The DistRogue

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fedora 8: What did they DO?!

I tried out Fedora 8 Test 3. It was atrocious. :-) It was slow, bloated, laggy, ugly, and had bad hardware detection. But something huge happened between the test and the final release, because Fedora 8 absolutely rocks. I honestly thought it was going to bomb, just like version 7, but it received glowing praise from across the Linux blogosphere, and so allow me to add in my own.
Installation

Fedora has an unusually long install. It took about 20 minutes from an ISO image (booted off a USB key) with just under 1100 packages selected. It goes through a reasonable number of screens, although some screens could easily be integrated into one (language selection, timezone, root password).
After the installation (which allows for package selection), you have to go through 7 more steps to get everything configured. Annoying, and can be (for the most part) eliminated. Can't the firewall and SELinux set themselves up with the default settings?
Artwork
Even in Test 3, Fedora looks pretty. Every release has new artwork, but this time, thanks to the Infinity project, Fedora receives a complete overhaul. There's not just a new theme, but a new theme engine, called Nodoka, which supposedly runs lighter than most existing engines. I personally think it looks a little bland, but it's polished. There's also a new Metacity theme to go with it.

The wallpaper is what changes the most often between releases, but in Fedora 8, it changes every hour, instead of every release. The new slideshow wallpaper cycles through 4 different phases, depending on the time of day.

And, of course, the obligatory Compiz screenshot:

Installed Software
Fedora comes with a pretty standard selection of free software (no patent-encumbered or non-GNU software). That means that it lacks, among other things, MP3 support and NVidia/ATI drivers (which don't affect me). (It's worth noting, however, that Fedora is home to the Noveau project to reverse-engineer NVidia drivers and make them open-source.) It is, however, better than Paldo's disastrous GNOME-only selection, including GNOME and KDE, Firefox, GIMP, Totem, Eclipse IDE (new in this release), Linux 2.6.23.1 with CFS, and just about anything they can fit onto a 3.3GB DVD image. Which is a lot.
For Web connectivity, there's Firefox (WWW), Evolution (e-mail), Pidgin/GAIM (IM/IRC), Jigsaw and Transmission (Jigdo and BitTorrent, respectively), and an ancient-looking VNC viewer. Pretty complete to me! There's OpenOffice (unsurprisingly), GIMP (the somewhat-outdated 2.4.0-rc3- isn't Fedora supposed to be cutting-edge?), gThumb, and F-Spot for office tasks. Games are nothing special- just the default GNOME selection- but there's a custom "Gaming Spin" for gamers, which is a live DVD with lots of games on it.
Multimedia apps are sparse. There's the new PulseAudio sound server, replacing ALSA, but other than that, there's Totem (video playback), Rhythmbox (music management), and SoundJuicer (CD ripping), and that's pretty much it. Not only is it sparse, but why opt for Rhythmbox over the much-superior Exaile, like almost everyone else? Sheeple. And I thought Fedora devs liked Python-based apps. These apps are pretty much useless, too, unless all of your music is in Ogg format. But despair not- help is just around the corner thanks to the new Codec Buddy! Oh, wait... That's just a front-end to Fluendo. Want MPEG support? Get it for the low price of 16€! Same for Window Media. MP3 support is free, but...
Enter Livna. Go to the site, download and install the "Fedora 8 Repository RPM", and you get instant access to all the stuff Fedora's missing. Like MP3 support. Just install "gstreamer-plugins-bad" and "gstreamer-plugins-ugly" in Pirut (the GUI package manager with dependency tracking :-) and you're good to go.
Hardware Support
My biggest gripe about F7 and F8T3 by far was that my wireless card wasn't showing up. And, by default, it didn't in this release. All 3 releases used the open-source iwlwifi drivers. In F7, they weren't mature enough to work, and in F8T3... Well, I'm not sure what happened. But in F8, the drivers worked out of the box. The only problem was that I had to go to System > Administration > Services and turn on NetworkManager and NetworkManagerDispatcher, and it worked. Like it should without having to do that. :-(
Also, there were some screen issues. Closing the lid of my laptop didn't cause a crash, like it does on some distros (PCLinuxOS, Debian), but after exiting games, odd stuff happened. OpenArena didn't seem to have any problems, but exiting Tremulous made my mouse clicks not go through, and Sauerbraten caused a complete crash. In both cases, using Ctrl+Alt+Backspace to restart X fixed the problem, and playing on Compiz or XFCE averted it, so it's probably a problem in Metacity.
Performance
Fedora is usually slow and laggy, but this release was faster. GLXGears rose 50% over Test 3, even beating Ubuntu for once. Tremulous worked fine, as did OpenArena, and Sauerbraten ran at the normal FPS range (if not a bit higher). CFS seems to help big-time here.
Pros:
-Sweet artwork
-Completely FOSS
-Enormous software selection
-Decent performance for once
Cons:
-Assorted quirks in hardware detection
-Somewhat long install
Friendliness: 4/5
- Fedora is famous for being easy to use. The lack of MP3 playback is annoying, but otherwise, it's not too hard to use.
Performance: 3.5/5- Faster than I'm used to for Fedora. Solid.
Features: 4.5/5- Enormous feature list as usual.
intuition of included software: is it just a basic desktop, or is it more advanced?
Packaging: 4.5/5- RPM is slow, but has a fast pre-configuring phase. The dependency-tracking system, yum, and GUI, pirut, are both useful.
Artwork: 2.5/2.5- Beautiful and polished as usual- and groundbreaking.
Community: 2.5/2.5- As usual, Fedora has an enormous online community.

Overall: 4.3/5- A solid release from Fedora, for once. :-)
UPDATE: Tuxmachines now has a poll on whether you liked Fedora 8. The results? 53% Yes, 13% No.
From Fedora 8,
The DistRogue.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Vincent said...

Fedora seems quite exciting to me, if it weren't for the available packages, it would perhaps be even more so than Ubuntu (not than Xubuntu, though ;-).

PS. I can't help but notice how you keep nagging on about Exaile... Surely you know that in the GTK world, everybody has a different preference for media player. Rhythmbox is a solid but perhaps not-so-special media player. The fact that it's Gnome's default is perhaps the only valid reason for including it, since there's always something missing from every media player. For Exaile too.

5:17 PM  
Blogger nicu said...

I did a custom install and carefully selected the packages so I don't use the old-looking VNC client but the brand new Vinagre instead.

4:18 PM  

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