Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fedora 23 Review: Well, it’s Little Complicated

workin' it like Monday morning

Fedora 23 arrived a week later than originally planned, just like Fedora 22. While there are couple of Fedora spins, featuring popular desktop environments, for the past couple of days, I’ve been using the main release which is based on GNOME Shell (3.18).
Review OK, – but the latest Fedora, number 23, represents a significant update that was worth waiting for.
That’s thanks not just to upstream projects like GNOME, now at 3.18, but also some impressive new features from team Fedora.
Like its predecessor, this Fedora comes in three base configurations – Workstation, Server and Cloud. The former is the desktop release and the primary basis for my testing, though I also tested out the Server release this time around.

The default Fedora 23 live CD will install the GNOME desktop though there are plenty of spins available if you prefer something else. I opted for GNOME since a lot of what's new in GNOME, like much improved Wayland support is currently only really available through Fedora.
It’s true that GNOME 3.18 comes with many subtle refinements and features, but one of these features (a major one unfortunately) looked confusing to me, just like I find it difficult to cope with the default desktop layout of GNOME3, which is why I only use the ‘Classic Desktop Session’ as it resembles the old GNOME2 desktop (well, to a certain degree). Fedora 22 also had let go of one majorly useful utility (systemd’s ‘readahead’ component) and unfortunately, Fedora 23 too comes without it.
However, due to my history with GNU/Linux, I’ve formed certain viewpoints about GNOME and Fedora etc, thus I was not surprised to find myself in this kind of a situation. In simple terms, I know what I should and what I should not expect. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, I’ll explain them as the article progress.

The Desktop…

Except for the new wallpaper, there are no apparent new changes on the GNOME classic desktop session. However, as soon as I started to open applications, I noticed that due to the colors used in the default theme, it’s quite difficult to read the application window titles on the bottom panel.

There shouldn’t exist such issue in the original GNOME Shell since the concept of minimizing an application is absent. And since the ‘Classic Desktop Session’ is rendered using Shell Extensions, this is probably due to a malfunctioning extension. Still, it’s quite frustrating, though I can’t exactly blame the GNOME developers since their focus has been on the original GNOME Shell layout, not the ‘Classic Session’. And maintaining two desktop shells, especially if they’re based on two fundamentally different design guidelines (or perspectives shall I say), is a difficult task.
Anyhow, speaking of changes, most of the new changes have been focused around individual applications, not the desktop itself. And one of the applications that has received a lot of subtle new changes is the file manager, a major component of any serious desktop environment. I’ll list a few that I noticed.
When entering to an empty folder, ‘Files’ (file manager) now displays a nice ‘Folder is Empty’ template. I don’t think it’s that important, but it’s a subtle enhancement.
The files places section of the Sidebar is now replaced by the single ‘+ Other Locations’ entry. Once clicked, it displays all the found networks, locally available mount-points etc. While this change has simplified the file manager’s look-n-feel, I prefer the old one due to its ability to give easy access to these locations.

It all looks good now, but unless you have the file manager opened, there is no way to know anything about it. You must first open the file manager to see what the current state of the file or folder copying is. I find it very frustrating and this is a major issue for me.
In turn, I quite prefer what Ubuntu’s Unity & KDE (it displays it on the bottom-taskbar) have done actually because you can just glance at the desktop and get a sense of the current state of the file or folder copy progress. Very intuitive.

Boot-Up Speed…

Everyone loves a fast booting operating system, bun unfortunately, Fedora 23, just like its predecessor, is not going to impress anyone. Fedora 23 was 56.5% slower to boot compared to Fedora 21 and 49% slower compared to Ubuntu 15.10.

Hardware Recognition and ACPI…

Just like its predecessor, Fedora 23 was able to properly configure nearly all my hardware devices. I reported that Fedora 22 was even able to recognize my proprietary fingerprint reader, but I couldn’t really use it because it failed to recognize the finger print. Well, in Fedora 23 I was never able to log into the desktop by swiping my finger (maybe giving the middle finger would’ve worked! ðŸ˜› ). But, once on the desktop, I was able to perform some administrative tasks such as unlocking user management utility by swiping my finger. But it too doesn’t always work.

System Responsiveness…

Despite all the newer, faster and more powerful hardware, the hard disk drive is still by far the bottleneck of computing, because it’s the slowest (relatively speaking). So stressing it and then testing how the operating system behaves, makes sense.
How I achieve that or what I do is very simple. I copy a file (about 1.5 GB, though there isn’t a limit to its size) within two locations of my ‘Home’ folder and as soon as it starts, I try to open a multimedia file (here I installed VLC manually) and then try to open a couple of programs through the start-menu (if one is available) and also by searching, because the idea is to put the hard disk under pressure.
When this is all happening I notice if the multimedia playback gets interrupted, how many programs get opened and I also observe the sensitivity of the cursor. Then based on that experience I make a judgement (yikes! ðŸ˜€ ). That’s it.
So how did it go under Fedora 23?
As you can see, Fedora 23 did take its time when shutting down and was the slowest of the bunch (about 134.5% compared to Fedora 21, 100% compared to Fedora 22 and 88.9% compared to Ubuntu 15.10).

Final Words…

First of all, please remember that this review, just like the previous Fedora reviews, is based on the GNOME Shell’s Classic Desktop layout, not the GNOME Shell, so all my judgments revolve around it.
Performance-wise, its true that Fedora 23 is degraded, more or less, though, depending on what performance aspect we’re considering. But that’s not what troubles me. Because if it’s technical, then it can be fixed. What troubles me is their attitude, and unfortunately attitudes are not that easy to fix.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fedora 22: Don't be glum about the demise of Yum – this is a welcome update

Retreat from the dark side

Review The big news with Fedora 22, just delivered, is the Fedora project actually managed to stick pretty close to its proposed schedule.

Fedora 22 arrived just one week later than scheduled – but what's a week after the month-long delays of the last few release cycles?

It would seem that the recent top-down restructuring of the Fedora project is working, at least in terms of development time. The Fedora release announcement characterises Fedora 22 as: "Fedora 21 after it'd been to college, landed a good job, and kept its New Year's Resolution to go to the gym on a regular basis."

I would hesitate to endorse the gym bit since I found this release a little sluggish, but it builds on the very nice base that was Fedora 21 and brings in all the latest packages.
That new structure in the Fedora project has seen Fedora 22 released in three "flavours:" Cloud, Server, and Workstation. All three build out from the same base, adding packages relevant to the individual use case.
Although I tested both the Server and Workstation options, I'll primarily be focussing on the Workstation variant since that's the desktop version most users will want.

Perhaps the most interesting change is that Fedora 22 no longer uses Yum to manage packages. That may comes as a shock to some since, if you're like me, the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Fedora is Yum.

However, Yum has been deprecated in this release and replaced by DNF and hawkey for package management.
The good news for long-time Fedora users is that DNF is very close to being totally command-line compatible with Yum. And Yum is even aliased to DNF, so you can still type "yum install mypackage," and, once it's done telling you Yum is deprecated, it will install as always. But that will change in future releases, so you're better off getting used to typing "dnf install mypackage".

In short, yes, Yum is gone, but oddly, you may not even notice.

The installation process hasn't changed much in this release. I've criticised the Fedora installer in the past so I won't repeat that here except to wonder – once again – why confirmation buttons are at the top of the windows. I can't think of another piece of software on any platform that does this.

The most visible change in this release is a version bump for GNOME. Fedora has long served as one of the best showcases for GNOME Shell and Fedora 22 is no exception. This release updates GNOME to 3.16, which is notable for its new, lighter theme and revamped notifications system.

The first thing you'll notice when you fire up Fedora 22 is that GNOME's default dark look has been toned down a bit. Ever since GNOME 3.x débuted its default (and not very customisable) theme has been black. That's subtly changed in this release with many elements moving to a lighter shade of grey.
It may not sound like much, but the result is much easier on the eyes, especially all the white text against a dark background, which is now considerably less garish.

Roomy and less gloomy, if a little bit sloooow

The notifications system has been revamped in this release as well: gone are the bottom-of-the-screen notifications that always covered up key elements of the app I was using (particularly terminal windows). Instead, notifications have been moved to the top centre of the screen where they're easier to see and dismiss. The notifications history view has been rolled into the calendar menu item in the top bar.

It's worth noting, too, that there appears to be a Fedora 22-only element to the notifications. Long-running Terminal processes will pop up a notification when they finish, which is helpful because it lets you, for example, start compiling something which you can then send to the background and move on to something else. You'll get a notification when your compile (or other task) is complete.

There are some apps that still need a tray-style menu – I'm looking at you, Skype – and for those there is still a legacy tray menu that acts like a drawer and tucks away off screen in the bottom left corner when not in use.

The new notifications system in GNOME 3.16 is nice, but it unfortunately appears to have come at the cost of the media player controls, which are nowhere to be found in the top bar in this release. The plan is to add those back in GNOME 3.18, but I couldn't find a way to use them in this release.

As with the last couple of GNOME releases, there's an option to run GNOME atop Wayland and support for Wayland continues to improve. In fact, the GNOME project says Wayland support is "approaching its final stages," but in my limited testing it remains too unstable for day-to-day use.

GNOME 3.16 is also notable for adding two new "preview" apps: one for ebooks (currently limited to comics in .cbr and other digital formats, though .epub support is in the works) and another for calendar. Fedora doesn't ship with either of the new apps installed, opting to stick with Evolution for calendaring and, well, nothing for ebooks (the very popular Calibre is in the repos).

Both of the GNOME apps are in the repos if you would like to test them out. They're both simplistic and a little buggy at the moment, but Calendar shows some promise of filling what I consider the biggest hole in the default GNOME software stack that most distros use.

Speaking of the rest of the GNOME stack, it has – as you might expect – been updated in Fedora 22. Fedora sticks with the traditional GNOME software for the most part, Evolution for email and calendar, Firefox for web browsing, Rhythmbox for music and Shotwell for organising your photos.

Then there's Nautilus, the default file browser which has about 30 per cent of the features it once had. The good news with Nautilus in this release is that the delete key will once again, er, delete files (the last version changed this to ctrl-delete). To counter the possibility that by pressing "delete" you actually meant, "no, keep it", there's a new, easy to spot undo option.

GNOME is of course not the only way to run Fedora 22 Workstation. There are spins for just about every popular desktop environment. It's worth noting that the Xfce spin has made the rather significant upgrade to Xfce 4.12, which brings some very nice changes to the Xfce desktop. Similarly, the KDE spin gets updated to the latest Plasma 5 desktop environment, which features the new "Breeze" theme for KDE.
Other Fedora-specific improvements include the usual developer tools updates. Fedora shows developers the love with the latest version of popular web development frameworks like Ruby on Rails and Django. Perl, Python, PHP and most other popular programming languages are similarly updated.

The Server and Cloud versions of this release gain some added support for popular container and deployment solutions like Vagrant and Project Atomic, which is designed to deploy and manage Docker containers.

By and large, Fedora 22 is a welcome update. The chief problem I encountered is that it felt a bit sluggish next to Ubuntu. Whether that's the result of GNOME or something more on Fedora's end is difficult to say; it was just that Ubuntu GNOME felt faster when running alongside Fedora 22.

Suffice to say, if you're used to Ubuntu 15.04 with Unity or something even lighter and snappier, Fedora with GNOME 3.16 will probably feel a little on the slow side.

Relative to Fedora 21, number 22 makes for a very welcome update. That with the fact that Fedora appears to be back on track with a six-monthly release schedule is good news indeed for Fedora fans. ®

Fedora 21 review: Linux’s sprawliest distro finds a new focus !!

Fedora 21  - Uh, not again !!

Like most Linux distros, Fedora is a massive, sprawling project. Frankly, it's sprawl-y to the point that it has felt unfocused and a bit lost at times. Just what is Fedora? The distro has served as a kind of showcase for GNOME 3 ever since GNOME 3 hit the beta stage. So Fedora in theory is meant to target everyday users, but at the same time the project pours tremendous energy into building developer tools like DevAssistant. Does that make Fedora a developer distro? A newbie-friendly GNOME showcase? A server distro? An obscure robotics distro?

Today, the answer to all the above questions is "yes." And the way to make sense of it all is what Fedora calls Fedora.Next.

Fedora.Next is Fedora's term for its new organization and release structure. Think of Fedora.Next's structure as a series of concentric rings where each ring is supported by the one inside it. At the center are the core components of the system, APIs that applications hook into and so on. On the outside are the most visible of the new layers, what Fedora calls "Environments." For now the available Environments consist of Workstation (Desktop), Server, and Cloud. Each environment is optimized to suit what it says on the tin, and because these are very modular, it won't be hard for Fedora to add new Environments as needed. (For example, perhaps there will one day be a Mobile Environment.)

The new pre-packaged Environments don't prevent users from personalizing Fedora to your liking, however. These three Environments simply represent the primary areas of focus for developers. By doing so, this offers Fedora a bit of internal focus and direction, allowing for the creation of more targeted "products" for users.

Fedora Project Leader Matthew Miller likens the Fedora.Next structure to LEGO. "One of the related (and perpetual) community discussions centers around what exactly Fedora is," he has said. "Traditionally, the answer is: we take the 'raw plastic' of the software out there in the universe and we mold it into high-precision LEGO bricks, and users can plug them together. The idea [with Environments] is we can take some of our bricks, and we can ship those as sets."

Miller is quick to reassure long-time Fedora fans that the project is "not getting rid of the basic supply of bricks... we want you to build other things." But the renewed sense of focus is apparent in the new Fedora.Next release structure.

From an outsider's perspective, this appears to have re-invigorated the Fedora Project. The new life is evident in its recently released update, Fedora 21, the first built around the project's new structure. After spending some time with this major update, Fedora 21 feels like one of the strongest releases the project has put out to date. It's well worth the upgrade.

Fedora Workstation

The Workstation Environment is what you would have installed previously if you downloaded Fedora Live CD and installed the defaults.

In Fedora 21, that will get you a GNOME desktop. The old "spins," which consist primarily of different desktops, are still available. Presumably, these build on the same basic set of packages found in the GNOME Workstation release, and as we noted, Fedora has long been a showcase distro for GNOME 3.x. With that in mind, we stuck with the default GNOME 3.14 desktop while testing.

First, though, you have to install Fedora using what is supposed to be an intuitive installer, something so simple you can't fail. Except that instead of "can't fail," it's so simple you can't tell what has to happen. Perhaps we're just brainwashed by the form-based installers found in Mint, Ubuntu, Debian, openSUSE, ElementaryOS, and, well, just about everywhere else, but Fedora's button-based installer—buttons, which hide forms—drove us crazy. Why make users click an extra button to set up an account for a workstation environment when everyone obviously needs a user account?

The Fedora installer isn't part of the GNOME project, but we wouldn't be surprised to learn the same developer who turned the Nautilus file browser into a useless toy also had a go at the Fedora installer. Most users will get it, it's not Arch (at least Arch's arcane install process is well documented), but it gets things off to a bumpy start.

The best thing we can say about Fedora's installer is that you only have to use it once. Just remember to create a new user and set your root password.

GNOME 3.14

Once Fedora 21 is installed, you'll be greeted by the GNOME 3.14 desktop (assuming you found the button to create a user account).

Fedora leapfrogged past GNOME 3.12—Fedora 20 shipped with GNOME 3.10—so this is a major leap forward for Fedora fans. GNOME 3.14 brings plenty of new features, including a couple new applications, an updated theme, and some more improvements in HiDPI screen support. In fact, GNOME has long boasted some of the best HiDPI support around, and this release continues to build on that. The little details have been polished to the point where we haven't seen anything amiss running Fedora 21 in a virtual machine on a retina Macbook Pro.

Fedora's nearly stock GNOME 3.14 looks great on HiDPI screens and the updated GNOME theme gives the desktop a clean, simple look and feel.

If you're updating all the way from GNOME 3.10, you'll notice a completely rewritten Weather app that taps GNOME's new geolocation API to automatically pull in your local forecast. Fedora 21 does not, however, ship with some of the other new GNOME apps like Photos. Fedora 21 has elected to stick with the slightly more feature-rich Shotwell. GNOME Photos is available in the Fedora repos and has some new online account support, but in our experience it's a bit buggy for actually working with something as important as your photo library.

This release also brings the first real support for Wayland: Mutter (GNOME's default display manager) can now work as a Wayland compositor. Just log out of the default session and click the gear icon to choose the "GNOME on Wayland" option. Fedora should seamlessly fall back to X where Wayland isn't supported.

GNOME 3.14 makes for a different but perfectly usable desktop. At this point the 3.x line is well polished and feels mature. Its rather different take on the desktop interface is not for everyone, and in fact it's not our choice for everyday use. But if you come around to its way of thinking, GNOME 3 is perfectly capable of getting out of your way and letting you do what you want. The only real downside to GNOME that we've experienced is the default file manager, Nautilus, which is pretty limited. But after swapping it out with the Nautilus fork, Nemo, GNOME 3 became a lot more likable.

If you haven't taken GNOME for a spin in a while, it's worth another look, as Fedora 21 makes the best GNOME platform we've tested, hands down.

Yum, now with more Yum-iness

As much as we love some of the developer tools and little side projects Fedora churns out (like the GNOME color management tools it pioneered), we've never been a fan of Fedora's package manager. Fedora 21 changes that. Yum is no longer the slow, awkward beast it used to be, and by extension neither is the Software center tools (which is the pretty-much-only-works-in-Fedora GNOME Software app).

There was a time when Ubuntu's Software Center was perhaps one of the best graphical software installation tools out there, and yum-based distros like Fedora looked slow and ugly in comparison. These days, more or less the opposite is true. Not only is Fedora's graphical software app one of the fastest we've used (speed will obviously depend somewhat on your Internet connection and available mirrors), but it's also clean and well-organized. It offers a great search tool.
Fedora continues to target the developer audience with very up-to-date versions of Perl, Python, Ruby, and most other languages you can think of. Anything that isn't there out of the box is most likely available in single DevAssistant command. If you're a developer, and you haven't checked out DevAssistant, you need to. It's the simplest way we've seen to get a complete development stack up and running.

Kernel updates

Fedora 21 ships with Linux kernel 3.17.1, which brings the usual slew of latest hardware support. However, this kernel is also notable for giving Fedora 21 tentative support for ARM 64 chips. ARM 64 is not yet considered a "primary architecture" for Fedora, but most things should work, according to Fedora Magazine.

Fedora's kernel team has also adopted a more modular approach with this release, stripping things back a bit at the request of the Cloud environment developers. The result is a considerably smaller footprint for the Cloud environment, though both Workstation and Server will be roughly the same as the previous releases, size-wise.

Fedora Server

While the Workstation environment is a good base on which to build your desktop experience, the new Fedora Server Environment is more specifically tailored to the needs of sysadmins.

The first release of the Server Environment features a few new tools, like Cockpit, a server monitoring tool with a Web-based interface you can connect to with your browser. If you're new to sysadmin tasks—things like starting and stopping services, storage admin, and so on—or, if you just dislike doing everything through an SSH session, Cockpit is worth checking out. It's more or less everything you're already doing on the command line available via a Web-based GUI. And since it's all the same processes in the end, you can start Apache in the Web panel and stop it from the command line. It's probably not going to replace your handcrafted shell scripts and preferred command line tools, but it's a nice option for newcomers.
This release also bundles in a couple new-to-Fedora tools like OpenLMI, perhaps best thought of as a remote API for system management, and FreeIPA, which aims to simplify the process of managing users and groups securely.

Then there's RoleKit, which is a brand new Fedora creation that looks like it will be very handy in the future despite being limited right now. In a sense, RoleKit is the sysadmin equivalent of Fedora's DevAssistant. It will help you install and configure packages aimed at a specific role. For example, RoleKit allows you to call up everything you need to run a mail server or everything you need to run a LAMP stack. It's promising even if it's incomplete.

Fedora for you

We've used Fedora off and on since Fedora 6 (which at that time was known as Fedora Core 6). Without reservation, this is the best release to date.

That said, the GNOME desktop is not for everyone. Fortunately, there are plenty of other "spins" available, including a version with the MATE-desktop, which can now use Compiz if you'd like to re-experience Fedora with wobbly windows just like the days of yore. There are also spins featuring KDE, Xfce, and LXDE among other desktops.

More importantly, Fedora 21 sees the project plowing into the future with what feels like a renewed sense of direction and purpose.

If you're a desktop user, there's a Fedora for you. If you're a sysadmin, there's a Fedora for you. If you're chasing the dream of cloud server futures, there's a Fedora for you. And of course if you're just looking for a distro on which to build the ultimate robot, there's still a Fedora for you.


Why did Fedora 21 have to be so buggy? Why? I wanted it to succeed, I wanted it to be cool and fun, just like the last release. There was so much potential, and then, something went wrong. Quite a few somethings, apparently. Installer partition selections, bootloader, login, codecs, printing, desktop effects. Damn. Fedora, where art thou?

Anyhow, Fedora 21 KDE is just not as good as it should be. Not as good as its predecessor, not as good as its rival, and most importantly, not as good as Fedora. There must be a baseline to quality, and it must never be crossed, downwards. This time, I did not get what I wanted, and I'm sad, because I know that Fedora can do it. We've all seen it happen. So more time is needed in the special oven for naughty distros. Perhaps I rushed testing just days after the official release, but it is how it is. 6/10. Done.

Ferocious Fedora 20 review: Cutting edge Linux still as sharp as ever ..

If you want to a bleeding edge desktop or server Linux, then Fedora is the Linux distribution for you. If you want to play it safe, try something else.
While Heisenbug — programmer jargon for a bug that disappears or changes behavior when you try to isolate it — uses the newest-of-the-new open-source programs it's not hard to set up. Its installation program, Anaconda, as J. A. Watson shows in his step by step Anaconda walk-through, is very easy to use. If you've setup a computer from a DVD or USB stick before, you'll have no trouble with Fedora 20.
Live session & installation
Fedora 19 was a troubled system, with kernel bugs and other problems. When I first tested it, it would not even let me login. Not so this time around. From the start, everything was rather peachy, I must admit. Boring, but peachy.
The free software thingie means you are restricted to just some casual browsing and no fun at all. I can accept ideology, and in this sense, Ubuntu is no greater charmer either. The live session is only there to give you a sampling of what's ahead.
The installer is still kind of tricky, but I've spat enough poison and venom in my previous two reviews, so I won't be doing it now. We will see this installer in action again soon, but that's a different story altogether. Anyhow, after a bit of careful fiddling, I was able to setup a proper quad-boot configuration.
Since the installer is kind of dangerous, you pay more attention to what you're doing. Then, probably because whoever designed it figured there could be terrible moments of panic, they added all kinds of safety measures, so you won't be killing your data easily, unless you really insist. There's a lot of mouse clicking needed before you format existing partitions. Paradoxically, the unclever layout makes it safer. But more error prone.
The installer does have a bunch of visual glitches. The text is positioned flush with the surrounding div, so it appears as if some letters are cropped. There are so many ways the installer can be prettified, but we won't go there.

Using Fedora
The installation took about 10 minutes. There were no problems. And now, we need to make Fedora presentable. What I did was try new themes, new windows decorations, new wallpapers, installed easyLife, which in turn setup the RPMForge and Livna repositories for extra stuff, like codecs, Skype, Java, and more, and finally edited the basic layout of the desktop to my liking. You will soon see the results. And I promise a dedicated article on this topic!
Package management
I was most pleasantly surprised by both Apper and yum. They are much faster than before, even with all the compression and bandwidth optimization. The system update for 445 packages took maybe five minutes, at full line speed. Nice, given the distro was only recently released, and usually the repos choke in the first week or so.
An essential part of all my reviews - this will get your codecs and such. Now, for all those who emailed me about alternative Fedora desktop and repo management tools, I've not forgotten, we will talk about this soon.
Multimedia playback
After this step is complete, you will have your pr0n helper utils, namely Flash and MP3, so you can watch your stuff. Moreover, HD playback worked just fine, and I tested a WebM file, with Xvid and Lame, in Dragon Player, without any issues.
Desktop effects
For some reason, I was not able to activate them.
Fedora's default set is okay, but not mind-boggling. You do get rekonq and Kmail, rather than Firefox and Thunderbird. Then, there's the Calligra Suite. On top of that, you also get the lovely Marble geo-educational tool, which was also the only application to crash, just once, bringing the total distro sum of problems to one. Yup. SELinux was quiet, too.
It did not work using the standard KDE utility, but you can solve the problem by installing thesystem-config-printer tool, normally intended for Gnome, logging out and back into your session. Similar to doing the same thing on Ubuntu and friends. More later.
Resource usage
Fedora 20 Heisenbug KDE edition is not the leanest distro. It tolled some 500MB worth of RAM, and the CPU utilization was normally about 3-5%. Overall, the distro was fairly responsive, but you can do better.
Look & feel
You know how I think that openSUSE 13.1 KDE is among the prettiest desktops around? Well, then, why not bring its beauty to the rest of the Linux world? Which is exactly what I did. I installed the openSUSE Plasma theme, using the KDE Settings Menu, and did some extra cool work. Remember, I promised a separate tutorial.

No, not really. The logout can be slow, but it's nothing special. Other than that, the system was perfectly stable. There were no hangs, crashes or other bugs. Even the KDEWallet was silent, and there's the new Wireless utility we saw in Kubuntu. In the worst case, when logging in, it will prompt you for your password, but that's it. No bogus failed messages, no issues there. Stable, robust. Suspend & resume worked fine, too.
Fedora 20 Heisenbug, adorned with the KDE desktop, has some issues. For example, the printing is borked, the desktop effects do not work, and there's the manner of default boredom. Moreover, Marble crashed once. But that's all really.
Other than that, the system worked fine. After 30 minutes of serious customization, I had everything, including a range of popular, mainstream software, like GIMP, VLC, Skype, or Steam, I had all my codecs, and the desktop looked beautiful. This was so much unlike the typical Fedora experience, and I'm feeling rather intrigued. True, you have to sweat a little to get what you need, but the end result is quite pleasing. Gone is the beta quality, it seems. And so, for the first time, yours truly, I recommend you consider Fedora for your production environment. Overall grade, 8.5/10. Now, fix those effects and printing!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fedora 19 Schrödinger’s Cat Review – Back in the box

After a long delayed and divisive Fedora 18, how has the latest Fedora shaped up

Like previous releases before it, Fedora 19, code-named Schrodinger’s Cat, comes with many, many new features and feature enhancements, and, of course, its own share of bugs. Installation images are available as Live CD/DVD ISO images. The main edition uses the GNOME 3 desktop environment, with an unmodified GNOME Shell. Installation images for other popular desktop environments are also available for download. These other flavors, known as Spins, run the KDE, LXDE, Xfce, and MATE Compiz desktops.
There are also specialty flavors designed for specific computing tasks (Design-suite, Electronic-Lab, Games, Jam-KDE – for the musician in you, Robotics, Security, and SoaS), and ready-to-run images for Cloud platforms. Installation images for ARM, PPC, and s390 architectures are also available.
This review is based on test installations of the main edition and the KDE Spin on real hardware and in a virtual environment powered by VirtualBox. I usually like to begin a review from the installer, but for Fedora 19, I’ll leave for somewhere towards the end. The following list shows the topics I’ll touch on in this review, starting with features common to the main edition and all the Spins.
Here are the list of features that interest me:
  • Network upgrade of existing installations
  • Automatic bug reporting tool
  • Firewalld Rich Language
  • SELinux
  • 3D printing
  • Anaconda
  • GNOME 3 Edition
  • KDE Spin
  • Graphical Package Manager(s)
So the famous Schrödinger’s cat experiment is one of those stories from history that is perceived incorrectly in popular culture. Like King Cnut arrogantly trying to stop the tide, or Bill Gates saying that 640K would be enough for everyone, Erwin Schrödinger’s hypothetical experiment was actually a way of explaining how some interpretations of quantum mechanics were a contradiction of common sense. While this name was voted on for Fedora 19 by, of course, the masses of the internet, it’s sort of indicative of the kind of problems people have been having with the default state of the distro for the last few iterations. GNOME has been moving quickly away from the traditional desktop metaphor for years, with recent updates going against a mouse and keyboard workflow. The anaconda installer update from Fedora 18 limited some options in favor of a more aesthetically pleasing experience. The distro has also not been particularly bug free, with systemd causing headaches for some. Fedora 19 had a much quicker turn around time this cycle, with only a week or so delay throughout the schedule. Have some of these immediate issues been addressed, or are there new ones to throw on the list?

The first thing you’ll experience with Fedora is the installer, which has been upgraded again. Hardware recognition seems fine, and there’s now a lot more control over the partitioning and editing of storage locations, an issue a lot of people had with Fedora 18. However, the method of doing so is not the most straightforward. Like in other graphical installers, you can select the hard drive you wish to use, however instead of then performing a manual partition, or selecting a recommended installation scheme, you need to start “reclaiming” space. This can be done by either completely deleting any existing partitions, resizing, or creating your own through the reclaim option, otherwise it will automatically try and fill into the space already made. Pre-existing swap partitions are ignored though for some reason, and 19 will create its own if space is cleared out. The installation will start before you can finish creating a root password or user, saving some time, however it still seems that this new installer is not ready. While Fedora is the test platform for Red Hat, the new installer still needs a lot more time in the oven.
If perhaps the installer is supposed to be more in-line with the simplification of GNOME, it’s doing a good job. GNOME 3.8 hasn’t had many major changes over 3.6, insomuch that it’s still “dumbed down” in many respects. As if to highlight that this is the path the GNOME Project is taking, a video explaining how to use GNOME launches on first boot. Credit where it’s due though – the search function launched from whatever the Windows Key is being called these days has always been good. Even if it’s supposed to be a substitute for a large amount of a workflow, the search function part is faster than mousing around in most cases, and has now been upgraded to include some system settings results in your search. Sort of like a hybrid between the same functionality in Unity’s HUD and the classic search results, but without an unnecessary split between them, or the inclusion of Amazon adverts.

The software updater has also been separated from the generically termed “Software” package manager now as well in the applications list, although it’s still accessible from there. It’s here and in the repos that you can access all the alternative desktops if you so please, although there are three extra spins of Fedora that you can also use from the start. As well as the KDE one, there’s also the lightweight XFCE and LXDE choices, with other popular desktops such as Cinnamon 1.8 and MATE available in the repos. This version of Cinnamon is built to work on GNOME 3.8, so you won’t need to downgrade.
The distro itself is a touch more stable than Fedora 18 on the physical setup we used to test it. In a virtual machine though, we did experience some quite noticeable slowdown and minor graphical glitches – nothing too serious for just testing, but for virtual distribution, you may need to do some extensive testing before deployment. Fedora then is not quite the beast it used to be, with its cutting edge stance harming it more than it has in the past. For those that were using Fedora 18 without any issues, it’s a great upgrade, however for those that moved away in recent years, this won’t be bringing you back. The box contains only one quantum waveform, and it’s not looking good for the cat.


The latest Fedora has fixed some of the problems we had with the previous editions, however there’s still a way to go for some of its features..

Fedora 18 Review – Great Bovine Spheres!

A new Fedora is always a big deal, as the Linux distribution is known for being on the bleeding edge of free and open-source software and technology, coming with the best and brightest the extended community has to offer. Fedora 18 may have had a bit of a bumpy ride to the finish line, but the longer wait hasn’t hampered the quality of the release at all. Any quality problems are mainly down to GNOME 3.6, but we’ll get to that.

Like we mentioned in our review of the beta, the new installer is a wonderful, minimalist designed app that allows for quick installations with decent default settings, and a more advanced set-up if you have some specific requirements. It also starts copying and installing while you finish up with root passwords and such, similar to how the Ubuntu installer works. While there’s not always much to do after the actual installation starts, it’s a step in the right direction to streamline the installation process. It also has the standard post-reboot user set-up that we also saw in Fuduntu this issue, which is good for OEMs and Sysadmins, and doesn’t really slow down the process for desktop users. The actual installation itself is a little slower than we’d like, but it won’t keep you waiting for too long.
It’s after all this that you’re put straight into an updated GNOME environment – GNOME 3.6. We’ve aired our grievances in previous issues about this latest version of GNOME, about how it slows down workflow in favour of being touch and keyboard friendly. Luckily, it’s at this point that you can start installing any number of other desktop environments, such as KDE, XFCE, or newcomers Cinnamon and MATE. Now that both of these are native to the repos, they definitely look a lot better than previous implementations on Fedora 17, with fonts being cripser on Cinnamon, and MATE gaining the ability to look a lot more like a modern desktop. Red Hat has a big stake in GNOME, same as Fedora, so it’s not surprising that it still shows up as the main desktop choice. It would be nice though to have more available spins though.
There’s a bit of an update to the default app selection as well, and while nothing has really changed that’s not related to the system settings, the Fedora Project have at least added the LibreOffice suite to the starting selection. While it’s a minor thing, it’s a nice addition. On the system tools side, the package manager, updater, etc, are all now part of the same generic Software app. This is not accessible by typing update or updater into the search bar, and in GNOME 3.6 the drop down menu to access the graphical updater is a little hidden. It’s easier to just use YUM to update the system.
The Fedora devs also thought it noteworthy to mention the inclusion of a new command line tool, System Storage Manager. This simple package available in the repos can do some basic partition management, as well as checking partitions for errors and such. It’s a nice little tool, perhaps more suited to headless servers or working from the command line.

Otherwise, it’s got the standard package and security updates, a move to Linux kernel 3.6.y, and is still a great operating system for desktop, server, or the cloud.


Fedora 18 is a minor but important improvement over Fedora 17, and the new desktop environment choice is great for desktop users, especially with the inclusion of a default GNOME 3.6. It’s just as slick, up-to-date and free as ever, and well worth the update..

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fedora Project - Fedora 17

Fedora 17 & GNOME 3.4: Return to a useful Linux desktop (Review)

UPDATED FOR FINAL RELEASE: May 29th, 2012: I have been using FedoraRed Hat's community Linux distribution, since day one back in September 2003 when Red Hat split its commercial Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Back then, people hated Red Hat for this move, butbusinesses soon learned to love RHEL and Linux fans grew to love Fedora. But, then along came GNOME 3.x, Fedora's default desktop choice, and it all changed.
GNOME 3.2, which was Fedora 16's desktop, was dreadful. You don't have to trust me on that though, just ask Linus Torvalds, Linux's founder. He hated GNOME 3.2.
That was then. This is now. Fedora 17, with the ungainly name Beefy Miracle--no I'm not making that up, that really is its name--is now out and it's much better than it was.
Fedora 17's release was delayed until May 29th,  but some last minute bugs were ironed out in the process. so I have no complaints.
I tested Fedora on my faithful old Lenovo ThinkPad R61. This four year old notebook is powered by a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor T7500 and has 2GBs of RAM. I also used it on a VirtualBox virtual machine on one of my Dell Inspiron 530S PCs. This systemis powered by a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800-MHz front-side bus. This PC has 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB SATA (Serial ATA) drive, and an Integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) chip set.
Fedora 17 is built on top of the Linux 3.3 kernel. Its default file system though is not, as was once expected, btrfs, aka Butters FS, but ext4 instead.
One fundamental and controversial under the hood change is that Fedora 17 has started work on "getting rid of the separation of /bin and /usr/bin, as well as /sbin and /usr/sbin, /lib and /usr/lib, and /lib64 and /usr/lib64. All files from the directories in / will be merged into their respective counterparts in /usr, and symlinks for the old directories will be created instead."
The idea behind this switch to a unified file system is that it will increase Linux's compatibility with other Unix-like systems such as Solaris. Its supporters also argue that it will reduce the complexity of Linux systems and make it easier to run virtual systems, share files, make back-ups simpler, and so on. Fedora is the first of the major Linux distributions to make this move. The critics of this change simply don't see much point in making such a fundamental transformation to the traditional Linux file systems. For day to day use, you won't notice any of this.
Fedora 17 also includes a wide variety of open-source programs. These include Firefox 11, for its default Web browser; Evolution 3.4.1 for e-mail, Empathy 3.4 for IM; and the just released GIMP 2.8 for graphics work. Its office-suite, like many Linux distributions these days, is LibreOffice 3.4.3 instead of OpenOffice.
Firewalld is now the Fedora's standard firewall. Unlike earlier Linux firewalls Firewalld lets you reset your firewall's rules but never takes it down even for an instance. I like that in a firewall!
As you would expect given Red Hat's recent interest in high-end and cloud-computing, Fedora includes an improved cluster stack. It also includes built-in support for the Nebula Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and the OpenStack cloud. Fedora's take on OpenStack includes support for OpenStack's latest edition, 2012.1, aka Essex.
As usual in Fedora, which has always been a Linux distribution, which was first and foremost for developers and bleeding edge users, Fedora includes a pre-release of Juno, the next release of the Eclipse software development kit (SDK). For better or worse, considering how Oracle is being with Java these days, it also comes with Java 7 and OpenJDK 7 as the default Java runtime and Java build toolset. GCC 4.7.x is now Fedora's primary compiler.
Fedora also includes a lot of D programming language tools. In addition, as you'd expect in a Linux that's the staging platform for RHEL, which is meant mostly for server use, it includes the latest updates of Ruby, PHP 5.4, and Erlang.
The improvement that everyone wants to know about in Fedora is GNOME 3.4.1. It's much better than the version of GNOME used in Fedora 16. Unlike earlier versions, GNOME 3.4.x will now run without the need for a 3D driver. This has been a real problem for some users trying to run GNOME in virtual machines.
Borrowing from Ubuntu's GNOME desktop forks, Unity and Head Up Display, GNOME 3.4 new and improved search function in its activities overview makes it easier to find programs. Search functions in general are much faster than they were than in its interface's earlier incarnations.
This new edition of GNOME also includes an application level menu that sits on the top of GNOME Shell bar and contains the application's menu. If that sounds familiar, it should. It's also taken from Ubuntu's Unity interface. The bad news is that, just like Unity, not all applications use it so the interface has a half-finished feel to it.
It also doesn't help any that the scrollbars are smaller, and thus harder to use, than ever. Even more annoying, there's still no easy way to minimize or maximize applications. While it's better than it was, this is still a design decision that I find annoying.
Still, it's a lot easer now to use multiple programs and file systems in GNOME than it once was. The new GNOME box interface also makes it easy to use remote systems or virtual machines. The Documents application finally supports search, removable devices, and other features which I have long considered minimum requirements for what was a de facto file manager.
Last, but far from least as silly as it may sound, you can finally easy log out or turn off Fedora. Believe it or not, under GNOME 3.2, simply shutting your PC down was a major chore.
Still, while Fedora 17's GNOME 3.4 desktop is a lot better than it used to be, I still find it far less useful than Unity or Linux Mint's recreation of the very popular GNOME 2.x interface, Cinnamon. Take a look at them yourself, and I think you'll see what I mean.
Ubuntu's Unity, like GNOME 3.x, is quite different from earlier Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pointer (WIMP) interfaces, but it's easy to use. Heck, my 80-year old mother-in-law can use Ubuntu 12.04. And, Cinnamon is a recreation of the very popular GNOME 2.x desktop on top of a GNOME 3.x foundation.
That said, I did find this new Fedora with GNOME to be usable. I have to say I didn't find the last version to be at all useful. Still, I'm left wondering why Fedora and GNOME first went in such a mis-guided direction in the first place. It's great that Fedora and GNOME are much better than they were, but they're still not for me, anyway, as useful as the last Fedora with GNOME 2.x was. I can see that Fedora is better, but I'm going to be sticking with Linux Mint, Ubuntu, and openSUSE for my daily desktop use.
If you want to make up your own mind, you can download Fedora 17 and check it out for yourself. Some people though are telling me that they're running into very slow downloads from the direct links. If you find that to be the case, try downloading the new Fedora  by BitTorrent instead.