January 27, 2008

Fedora 8 test-drive

Category: Sysadmin.

Last WeekEnd, I was on a [computing] trip and borrowed a laptop from ${workplace} for the ocasion. Since I used it for a personal purpose, I chose to drop anything it has on the hard disk and start with a fresh install. I don't really have particular criterias, but as a FreeBSD user, I am used to have recent software, and am particulary disapointed by the obsolescence of certain Linux distros. Since I was not going to have enouth time to compile, I wanted a binary packages based Linux distribution.

I already used Ubuntu but cannot really say I enjoyed it: for me it is not much more than a partialy-up-to-date version of Debian. As a consequence, I decided to give Fedora GNU/Linux a try since I had good echos about it during the preceeding week.

Base system install

The installation was a pain. I downloaded a DVD image featuring all the packages to install the system as fast as possible. Unfortunately, the installer failed to mount the DVD (the medium I used seems to be a bad quality one) so I decided to perform a net install.

The net-install first needs to know where to download from. Unlike FreeBSD's installer, Fedora's one does not provide a list of mirrors where to pick-up your favourite, but only ask you to type-in the address of the ftp server to connect to (e.g. ftp.free.fr) and the directory in wich files are located on it (e.g. mirrors/fedora.redhat.com/fedora/linux/releases/8/Fedora/i386/os). This is really borring, not mentionning that guessing the correct path string is tricky: you have to try to continue the installation, see if it fails not founding a file, browse the mirror to find that file, fix the path and try again.

When the path is correct, the installer downloads the stage2 image — a 95Mib file — without any progress information, so that you can wonder if the transfer is stalled.

The rest of the setup process ran smoothly until the moment I was asked some questions my parents would not know what to answer: although the installation is really accesible, configuring a firewall and SELinux is not that easy for an average user's point of view ;-).

First boot

When the system boot-up for the first time, it displays the GNU General Public License agreement, and asks you to create user accounts. That's realy cool for OEM installs, as to promote Free/Libre software toward the user.

Installing software packages

Fedora provides a Package Manager (ApplicationsAdd/Remove Software). Unfortunately, when I wanted to use it, I got dependancies problems. As a result, I had to install everything using yum.

I gave the Package Manager another try later and everything went okay, so I guess that I wanted to do something tricky... Maybe it was the result of the package manager allowing the user to choose between multiple versions of the same program and a limitations raised when two programs are to be installed and have been liked against two versions of the same library? More tests needed!

Nvidia non-free drivers

Fedora does not automaticaly install the Nvidia non-free drivers on your computer, and it is not as easy as with Ubuntu to have it: no hypocritical message telling you:

It's bad but everything is ready: click here and don't think about it anymore

You have to explicitely add a repository and fetch the related GPG keys by hand before being able to install the buggy-non-free-but-fast graphic driver.


Desktop integration

The default desktop environment is GNOME. They choose Firefox as the default Web Browser instead of Epiphany, a particulary ugly default icon theme (personal opinion :-) ) and changed the System menu organisation so that it looks-like the mess of a typical Debian menu. Some people will call this integration, I don't share this point of view and prefer to have a known-default setup. Hopefuly, everything can be reverted.


Fedora ships with PulseAudio! You will probably not notice it if you use your computer as it, but as soon as you have two computers (or more) on the network and a hi-fi, it's a must-have.

Unfortunately, the defaut configuration was not okay with my home setup and I was not able to use it out of the box!


Everything is not perfect, but when you see what was Fedora just a few years ago, it'a amazing to see how fast this distribution has turned into a soooo-cooooool distro with cutting edge features. Fedora may soon become a major linux flavour :-) !

No Comments Yet

Comments RSS feed | Leave a Reply…