What are some features of Gentoo Linux

Sabayon: Working efficiently with Linux

David Wolski

The Linux distribution Sabayon makes the difficult to digest Gentoo Linux palatable to desktop users in a slightly foamed mixture. Sabayon offers many of the advantages of flexible Gentoo without the steep learning curve.

EnlargeSabayon Linux is getting very fresh packages from Gentoo as a rolling release and has two different package managers (Portage and Entropy) on board.

A few years ago, Gentoo was high on the menu of advanced Linux gourmets - as a perfectly customizable Linux system that can be freshly prepared for any computer. Like Arch, Gentoo is characterized by its own package format, which, with the Gentoo package manager Portage, is reminiscent of the "ports" of Free BSD. These are source code packages that allow a comparatively simple, albeit often time-consuming, compilation of programs as required from a repository with more than 10,000 source packages.

Installing a package is equivalent to recompiling it; optimized for the processor of the computer, which theoretically can bring performance advantages. This is of course more interesting for advanced users who take care of every detail and the configuration themselves.

There are also enough binary packages for popular platforms. The largely manual installation process of a pure Gentoo system is no small hurdle. Patience and expertise are required to put together a stable and complete system. Gentoo is a rolling release that can be kept up to date via the package manager. The Gentoo Foundation takes care of the development.

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Made for the desktop

Today, Gentoo is no longer the first recommendation from Linux chefs, but Arch Linux. Nevertheless, Gentoo still has cult status and many fans like the kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman swear by it. Gentoo is not yet a case for history books.

Some IT systems in the financial industry, such as Nasdaq, work with Gentoo on mostly highly specialized servers. Google chose this distribution in 2010 as the foundation for the successful Chrome OS. Gentoo is also the basis of many Linux live systems such as the System Rescue CD or the LinuxWelt rescue DVD.

EnlargeRigo: The graphical package manager, here under KDE, installs software and updates the system. The first major system update requires a lot of patience.

Gentoo has not found widespread use as a desktop system, which is also due to the manual installation method. The official Gentoo does not deliver an installer - and this is where Sabayon Linux comes into play: Instead of scrolling through documentation and getting to know the innards of a Linux system in detail, Sabayon Linux can set up a Gentoo-based system relatively easily with an installer. The distribution started in 2004 under the name "RR4" and the motivation to deliver Gentoo as a comfortably installable live system. In 2006 the name was changed to Sabayon, which is derived from the Italian dessert "Zabaglione". Sabayon is financed by the Internet veteran NL-Net and the software company Netcraft, which Sabayon serves as the basis for their own developments.

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Package manager and software selection

The desktop version of Sabayon is currently available as a live system with the interfaces Gnome, KDE Plasma 5, Mate, XFCE and Fluxbox. There is also a minimal server output without a graphical desktop. The installation program has been taken over from Fedora and is therefore identical to that of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Co. With its cumbersome partitioner and non-linear configuration steps, it is not necessarily the most comfortable setup assistant, but it is technically flawless. The installer is quite appropriate for the target group, which is advanced users for whom pure Gentoo is too complicated.

Sabayon uses its own repositories with binary packages and does not necessarily require a recompilation of all packages when they are installed. Compatibility with Gentoo is retained, but Sabayon can fall back on precompiled packages from its own pool. The distribution therefore works with two different package managers: Portage comes from Gentoo and downloads source code packages which are then compiled on the target system. Entropy is Sabayon's packaging system, which works with precompiled packages and is also responsible for system updates. The equo tool is used in the command line for package management.

EnlargeSabayon took over the installation program from Fedora. It is not the easiest installer because of the partitioner that takes getting used to.

Of course there is also a graphical package management in Sabayon: "rigo" is the name of the program for the desktop that searches for packages, installs them and brings the system up to date. The software versions are always looking for a balance between stability and being up-to-date. In contrast to the comparable Arch Linux, older, better tested programs take precedence in Gentoo systems like Sabayon. According to the developer, the status can be compared with that of Debian "Sid", the unstable branch of Debian. A special feature is the large selection of software available from Sabayon. The repositories also contain proprietary programs and drivers, such as Nvidia drivers, the Steam gaming platform and all common codecs for playing audio and video files.

Chrome OS: Gentoo is also included here

Small, light and cheap: With these three properties, Chromebooks from various manufacturers with Google Chrome OS have become a surprise success. And this despite the fact that the software equipment is anything but lavish and the focus is on apps for the Chrome web browser.

Although this would now also be possible with Android, Google maintains Chrome OS as a separate platform with deeper Linux roots. The goal was to build as much as possible on existing open source software components and to reinvent little. The first versions of Chrome OS were created during a short partnership with Canonical with Ubuntu as the basis, from February 2010 Gentoo then served as the source. The reason given by a Google developer was the need to compile Chrome OS for many hardware platforms. Gentoo met this requirement better than Ubuntu.