 KDE. The results of these trips were different. Version 5.5 XFCE was very disappointing, mostly because it was still in the experimental stage. Sabayon 6.0 KDE was very exciting. I felt it was a very polished distribution.

How times have changed. As you can see, I skipped my review of Sabayon 7, being busy with other system reviews. The 7th version of Sabayon was released in October 2011. This meant that the developers released a new version of their Linux distribution every three months! Quite timely, I would say! Let’s see how Sabayon 8.0 measures up.

The ISO size of Sabayon 8.0 KDE distribution is about 2.2 Gb in size. It is about 10% larger than version 7 (2 Gb), and 70% larger than version 6 (1.3 Gb)! Wow! That’s an amazing increase in size!

You can download the ISO from a torrent or mirror which are located in different parts of the world, from Japan to Argentina.

Once the ISO file was downloaded, I used Unetbootin to “burn” the image of Sabayon 8.0 to my 8 Gb USB stick.

So, preparations are over. USB stick is in the port of my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let’s go!

As you may know, Sabayon is not only the name of a Linux distribution, but also an Italian dessert, also known as Zabaglione.

Before we start to cook…

The boot menu options of Sabayon 8.0 do not differ much from the ones I’ve seen in version 6.0. I did not use Unetbootin for version 6, though. There are still several boot options, like boot in Live KDE session, boot without music, or boot into multimedia centre mode. Other options are to start the installation or check the media. My choice was for the usual KDE Live run.

The splash screen of Sabayon 8.0 is a grey-striped image with the Sabayon logo on it. There is a boot progress bar at the bottom of the screen. You can switch from splash screen into verbose mode using the Alt-F1 hotkey.

At the end of the boot process, there is a typical KDE splash screen with different items like HDD, globe and so forth, appearing one after another. This splash screen, though, was slightly reworked by the Sabayon team, because it has the Sabayon logo as the last icon. From my point of view, this looks very nice.

The total boot time of Sabayon 8.0 is average.

Once booted, I was able to check the technical details of Sabayon 8.0 distribution. It runs the Linux kernel 3.2 with KDE 4.7.4. These are the latest release versions for both. Total memory usage of freshly booted Live OS is about 300 Mb.

Cooking table

The default wallpaper in Sabayon 8.0 is the same as or very similar to the image in the boot splash screen. Of course, more wallpapers are available for desktop customizing. They are more or less KDE-standard images, though very nice. If I remember correctly, Sabayon 6.0 had a larger choice of wallpapers available. I think this is a small step backwards for the Sabayon developers, although a very insignificant one. A small drop of tar in the dessert.

Generally speaking, the desktop has the KDE classic layout with a single panel at the bottom of the screen. There are not many items on the desktop itself, only the usual ones like Home folder and a link to a Sabayon installer.

The panel is standard, like in most recent KDE-based releases. The menu button with the Sabayon logo on it is in the left corner. Next to it is an icon to switch between different desktop profiles. The icon to switch between 4 virtual desktops concludes the left-side group. The right portion of the panel has the usual KDE-style notification area with items like clocks, network manager, volume control, and others. Sabayon 8.0 has a keyboard layout indicator in the notification area “out of the box” – this is the US flag, representing the English US layout.

The version 4.7.4 of KDE also allows you to pin applications to the taskbar, which I find to be a very useful feature. This function is available by right clicking on a taskbar item, then Advanced - Show a launcher for ... when the application is not running.

Some of the fonts on the Sabayon 8.0 desktop did not look nice and sharp to me. I don’t know whether this was an issue with the fonts themselves or with my video card. But, my card is based on the widely used Intel 915 chipset. So, from my perspective, video card issues are unlikely. Another small drop of tar in the dessert.

Connecting the cooker

The Network Manager in Sabayon 8.0 automatically found and configured the WiFi Network Intel 3945 ABG card on my laptop. My home wireless network was listed in Network Manager immediately after bootup.

The ingredients

The menu in Sabayon 8.0 has the standard KDE Kick-off style. As in all new versions of KDE, navigation through the sections within the tab is via breadcrumbs at the top of the menu.

The list of sections on the Applications tab is more or less usual, only enhanced with a few groups like Education and Sabayon.

The Education section only has one item listed in it. The application is Marble Desktop Globe.

Whole section of the menu is dedicated to Sabayon itself. Here you can find links to documentation, GIT repositories, Download locations, list of packages, Bug Report and so on. All of them, as far as I could tell, are just links to web pages within Sabayon's web site.

The Development section of the menu contains applications useful for Qt developers: Linguist, Designer and Assistant. I'm not sure if ordinary users would find these applications useful at all.

There are a few dozen different games in the corresponding section of Sabayon's menu. They are split into subgroups like Board, Arcade, Logic, Card. Most, if not all, of these games are KDE-specific.

The Graphics section of the menu contains half a dozen different tools, like AcquireImage scanning tool, KSnapshot, Photo Layout Editor, GwenView and so forth. There is no GIMP editor in Sabayon. LibreOffice Draw is not listed here, either. In the last review, I wrote that the PrintScreen keyboard button is not associated with a screenshot tool in the default Sabayon operating system. The situation is the same in version 8. The PrintScreen button is still not linked with KSnapshot.

There are two internet browsers in Sabayon 8 KDE: Chromium 17 (Developer build) and Konqueror. Presence of Chromium 17 (Developer build) is fine for me, because Chrome(-ium) is my favourite browser. But… Why the Sabayon developers did include so old version into their distribution? And why is it the Developer Build? Just to let you know: Chromium 19(!) stable(!) was releasedfew days before the Sabayon 8.0 release. Other Internet tools include Akgregator, KNetAttach, Kopete and some more KDE-specific applications. There is no e-mail client in the default Sabayon distribution.

The Multimedia section of Sabayon 8 KDE includes Amarok and VLC players, along with XBMC Media Centre. VLC is the default player for music and video files. There are also the K3B disk burning tool and KMix sound mixer. Compared to version 6, there is a change in the ingredients: Clementine left the outfit, being replaced with Amarok. This change does not matter to me, since I use neither of those two. VLC is the player I prefer.

The productivity suite in Sabayon 8.0 is a full set of LibreOffice 3.4.4 applications, including Draw and Math. The LibreOffice splash screen is Sabayon-branded, like it was in version 6.0. It fits in with the default wallpaper theme. In addition to LibreOffice applications, the Office section of the menu includes KDE tools like Kontact and Okular.

The Settings section of the menu in Sabayon 8.0 lists only 2 applications: Entropy Store and Flash configuration utility. I'm not sure why you would need a separate section for these two. Moreover, Flash configuration is the only unique application in this section of the menu. It could be moved somewhere else; for example, to the Development or System sections.

The System section includes standard tools like Dolphin file manager, User Manager, Disk usage analyzer, Konsole, System Monitor, Magneto Updates Notifier and many more. The Entropy Store is listed here too, making less sense in the Settings section.

Utilities in Sabayon’s menu list are the usual set of applications, like KWrite, KJots, Klipper, Ark and so forth. Synaptics, the touchpad management tool, is also here. Just out of curiosity, I tried to start it, but without success. Another little bit of tar to the sweet dessert.

Shopping for more ingredients

As you can see from the list of ingredients above, the Entropy Store is shown in two different parts of the Sabayon menu.

Entropy Store is the default graphical package management tool in Sabayon 8.0. When started in a live session, Entropy throws the error that performance can be compromised. I saw this same behaviour during my previous reviews of Sabayon.

The Entropy Store has two modes: simple and advanced, which are switchable in the application menu. In Advanced mode, you see tabs like Repositories, Preferences, Security. By default, Sabayon 8 uses one repository - sabayon-weekly. But data from that repository is not downloaded to the system by default. There is a message about this during the Entropy Store startup. I decided to download the repository to my live session. The size of the list itself is only about 11 Mb. But, what a difference it made to my system!

If you read my review of Sabayon 6.0, you may notice that I was able not only to look at the Entropy Store from the inside, but also to install an application right then and there. All this, despite the message about the performance issue at the start of Entropy. Yes, it took some time for the system to update, but it was a reasonable amount of time.

The situation in Sabayon 8.0 was very different. The process of updating from the repository absolutely halted my system. I was able to move the mouse, but I could do nothing else! No clicks were processed. The system was busy for a few minutes. My dessert started to burn. I escaped from this by using the power button on my laptop and rebooting into Sabayon 8.0 KDE Live again.

Preparing the dinner table

The default keyboard layout in Sabayon 8.0 is English US. There is a keyboard icon on the panel right “out of the box”, as I have already mentioned. It eases the process of re-configuring keyboard layouts, if needed. I need to, because I use Russian and English UK layouts in parallel. That said, my usual configuration for these two layouts with Ctrl-Shift as a switch hotkey took me less than a minute.

The complimentary dessert wine

Mounting of my network drive in Sabayon 8.0 from Konqueror was absolutely fine. This function in Konqueror actually calls up the KNetAttach program, which you can also start directly from the menu. When the partition was mounted, I was able to play an MP3 file from there using the default player VLC. Unfortunately, an attempt to add more files to the playlist in VLC led to an error that playlists on remote partitions are not supported. I am not sure whether this is an issue with VLC, KNetAttach or Sabayon. Just a small pinch of tar in the dessert.

Mounting of remote partitions with sudo mount -t cifs also worked for me, although it required the parameter iocharset=utf8 for correct display of Russian characters in filenames in Dolphin. It is a normal parameter, though most of the distributions I've tried recently can work without it.

Of course, the mounting of local partitions was flawless.

Enjoying the food

I have already mentioned that I was able to play MP3 files from my network partition. VLC was able to play them back straight away. The same is valid for video files that I tried.

Flash worked fine in Sabayon 8, too. And not only on YouTube, but also on other sites, like http://www.katherinejenkins.co.uk/. I think YouTube is not a valid test for Flash functionality any more, since the video may seamlessly switch from Flash to HTML5, if you use a modern browser.
Sabayon 8.0 includes the Chromium browser and Flash
Listening to music, I tried to adjust the loudness of the speakers using the hotkey buttons Fn-F5 and Fn-F6 on my laptop. Unfortunately, here I faced the usual issue with volume controls. The issue with them still exists, and has not been corrected by the developers yet. I am not sure whether this has to be fixed on the kernel or the sound system level.

As I understand it, the issue is that my laptop only generates a signal to the operating system when the hotkey is pressed, but no signal is generated on the button release. This makes the system think that the button is still pressed, and adjusts the volume either to the maximum or minimum.

I would not blame the Sabayon developers for this, because this is an obvious upstream issue.

Too much heat

Generally speaking, I was happy with the overall Sabayon 8.0 system contents and performance. The set of applications is almost perfect, although I would add GIMP to the distribution. The system was running quickly, responsively and correctly.

Until… the issues with performance came. These issues appeared after using the live system for some time. I think it is somehow linked to playback of videos or using the Javascript-hungry applications like GMail. The system just stalled several times while I was working in Live mode. It was very similar to the situation I described above about the Entropy Store. The system would become unresponsive. In some cases, I was able to close the problem browser tab or application and return the OS to a workable state. Sometimes the only way out was the power button.

Because of this increased system load, the desktop effects became disabled.

Looking at the memory usage widget, I noted that the system was so busy it sometimes could not count the memory in use, and returned erratic results to the widget. As a result, I saw something like the shape of a comb on the diagram of memory usage. Funny picture, isn’t it? It could be funny, if it was not a result of disappointing behaviour.

From my cursory look at the issue, it starts when memory usage is about 450-500 Mb. Then, 600 Mb of memory usage puts the system in an unrecoverable state. And opening GMail or a YouTube video immediately raises the memory usage to an amount close to that.

This is a major problem, from my point of view. An inability to properly check the system performance in Live view is not the best way to draw more users.

The inability to check the repository in Live mode reflects negatively, too. The issue with Entropy is not tha, serious, because there is an on-line version of the repository.

These issues should be addressed by the Sabayon team.

Added with other small issues here and there, the Zabaglione in version 8.0 does not taste as nice and sweet as it did in version 6.0.

What will the next version bring us? We can only wait and see.

Are you using Sabayon, or have you tried it in the past? What are your thoughts about this distribution?

Useful links: Review of Sabayon 8 KDE

Video featured in this review:

This post was edited by djohnston.


  1. 1. Chromium is never technically "stable".

    2. Version 19 is the most current dev build not stable.

    3. If by stable you mean matching version # with Google Chrome, then 17 is the current stable version.

    1. I think I gave the link in the text which explains what I meant by "released version".

    2. No, I'm sorry you are confused.

      You wrote...

      "Presence of Chromium 17 (Developer build) is fine for me, because Chrome(-ium) is my favourite browser. But… Why the Sabayon developers did include so old version into their distribution? And why is it the Developer Build? Just to let you know: Chromium 19(!) stable(!) was releasedfew days before the Sabayon 8.0 release."

      Your wording seems to suggest that you think that 19 is the latest stable and that 17 is an out of date version. Even though you link clearly show 19 as the latest dev build.

    3. Sorry, the link does not say this is a Dev link. Yes, it does not say this is stable too.

      Still... There was available version 19 at the moment of Sabayon 8.0 release.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. You are still wrong twice(maybe 3 times?) now. You wrote...

      "Just to let you know: Chromium 19(!) stable(!) was releasedfew days before the Sabayon 8.0 release."

      As I said before version 19 is NOT stable at this time. And the sidebar on the Chromium Wikipedia page you linked to clearly says...

      "Stable release none (n/a) [±]
      Preview release 19.0.1054.0 (February 27, 2012; 1 day ago) [±]"

  2. Hi!

    I have just installed Sabayon 8.0 Xfce. It is the distribution that I used to be bleeding edge. Assuming that sometimes it can go wrong.

    What I most liked of Sabayon is that is Gentoo. Sometimes I have installed it and rebuilt it as a Gentoo. Avoiding thus the troublesome installation of the X system.

    1. I know that XFCE is no longer "work in progress", but now became one of Sabayon's "stable" versions. Though, it was not like this when I last tried it in version 5.5.
      I probably should have a look at Sabayon 8.0 XFCE later.

  3. I've installed Sabayon 8 Xfce. Very easy install and everything just works (as promised!)
    But, I have yet to work out how to set a key as the compose key or change the 3rd level chooser from AltGr. I can't find a way to get a volume control on the desktop either. I know I'm not the only person to have found both these problems so if you could solve them it would be great!
    I loved the April Fool :-)

  4. Volume control sorted (though not very neat) by selecting add mixer to the panel. I was after something smaller!

  5. After installing this OS,, the update of the system takes sooo long.. Over an hour with update..

    1. Is it a big problem? I don't think so.

      It actually very much depends on the bandwidth and computer resources.