posted by Niall C. Brady on Fri 7th Nov 2003 09:12 UTC

"Usage"
The Default Install - What is it like?

Booting Fedora Core 1 will at first look like any normal Red Hat Linux boot, you'll see the kernel initialising but then, instead of being presented with a whole bunch of onscreen status initialization messages, you get a rather nice GUI screen with a computer icon and a status bar that shows the percentage of completed tasks in easy to understand format. That is a nice change and a welcome one, you can also, see all of the standard messages within this front-end by clicking on the 'show details' link. Very nicely done, and I only have two minor gripes about it, firstly, how about having the entire boot done in this graphical format (with the option for text based messages for those that want to see them), and secondly, do we really need to give Kudzu 30 seconds to 'scan for new hardware' on every boot? after all it does delay the boot process by 30 seconds especially if you have not added any new hardware, perhaps 5 seconds would be more appropriate. I'm sure some people will jump in here and say that Kudzu itself can be disabled or adjusted so that it doesn't take 30 seconds, but that's not my point. I just think a faster boot time would be more appropriate. Also, how about adding the extra gui functionality to the shutdown portion in Fedora Core 1 (it is still text based).

Once the system has booted, unless you specifically chose the text login option during the installation phase you'll get a nice out of box experience (firstboot) which effectively asks you for user name(s) and to test sound output and so on, until after a few questions, you are presented with a very blue graphical login screen using Red Hat's Bluecurve graphical greeter. It is nicely done, and has a clean polished professional look to it. After you have logged in, you will see what looks like a standard Red Hat 9 desktop in GNOME (gnome-desktop-2.4.0-1) with the bluecurve theme and with the little Red Hat clearly visible in the menu. However, you don't have to look far for some of the newer changes under the hood. First off there is the new color scheme for the Bluecurve theme, I think it is gorgeous, and secondly if you click on the Red Hat and choose preferences, you'll see a brand new option (to Red Hat Linux default install users at least) called 'screen resolution' and this little application allows you to change resolution in real-time on your desktop without needing to restart x. Very nicely done, but (there's always a but) why couldn't this screen resolution application be included as a listed function when you right-click on the desktop (alongside change desktop background for example), that would be very convenient and user friendly. In my tests I was easily able to change the LCD resolution on my laptop from 1400x1050 down to 1024x768 and vice versa with no display issues.

Still on the display theme, by clicking on the Red Hat and choosing system settings, and then 'display', I now have some new tabs listed in my display settings, Dual Head is now an available option for this ATI Radeon Mobility M6 video card, and that's very cool, it sure wasn't there in Red Hat 9. However, this added bonus, requires you to restart x in order to see the changes. That's a shame, especially seeing as the screen resolution application mentioned above did not require this restart of x. So I pressed CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE to restart x and logged back in again to see the changes, all i noted was that the second monitor was showing exactly what was on my LCD so I went back into the display settings/dual head TAB and spotted a drop down menu. That drop down menu gave me the option of Individual Desktops or Spanning Desktops. As the Individual Desktops didn't seem to do anything for me I chose 'Spanning Desktops' and applied my settings, once again, I had to restart x for the changes to be seen. So I did, and nothing interesting happened. I kept playing with these settings for about 15 minutes and could not get 'spanning' or for that matter 'individual' desktops to work, perhaps it was just me or perhaps I messed up my installation, or perhaps my particular configuration was just not yet ready for this. Pity though, I was really looking forward to seeing this in action. I tried this on two different laptops, one with ATI Radeon Mobility M6 and the other with ATI Radeon Mobility M9, and I had the exact same problem with both.

If you chose to install everything like me, then you'll have lots of applications, games, web browsers and various odds and ends to entertain you. You have apache version 2 to serve web pages, you have samba to access windows shares, you have CUPS to organise your printers for you. Mozilla is still the default web browser and is now version 1.4.1, which is very nice and easy to use. It doesn't have plugins installed, so you will need to install JAVA (Mozilla 1.4.1 Java plugin HOWTO here - http://anyweb.kicks-ass.net/linux/tips/tip13.html), shockwave and so on, yourself. OpenOffice (the Office suite) is included and is version 1.1.0. Email handling is handled by Ximian Evolution version 1.4 and there's even GNUCash to handle your financial needs. All in all lots of Office Software to keep you working away quite happily.

On the entertainment side, you have XMMS version 1.2.8 to play your audio files (winamp clone), and it does not have the MP3 plug-in loaded (a popup window explaining patent licence issues preventing the inclusion of the plug-in is loaded the first time you try and play an MP3 with XMMS), so you'll need to fix that also. To fix the MP3 'problem' you'll need to get this file from here or here. Once you have downloaded the file, expand it by typing tar -zxvf xmms-mp3-fc1.tar.gz and you will now have three files. Copy the two lib files (as root) to /usr/lib/xmms/Input/. Restart xmms and all should be good.

Fedora has also bundled something called Rhythmbox version 0.5.3 to play radio station music and other types (vorbis). I fired it up and tried to connect to Digitally Imported (Netherlands) but it popped up an error 'failed to create spider element, check your installation'. So I checked the properties for that stream, and they were listed as http://213.73.255.244:8000/, I copied and pasted that address into Mozilla and it showed me a U ShoutCast D.N.A.S Status page saying the stream was up and with 43 of 300 users listening, so why couldn't I hear anything. It quickly dawned on me that once again I needed a plug-in to listen to these online radio installations, the help files included with Rhythmbox stated that the player plays MP3, FLAC or OGG/Vorbis files, but didn't mention where I could add the ability to play MP3 streams. It would be useful if Rhythmbox included a message like the one in XMMS detailing that this MP3 support is not included, rather than having users trying to figure out what a 'spider element' is.

DVD playback software is also nowhere to be found on the entertainment (Sound and Video) menu, in fact there wasn't one video capable player included in this menu, and that's quite ironic considering it's title. This was the same in Red Hat 9, and 8.0, and can be fairly easily solved by installing either xine or mplayer or both (once they are updated to work with Fedora).

Internet applications are abundant and there are lots to choose from, web browsers include Mozilla, Konqueror and Epiphany. You can chat online using GAIM (which even works with msn messenger after you have enabled the included plug-in), Xchat, Ksirc or Licq, you can remotely admin your other computers using rdesktop or using the vnc client (vncviewer). You can even install vncserver locally and remotely admin your Fedora box and it works very well. It's nice to see this powerful software included by default (by choosing Custom install and manually installing it or choose everything as suggested earlier).

A basic Firewall application is included and it's called lokkit (you can run it from the console as root, or click on the Red Hat menu, choose system settings, security level) and it allows you to Enable or Disable the firewall, plus to trust certain well-known services like WWW (http). To Customise ports you can start lokkit in a console and choose the customise option. There is no Internet Connection Sharing application included in Fedora, but that can be done manually by using iptables and a bit of know how.

There is a new login screen (Happy Gnome with browser) which some people will like, its similar to Windows XP's user list (with photos) so you can impress your buddies with it, but by default this login screen is not picked (Bluecurve is the default), you have to manually set it up and it's very easy to do so (system settings, login screen, graphical greeter).

Table of contents
  1. "Intro and installation"
  2. "Usage"
  3. "Conclusion"
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