Sabayon Bizarre But Useful
Sabayon, which gets its name from the the Italian egg-derived dessert known as zabaione, is a distribution that we don’t hear too much about these days, although the British Linux press gave it some love a few years ago. It was unassuming…with a hint of mystery. I tried it back then, when I was still fairly new to actually using Linux and thought it was a nice effort, but a little too weird. That wasn’t their fault; that was mine. I was still clinging sharply to Ubuntu at the time. Plus, I was a bit more shallow in those days because I was really set on the idea that an operating system had to look good before I would really put some hours into using it. I still am in many respects. I’m just not crazy about boring.
So when I approached Matt with the idea of documenting a revisitation to Sabayon, he greenlighted it immediately. Team Sabayon has been very busy. It still has a hint of mystique that I find very attractive. It’s got a lot of applications at default and offers you a lot of decision-making power as well. More on that later.
There were a couple of relatively minor issues I had with Sabayon in the very beginning. First, it didn’t offer a means of creating a bootable USB in the documentation outside of using a Windows-based utility. Mmmhh. I don’t want to be a mean guy here, but that’s not good. I don’t want to use Windows as a gateway to using Linux. Furthermore, in the year of our Lord 2016 I don’t want to burn a DVD. But that’s what I did. And there was still a minor hiccup following that–nothing traumatizing, however.
Still, being able to create a bootable USB flashdrive is fast becoming the preferred method for installing a Linux distro. I’m truly glad a method exists for Windows; what else is it good for? (Oooooh!) But if you want to hop from distro to distro, it’s really the best method. Reviewers certainly appreciate it. (Oooooh!)
We’re All Clear
Getting over the aforementioned hurdle was great because Sabayon is actually a really good experience, especially if it doesn’t scare off the new people.
So just to it’s known, I’m running Sabayon on an Intel Core i5 with 16 GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 530 chipset. It also has a Kensington Lock. That last one has absolutely no bearing. On anything. I believe the omission of a Kensington Lock on a system could save the buyer tens of cents.
Also, Sabayon is distributed in two releases, the monthly of course and a daily, for those living on the edge and for developers.
Maybe it’s my unfamiliarity with Gentoo, on which Sabayon is based, but I liked the installation experience proper, which didn’t take long at all despite the precooked 2.2 GB weight. In the meantime, I was able to create the password for the root user as well as create an administrator user for myself. It’s great to have something in which I can be active during installation other than a slideshow letting me know that I can watch videos and get work done. No offense to any Linux marketing person but I kind of already know this. I’m in my forties; time is precious.
I say this particularly in regards to the startup of the desktop graphics services. It may be an issue with X but it took nearly a minute for the desktop to appear in subsequent boots. It’s not really an eternity, but long enough to prompt the impulse of another restart, which from my experience only yields the same result. On the second attempt my patience proved fruitful.
At the desktop, I was treated to what looked like a very foreboding wallpaper–just a farm horizon at night, a gravel road and a giant yellow moon hanging over the setting with the Sabayon “chicken foot” logo shopped inside the circumference. No life outside of the trees was present. It really held my attention but I’m not sure how others would take it; it was kind of creepy. I don’t have a problem with creepy at all. I love spooky stuff! But some might be a bit sensitive to it. Of course, this is something that can be changed rather conveniently.
I’m Seeing an Alignment to the Northwest
First impressions make a difference for a lot of people and I noticed that the four default desktop icons, the trash, Get Live Help, Donate to Sabayon, Rigo Application Browser and the Home folder had somehow converged in the upper lefthand corner of the screen. I was able to pry them apart with the usual amount of effort and line them up. However, this was a bit anomalous.
Gnome 3’s changes are very pleasant, the dated brushed metallics and “3D” objects swept away like the old republic and replaced with clean, flat design, which I hope never goes out of style. It almost felt like I was expected to show up someday, since Sabayon defaults its icons to the Numix Circle theme, my personal favorite–free or not.
I was particularly surprised by Get Live Help so I jumped right in. This launched the Chrome (with the ‘e’ and without the “-ium”!) default browser and I was immediately viewing a live chat window. I’ve never seen this before in any distro. Any. It hit home that this was a very ambitious distro. It’s a page of the Sabayon website, which of course links to the Wiki and the usual appointments. I’m impressed. It’d be good to see something like this in larger distros.
Now Entering the Apps Nebula
And it’s about time, I know. It’s a bit of a deluxe package. You have GIMP along for the ride, always welcome. It’s the only photo editor/graphics design package I’ve ever needed. Sabayon provides a good foundation and a speedy startup for it. Also, LibreOffice 5 is there as per the usual. Yadda-yadda.
I was shocked, however, to see Pitivi video editor. I’d never been much of a fan but I thought I’d download a short clip to see if it’d changed since I last used it, which was a couple of years ago. It works well and seems to render very well despite the system’s initial hiccup with X. Furthermore, I think it’s an interesting notion to include a video editor with an OS default setup. I’m starting to see this more and more, first with Mageia. It seems to make the statement that since more people have the ability to shoot video than ever before with smartphones and tablets, the time has arrived. There’s something about a distribution team’s decision making process in the inclusion of a particular application that I think is pretty fascinating. Does it go beyond, “Well, we use this one and we like it,”? Or is it a partnership of sorts? Whatever the reason, I think it’s extremely thoughtful and it further solidifies such an app as a real productivity tool. Maybe I’m overestimating it, but for the reasons I’ve already mentioned, I really don’t think I am.
I think I’ll go even further on this point; the team seems to be really interested in furthering the media capabilities of the operating system in general. The opinion appears to be spoken loudly with the inclusion of some really great applications such as Cheese (always fun), Kodi Media Center for people who love their movies and music on the telly and the ever-popular Rhythmbox. About that last one, I’m still one of those caught in the Google product cage and I still like it. Sorry. It’d be great to join the rest of the Linux hipsters by connecting Google Play Music to Rhythmbox. I believe there used to be a valid way but it’s not working for me. I’ll probably head for greener pastures in terms of Linux-based music players as a result. That’s my first-world struggle, however.
I was intrigued by mpv Video Player. I’d never used it since I’m pretty much sold on VLC, but I really like the interface, especially for newcomers who are and forever will remain in the gui world. It’s compatible with a pretty good range of formats, not as extensive as VLC. But you only have to drag and drop to the interface and sit back. Very simple. BUT…I couldn’t get that method to work, no matter how hard I tried. You have two options here–try the drag ‘n drop or find the file, right-click on it and select mpv as the application in which to view it. The latter worked very well, I’m somewhat happy to say. Still…the drag and drop is kind of a big matzo ball.
VNC Viewer is something I’m happy to see. However, let’s face it, there are better solutions out there for remote connections. Pick your favorite; I won’t judge you. However, it’s good to know that it’s there for your use in the clutch, its slowness notwithstanding.
I did notice an anomaly in the Graphics portion of the menu. Either team Sabayon really likes Shotwell a lot or it’s in there twice for other reasons. No big; just uninstall and reinstall if it bothers you. It just strikes me as odd that a system with this much polish still has a few hangnails such as this one. Also, it would be like to see different icons for the many selections under the Sabayon menu. Once or twice for the chicken foot logo is okay, but a little diversity in the cosmetics would’ve been nice.
Programmers have an interesting choice at default with included Python tools such as PyShell, PyCrust and PyAlaMode, all version 3.0. Glade is right in there at 3.20, as well as XRCed at 3.0. I’d never used any of these tools so I was really intrigued. On the outset, they’re just preset configurations of the same exact tool, each one catering to a Python coder’s specific wants and needs, each one with more obvious features than the previous. But like other apps in Sabayon, it’s thoughtful, especially when combined with Glade.
I’m still trying to make up my mind about Rigo Application Browser, however. It’s not like an “app boutique” by a longshot in that it doesn’t really give you a frame of reference from which you can browse. You kind of have to know what you’re looking for.
For example, if I type in “video editing”, it keyword searches for what’s available in the repository, in this instance it pulled up Kdenlive and the OpenShot file library. Fair enough. However, it’s not really a shopper’s paradise in that Rigo doesn’t provide screenshot options for applications on the outset. (For libraries and files, I completely understand why this is the case.) If the intent in Rigo’s inclusion is to be minimalistic, then that’s good. However, it’s not an excellent tool if you’re relatively new. Perusing the documentation for Rigo would be a good idea if you’re still finding your legs in Linux via Sabayon. Clicking on the “More Info” button does a bit more to help the situation, still sans screenshot. But it does give some easier-to-read insight into the file in question, also offering the option for the user to rate the app or file on a five-star scale. Run-time and build dependencies are also there for your perusal. It’s not sexy but it works.
In a similar vein is Magneto Updates, located in the System Utilities menu. I like it a lot, although its layout seems to be a little stacky and messy on the outset. The way it layers visually is a little annoying, but a quick and patient readthrough of the listed notifications gives decent and informative results, with the friendly admonition from Sabayon that you should always peruse these. This is a good idea and a good show of transparency from the development team. Note that if you have no pending notifications, clicking on the Magneto Updates icon in the menu will do absolutely nothing. That might be a bit confusing at first, however. Maybe a notification of no notifications with that event would be a good idea.
Re-entry and Splashdown
If it sounds at all like I don’t like Sabayon, perish the thought. It’s nicely balanced for a wide variety of users for both production and recreation, especially with Steam included by default. I enjoy its simplicity and good looks, although the contrast between the default wallpaper and the Numix circle icons can be a bit clashy. That’s not necessarily a complaint, so much as it sounds like something I would do for my own system. I’m prone to such eccentricities post-installation.
That said, it kind of poetically reflects the joys and very minor pains in running Sabayon. If I were to compare it to a model of the U.S.S. Enterprise (which I am going to buy, you bet your tribbles) I would say it’s very nicely put together with a small decal defect and some prickly edges that need to be sanded down. It’s fun to use and has a lot to offer for a reasonably wide variety of tasks. It’s not quite there, however. It still feels “put together” in some instances. Honestly, these are some barriers to entry for real competition with the rest of the Linux world. The OS is more than good enough to get them some clicks and a listing on DistroWatch. But these issues seem so minor and highly-highly fixable, possibly over a weekend if they were to go at it like team Solus. Sabayon’s been around for a while now. I’d like to see them take it up a notch. This team has something interesting, useful, easy and visually appealing. Now, I’d like to see some fired-up effort in polishing the rest of it. They can do it. I know it.