Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sabayon 10 Review - Why wanting 11 is a bad thing

I have long been a die-hard Sabayon Linux fan. I have used it for laptops, desktops, and servers in the past, but its use best fits user-centric computing: laptops and desktops. Sabayon is like Arch in that the packages are bleeding-edge. They follow upstream exactly, or at least within minor releases. This is thanks to Gentoo's Portage (source-based) and Sabayon's build server. When source code is pushed, Gentoo packages it and Sabayon makes it available as a binary. Theoretically this is a good thing. Before you can jump into this theoretical goodness you must first get Sabayon to work, and for 7, 8, and 9 this was no big deal; not the same story for 10.

If you look at my Bash's history, it won't be that grand. In fact, 11 commands might seem like a freakishly small amount. And why would package names like "kubuntu-desktop" appear on someone's history that praises Sabayon in their review? The answer is simple. Sabayon makes installing Gentoo extremely easy, but what it fails to do is adapt to slightly unusual partitioning schemes.

 My partitions are set up in such a way that packages are installed on a solid state drive, my hard drive gets its own /home, and a removable media is formatted with tmpfs. Sabayon was able to do this (with relative ease, I must say. Compared to something such as Crunchbang). Sabayon was even able to punch through the logical volume management on the disks, unlike some installers (I'm looking at you again, Crunchbang). The install worked and all was well, grub installed, my user was created, and the prompt to reboot came up. Upon reboot I was dropped into a shell (with a very pretty background image, I must say) prompting options. The "shell" command launched a limited shell, and I used it to dd /dev/sda with /dev/zero.

The second installation was the same story, even with just the hard drive being formatted to ext4 and used as the / partition.  At this point, I gave up and reinstalled lubuntu. A cut of losses.

Theoretical and past versions
Despite all of the trouble with Anaconda (Sabayon's installer) I will still always have a soft spot for Sabayon. The fact that such a small team is able to write something so big is astounding. They use a lot of Gentoo's work, but they add a LOT of their own stuff (including a package manager) and ship it upstream, benefiting the community. Entropy, the binary package manager, has features unlike that apt, yum, or zypper could ever dream of having without third party software.

With a few simple commands entropy can back up and export the entire database of installed packages, and have it reinstalled on another computer without even the hint of a depedancy problem. Even if you backed up Coreutils and did an equo restore over a newer version Entropy can adapt to not allow any problems to crop up.

Aside from the package manager itself, Sabayon features some stunning visuals and branding, including a custom TTY (which, by the way, stops kernel error logging unless explicitly specified. Perfect for those of us with a damaged USB port logging problem), nice default tools (as they say: "gcc is there, out of the box"), and your choice of desktop environment.

Sabayon has been described as "Gentoo for the lazy", and largely that's what it is. A platform for installing Gentoo and all of its benefits, with some added bonuses, like Entropy. The wiki is subpar compared to FreeBSD or Arch's, but it is there. It is a decently popular operating system, so there is also some community support. A big question is whether or not it will run Steam, and that answer is an astounding yes. Steam has been in the repositories since closed-garden beta.

Sabayon has a bright future. Low resources, a "kickin'" package manager, aesthetics, and a good core (Gentoo Linux) give it the edge over its competition. That said, there are still some bugs to iron out. I ran into a documented bug in the installer and wasn't even able to get it installed. If you like tinkering, or if you like Gentoo with an installer, Sabayon could possibly be the OS for you.

Large .iso

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Leapmotion on Linux: hitting the ground running

Leapmotion is an imaginary (in that it doesn't exist yet) but impending device that could possibly shape the future of interface. Since the creation of computers, wiring, CLI, GUI, and WIMP interfaces have all changed the way we defined our user experience. Look to any science fiction novel made after the 20th century, and you will find that the interfaces are floating masses of plasma, interacted with by the will of a user's fingertips in thin air. This technology is not far off, and its future looks especially promising for Linux compared to other commercial ventures.

A bit about Leapmotion
Leapmotion is a device that reads input from an infrared sensor about the environment around it. With an onboard CPU, it flushes out the noise and triangulates movement, with the precision of 5 milimeters. This processed movement data is send to the (proprietary) driver which executes commands from the input. Pretty nifty, especially for businesses where interaction with a computer would be a cumbersome job (think: Hazmat suits) and consumers that want a taste of the future.

Where Linux comes in
Linux has been the short end of the stick where third-party and commercial support are concerned. Canonical has changed that, especially over the past year (2012), and it's taboo to NOT have Linux support. The SDK is fully compatible with Linux, it will have supported kernel drivers, and it will also be used on embedded Linux devices (Android especially).

Gobs of Drama
 There has been an ongoing debate on LeapMotion's Linux page about whether or not to Open-source the driver. Advocates say that open source "supports itself" and "ensures that the technology won't end up in the landfill, but rather in the pantheon of human knowledge". However, senior members of the LeapMotion forums aren't nearly as understanding.

Some of the members advocating proprietary drivers refused to distinguish between gratis and libre for the sake of their argument, using childish retorts such as

 "all Linux users are so cheap they wouldn't give you a cup of coffee for a year's worth of software" -- FadingFast

"free open source" don't make much sense" -- flaredOne


"I guess it is because people can't "touch" software (hate that name there is nothing "soft" about it), and as such they believe even though people spend their lives creating this that they are some how entitled to have it for free and deny the creators of it any profit (not to mention a salary)."--FadingFast

These are not paid members of the LeapMotion development team. But according to some of the users in the forums, the team developing the Linux drivers is making it exceedingly difficult to develop FOSS drivers via reverse engineering, especially due to the "Wall of Silence" and mathematics involved in such reversing.

How the team feels about FOSS is a moot point. They are providing facilities for use on Linux before release, being generally very nice to the Linux community (they even have a subforum for Linux, how nice), and offering support for when a Linux user needs help. The way that the senior members took up arms is still inexcusable, however.