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Sabayon Linux 11 on a Macbook Pro (Updated 18/02/13)


I will add more to this post a bit later, however if you own an older Macbook Pro and OSX is just getting too long in the tooth. You’ve tried Ubuntu but the heating issues and terrible mouse control its almost impossible to use.

Take a look at Sabayon Linux 11. Rolling release schedule, works with EFI out of the box, no over heating, Gnome 3 interface is great.

I’ve posted about getting Ubuntu 12.10 on the Macbook Pro previously at however as much as I like Ubuntu the distro even in it’s guise as a mac ISO download has many flaws. The primary of which is its terrible touchpad support on this hardware and it’s tendency to run hotter than a dragons bowels..

There however are other Linux distros out there and some are actually very good on the Macbook Pro, chief of which is the   titled Sabayon Linux. An interesting distro which has been around for a while and as a long term user on PC’s I’ve always been very impressed with the distro as a whole even if it has had some flaws over the years many of these have been ironed out over the last few releases.

Other than the rather well done implementation of a handful of good desktop choices from Gnome 3, KDE, XFCE or Mate there are a few other things this distro has going for it.

Rolling Release

While canonical debate and discuss there are other distros which just get on with this wonderful concept, basically mark a point in the sand download the ISO and install, from that point forward updates are rolled out as and when they are needed and as such you don’t need to update to the “next release” as you essentially already have it because of the updates you have already installed.

While this might not sound like much it’s great if you don’t want to keep uploading from scratch every 6 months because a distribution update fails and it’s easier to just re-install.  This also means it’s quicker to roll out patches for exploits or bugs which isn’t a bad thing.

UEFI/Secure Boot Support

The wonder that is Microsoft has had its way and caused a disturbance in the Linux world by UEFI and Secure boot, the ins and outs of why are irrelevant, a new method of booting was much needed and could have been done better and should have been done open. Instead we have vendors locking down devices as Windows 8 only. Ubuntu and many other distros have a work around for this. Sabayon implements theirs in version 11 of this distro and it works well. This is important as the Mac uses EFI to boot and as such its possible to get this distro working easily without needing to change the way the disk’s boo sector is formatted which equals one less hurdle.

Package Management

It’s taken a while and a few missteps however the Sabayon team have got close to apt-get and ubuntu style ease of use package management. Using eqto and Rigo its possible to install most of what you want without needing to drop back to the Gentoo based emerge which the distro is based on.

Bleeding Edge

The sell of Sabayon is that it makes use of as up to date software that it can, this occasionally means a few glitches usually however the drivers for Nvidia, ATI and Broadcom are up to date and working, more so than even the latest Ubuntu. This is important if you are installing on a Mac as it makes use of several propitiatory drivers and they all work fresh from install.

Out of the Box Mac Support

And thereby hangs the moral of this post. From booting the CD, running the install and rebooting everything works, Wifi, Trackpad, graphics, battery, bluetooth it’s all there ready to go on your chosen desktop. Most of the software you will also need Office, Chrome, Java, Flash etc is all ready to go. This means for a 2Gb ISO instead of the 700Mb ISO which Ubuntu ships with however it also means you will be up and running without installing anything else.


Why bother? OSX isn’t that bad? well realistically no its not, however as older hardware becomes end of life quicker you may find a 2010 Macbook pro is not able to get that latest update. This shouldn’t have to render perfectly good hardware useless. Gnome 3 is my preference i love the desktop (and think i’m in a minority for some reason)  and it feels like it did when I was running leopard. As an alternative to Ubuntu, Sabayon is a slid distro only slightly let down by its support which needs a Wiki clean up and a few more less complex answers on it’s forums. The underlying Gentoo history does rear its head very occasionally, but not enough for an average user to notice.


15 comments on “Sabayon Linux 11 on a Macbook Pro (Updated 18/02/13)

  1. Pingback: Setting up Ubuntu 12.10 on a Macbook Pro « projectz

  2. jonc
    February 20, 2013

    Hi, I noticed in your Ubuntu post that you have the same version of the Macbook Pro that I do. I have the dual-graphic thing: Intel on the board plus AMD Radeon. This seems to have been an issue with some distributions. Have you noticed anything with your Sabayon install? Thanks.

  3. jonc
    February 20, 2013

    Any chance you can point me to a HowTo? I did a standard use-the-whole-drive (no dual boot, no manual partioning) install with the 64-bit MATE DVD image. It boots into a gray screen. If I boot off the DVD with the option key, the display does not show the hard drive, only a Windows and and EFI Boot icon.

    • baldur
      February 27, 2013

      if you read the website for sabayon it says that sabayon only boots in efi with the x86 distro

      • projectzme
        February 27, 2013

        And yet I’m doing it with the 64 bit version.. .??

      • projectzme
        February 27, 2013

        From the sabayon homepage 2 seconds ago..

        Starting from Sabayon 11, all the x86_64 live images can boot and install on {U,}EFI only systems through GRUB bootloader

        Took 3 seconds to google that..

  4. jonc
    February 27, 2013

    I installed Sabayon twice on my MacBook Pro 8,2. Both times I deliberately followed the standard, default install and partitioning route. Both times the install appeared to complete successfully. Both times it rebooted, repeatedly, into a gray screen. If I held down the option key during reboot, I got a Windows CD Icon and an EFI Boot icon. Clicking either got me… nada.

    Via a LiveCD, I could tell see that the Sabayon installer had no altered the partitions and, presumably, not actually installed anything.

    Does Sabayon install by default in EFI, or do I need to jump through some hoops to set that up?

    Fedora 18 installs by default in EFI on my MacBook. Ubuntu does not. Neither distribution, booted in EFI, allows me to disable the Radeon card and enable the Intel. Both use only Radeon, which is unacceptable given the heat and the fan noise. Unless I can switch to the Intel, I won’t run Linux on my MacBook Pro.

    • projectzme
      February 28, 2013

      Then my suggestion to you, if you are having issues is stick to OSX

  5. jonc
    February 27, 2013

    And, yes, it’s EFI hardware.

  6. denix
    March 3, 2013

    Hmm, I seem to be having the same issue as jonc above – I’ve tried installing Sabayon 11 KDE on my UEFI system multiple times (KDE or XBMC), but it still fails to boot. When I try to repair the system by reinstalling the bootloader, it throws an exception. Seems like there’s a bug in the installer and it fails when installing the EFI bootloader.

    The hardware is Intel’s Next Unit of Computing with i3 1.8GHz

    • projectzme
      March 3, 2013

      It’s a shame you guys are having problems however I can assure you I didn’t do anything other than boot the cd and install the OS. Could I suggest the sabayon forum and ask the question there. It may be a mac version issue, I know OSX occasionally updates the efi boot loader on some macs, it’s possible I have installed a more recent efi firmware update which is allowing me to boot?

      • jonc
        March 3, 2013

        I recall doing a firmware update one day before I tried the installs.

        The thing I’m after is the ability to disable the Radeon and go with the Intel GPU on the 8,2. I’ve installed Fedora 18 and Ubuntu 12.04.02 LTS in EFI mode and, while both see both GPU’s, I can’t switch to the Intel. This seems to a specific 8,2 issue. I may avoid trying more installs until/unless I see someone has managed to switch the GPU.

  7. Chris
    April 4, 2013

    I’m attempting to install this on a triple-boot machine (Lion, Win7, Sabayon). However, I cannot get the partitioning scheme quite right. I’ve devoted 35 GB for Linux on my HD. I’ve set 200 mb for /boot, 2000 mb for swap, and the rest for /. Once installation is complete, I get an error on reboot saying there isn’t a bootable disk. One possible source of error is on this page ( the partition scheme uses an extended partition, and I cannot get mine to do an extended partion. Any insight?

    • projectzme
      April 4, 2013

      I’m really sorry, triple boot systems are a bit hit and miss, I would recommend speaking to Falco or one of the admins on the Sabayon Forum. If you get any resolution I’d be happy to publish it to help others. Really sorry I can’t be more help,

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This entry was posted on February 17, 2013 by in guides, howto, Linux and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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