posted by Eugenia Loli on Thu 13th Nov 2003 05:19 UTC

"Fedora Core, Page 2"
Click for a larger version Then, it was Java's turn. I installed the latest Java SDK (j2re1.4.2_05) and thankfully all went well (I can run Java apps), except again, the browser plugin. Konqueror was the only browser that did recognize the plugin and worked with it. The rest of the browsers completely ignore it (the java plugin's link is correctly in place and I now understand that it works better if you install it for the current user on your ~/.mozilla/plugins/ but the trouble starts if you want to install it for all users).

And on top of all that, you frequently get RPM-locking (I found rebooting to be the only method to get RPM functionality back) an annoying bug which is with us since Red Hat Linux 8.

And then there is Samba which didn't work. Samba 3 still doesn't work for me via Konqueror or Nautilus (smb-client command line tool kind of works better), because it insists on connecting on my VMWare's virtual IP address of 10.0.0.19 instead of my XP's real 10.0.0.10 IP on my home network (even when I do "smb://10.0.0.10"). It manages to connect once every 10-15 efforts (and asks for my password a zillion times, for a shared folder that does not require a password) and even then I can't do anything with the files. Mac OS X, Slackware and... Lindows don't exhibit the problem connecting to that machine. Yellow Dog Linux also has the same problem, as it is Red Hat Linux-derived. I filed a bug months ago with RHL9 and it is still not fixed.

Click for a larger version And then you've got all the little application bugs (which is nevertheless the distro's responsibility to do QA on to make sure they work well): from the crashy RhythmBox, to the Python errors in redhat-config-network (screenshot), to the annoying KDE applets loading on Gnome's desktop instead of following the freedesktop.org standard (it is details like these that destroy the overall impressions, no matter if I know 'why' some things happen the way they do), to KOffice going berserk when adding a spreadsheet and chart kpart on your presentation, to the Assistive Tech Support preference panel which makes Gnome want to log out when you click Metacity's close button (another reported bug that's still there), to Nautilus occassional crashes, to gtk/aspell's own bugs via Gedit this very moment I am typing this (tells me it doesn't know several words but when I check its "spelling suggestions" the words are in its list already) and other such annoyances. Granted, all OSes have bugs, but it is a different story to find 5-6 bugs in months of using an OS (e.g. in my OSX experience and even fewer bugs on my XP) and to find 15 of them in a few hours of usage as in Fedora's case.

And then there are the actual limitations of the distro that are well known: no mp3 support, no out of the box serious video playback support, no included video editor for home movies. In fact, I can live with all the above problems, except the following one: multimedia performance. It is a different thing to not have multimedia support out of the box and to not have good performance on it even when the user takes steps to compensate for the lack of it. I compiled and installed the mp3 plugin for Fedora's XXMS (download it from here or here), I installed Xine, Mplayer and Totem and worked fine for the most part but Ogg and Mp3 playback would skip with XMMS after using the machine for a while (quality would degrade with time). After changing the eSound back-end to OSS I got a bit better performance but still not acceptable. Playing Frozen Bubble and having XMMS on the background playing an internet radio station (so the disk was not really touched, plus DMA is on for all my drives) sound quality would drop to the floor. Sometimes, XMMS would skip even when loading new folders on Nautilus or when loading a new web page with Epiphany. This machine is an AthlonXP 1600+ with a Yamaha XG-754 PCI sound card and 256 MB of RAM. I expect more out of it, especially when my XP Pro does not skip on a way slower machine (dual Celeron 533 Mhz) or when Mac OS X manages just fine on a Cube G4 450 Mhz. The same AthlonXP machine also has Slackware and YellowTAB Zeta in it and these two OSes have no problems with media performance. Fedora Core has though even if its installation was fresh.

Click for a larger version The whole fiasco with installation and the broken RPM GUI engine has put me off from trying out nVidia's 3D drivers. I think I will wait for Fedora-specific builds, if I decide to keep Fedora on this partition until then and I haven't nuked it in the meantime to install something else.

On the distro's credit I have to remark that the icons and themes look more polished and the mouse movement on X is very smooth and precise (something that most XFree86-based OS/distros lack as of 2-3 years ago when some mouse code got broken - freedesktop.org's new X Server project is trying to address the problem, we learned). We learned that this is because of some specific enhancements to the Linux kernel made by the Red Hat engineers and also similar enhancements will bring better OpenGL performance too (haven't tested it though).

Fedora has certainly a few new key elements, but none of them can be called important or really ground breaking for most users. It is a step ahead of RHL9 in some respects, exactly as RHL9 was to RHL8, but with way more bugs and problems. Fedora is barely evolutionary and not revolutionary. Innovation does not seem to be Fedora's goal. We've seen it all before, we just got newer app versions and a nifty graphical boot this time around. But the bugs and the overall usability of the OS need to be further improved. It is in the details that Fedora (and most Linuxes in general) need to work out.

Fedora Core is a community-driven and Red Hat-managed and sponsored open source distribution project. This has its ups and downs. The project is open and everyone can participate, but on the other hand QA seems limited and abandoned by Red Hat. A shame really, but it is to expected with Red Hat having changed its focus to the Enterprise market.

There is not a chance that I would use Fedora as my main OS at this point. It's got as many bugs as swiss cheese has holes, multimedia performance (at least with XMMS) and included multimedia feature-set is below par, application installation is a major pain in the rear, and there is no official support anymore for the bugs encountered throughout the experience. If this distro is just serving as a testbed for Red Hat's ideas to see if they work and then move them to their Enterprise product, it just means that Fedora will always be in beta state, whether or not they announce them as final or not.

Click for a larger version "The goal of The Fedora Project is to work with the Linux community to build a complete, general purpose operating system exclusively from free software" we read on Fedora's site and at least this version of the software is not polished enough or full-featured to be used as a general purpose OS for the majority of people. I do see some casual users switching to this free offering but not without going through some, initial at least, pain.

For the rest of us whose time is money, we will keep using Mac OS X or Windows XP and if we feel like using Unix/Linux, there is always FreeBSD and Slackware who at least they don't pretend to be more than they really are. This might not be Red Hat's product per se anymore, but with Red Hat having a prominent role in the development of Fedora and by releasing it in this state, it reflects badly on the company and I believe it does more damage than good to their image. I hope future releases are more polished.

Installation: 8.5/10
Hardware Support: 8/10
Ease of use: 6/10
Features: 7/10
Credibility: 6/10 (stability, bugs, security)
Speed: 7.5/10 (throughput, UI responsiveness, latency)

Overall: 7.16

Table of contents
  1. "Fedora Core, Page 1"
  2. "Fedora Core, Page 2"
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