Review of Fedora Core 2

So, there it is, the highly anticipated second release of Fedora Core. Again, I wanted to wait for a few days for things to calm down,and again, I couldn’t resist updating my production system within two days after the release. Well, I’m just a Linux junkie, i guess…

Before we get this thing rolling, I would like to give you a little background about me: I am 28 years old, I live in the lovely capital of Austria, Vienna, and I am studying history here (yeah, for real…). I earn my money being a self-employed IT-consultant, mostly doing small companies with Windows desktops, Windows or Linux servers, removing viruses, updating websites, all the small stuff. I have been into Linux for about three years now, and I have been an avid user of Red Hat Linux ever since. That dates back to 2002, when I really wanted to like Mandrake, but every release of Red Hat seemed to be a bit less buggy and more stable. Until Red Hat 7.3, I used the KDE desktop, with 8.0 I switched to Gnome (and that’s pretty much the reason why I use Fedora today).

Click for a larger version I have installed Fedora Core 2 on two computers here: one is an old PIII, 256 RAM, IDE drives, some old 4MB GPU, PS2 keyboard and mouse, really nothing special. The second computer is my – much beloved – Compaq Presario 2815 that i bought two years ago: PIV mobile, 512 RAM, 30 GB IDE drive, ATI Radeon 7500 GPU, USB mouse. Both systems have already seen everything from Red Hat 7.3 – Fedora Core 1 (and Mandrake 8.x to 9.x), and I can’t recall any installation problems ever.

Before the installations, I was a little frightened of the 2.6 kernel hardware support, and, since both systems dualboot Windows XP, I was thrilled if I get caught by the infamous dual-boot-bug. I was not that frightened, because, after all, this is not a Fedora-specific bug, but a kernel2.6 bug, and it also happens with Suse 9.1 and Mandrake 10. So I thought, it can’t be THAT bad, these systems have been out for some time. Also, I don’t have any firewire stuff, so I didn’t mind that firewire was disabled in FC2.

I didn’t really care about the old PIII, it’s just there for backup-reasons. I had the backup-hd removed during installation, and I knew I could set it up again easily enough. Installation on this computer went without a problem, I just deleted the old Linux partitions, let the installer create new ones behind the NTFS-partition, selected personal desktop and that was about it. I was able to boot Windows, I was able to boot Linux, and I got a chance to see if immediate upgrading of my notebook would be worth it. Of course, since my notebook featured a rock-solid, finetuned Fecora Core 1 installation, immediate upgrading would have NOT been necessary. Oh well… I chucked CD1 in, deleted my everyday-I-love-it-and-can’t-live-without-it system and went for the new thing…

Click for a larger version Again, the installation went without a hitch. And I was lucky. No bug again. (Not that I’d really need the Windows XP installation. I boot it about once a month and the only thing I do is upgrade my virus-definitions. Duh.). The whole installation process took about 20-30 minutes, I just installed the default “Personal Desktop”, around 2GB of software. All hardware was detected properly (I don’t know if the winmodem is set up correctly but I couldn’t care less).

Ok, on to my regulars: first of all, I had to edit fstab to mount my data drive (a FAT32 partition that sits between my Windows and Linux installs, you probably guessed it). Routine for me, still someone at Red Hat should do something about this. This should be automatic. You can do it during the partitioning of the installation, but that’s also not too intuitive πŸ™‚
Ok, Mozilla – check. Openoffice – check. Gimp – check. Gaim – check. Rhythmbox – check. Let’s add some of my day-to-day software: I opened the package installation tool, and installed the samba packages, K3B, Mozilla Mail, XMMS (which is surprisingly not installed by default) and gFTP (same here). I set up Mozilla Mail, copied my mail directory back and checked mail (I am sitting behind a DHCP’ed router, so internet connection was there without any further configuring). Surfing the web, checking mail, and my Windows install was not trashed. Good stuff πŸ™‚

Now, I had to get back those multimedia capabilities we all need and that are not included because of patent issues. I edited my yum.conf to connect to and installed xmms-mp3, gstreamer-plugins-mp3 (mp3 support for rhythmbox), and totem. No problem again, but here, I’d like to make a suggestion to the Red Hat Team: while I completely understand that they don’t include mp3-support, ntfs, dvd-support, the java runtime environment and flash browser-plugin, it would be real nice to make this a bit easier for the average Fedora (and sometime in the future, maybe Red Hat Desktop!) consumer. What about having a little message box during firstboot, that says something like “fellow costumer. we can’t include mp3-support yadda yadda for patent issues. do you want to add these capabilities to your system?” checkbox says (checked) “no, i’d like to keep my system free in every way” second checkbox (unchecked) says “yes,i want to sign a pact with the devil and add these capabilites to my system” (well, maybe not exactly that wording but i guess you got it…). Then the system would set up yum.conf (or is it another file for up2date?- dunno) accordingly. I guess that would solve this issue. The isos would stay free of this proprietary stuff, and the users would have no more issues with multimedia stuff.

Click for a larger version I gotta admit, I really am a Gnome-fanboy. KDE just isn’t for me. I like the simplicity. I like the consistency. I like the new file-dialog, heck, I even like the spatial nautilus. Fedora has a link to a navigational nautilus, so some users won’t even notice that the file-manager philosophy has changed. I see spatial browsing more as an additional capability. Sometimes it is really helpful. The trick – for me – is to put some shortcuts to the folders I use regularly on the desktop. Often, I really want to put a file from location A to location B. Works like a charm then…

The multimedia stuff is all good. XMMS is solid as ever, Rhythmbox plain rocks. I have all my (around) 130 CDs ripped to my computer. I did that in Windows sometime ago, because it was just easier. I simply can’t use grip, this program always was a usability nightmare. Sound-Juicer, on the other hand, is exactly what I want, but it still misses the one and only important feature, i.e. setting quality. Please, include this as soon as possible. It’s just not fair to have a brillant, nice-looking program that is – unusable. With this release, I switched from mplayer to totem. Gnome consistency issues (though i give kudos to the mplayer-team, they have a really nice program!). Totem is finally “there”, plays back all my video files, VCDs, DVDs without an issue. Ok, I admit, I do possess exactly 1 (one) DVD, but that one worked πŸ™‚

I added bluefish for web development (again via freshrpms yum repository). I have yet to install java and flash. But I think I will abstain from flash. Nowadays, all I ever see are flash ads. I can’t wait for mozilla to include the flash-blocker… On another note, my usb flash stick finally *just works*. I plugged it in and there was, after a short time, an additional entry in the “Computer” list. Installing my Printer (a Laserjet 1100) via a JetDirect printserver was as easy as ever.

Click for a larger version Now that I have used Fedora for three days, I am really quite happy with it. The whole system feels snappy, all my regular programs work. The whole system feels a bit more refined again. The menu layout is way better than before. Openoffice has beautiful icons now and german is installed as the default language (very important, i constantly had gripes with the spell-checker in Fedora Core 1). Still, I have some issues with Fedora Core 2: the Gaim tray icon doesn’t work for me, I have to investigate why. I encountered a pretty bad bug when I opened a pdf-file with gnome pdf that I had just created with Openoffice’s pdf-export (see screenshot). Nautilus sometimes behaves weird when I try to open a folder with the pictureview-style. Some less annoying issues: Mozilla was originally english, even though I had selected “german” during installation. Not a real problem, at least Openoffice is now german out-of-the-iso. Rhythmbox no longer has a “quality”-column, but that’s a temporary issue, it will probably be included again with the 1.0 series of Rhythmbox. Gnome still lacks a decent CD-burning application. K3B is a nice addition but I would prefer a Gnome-app (see Totem). The Red Hat configuration tools don’t use the new file dialog, but that’s probably (hopefully) solved in Fedora Core 3 (still, this is a consistency issue – did I mention that consistency is important for me?). On the whole, I gotta say that I follow the Gnome development very closely and I am more and more satisfied with Gnome. Red Hat 8 was pretty much unusable, Red Hat 9 just gave a glimpse of what Gnome could become someday. Still, Red Hat 9 was the system that finally made me switch from Windows to Linux as my day-to-day system. Fedora Core 1 was a refined Red Hat 9, Gnome 2.4 was once again a very nice improvement. Fedora Core 2 now features the new kernel, Gnome 2.6 and the whole package really starts to fly. Overall, I am pretty much impressed.

About the author:
Christian Paratschek is a 28 year old self-employed sysadmin, who has used Linux for about three years. He tries hard not to be a Red Hat zealot, as well as he tries hard not to be a Gnome zealot (and he fails consistently).

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