Friday, May 16, 2008

Fedora 9: I'm not impressed

Fedora 9 was released earlier this week to great fanfare. There were the usual spate of 'ain't-it-wonderful' articles, extolling the virtues of this latest release (you know, the kind of pap I used to write about openSUSE and Ubuntu). So I said to myself said I, "I'll just download the Fedora 9 Gnome and KDE live CDs and see how they install." And so, I did.

Preparation

The target installation system was rhea. Rhea was currently running Mandriva 2008.1. Rhea has been a mess for some time. It has two old drives in it (27 Gig and 40Gig), and originally came with Microsoft Windows ME installed. Over time that first drive was chopped up into five partitions; two FAT32, two ext3, and swap. So this time I decided to remove everything and consolidate the space into a root partition (/), home (/home), and swap. Worked out pretty well in the past on my other system, europa, so I had no reason to suspect it wouldn't work here. And it has worked out pretty well, at least for the released distributions.

Installation

I've gone to the trouble to install both Fedora 9 Gnome and KDE. I wanted to try both with the goal of working with KDE for the most part. Both versions installed without incident, and the Gnome version, using Gnome 2.22, looks quite good and works quite well, for the most part. I did run some issues that I checked to see if they also existed on the KDE installation. Some did, and some did not.

Fedora 9 KDE is currently installed on rhea. I almost passed on Fedora 9 KDE because it does not come with Firefox on the CD. And getting it installed turned out to be an interesting adventure, and points up some of the limitations of selecting non-KDE applications to run on the KDE 4 desktop. Take a gander below at Firefox 3 beta 5 from the Fedora 9 respositories.

Looks pretty plain, doesn't it? Firefox 3 on Gnome blends right in, but on the KDE 4 desktop it looks like something from the mid-90's, like FVWM. And it's not just limited to Firefox 3. Any application that was compiled just for Gnome's theme will look like the widgets were cut out of cardboard. Take, for example, Add/Remove Software (below).

There are other problems with Add/Remove Software, not the least of which is that clicking on a category on the left does absolutely nothing. When I first found this I thought all I had todo was click Internet category and I'd navigate down and install Firefox. Nope. I finally figured out that I could type 'firefox' in the search box, and it would find and install the package.

Here's an example of looking for VLC. I installed VLC in order to be able to play back movies.


And here's an example of VLC playing back a ripped DVD (Batman Begins).


It looks fine until you notice that Dolphin is above VLC. VLC's playback will bleed through everything place above it on the desktop. Whether this is a problem with VLC, Fedora 9, or a combination of the two I don't know. It's a problem with both Gnome and KDE 4 versions.

Other little gotchas:
  • If the Gnome version is installed and you want to play back multimedia then you get sent to Fluendo for your codecs, that is if you want the complete set. I'm getting tired of the Fluendo hookup. It appeared in Fedora 8 and I've seen it in Mandriva 2008.1. I guess this is where we're headed; the nickel and dime OS. Download the free but crippled version, then start shelling out for every bit that makes the OS useful on every machine it's installed. Isn't this what we crucified Microsoft about?
  • The best place to get anything useful beyond the base install is livna. That's where I got VLC and various other codecs. Everything, that is, except the latest release drivers for my nVidia 7600GS card. Turns out that the drivers need to be patched in order work with the latest kernel. openSUSE 11 is in the same boat. And of course, without hardware acceleration, all the fancy Compiz desktop features won't work. So if I want fancy eye candy I get to patch and rebuild the drivers. Is that user friendly or what?
  • KDE 4. The bloom is off the rose with KDE 4. I was excited at first until I installed it and tried to work with it for more than five minutes. The default theme of off-white makes a crowded desktop a pain to look at. I've given up looking for the tools to customize the desktop look and feel. I've found some of them, but they don't work very well either. For example, I wanted to play with the icons that ship with Fedora 9, but clicking on them would sometimes show you an example, and sometimes not. Is that a bug or a feature?
  • And Add/Remove Software is a mess. Unlike Mandriva and Ubuntu, unless you know what you want you're out of luck. There is no convenient browse capability.
My recommendation is to install Fedora 9 only if you're already familiar with it. Beyond the pretty artwork, Fedora 9 comes across as having been rushed out the door. It could have stood more polish and cleanup, especially Add/Remove Software and integration of Gnome applications on the KDE 4 desktop. If you want a satisfying Linux distribution then stick with Mandriva or one of the Ubuntu derivatives.

5 comments:

  1. Can you try the latest Mandriva release ? Mandriva 2008 Spring.
    http://wiki.mandriva.com/en/2008.1_Tour

    Mandriva have the habit to allow Gnome/Gtk apps and KDE/Qt ones to coexists peacefully. So normally you shouldn't have this issue with gtk apps under kde.


    Non free codecs ( lindvdcss2, win32-codecs, ffmpeg ), can be installed from a third party repository : PLF. You can do this easily with the following website : http://easyurpmi.zarb.org.
    On top of that, codeina in Mandriva is customized to even proposed to install non free codecs from PLF.

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  2. I have used Mandriva 2008.1 in the immediate past, and I can vouch for PLF. It is like livna for Fedora and medibuntu for Ubuntu.

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  3. Good post, Bill. I, too, was looking forward to trying Fedora 9 but was horribly disappointed when I installed it. Fedora 7 was wonderful, Fedora 8 not so much, and, well, Fedora 9......ah, well.....

    The biggest thing that bugs me with Fedora is the lack of support for the integrated Intel wireless card in my Thinkpad T41. Why is it recognized in Mandriva, Ubuntu, Mepis, etc., but not Fedora? This makes no sense to me.

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  4. hey mach....fedora 9 supports intel wireless on my lenovo....and i love fedora!!!

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  5. how did you get it working? i would love to use Fedora but this is the only thing that is keeping from doing so.

    thanks!

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