Monday, 17 October 2011

Sabayon Fscked My Home - The XFCE Spin Revisited

This should originally have been entitled 'The Sabayon Xfce Spin Revisited', but something disturbing happened. It's been a while since I tried Xfce 5.3 last August, but in the fast moving world of software and technology a year can be a long time. Back then I was a bit unhappy about the size of 628 MB that gave the user little more than Firefox and the package manager.

Sabayon always has fairly hefty requirements. I suspect the base is heavier because it includes several more languages and the build tools to compile updates from source, but when your standard is Zenwalk or even Xubuntu you feel you're not getting much in return.

I also thought that for a distro spin utilizing a supposedly light desktop it was a bit ridiculous not to install on a machine with 512 MB ram as it did then, so it failed my test. It was always clear that the Xfce spin was still experimental, so don't take this too seriously. Anyway, that was then and this is now. I really liked what I saw in Sabayon 6 recently when I looked at the GNOME, KDE and Fluxbox/XBMC editions. Then I came across this article, and as somebody who is more or less committed to Xfce thought I need to check this build out as well.

This time I was going to try it on my Acer laptop with 4 GB ram and an AMD Phenom X3 processor, so for better or for worse I wasn't going to check how it does on more limited hardware, I just wanted to see how a modern distribution like Sabayon 6 with Xfce 4.8 would do on a (fairly) modern machine, as a full desktop replacement. Well, off to the download page. The developers have obviously upped their game. At 1.4 GB this is quite different from the one tried last year. It features the same wallpaper, login manager and boot background as the main editions, only that it uses LXDM as login manager. There's a lot more than just a browser included in this spin, and I really enjoyed the application selection, not much to change or add. Broadcom wireless and the Vodafone Huawei stick both worked flawlessly, from DVD and when installed. Media codecs and Adobe Flash are included as well, as usual. Perfect for mobile use and ready straight away.
All in all, Sabayon Xfce looked good in more ways than one, to be productive from the start, and with a nice collection of backgrounds included. You know, branded but not over the top, and I generally enjoy the darker blue backgrounds. I added the Faenza-Xfce icon set and it looked kind of posh. Compliments all round.

One thing I couldn't help noticing was quite a bit of lag, downright unresponsiveness actually, when ever Thunar was opened. Like file managers do, it opens the home directory by default. You'll see why that may be important. It could take up to a minute before Thunar responded again. Although the desktop felt a bit sluggish compared to my experiences with Arch, Slackware, anything Debian, and Fedora Xfce/LXDE I was willing to put up with it.

The first update with equo world or equo upgrade on October 1st brought 264 packages, and 43 shortly after. An exercise that took over four hours and another two respectively, even after reordering the mirrors according to speed. At this stage I'm thinking something like Sabayon or Gentoo is probably not the best to update on a mobile device and more for desktops and a wired connection. Package management in Sabayon is infinitely slow. I like the power, but it just isn't for every scenario. Arch, also with Xfce and with Openbox, has been rolling here very successfully for more than a year as per my previous post, but with a fraction of the updates and the time involved. There's a lot of GNOME stuff in the Xfce edition, like gnome-panel which is not actually used and only seems to be there as a dependency, evolution-data-server and even Nautilus (as per this chain of dependencies), and it seem to be pulling in more with every update.

So, after starting on such a positive note and cutting it some slack for lag, what happened? Another equo upgrade on October 5th shorted my running system out. In the middle of syncing, in a split second, I was suddenly dumped at a black screen and an immovable cursor. Something about file system corruption on my pre-existing ext4 home partition. Seriously? Even if that was true, it's only the home partition. No reason to go belly up half way through an update. May I remark that both Slack and Arch were running just fine just before and their start-up checks did not find reason for concern with the file system? Bugger. Sabayon refused to even boot again. Now Arch and Slack also reported file corruption. I managed to 'repair' the file system running fsck in Arch twice (!), which reallocated data to new blocks. I now have a couple of bad sectors on this hard drive which I've never had before. This is as close to a hard drive failure as I've come in 15 years, and that says a lot. Even my old 4.3 GB WD kept grinding away for a long time, loud as if chiseling data into a rock, but reliable.

Next thing Windows started reporting problems with the NTFS partition I keep for sharing data and which I had last accessed from Sabayon. Some files I had deleted still showed up but were undeletable (does that word exist?). Fortunately quickly fixed from a scan at start up, which got rid of invalid link nodes, found some other files and recovered 1 GB of space.

Somehow Sabayon managed to ruin my file system in only four days. So, while I was looking forward to running another powerful rolling distribution that would hopefully get faster in time as it compiles updates on the host machine, I think anything Sabayon is out of the question from now on. Ditto anything that constantly compiles, at least on a portable. Back to sane distributions.


  1. Thanks for the heads-up, or warning. I've never gotten far enough into a Sabayon installation to have it do that kind of damage. I'd heard actually some good things about the most recent barrage of releases, so I was getting tempted to try it again.

    "Undeletable" is a word. At least it is now! :)

  2. You´re welcome, and thanks for commenting! Hope this is not going to happen to anybody else.

  3. I have no words for this great post such a awe-some information i got gathered. Thanks to Author.

  4. Very useful information. Thank you for sharing it. Thanks 99th


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