Spotlight on Linux: Sabayon Linux 5.3

Sabayon Linux is a very fun distribution based on Gentoo Linux. That tidbit of information may be one of the reasons Sabayon isn't more popular, although it shouldn't be. The mention of Gentoo usually invokes visions of difficulty and hours of compiling to Linux users. While that general assessment of Gentoo may be correct overall, it certainly isn't true of Sabayon. In fact, if it wasn't a known fact that Sabayon was based on Gentoo, many users might never realize it.

To end users Sabayon Linux is a fully functioning, complete, and easy-to-use distribution. It ships with the latest in desktops and software with lots of tools for setup, maintainence, and configuration. In fact, it comes with lots and lots of software, including a nice selection of quality games. Users can choose from GNOME of KDE editions compiled for x86 or x86_64 systems. It also includes 3D acceleration and proprietary Wi-Fi drivers as well as codecs and plugins for full multimedia enjoyment.

While some may underestimate the value of a nice default appearance, Sabayon 5.x has really jumped onto the right track. While earlier versions might have been "cool," today's Sabayon desktop is understated, professional, and attractive.

As anyone who has ever run Gentoo knows, there is no graphical package management tool. Oh, there were some third-party offerings and a few that even worked pretty well, but Gentoo itself never had one. So this seems to have been a priority for the Sabayon project and they've constructed a respectable set of software and update management tools.

Sabayon's package management system is set up to pull from their own repositories of binary packages. There's no commandline magic for anyone to learn and there's no wait for packages to compile - unless you wish. Advanced users or those with special requirements can pull from Sabayon's source repository to compile. One could even use Gentoo repos, although this isn't recommended much beyond the occasional single package or two.

Sulfur is the graphical front-end to Entropy and Magneto is the updater. Sulfer may seem a bit clunky to those accustomed to Synaptic or Mandriva's tidy interface, but the same functionality is there and it is easy for users to adapt. Magneto runs in the background checking for updates and places an applet in the System Tray to advise users of available updates. A recent install showed 206 updates (consisting primarily of the newest KDE release) and all operations were completed smoothly and accurately.

Sabayon's Magneto Applet showing available updates

The latest release features the 2.6.34 Linux kernel, GCC 4.4, and either GNOME 2.28 or KDE 4.4.3. Ext4 is the default file system and Btrfs is supported. Sabayon ships with the latest, Firefox, and lots and lots of other software. The repositories contain many more.

Sabayon has used Red Hat's Anaconda installer for several releases and it does an exemplary job, but this release saw an update to a newer codebase. It walks users through an easy set up and install. One can use Sabayon's Anacoda just to reinstall Grub if necessary as well. The only glitch encountered was setting the root password. Sabayon live DVD ships with a blank root password and entering a new root password when asked by the installer doesn't transfer to the new system. This will have to be done manually after boot. Sabayon is also setup to use Sudo for those that prefer that.

This release of Sabayon is proving to be easy, fast, and stable. It is available in x86 or 64-bit KDE or GNOME versions as well as a CoreCD consisting just of the basics. With the included XBMC, Sabayon can easily become a home theater center as well. It is also the only known live distribution to offer musical accompaniment during boot. All the technical aspects aside, the best thing about Sabayon is - it's just plain fun and easy to use.


Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of


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Sabayon reminiscent

Agentkiller4's picture

I loved my sabayon, i have been forced onto the ubuntu hell as it is the only distro that works properly with all my cards, i have a gaming acer lappy that has a very odd chainlinked network card (reason unknown) and ubuntu with all its evil propietary kernel patches make it work, if i had a choice, and the second i do, im going to sabayon in a moment's notice, best distro ive ever used, felt at home right away, used it for 3 weeks then noticed my broadcom wired card wouldnt work...

Thanks for the review

Barista Uno's picture

I must try Sabayon very soon.

sabayon is just so powerful.

Anonymous's picture

sabayon is just so powerful. love it. Cartersville homes for sale

Just a little too bloated.

HVS's picture

After using Arch for so long, I felt that Sabayon was too bloated. Also, I'm addicted to pacman. But to each his own, right?

It seems that people still

xspartan's picture

It seems that people still don't understand what Sabayon is. You don't need to compile anything from source. And you are not advised to.
It's a distro like Debian.
Equo update && Equo upgrade = apt-get update&& apt-get upgrade. Sulfur=Synaptic.
The fact that Sabayon is based to Gentoo testing doesn't mean you need to compile something.
If someone insists to turn Sabayon into Gentoo he can use emerge instead of the default "equo". But IMHO he will fail.
Anyway Sabayon is a friendly distro exactly like Ubuntu, Suse, Mandriva and maybe friendlier. For example there is no need to install codecs.
What i don't like to Sabayon?
1)Feels a bit bloated.
2)It's a bit slower and "heavier" than other distros.
3)Doesn't have a large community at the moment.
4)Needs much better and more documentation.

Using emerge

Fitzcarraldo's picture

"If someone insists to turn Sabayon into Gentoo he can use emerge instead of the default "equo". But IMHO he will fail."

Not at all. On my main laptop I have Sabayon Linux installed and use only Portage, having removed all traces of Entropy (Equo and Sulfur). It works extremely well (I don't experience Entropy-specific problems, for example). On my media centre I have Sabayon Linux installed and chose to maintain it using Entropy. It is perfectly possible to use either package manager. Where people can go wrong -- if they do not have sufficient knowledge -- is in using the two package managers willy-nilly on the same installation.

Pleasantly Surprised

tim85706's picture

I have been a user of Ubuntu for a few years, but found myself becoming increasingly frustrated as my knowledge increased, but Ubuntu's flexibility decreased with each new edition. I overlooked Sabayon because I assumed it would be too difficult as it was based on Gentoo. I was wrong. I find it easy enough with some learning on my part, flexible and fun, and all the tools I need and room to grow.


Mauricio Fierro's picture

Nice article!

I started using sabayon at my work at college for two months now, and I must say its simply beautiful. I love the Sulfur package manager, and also have a really awesome eye-candy-full desktop that makes me feel confortable while working. I am a Debian lover (not Ubuntu also, just Debian), but I must say that if there wasn't Debian, Sabayon would be my Home distro as well.

Sabayon is Gentoo.

Anonymous's picture

I tried Sabayon and for me, i found that it useful as:
1. Perfect OS for HTPC (MCE installation option)
2. Quick way to install Gentoo when you don't have (or just don't want to use)your own, customized stage4.
Sabayon is Gentoo ... Actually it is just an Gentoo's overlay :) Pretty much like Ubuntu's PPAs. The only difference is that it has it's own installation and customized defaults.
In the article you mention that Gentoo lacks GUI for package manager. There are. I usually use Porthole. It does the job.
Time to compile is not an issue with modern hardware. My desktop is 2.5 years old and the only exception in average HW specs is 8 GB of RAM.


Anonymous's picture

I've tried many distros and haven't liked any of them. I was stuck using Slackware for years as it was the only thing I could find mostly to my liking. Some were to windows like wanna be, some weren't up to date, some distros died after a few releases, some couldn't be X64 or X86_64 (32-bit and 64-bit, bluewhite64 was x64 only, slackware was x86 only), some were a pain and buggy, and some just had a snotty community.

I've been with Sabayon since its name was RR (rolling release) before entropy even existed. Its the only distro I've ever felt at home using without dependency hell of slackware or pain of use/compatability with gentoo (cflags get tricky sometimes). Ubuntu splits up packages into too many pieces and is too n00bish for me, no offense.

Sabayon has the perfect balance of power and ease of use for anyone and everyone from new linux user to master of the known universe!

Yeah right...

Gentoo fanboy's picture

it does look beautiful but I really enjoy doing all the compilation by myself, am I a nerd ? Oh God, sure I'm! I'm still virgin... what the heck i'm talking about ? ohhh crap...

Best of both worlds

Fitzcarraldo's picture

One of the joys of Sabayon Linux is that, if you want to use a source package manager such as Portage and compile your packages, then you can. But if you want to use a binary package manager then there is the home-grown Entropy package manager. So the choice is there, thus giving the user total flexibility.

On my main PC running Sabayon Linux I only use Portage. On my other PCs running Sabayon Linux I use Entropy, only resorting to Portage if I need to build something special or if the package is not yet in the Entropy repository.

I've been using Sabayon Linux as my main distribution for over three years now (both for work and for home use), and have no plans to change.

The development team is small but very dedicated, and it really is an excellent distribution.

Downloading Sabayon

metalx2000's picture

Ok, you talked me into is. I'm downloading it now.
Everything you ever need to know about Free Software.

Smart move!

Anonymous's picture

After distro hopping for a while, I felt right at home with Sabayon and I promise you will also feel the same! Enjoy.