When I look back, the most horrible problem I had with Fedora Core 2 was that Gnome PDF-Viewer did not display pdf-documents correctly. As I have to deal with those very often, this was very disappointing. This is solved in Fedora Core 3: I have not experienced any problems despite having thrown a good 30 pdf-documents at it during the last two weeks. I'd count this definitely as an important step forward especially concerning business desktop use of Fedora Core - pdf is just essential!
Firefox and Thunderbird still default to English even though I chose German as the preferred language when I set up the operating system. I recently read that the reason for this is a problem in the Mozilla i18n (the internationalisation). It seems that it does not work the way it works in other applications. Well, this situation has not improved and should be adressed soon (and I guess by the Mozilla team, not by the Fedora team).
Then I mentioned a problem with File-roller. It did not start when I right-clicked a file and tried to "Create Archive". This has been solved. Another small point for Fedora Core 3. And there are small Gnome adjustments - I guess a lot of people were waiting for an easy way to turn off the spatial behaviour of Nautilus. Well, now it's there! Another small visible change is the new MIME-system. That's a pure Gnome change and it's better than the old one, for sure. An improvement over Fedora Core 2, one that does not seem to be important, but really makes your life easier when you have to deal with it.
One thing remains: multimedia is still just a big mess in Fedora: aside from the patent issues and therefore the exclusion of mp3, DVD, Flash, and a lot of other formats, there are basic problems that relate to the Gnome desktop and GStreamer in general. Software sound-mixing still does not work on my machine (which is a laptop with a simple AC'97-soundcard that cannot do hardware sound-mixing). GStreamer has a ton of plugins to handle all kinds of multimedia formats, but it still... err, sucks, to say it directly. Some videos only play the sound while the screen stays black, some videos don't work at all. I usually end up installing Totem-xine or MPlayer. Then I also still use xmms sometimes, and of course Rhythmbox. Gaim no longer really crashes when another program is using the audio-channel, but the sound still does not play. System sounds are completely disabled. These are all not Fedora-, but Gnome-related problems, still I have to adress them because they account for a major drawback in Fedora usability (I experienced most of these with Ubuntu too). The only real improvement over Fedora Core 2 (and a very welcomed one) is that Rhythmbox now no longer crashes when you move the slider to get to another point in a song. So, while the application now works reliably, it lacks so many useful features compared to iTunes, it's not funny. I was really hoping for a 1.0 series of Rhythmbox in Fedora Core 3. I miss the "Quality-column" (I want to rerip the stuff that I did with 128mbps and I don't know what it was), I miss the "Last added" playlist from iTunes, Tag-editing is still not available, and iTunes' "let-me-manage-your-library"-feature is just too cool. I am not even dreaming of CD-burning... So, basically, while I don't want to diss the programmers (this is probably a lot of hard work), and while I am very pleased to at least have a music management program in Fedora, there's a long way to go to get to a competitive level. And while I'm at it: Sound Juicer still doesn't offer the single most important feature, setting quality. It's a shame. This program is a posterboy for a modern, nice-looking, HIG-ified Gnome application. Still, it's simply unusable for me.
A new addition in the multimedia arena is the Helix Player: I can't put this one to good use. In fact, it annoyed me greatly that just about the only time it wanted to do something was when I clicked (yeah, right!) an rpm-file in Firefox. Now this is retarded! I could probably accept this feature in a Debian-based distribution that doesn't really use rpm-files for package management. But in Fedora? Come on, I certainly do not want to "listen" to my 3rd party packages, *g*. Besides, I remember that I never installed Real Media Player in my Windows years, I loathed that piece. The Helix Player is probably as much better as the old Real player than Mozilla was in comparison to the old Netscape. And I probably have to welcome the fact that Fedora Core now includes a player that is integrated with the browser. Still, rpm-packages probably mean something different to a user of an .rpm-based Linux distribution than to. let's say, an average Windows user.
When I reread the passages about multimedia in my older articles I have to say that I was probably to mild. But maybe that's also because I used iTunes a lot recently and it just was a slap in the face for me how good it is. Overall, I am quite content with multimedia in Linux, I accept the limitations that patented file formats impose. I just feel that this is probably the section where "Desktop Linux" is lacking the most as of today.
Final verdict: Fedora Core 3 is a nice improvement over Fedora Core 2. The visible differences may be mostly subtle but if you examine the distributions more precisely, you see the work that was put into the newer version. I'd say that (although I also used Fedora Core 1 and 2 regularly), Fedora Core 3 is the first real version of the Fedora project. With Fedora Core 1, Red Hat just released something that was probably originally planned to be Red Hat 9.1. Fedora Core 2 had the change in the kernel version from 2.4 to 2.6, which was probably huge and had to draw some problems. Fedora Core 3 finally is where Red Hat wanted Fedora to be. A lot of new technology to play with, bleeding edge Linux software, and still a very stable, polished operating system. I guess one could say that it has the kind of "personality" that Red Hat wanted it to have. Decent job, Fedora team!
Almost done with this article, I will summarise what I believe are the main problems that have to be solved for Fedora Core 4: even better integration of Firefox into Gnome (including a working i18n during setup). It would probably be best to let Firefox replace Epiphany and make it the standard browser for Gnome. While I think that Evolution is a very good mailer, I would love to see Thunderbird included into Gnome. I want that "small" mail program, I always used Outlook Express and not Microsoft Office's Outlook. So I guess Thunderbird would be a worthy addition to Gnome, as a direct competitor to Outlook Express. It is, contrary to Evolution, available for Windows too, that would make the transition from Windows to Linux a bit easier. Then I'd love to see a good HTML editor in Fedora, read Screem or a HIG-ified Bluefish. You might go with gedit, but it would have to be improved a lot (and I'm not sure if it was even meant to be a fully-fledged HTML-editor). The colours for syntax highlighting in gedit are just ugly. A simpler approach to adding multimedia capabilities to Fedora would be very welcomed. Maybe a single meta-package would do the trick, one that would add mp3 playback to xmms, Rhythmbox, Helix Player, Flash and Java for Firefox, mp3 encoding via lame, DVD and video playback to totem, all that with one click. Even though yum shapes up nicely, it's still lagging behind apt-get in speed. I certainly had a better experience with adding/removing packages and updating my system with Ubuntu. Synaptic for Fedora? It will not happen, because the Fedora team has put too much work into yum (and it certainly has technical advantages over apt-get for Fedora that I don't know of). Still, the situation in Debian is much nicer, Fedora should try to find a single, central method for adding/removing and updating packages. And put more development resources into Rhythmbox, the program wants to compete with iTunes and it still has a long way to go in this respect. That's it. I'm still quite content but not really happy with Desktop Linux, but I am excited about the development speed. Who would have thought that Fedora Core 3 would be that polished two years ago when Red Hat 8.0 was released? Now I just have to figure out if I want to keep Fedora Core 3 or switch back to Ubuntu. But that's another story...
About the Author
Christian Paratschek, 28, Linux enthusiast and regular contributor to osnews.com. View his other articles on his website.
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