posted by Eugenia Loli on Thu 13th Nov 2003 05:19 UTC
IconFedora Core 1 has been out now for a few days now and many faithful Linux fans have already installed it. Red Hat's Linux is still one of my favorite distributions because of one main reason: compatibility with Linux software. Red Hat is a market leader and following the market leader assures the least trouble for most users. But is this the case with Fedora Core?

Click for a larger version Installation of the software went fine. I believe that Fedora's installer is both easy to use and powerful and succeeds in satisfying both power and casual users. My monitor was in their database; it correctly found all the horizontal/vertical information, the Nvidia graphics card was auto-detected as well (only in 2-D mode), and loaded the OHCI driver for my TI Firewire PCI card. Later, the included GTKam utility worked fine with my husband's USB Kodak DC265 camera too. The only problem I had with the installation was that the first time I booted to install the distro (with cold boot) X would die a few seconds after Anaconda would load. Resetting the machine and re-trying worked fine (with warm boot). The betas had the same problem too, but Red Hat Linux 8 and 9 did not have that problem at all on the same hardware.

The first boot went fine too, all services got up and running correctly, and creating new users also worked great.

Click for a larger version Fedora Core comes with Gnome 2.4.0 (plus some 2.4.0.1 updated packages), Mozilla 1.4.1, Gaim 0.71, OOo 1.1, XMMS 1.2.8, KOffice, Gimp 1.2.x, gThumb 2.0.2 (pretty outdated version), Epiphany 1.0.4 and many hundreds of other packages. The distro includes most of what users would need for their home usage: Internet applications, office apps, games, some multimedia support, easy administration for most things via Red Hat's preference panels.

New features include a graphical booting sequence which is really nice in my opinion (and it can be even better by integrating the booting sequence with the login and the Gnome loading procedure). There is also prelinking by default which speeds up application launching, and better ACPI support. It is 2.6-ready, has better support for laptops, an updated Bluecurve theme with more color selection (default background image is lovely) and bumped up security.

Fedora Core also comes with lots of server software like Apache, mySQL, PostgreSQL, a news server, an FTP server, SSH support and other advanced technologies that power users or administrators will love to get their hands upon.

Applications indeed start pretty fast and especially some third party statically-linked apps (e.g. Lost Marble's Moho or Blender) load immediately. I have never seen Moho load so fast, not even on BeOS (which was its original platform).

And the niceties stop just right there. From then on, it was an uphill battle to get this OS up and running according to more modern specifications.

Click for a larger version My disappointment started when I tried to upgrade Gaim 0.71 to 0.72. The third party Shrike RPM wouldn't work because of pspell dependancy problems. Downloading pspell and compiling it manually wouldn't work either as libpspell-modules were nowhere to be found in the newly compiled archive. So I decided to download the source of Gaim and compile it myself. All went fine with Gaim's compilation except the MSN plugin wouldn't load because gnuTLS that provides SSL to Gaim was not installed. I got to gnuTLS' FTP site downloaded the source, only to ask me for libcrypt. Downloaded the source of libcrypt, only to ask me for the source of GnuPG. I downloaded the gnupg, compiled fine, went back to libcrypt, only to bail out badly with severe compiling errors. This is a simple user scenario that should have not happened, no matter whose fault really is. Now think what a newbie user coming from Windows-land would think about this whole --literally-- usability fiasco.

Click for a larger version But that was nothing compared to the rest of the problems I further encountered. I wanted to install the Macromedia Flash plugin and I first downloaded the tar.gz version which installs its two files via a bash script. Problem was, the script wouldn't run correctly. It would tell me over and over again that the directory I was trying to install is not valid (I tried both the existing /usr/lib/mozilla and /usr/lib/mozilla-1.4.1, no joy). I wonder, didn't Red Hat's QA actually test common proprietary software that many of its users will want to install? I mean, by my estimation there are not more than 10-15 commonly-installed popular proprietary applications in this category, so it should be no big deal to test them all. Anyway, the story doesn't end there. I read the script itself and saw that all it does is copy these two files (.xpt and .so) to the right directory and changes permissions with chmod 755. So, I did it by hand, logged out and back in again, and still none of my browsers would work with the plugin (plugins are enabled). So, I decided to download the Fedora and RH9 RPM just in case these would work (using Synaptic and apt, would not help out here either). Thankfully, the RPM GUI utility that comes with Fedora installed the Flash plugin and told me that it will need to also install some gcc libstd-c++ compatibility libraries. It asked me for the 3rd CD, I put it in, and then the installer bailed out. Fedora would not even install its own RPMs from its own db/CD. This is a well known bug from the second Fedora beta and I am very, very surprised that it is in the final too. Update: Here is the bug report and a preliminary fix for it as found on Red Hat's bugzilla.

And no, it doesn't end here. Just as a test, I went to the main "Add/Remove Apps" utility and told it to install the X11-vim application. Same problem, as you can see from our screenshots. It just wouldn't install its own RPMs (third party RPMs that do satisfy dependencies and get installed via the command line DO work, mind you). It is poor QA, from all I can tell.

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  1. "Fedora Core, Page 1"
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