Sabayon's Fabio Erculiani: "Users first and choice makes the tasty dessert among the distro's"

Posted by hkwint on May 31, 2007 6:09 AM EDT
LXer.com; By H.Kwint, the Netherlands
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LXer Feature: 31-May-2007

After a month of absence I visited Distrowatch again, and found out I definitely missed something. A new Gentoo-based almost Ubuntu-like* distribution - called Sabayon (an Italian dessert) Linux - seemed to have appeared almost out of nowhere recently including a full-blown portal website. This is even more true if you know Sabayon Linux only has three main developers.

"Let's give this a spin" I thought, and I was stunned: "How did these developers make the most progressive but still stable desktop I have ever seen, with out-of-the-box 3D-desktop experience and tons of applications - all fitting on a LiveDVD?"
Soon, the distribution reached its preliminary goal of surpassing Gentoo at Distrowatch and became the fastest growing distribution of the last few months. To those who don't know Sabayon Linux yet, I'd say: "If less is more, than Sabayon Linux is most at least".

So far so good, you may think, but Sabayon Linux' main developer - Fabio Erculiani - sees an even bigger future for Sabayon Linux, after funding issues are resolved. Time to find out who are behind this user-oriented distribution.

[*In my opinion it's better, but to those who haven't tried Sabayon Linux yet, think Ubuntu, but more complete and more progressive - hkwint]

Sabayon Linux logo

LXer: Can you introduce yourself ? What is your education, and what are your hobbies (if there is any time left), except for developing Sabayon? How and when did you start to use (Gentoo) Linux, and how did somebody of your age (I understand you're 21, which seems rather young for a distribution developer) become the lead developer of one of the most popular distributions of today? Do you feel your age a pro or a con, or doesn't it matter?

Photograph of Fabio Erculiani Fabio Erculiani:

  • Name: Fabio Erculiani
  • Date of birth: 15 November 1985
  • Employment: Sabayon Linux Project Leader + *nix Consultant
  • Education: Electronics and Telecommunications Diploma, some Cambridge University English Certificates and the hope to find the time to go to the University
  • Hobbies: Science in general, even if I like astronomy and physics more. I started to play with Linux when I was 14, I fell in love when I was 16 and I started RR4 when I was 18.
About my age, good question, it's a pro for me, but a con when I deal with other people or Company managers. Another issue is that I'm not graduate yet. But there are a lot of graduate people that are much more stupid than me. For the Google generation, being graduate is less important than in the past. I have three cerebral hemispheres, left, right and Google.

LXer: Congratulations with reaching the goal Sabayon Linux set for itself of reaching the top ten at Distrowatch. Sabayon is even higher than Gentoo these days. Our Sabayon Linux 3.26 bit torrent was uploaded 40 times in about two weeks, using almost all our upload speed, including some time after 3.3 was released. What's your explanation of this success? What is the general feedback to Sabayon Linux from the users?



Fabio Erculiani:
Hi Hans, I'm glad to answer your questions and I hope that also your readers will be. There is no secret. Just two small but true realities:

  1. Vision: this pushes the roadmap concept to the past. Sabayon Linux does not have pre-established roadmaps, doing a distribution is not a peace plan. You never know what would happen the next month, you can't know if people will like your strategy, your features plan, your ideas. So we must keep to be as much smart as possible and react fast. We have been the first to ship with the 3D Desktop technology early last year, we have been the first to ship with Beryl, the first Reiser4 Graphical LiveCD back in 2005, the first to adopt Project Utopia application stack (HAL, DBUS), and now, we have been the first to ship with Ext4 file system support and integration (still in development). Just a small note, this does not mean that Sabayon Linux is unstable, at all. This means that we give the choice to the users, users are happy even without Beryl/Compiz and using the old dear Ext3 file system. We don't choose for them.
    So, as you might have understood from my words, users are the fundamental part of the Sabayon Linux Project. We don't have investors yet, but if we would just have one, Sabayon Linux could become the #1 in a matter of months. This is what we are trying to reach, with just users donations, in terms of money and time.

  2. No politically driven decisions: a lot of distribution are politically constrained. We don't, and we'll never be like them. We are simply on the users' side. Do you want mono? We have it. Do you want Java? We have it. Do you want proprietary drivers? We have found the way to implement them, something that I call, runtime linking.

LXer: I understand Sabayon Linux succeeded RR4 Linux. Can you tell a bit about Sabayon Linux' history? When, how and why did you join RR4? As a Gentoo user I was really delighted to see a 'Ubuntu-like' distro based on Gentoo, but to other people the choice of Gentoo may seem odd. Why was Gentoo chosen as the distro to base RR4 on, wouldn't it be more logical to have chosen Debian or RedHat? How did RR4 become Sabayon Linux, and why the name of a dessert? Why did Sabayon Linux chose the goals it has at this moment of being a 'Linux desktop with as much as possible applications and technologies' that just work?

Fabio Erculiani:
I simply believe in the impossible. Many people told me, it's impossible to succeed with a Gentoo based distribution. And I showed them that they were wrong and I'll show how I'll be able to reach the 5th position on Distrowatch.com before the end of the year. I have a lot of bullets in my gun. I just need the funds and the most important thing, time. One bullet is called Entropy, and will hopefully see the light in few months. We are just busy with the website migration (preview here: http://www.sabayonlinux.org/smartme - thanks to the knowledge of Michele Tameni, a good dear friend of mine) [ The migration is done at the time of publishing this interview - ed ] and the 3.4 development branch (thanks to another friend of mine, Luca Palermo). But I work hard, even 16 hours a day. We'll get there.
RR4 Linux was born in late 2004, on the Gentoo Forums, as a project to improve the ugly Gentoo Linux LiveCD (it's still horrible nowadays... Gentoo Linux Installer is a bad copy of Anaconda, whose code and structure is sometimes very similar).
It's not a problem of choosing the right distro as a base, it's a problem of giving the power to the users, in the long term, I will work hard to transform Sabayon Linux in the best source and binary based distribution. This will have a good impact on the number of applications shipped on the DVD, we will be able to provide a better experience, no matter what users' skills are.

LXer: I understand Sabayon Linux has very few developers, and most of them have full time employment. Though Sabayon Linux stands on the shoulders of giants - Gentoo and Beryl, how many core-developers does Sabayon Linux have? How did such a small team manage to make Sabayon Linux, to make a whole website look so good and soon a portal too? How did Sabayon Linux manage to include the most brand new packages which even Gentoo deemed unstable, without making Sabayon Linux instable? Does Sabayon Linux work together with Gentoo in any way, like feedback from Sabayon to Gentoo?

Fabio Erculiani:
Yes, Sabayon Linux has few good developers yet, but have in mind a nice thing, I can't talk about that at the moment.
I just try to live with the donations, pay the bills, eat, and so on, but it's not that easy.
We have three core-developers and a set of internal beta testers. We can do all, that's not a problem. We are all driven by the passion. Gentoo has its stabilization plan. If a package is marked unstable on Gentoo, it does not mean that will make your computer crashy. It just means that the package has been updated recently or it's not included in their latest stable LiveCD or they are too lazy to mark it as stable after the stabilization period (or, the standardization period is not yet over). Most Gentoo developers don't shine, and it's a pity (and people are already aware of it).
Most Gentoo developers don't like/share our vision, but its founder, Daniel R. [Robins ed. ], is happy about Sabayon's success. There are real issues inside the Gentoo Foundation, but I hope that they'll solve their problem as soon as possible, I love Gentoo. From what I saw, they seem to be too much arrogant, especially relengs (release engineers).

LXer: I understand you had a hard time after you lost your father, and you became unemployed. How did you endure this difficulties, and was Sabayon Linux a help or an extra problem in the past few months? Also, I read Sabayon Linux can't go on if 'the bills aren't paid'. At the current rate of donations to Sabayon Linux, are the future of the Sabayon Linux as well as future bills safe at this time?

Fabio Erculiani:
Yes, true, I had a hard time, but if I'm here, it's also thanks to (my girlfriend and to) the Sabayon Linux Project and its ever-growing community. I think that I have the right vision, I just need the time to show the world my potential. "Lose" is not in my dictionary.
To grow, we need the help of the community, that's the issue. But I'm determined to succeed. Even Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google without much money. So, what's the problem then? If you have the potential, someday you'll have the success that you deserve.
At the current rate, they're not yet safe enough to say "hey, I'm so happy". Because of my father's death, I had to pay a lawyer, and we all know how much they cost. So, after the sadness for the lost, there have been the sadness for my wallet.
But I'm a positive guy, I'm 21 and I think that I'll be satisfied enough by all my efforts someday. As I told you, it's just a matter of time. And in the meantime, Sabayon will always be at the top of my priority list.

Photograph of Fabio Erculiani and his girlfriend
Fabio and his girlfriend

LXer: One of the greatest technologies, my friend and I agreed, is Beryl. My friend - being in the process of trying to become less dependent on Windows - was so excited about Beryl, he made his first native Linux install on his laptop, also to show it to his teacher. I read Beryl is 'interlinked' with Sabayon Linux. What is the status of the co-operation?

Fabio Erculiani:
Well, actually Beryl is merging into Compiz with the CompComm project. We are planning to move to Compiz before 3.4 final release.
I think that our partnership will be restored once CompComm will become stable enough.

LXer: Can you tell us what the next version of Sabayon Linux - 3.4 will bring? What are the main future plans for Sabayon Linux?

Fabio Erculiani:
Well, easy question: First of all, there will be Compiz and maybe CompComm extension. Then there will be Ext4 support and integration. A lot of bug fixes and the preparation of Entropy, that will hit Sabayon before the end of the year, I think. We have strengthened the Virtualization support, by launching our Windows Autorun application that let you boot Sabayon Linux inside Windows thanks to VMware Player. Anyway, for the full list of changes, please have a look at the Sabayon Linux 3.4 Loop1 and Loop2 release notes.

LXer bonus question: Is Sabayon Linux more popular in Italy than elsewhere? What about the state/popularity of Linux in Italy? How does it compare to - for example Linux popularity in Germany?

Fabio Erculiani:
Definitely. Sabayon Linux is very popular in Italy, also thanks to our local magazines. I'm Italian even if I don't share the Italian egoistic mentality. Average Italians are so. The most popular areas are Northern Europe, Oceania and the US. We have planned to strengthen our market share in the East Europe by the way.

LXer: Anything you might like to add?

Fabio Erculiani:
Sure. Please, help the project to grow! Don't forget to make a donation! Do you want Linux to succeed, then help us!

On behalf of the LXer team, thanks for your time and your efforts. Many thanks to the whole Sabayon Linux team for making such a great distro, which in my opinion is the best I ever used / saw when it comes to richness of user experience.

Get Sabayon Linux here!

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Will Sabayon become maintained in the same way as Ubuntu? Maistre 6 4,928 Jun 2, 2007 3:14 AM
Yes, but...... vainrveenr 8 2,393 Jun 1, 2007 12:50 PM

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