Sabayon 14: the Ferrari of the linux world

There's a linux distro for every taste and every application, and every type of linux users promotes the linux distro they have invested time in, until they get tired of it and try something new. The most experienced linux users most often end up with Gentoo for fun and Fedora for business, and Debian or Slackware or CentOS on servers. But most beginning linux users start out with Ubuntu, Mint or Arch, and that's a bit of a problem, because those are not the most evident distros for beginners, they are only popular on the Internet because they are marketed towards people that want to do their first linux install on their own, without help from knowledgeable linux users, and they have the kind of internet documentation to support that. Problem is, as linux gets more popular, the noise floor in that documentation also rises, and there is a lot of false or substandard information about them, that can cause a lot of problems and dissatisfaction.

It also causes a lot of linux frustration, as people start with linux with really high hopes because everybody keeps saying that it's so much more powerful and you can do so much more with it, but then they have Ubuntu or Mint, and it just feels like Windows but with a new learning curve, which is pretty disappointing, or they invest a lot of time into installing Arch, but then they have a minimal system they can't do anything with out of the box, they have to solve problems all the time, and they're not being very productive right away.

Instead of linux opening up new horizons, most users that are confronted with Ubuntu, Mint or Arch, keep running into walls, and end up having a "one size fits all" distro that they don't like, or end up with a choice of a hundred or more guides to install Arch of which none seems to work as expected on their particular system, because Arch requires a custom install to have a full-featured system. Arch is not the most hardcore linux distro, it's still pretty easy, but it's much too advanced for absolute beginners to do a custom full-featured install that ticks all of the boxes on their wish list within such a period of time that they find it a satisfactory experience. Gentoo and Slackware are real technical distros, beginners usually don't have any fun with those at all. Yet users may want the benefits of advanced linux distros like Arch or technical distros like Gentoo or Slackware.

RPM-based distros could solve all of that, because they are suitable for all kinds of linux users, but they are upstream to commercial enterprise grade distros (that are hugely successful, which bothers a lot of couch pirates that only want alternative and indie), and those commerces have no interest in making it easy to step into their distros without help from professionals, so they don't provide all the info a beginner needs to get started. Now with Fedora and OpenSuSE, that has changed over time, and a little web searching leads to some basic tricks to get started fast and efficient, with tools like Fedora Utils or Yast 1-click-install. But still a lot of users find that these distros are "corporate" distros, and they are to a certain extent. For instance: RedHat has a deal with nVidia, so they stop maintaining AMD Catalyst packages in rpmfusion. It doesn't matter, because AMD makes a very good installer, and OpenSuSE is sponsored by AMD and provides packages for any and all distros through the build service, but it makes the user feel dependent on corporate dirt, and that's not a nice feeling. The same is true for OpenSuSE, that might at some point in time be affected by the deal between Novell and Microsoft. A big chunk of the development work of OpenSuSE is paid for by Microsoft, and Microsoft is the largest seller of SuSE linux in the world (even if they charge 50% more than Novell itself and offers no added value at all). There are alternatives in Europe, but most support for the alternatives isn't focused on the Anglo-American world, but rather on the French, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish and Russian markets. Distros like Rosalabs and Mageia just aren't very popular in the English-speaking space.

So some people want more, they want the fastest system conceivable and they want to run it heavy, with a lot of functionality, bling, and graphics. They want their system to look and feel like systems of pro linux desktop users, but want to skip the years of investment in knowledge it took to get there.

That's where respins come in, distros like Manjaro, which makes Arch more usable and stable, and offers most modern features that desktop users want out of the box.

But Manjaro is still only Arch, it's not a source/binary distro. That's where the real speed is right... And it would also be nice to have the bleeding-edgeness of Fedora instead of the almost-bleeding-edgeness of Arch, but with the stability in bleeding-edgeness of Fedora, and not having to deal with either delayed updates (like Manjaro to a certain extent), or regular breakage (like Arch), and that's where Gentoo comes in.

So requirements are: source/binary distro, most bleeding edge, and beginner friendly and easy to use... it exists, and it's called Sabayon, and it's the Ferrari of the linux world...

Sabayon is an Italian distro, available with a big selection of DEs, and the latest and greatest applications of everything, including thousands of games, the very latest versions of LibreOffice, etc... everything with custom Sabayon graphics. It's one of the most stylish distros out there.

Sabayon is also one of the fastest distros out there, being based on Gentoo, however, super bleeding edge and not intended for slow/old systems, this is speed overkill to the max, if you have a reasonably fast modern computer, this will get the most out of the hardware, much more than you'd have thought possible. And it's not Arch-fast in that it needs to be minimal and you have to accept a lot of functional compromises to have a fast system, this is loaded out to the max, everything is there, including flash, proprietary graphics drivers, all kinds of bling, etc... it's inherently fast, because that's the benefit of a source/binary distro: you don't install "one size fits all" packages, but you download source code and compile the applications directly on your own system, so that it's compiled specifically and optimally for your system, and all of that with the same simplicity as the Ubuntu Software Center (in fact, even more simple). Sabayon is to Gentoo what Manjaro is to Arch, it has great automated hardware detection, a good software manager (not a package manager, because there are no packages, so it's called an application manager instead). The downside of this is that software updates and install take just a few seconds more, because of the local compiling.

It's a great distro for beginners, just like Manjaro, offering a really good desktop experience that is satisfying, but it's for the users that just want that little extra oomph (not that Manjaro is slow, it's based on Arch, thus fast, the difference is that Gentoo is faster because it's inherently optimized on compile level for every individual system, and it stays super fast even when fully loaded) and features and have the hardware to run that on. Manjaro is also a mainly German distro, it looks nice and clean but nothing special (Manjaro is also offering an official KDE version now for more graphics bling, but at that point, it's less snappy because the limitations of Arch are showing with a heavier system), but Sabayon is an Italian distro, it has a coherent, minimal but beautifully elegant look throughout, and the applications are adapted to that look (startup screen of applications has the Sabayon background, etc...). It's a step faster than Arch/Manjaro, and it's a very good choice for playing games (it comes with Steam out of the box, and as it compiles instead of needing packages to have a GUI install over the software center, there are more games that can be easily installed, including all of the alpha and beta games that are on github, SVN, etc..., for which there are compile scripts and dependency lists available in the distro database, in total, there are about 4000 known games that work on Gentoo/Sabayon, that's even higher than the number of games in the Arch/AUR repos combined. A big advantage of the source/binary system, is that there is no secirity risk involved like the one that is involved in using the AUR repos. The reason is that you use the git source code basically, which is checked by either yourself if you can, or by the developers community, and you use the official install and dependency database from Gentoo.

It's also a great distro for advanced users, being full-featured and super fast on modern systems, and offering that extra bit of peace of mind when installing software, as the software install system offers that extra bit of insight and control over what's happening. Sabayon has it's own application manager called Rigo, but the default Gentoo application manager, Portage, is also supported, and the update notification system for instance taps into Entropy. It also has automated backup functions integrated into the GUI and other really useful things for advanced users. It's just a really nice distro.

It's not an enterprise distro, as it doesn't have SELinux out of the box and the kernel headers for SELinux are not activated by default, so you have to recompile the kernel to get SELinux. I did that on Manjaro for a long time, it's just not practical, so I would still advise Fedora/CentOS for business purposes, but next to Manjaro, Sabayon definitely gets a big thumbs up from me, as it makes life easy, it's much more stable and potent than "traditional" beginner distros like Ubuntu and Mint, it's after Fedora Rawhide the most bleeding edge distro on the face of the earth, because it follows the pace of Gentoo, and it's liberal like Manjaro, which is a bonus for desktop users (Steam is preinstalled, proprietary drivers are provided, support is given on them as much as possible like Manjaro does).

For people with an HSA capable AMD system that want to benefit from it as soon as possible, Sabayon offers a great alternative for those thinking Fedora is too grey and boring, too "serious". It will provide the same HSA functions Fedora does because it's just as bleeding edge, and beats anything in pure speed, being based on Gentoo.

There are a lot of distros out there, and different distros work for different people. There isn't something like "the best distro", as every linux users has a pretty unique install. My goal with this highlight of Sabayon, like I highlighted Manjaro before, is to push very nice distros that are not as well known outside of Europe, but are definitely a much better linux experience than the bog standard Ubuntu or Mint-on-Ubuntu. Of course there will also be people that want a Windows-like experience in linux, and don't want to experience the extra power and features of linux that much, that's perfectly fine, and there is non-Unity Ubuntu (Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, ZorinOS, ElementaryOS, Mint, SteamOS, KaliOS, etc...) to cater for those users. These highlights I post are for those users that feel like they want the extra horsepower and functionality of a premium linux experience, but don't have a linux-pro friend to teach them. I also mainly highlight the benefits in comparison with other distros. There is a lot more that determines the final choice of distro an informed user will make for himself, and there's good and bad in every distro out there, but I thought that it would be nice to just inform users of the forum on some really sexy distro options, so that they may try it out and not be dependent on what people post on different fora, because I'm all for liberty of choice, and I don't just want people to use linux by principle, I want them to understand why they use what they use, and benefit in the long run. I plan on regularily highlighting a particular distro. Now it's just Sabayon because I've not been that happy with Arch/Manjaro lately, as they have regressed in performance after kernel 3.10, so I've switched to Sabayon 14 now myself as fun and games distro, which benefits in performance from the newest kernels (Sabayon is on 3.12.6 now as default, which is about the same as Fedora, and just like with Fedora, it's really easy to switch to even 3.13RC5 for those that like adventures in linux, but don't like to have too much breakage). I usually don't install Arch or Gentoo for fun machines myself, because it takes too much time, it's faster to install Majaro or Sabayon and throw out what I don't want, than to build up the system from Arch or Gentoo to what I want. If I had more time, I would do it the other way around, but it's just not practical for me. I do use RHEL/Fedora/CentOS on all my work machines, and I still recommend Fedora over anything else for serious work, but I also recommend using multiple distros to keep up with general linux knowledge, and for me, although Fedora is a very good distro for fun and games, I usually use other distros for that, just because my fun and games systems are not that security critical, I don't really need SELinux on them, and it offers a refreshing linux experience from time to time.

Now the good thing to come out of this would be that people on the forum would install Sabayon 14, and share their experiences here... the even better thing would be if forum users would highlight other nice distros in order for the forum community to be informed. 2014 is going to be the year of the big migration from Windows to linux as main PC platform in the Anglo-American world, as over 21% of all new laptops sold in the US in 2013 were linux-only chromebooks, and with SteamOS coming and companies like HP, Asus, Acer, etc... having great difficulties that will probably lead to takeovers, maybe bankruptcies, reorganizations, etc... and generally a much smaller consumer marketing budget, and as HSA is coming and will marginalize nVidia and Windows in the consumer and enthusiast performance PC category (and it IS coming, Intel has just published very detailed hardware specifications, including all the instructions, of it's last generation CPUs, which also happens to be the current-generation enterprise CPU class, with the fully iGPU specifications, all seven books of them, and Intel wouldn't do that if they didn't believe that open source is taking over the world). Another thing is that the commercial technology blockade from Microsoft, nVidia and Apple is now costing jobs in the US. Vital jobs for the future of the US economy. AMD did it's entire open source HSA development in Europe, Intel has moved most of it's open source HSA development to China already, not becquse it's cheaper, but because there is no qualified personnel in the US. Outside of the US, and to a certain extent also the "rich" part of Western-Europe, children grow up with linux and software hacking, RedHat was so nice as to provide half of the developing world with Fedora-for-small-children on OLPCs back in 2003, but it took more than a decade for Google and Valve to bring linux to Western children, and it's still very iffy. Next time your Windows computer is hacked by a Nigerian teenager with on OLPC, think about that and think about the fact that he's going to steal the future jobs in software and technology too... this is a reality, it's very hard for me to find really qualified people in Germany, they have learned linux from linux-hostile teachers, and they have the degree, but they still suck at modern linux development, and they often even suck at just using a professional linux environment. And it's not only a problem in technology jobs, it's also a big problem in law, medical en scientific jobs, etc... because people still think in terms of commercial technology blocking terms, they think in terms of licenses and DRM and patents, they don't trust themselves and their own judgement, they are afraid of everything, they make poor decisions, a lot of that changes when they experience the power of open source productivity and freedom of making what you want and need for yourself and collaborating to maximize efficiency. I hope forum community discussions will help raise awareness about this, and go beyond discussing SteamOS or Ubuntu, and discuss other points-of-view, so that people get in touch with each other and geek out over linux and open source, so that they may arm themselves for the future of technology.

+1 on that. Sabayon comes with any desktop interface you can think of. Easy to use and very powerful. Oddly though, certain DEs don't like my sound card Asus essence STX

thank you zoltan, i will give sabayon a shot.

Pretty hectic today with work and preparations for my DIY microprocessor controlled fireworks freakshow for the party tonight, so I forgot one of the main features of Sabayon, reason I wanted to bring it up in the first place: Sabayon has integrated XBMC, now also with Steam Big Picture mode integrated therein, so if you want the SteamOS console experience, but faster and with native support for any graphics platform, just install Sabayon and you'll have it... lol sorry, now back to finishing the soldering my fireworks show and preparing silvester supper. Have a good party everyone and best wishes for 2014!

I personally LOVE XBMC. 

What would you say the install time would be for an average user?

It installs in about 20 minutes on a modern system. It actually uses the excellent Fedora installer, Anaconda, so it's really easy to do a full graphic install. Fedora installs in mere minutes because it doesn't have to compile, as it comes with no proprietary kernel modules or licensed firmwares, and it's a binary distro, so everything is package based and not source-based. Sabayon comes with both kernel models and firmwares and installs source-based, so everything compiles from source during install, obviously that takes a bit longer.

You can speed up installation of software and updates by using the binary-based package manager Entropy instead of the source-based application manager Rigo, which taps into Gentoo's Portage but makes it easier to use, Sabayon supports both, but of course, most of the time the end-result in the long run will be better by pulling source instead of binaries into your system.

Alright, thanks. i'll have to try it out.

Thank you for this wealth of information Zoltan. This will probably be my first phase to an all Linux conversion.

Also, has anyone here on the forums successfully virtualized Windows with full hardware support using QEMU and played steam games on a supported processor that has all the virtualization features necessary? 

Ive actually had very good results installing steam via WINE, and playing games from it. Most of the games I played worked rather well. Install PlayonLinux for an easier installation.

But you should make this a new post, youll get more people, and more helpful information.

it's pretty cool. install was cake. could have set up the partition on my own but i was feeling lazy. but a very nice feature. getting some graphic hickups moving windows around, i went with xfce cause of the small size but maybe i should switch for better smoothness.

the install didnt take any where near 20 mins.

I'd hardly call Arch a beginner distro, but I'll check out Sabayon when I get the time. I think the distro is less important than the configuration each user has. I've finally gotten my tiling (qTile and i3 - I love both), and my software situation setup the way I like, which makes my Arch box an incredibly powerful development box. Plus, the AUR is just fantastic!

Still, I'll try Sabayon and report back.

Always a great read Zoltan!

so it seems the ati drivers from amd doesnt work with my 29 290. 


sabayon user # /opt/bin/aticonfig --initial
/opt/bin/aticonfig: No supported adapters detected



I have switched over to Sabayon 4 day ago my initial impressions. I am using GNOME since I am more familiar with it.

Steam is preinstalled and when I booted up TF2 is had a slow framerate. Got in the terminal  found the current NVIDIA drivers in a less than a minute. Entropy is pretty similar to apt and little easier to use.

Minecraft was a little tricker never had to use the -jar command before so that was different.

After the install I had 200 updates, yup it is a rolling release alright.Rigo asked be to approve the config changes after the update and showed me what it was doing. I thought that was an excellent feature.

Spead wise since I am using a SSD it run just as fast as any other full featured distro I have used.

The wiki pages are well written with a little humor injected to keep it from being stale.

All in all: a very nice distro taht I plan on sticking with for the foreseeable future.

Note I have not used portage/emerge yet so I may update to give my thoughts on that. 

Ideas why I cant boot it on my system? I am getting xorg server errors, cant restart without PC reset, crashes GPU completely (Static on screen)

tried systemctl restart/start gdm, still nothing with startx :(

My gpu is XFX 6870 1GB


Server error : Caught signal 11

Server terminated with error (1). Closing log file

init: giving up

init: unable to connect to X server: connection refused

init: server error

What version of Sabayon are you trying to boot?

14.01 tried xfce and gnome

  1. [email protected] ~ $ su
  3. localhost root # equo update --force
  4. l
  5. ocalhost root # equo remove ati-drivers
  7. localhost root # equo remove xf86-video-ati
  9. localhost root # equo remove x11-base/xorg-drivers
  10. localhost root # equo remove --configfiles xf86-video-ati
  12. localhost root # echo "blacklist radeon" >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
  14. then try to start x
  16. if that works install amd drivers after the OS install

I am sorry for the poor formatting