Wednesday, July 03, 2013

another day, another fedora release

Logged in and getting ready to do something... dangerous?
Fedora 19 hit the bricks sometime Tuesday, 2 July. And I dutifully downloaded yet another DVD ISO (at around 4.2GB) of the latest release and installed it in a VMware Player virtual machine. I've trimmed the number of Linux VMs I carry around these days to just two; Fedora and Linux Mint. And when I was ready to install Fedora 19, I blew away Fedora 18. I don't bother to keep any older releases anymore, and make no attempt to upgrade any older releases either.

I was pleasantly surprised this time around with how Fedora looked and installed, for the most part. I'll explain what few things I didn't like as I come to them. And this time, I'm going to do something I haven't done in a long time; I'm going to display a series of screen captures to illustrate my points.
One of the very first pleasant surprises to great me was at first boot. Fedora 19 has provided a very clean, very professional language selection screen. I'm very sensitive to this because of how horrible the same first-boot language selection screen is in Ubuntu. I hate Ubuntu's language selection boot screen. It looked like it was written by an adolescent kid who'd just learned how to program in Basic, or by a developer who knew better but didn't really give a damn. Fedora 19's initial boot screen looks like a sublime work of genius by comparison.
The next three screens are beautifully simple in their presentation. The buttons are still a bit skeuomorphic, but not nearly as much as the buttons and decorations on the VMware Player window. I took all the Fedora installation defaults just to get something installed, and just to see what it was like. That means the latest Gnome 3 (version 3.8) desktop. By the way, you can ignore the VMware Tools along the bottom. Fedora 19 comes with open-vm-tools, the open source version of the VMware Tools. I'll be turning that nagging reminder off after the installation and living with the opensource tools.

For the curious, I gave the VM 30GB of disk space, 2GB of memory, and two processors.
The last screen you see in the installation process combines setting the root password and the creation of your first account with the installation screen. I've already taken care of root and my administrative account. Now it's just a matter of waiting for the installation to finish.
A reboot after the last package installed from the prior screen and here we are at the login screen for the administrative account. This is a drastic change from prior versions of Fedora and Redhat Linux, where you had to select your administrative account, select your time and time zone, and perform a few extra post-installation chores. Not any more. Clean and simple. Easy to use. Click on the account and fill in the password and you're in.
First login presents you with with a short wordless animation that shows you how to get started using the Gnome 3 desktop. And from my experience today it really works. This is the kind of up-front hand holding that Linux (and every other OS) has needed from the beginning. I keep reading how Fedora is for hard-core Linux users, but based on what I've just seen, Fedora 19 is one of the easiest, of not the easiest, distributions to install and start using I think I've every touched. If you have any prior operating system experiences (Windows, OS X, other Linuxes, even older operating systems like Unix and CDE or OS/2) then you will quickly adapt to this version of Fedora. Well, almost. And I'll get to that further down. But regardless of my one problem, I found this Gnome Help quite, well, helpful.
This is a quick grab in the middle of the "Switch Tasks" video/animation.
As I said, I decided to take the default Gnome 3 desktop installation. I've been living with Android 4.2.2 and Windows 8 for some time now, and the idea of living with something as "different" as Gnome 3 no longer bothers me. Perhaps it's my change in attitude, or perhaps a cleanup of Gnome 3 (or some combination of the two), but I found it quite easy to dive and and start working with Fedora 19. Because I'd taken all the defaults for applications I decided to open a terminal and use yum to remove what I didn't want. This was after I accepted an update to 65 packages, including a kernel update. Once the update was done I removed Libreoffice, Fedora's version of Java, Rhythmbox, Shotwell, Empathy, Evolution, Cheese and just about everything else I didn't want in the VM. This VM is all about software development in C++ and the latest version of Java 7.

I noticed another very nice touch; packages are not incredibly intertwined with Fedora 19. It looks like the dependencies have been cleaned up tremendously, so that removing applications is far more straightforward than it has been in the past. In particular I remove Java and Libreoffice because in the past I wanted to use standard Oracle Java, and some yahoo somewhere decided to make Libreoffice dependent on that distro's version of Java. So they both came out so I could use the Java I wanted to use. Another nice touch with regards to Java is that the brain-dead default version of GNU Java, based on Java 5 (java-1.5.0-gcj), is no longer the default "least common denominator" Java that's installed if you remove Fedora's stock Java 7. That version caused no manner of problems with regular Java-based applications, such as Tomcat. Thank you, whoever did this. I am eternally grateful.
And finally, thank you whoever you are out there in Gnome land, for putting a "Power Off" switch on the desktop. I owe you a beer.

That Fly in the Ointment

This is about the firewall. At first I thought it was set up to be non-strict in its configuration, but I quickly found it was getting in the way of me using Firefox. So I went off looking for the firewall applet. I thought that I could simply turn off the firewall (as I normally do on a VM), but somebody decided to make the firewall applet fiendishly complicated for Fedora 19. I couldn't disable the damn thing, which is all I wanted to do. So I went hunting around the Internets for a way to disable the firewall, and found I had to do it from the command line. The commands are very simply once you know, so here they are.

  1. Open a shell
  2. su to root
  3. type 'systemctl stop firewalld.service'
  4. type 'systemctl disable firewalld.service'
Before you Linux haters get all hateful, know that a lot of power can be had at any command line, even with Windows. Especially for Windows 8 and its power shell. I prefer the speed and directness of the command line at times, and other times I prefer a graphical approach. It's all a matter of what I need to accomplish and how. Some new users might not even know the firewall is there. But I did almost immediately, and I had enough experience to find out how to quickly fix my problem and move on.

Final Words

There's a tremendous amount of capability and power in Fedora 19. What I've presented here is not even the tip of the iceberg, as an iceberg tip would be far larger. But it's a start. All the distributions could learn a few things from Fedora 19 (and I'm looking at you, Ubuntu). As I said at the start of this post I've trimmed my Linux distributions down to just two, Fedora 19 and Linux Mint 15. Before long I see myself dropping Linux Mint and running several versions of Fedora 19, just to try out the Gnome Classic desktop and Cinnamon.

The next thing for me to do is install Pidora onto my two little Raspberry Pi machines. But that's a post for another day.

Fedora 19 Release Notes: http://docs.fedoraproject.org/en-US/Fedora/19/html/Release_Notes/