Sabayon Linux - a Gentoo beauty - Overview & Tutorial

Updated: September 5, 2008

Another tremendous surprise

There's a popular saying that if you manage to install Gentoo on the first run, this means you have done something wrong. Gentoo has always been the most difficult distro to install, even though it promises great rewards for the die-hards willing to take the pain.

That is, until Sabayon came along. Sabayon is a Gentoo-based distro, offering the simplicity and ease of use more typical of Ubuntu or PCLinuxOS. Alongside the Slackware-based Wolvix, Sabayon is a most refreshing addition to the ever-growing world of friendly desktop distros. Let's see what this baby can do.

Our agenda:

First, we're going to see how Sabayon behaves in the live CD environment. Indeed, like almost every distro today, it comes as a live CD, allowing you to sample the taste and feel of the distro before installing. However, Sabayon has a few secrets up its sleeve that other distros do not offer. We'll review these in a few moments.

A hint for those who can't wait: Compiz, Bluetooth, Wireless, media codecs, and whatnot, all yours in just a few quick mouse clicks!

Then, we will install the distribution, using GUI only. It's the standard procedure, 10 mouse clicks and 20 minutes of time. Sabayon is as simple as Ubuntu, SUSE, PCLinuxOS, Mandriva, Wolvix, or just about any modern Linux.

Let's begin.

A few words about Sabayon ...

Sabayon aims at delivering the complete experience out of the box. This means a plethora of programs, audio and video codecs and the sexy Compiz 3D desktop effects. It is also fully compatible with Gentoo, allowing the power users the ability to squeeze the absolute maximum of their operating system.

Sabayon comes in two flavors, the standard edition, which fits on a DVD, and the Mini edition, which offers a reduced number of packages and only two desktop managers - KDE and Fluxbox. The full version also offers Gnome and Xfce. This will allow you to use the distribution both on high-end and low-end machines.

In this article, we will review the Mini edition. Despite a smaller choice of programs, Mini lacks nothing in the way of usability or hardware support. Missing packages can be easily obtained after the installation. You can obtain either version at the official site.

At the time this article was written, the most recent version of Sabayon was 3.5 for the full version and 3.4 for the Mini version. The differences, if any, are minimal. This tutorial should serve you well in both cases.


In general, Sabayon will run on a 256MB machine, but you might want more than that for KDE and Compiz. Sabayon does take more space to install compared to other distributions, taking up to 5GB for the Mini version and up to 12GB for the DVD. But it's definitely worth it. For more details, please consult the Sabayon Wiki.

Ready? Let's install Sabayon!

Now that we have almost everything covered, the usual last few words of advice:

If you are not familiar with Linux installations, you are encouraged to try my other tutorials, explaining the Linux basics in rich detail. You will find all of the tutorials in the Software & security category. The screenshots are all full-size images, in order to make the article more readable, but they may take some time loading on the 56K dial-up connections.

Lastly, if you are afraid of trying to install Sabayon for real, you are welcome to try the distribution in a virtualized environment. Excellent products like VMware Player, VMware Server, VirtualBox are all great choices for this task. The setup and use of these products is also covered in the above category. That's it. We'll review the live CD environment on the next page.