Monday, 29 August 2011

Quick Look at Sabayon 6 Continued (KDE)

To give Sabayon a fair shake and with the aim of comparing it to recent releases of other KDE  distributions I also downloaded the amd64 image for the KDE 4 edition, which comes in at a hefty 2.13 GB, with a few surprising results (torrent here). First of all, boot options, boot loader background and splash, artwork and overall style and feel is very similar to the GNOME edition which makes for a good coherent theme across all spins.

Secondly, after the disappointment of not being able to launch or boot into the media center in my first round of testing I tried booting directly into XBMC straight away and hey presto, this worked like a charm. The XBMC media center came up in all its glory and was responsive, and were it not for missing connection I could have had my weather updates and watched a movie. Great stuff. This time it also worked from the menu inside KDE btw, both in live mode and installed, which launches a full screen media center inside that environment. As a general rule I found if it works or doesn't while running live the same is true for the installed system as well.

XBMC media center, finally in all its glory
As usual for Sabayon booting the live DVD was a slow affair, and the step 'Configuring your graphical environment' (if looking at the process in verbose mode) can take for absolutely ever, depending on how impatient you feel. Once that was done, you boot into a fairly typical desktop once again, with that nice dark blue wallpaper version 6 of Sabayon has to offer, and blue hue around windows and in the login splash. Fonts are also ok overall, not the most readable at the size but elegant (DejaVuSans8). Sabayon is big on style and their mostly younger audience I suppose will usually have good eyes. Once again Sabayon played nice with VirtualBox, running in full screen mode in the highest resolution and even working well in seamless mode. Suspend/resume worked while running from DVD.

Oxygen cursors, one of the better additions
KDE is in version 4.6.4 with QT 4.7.3. Application selection gives us just like in GNOME the Chromium web browser v12, but here set to use KDE window borders which I promptly disabled. Konqueror or Rekonq are not installed. We get LibreOffice 3.3.3, the Kontact 4.6 suite with Kmail etc. (no Thunderbird), also VLC for media player and Clementine as your virtual Jukebox instead of Amarok, plus the usual raft of K applications like Kopete and Konversation, Okular for pdf's, Gwenview image viewer, and also an image converter, but no GIMP despite the massive size of that iso and no blogging or social networking client installed. A large, no, huge collection of K games round off the picture, what a waste, and finally there is a large number of helpful links in the Sabayon section of the menu that were not present in GNOME. A good but not great choice of software, with VLC and Clementine standing out. I found Konsole already set to launch in Krunner, maybe a remnant of the development process. Firewall settings and rules in this edition can be managed with a KDE frontend called ufw-settings, nice consistency across spins with the previously looked at GNOME using gufw, and Yakuake provides the drop-down terminal.

The desktop packs a fair selection of KDE themes and several additional window borders on top of old style goodies like Plastik, and several colors of the Oxygen cursor themes. There's also an option pre-installed to tie in Gtk theme settings. Wallpaper selection is again as painful as it was in the GNOME version. You get the wallpapers there plus many that come with the K environment, and here sadly only very few of the better ones. At least we know a good chunk is taken up with rubbish wallpapers and games.

A few of the included wallpapers
Installing directly from the graphical entry in the boot menu once again dumped me at the stage where the host name is specified, just as it happened to this reviewer. Seems to be a regular thing with Anaconda, definitely not a fluke. Even worse, this time for some reason I was unable to exit the Fluxbox environment, CTRL+ALT+DEL did not work and I had to pull the plug on this one. Back to booting the live DVD as intended and install from the full desktop, which worked as intended just as it did in the GNOME 2 spin.
This dumped a full 5.6 GB of data on my ext4 partition, compared to just shy of 4.9 GB for the GNOME edition. Quite a bit in any case, you might want to think about it when other distributions can give you a working system with less than half of that, and that's just to get started. On the other hand, if you take a cavalier attitude to hard drive space, no big deal.

Desktop effects are enabled and working
Once installed, the system ran and felt stable albeit slowish, or maybe that's why it felt stable, and was using 545 Mb memory pretty much direct after boot without anything open but the menu. The KDE Plasma desktop crashed occasionally, once while trying to take a screenie with Ksnapshot, which I have not encountered with KDE for a while now. Desktop effects were set to on and working with my basic ATI/AMD HD 4250 graphics and the free driver, but caused tearing with some window decorations. The Kickoff menu and settings windows were slow to open and draw at times, applications opened without too much lag though. As a side note, the keyboard layout indicator in the task bar had switched from USA to UK after successful install and reboot indicating the chosen location, a nice detail. Hibernating and suspending worked as before, but I encountered the occasional black screen coming out of hibernation as well as when exiting XBMC from full screen in KDE, and only logging off and back in would restore the desktop. The Huawei Vodafone stick was again detected as well and a window offered me to choose my connection plan, sweet.

Links in the menu, window border selection and LibreOffice
Like the previous one, this spin presents a somewhat mixed picture of small details taken care of and things working well, but with apparent bugs, omissions and glaring oversights in other places. After testing the GNOME 32-bit i586 and the KDE 64-bit editions I would go for the latter one simply because it worked a lot better and XBMC media center started up, flowing smoothly from screen to screen. Quite impressive, I would definitely choose this as a pre-made media center, installed straight without KDE, although of course one could install it on any other distribution. If you care about keeping it current perhaps a custom Arch install?

Preferences and system information in XBMC
This spin of Sabayon on the other hand, although the better one, feels average when compared to other KDE 4 distributions like Kubuntu, Kanotix, Debian and in particular when compared to SimplyMEPIS which is just unreal. SalixOS does KDE 4 faster with only 512 MB Ram. Kongoni is snappier and also allows to compile updates and any additions via its ports system. So does Slackware with sbopkg. So choose your poison, if for whatever reason you like Sabayon more than any other distribution you're going to use it anyway, regardless the resource usage and speed. (Slightly updated 30/08/11 15:03)
Read the Conclusion to Sabayon 6.


  1. You forgot to mention that you have support for flash, prop. drivers and all codecs out of the box.

  2. True, I was able to play saved Flash music videos from my hard drive in VLC. Sabayon is good with multimedia, but I did not see any evidence of proprietary graphics drivers.
    Should mention though that my wireless chip is a BRCM 4322x and that it picked up networks in Gnome once installed, but Knetworkmanager did not.



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