Since I'm in the mood to boot live CDs on notebooks, I decided to continue this little experiment by booting Sabayon 3.4e on both notebooks. While Sabayon booted to a graphical desktop on both machines, the experience was a little better on the M685 than on the M680. I didn't download this, I got it as an insert tucked inside the November issue of Linux Pro Magazine, which I picked up at a local Barnes and Noble bookstore tonight.
One of the nicest features of this distribution is its opening boot. Rather than watching some fancy artwork you're presented with a first-boot screen that identifies the graphic subsystem and allows you to select graphic acceleration or not. Sabayon correctly detected and identified both notebook's graphics chip sets. In both cases I choose graphic acceleration and when it finished booting into the desktop graphic acceleration was indeed enabled. By the way, not only do you get a very solid indication of successful graphical configuration, but the audio plays a rather funky ditty while booting, giving you a very good check of the audio portion. Audio worked fine on both notebooks.
As I noted above the Sabayon experience was a little better on the M685 (nVidia) than the M680 (ATI). Specifically, the keyboard would not work on the M680. I don't know why. I could use [Ctrl][Alt][F1], for example, to get to a full-screen terminal, and there the keyboard worked just fine. Curious, I pulled the CD out of the M680 and booted the M685 with it. There, the keyboard did work, so I continued looking around.
One common problem on both machines was the failure of the menu to work. The desktop comes up as KDE (which is just fine by me), but clicking on the lower right to get the KDE menu would not work on either notebook. I finally launched applications by discovering and using the run command dialog. You get a run command dialog by right-clicking on the desktop for its pop-up menu, then selecting the second entry. That's how, for example, I got Firefox, Konsole and KSnapshot.
Of course, with a working keyboard I was able to configure the wireless network to log into my home network. In fact, wireless was properly detected on both notebooks.
The screen shot above is playing a flash video from CNN. Nothing to download or install. It just worked. Note also that the NVIDIA X Server Settings dialog is available. The ATI Catalyst Control Center was available on the M680's desktop, but Sabayon booted the desktop using the Xorg 'free' driver, so CCC would not work. I can only assume that if the ATI drivers were used then CCC would work. Sabayon seems to have the nVidia drivers on the distribution. I saw the classic nVidia boot screen right before the desktop came up.
And just for grins I captured this view of the 'flattened cube' effect with reflections. This is the kind of performance I would have expected Ubuntu 7.10 to provide, particularly when I read all that Ubuntu was supposed to provide from the Ubuntu evangelists.
Warts aside, I haven't had this high a level of out-of-the-box experience since Mint Beta 17, and that was on europa using the older ATI 9700 Pro.
I just checked the Sabayon site, and it looks like the current release is 3.4f. So I will download and burn a new CD to see if any of the problems encountered with 3.4e are fixed.
On My Soapbox
I'm reminded a second time that the real pleasure of using Linux isn't with the majors such as Redhat (Fedora), Novell (openSUSE), and Canonical/Debian (Ubuntu), but with alternates such as Mint (building on Ubuntu) and now Sabayon (building on Gentoo), especially if you've got fairly recent hardware you want to take full advantage of. Canonical and Ubuntu eclipsed pure Debian because Debian would not add contemporary features in a timely manner. History may repeat itself if Redhat, Novell, and Canonical (just to name three) aren't careful.