Open Source

Fedora 17 review: From miracle to meh

After a month of using Fedora 17, it has all become too much to bear.

Fedora has been my faithful laptop companion for much of the past year. It's steady, reliable and doesn't feel the need to customise interfaces, a la Ubuntu.

Then Fedora 17 Beefy Miracle appeared and the serenity disappeared.

The biggest change on this release should have been the unification of the file system that moved /bin, /sbin, /lib, and /lib64 directories to the /usr folder. But, after a month of usage, I've had no problem with it, at all. As it should be.

Instead, it is the update from GNOME 3.2 to GNOME 3.4 that has been the catalyst for the annoyances that Beefy Miracle holds.

One of GNOME 3.4's features is where window decorations change to a greyscale theme when focus is removed. It's a little weird and unexpected when first encountered, but it's not a showstopper. It also has the added benefit of allowing me to read the now-white text in the backup utility when unfocussed, shown in the screenshots below.

Backup when focused and unreadable.

(Screenshot by Chris Duckett/TechRepublic)

Backup when unfocused and readable.

(Screenshot by Chris Duckett/TechRepublic)

Along the upgrade path from Fedora 16, a couple of vital packages from RPMFusion.org disappeared from the system.

A couple of GStreamer plugins for Windows Media playback went missing, something that shouldn't disturb the use of Fedora — but when Rhythmbox stops playback, in order to fail at finding said codecs a dozen times a day, it starts to get beyond a joke. The only proper way to resolve this issue was to let Rhythmbox re-index all the music on the system, and then mark all the previously working files as "Import Errors". Even after this, Rhythmbox still stopped playback for other reasons.

The new bane of Rhythmbox.

(Screenshot by Chris Duckett/TechRepublic)

Perhaps the weirdest fault that I've seen in a long time is the lack of Verdana as a font in Fedora 17, when it was fine in Fedora 16. The image below of ZDNet Australia is using a base serif font ,rather than the specified Verdana.

Verdana? Who needs that?

(Screenshot by Chris Duckett/TechRepublic)

It's painless enough to fix, but that's really not the point. It's the fact that, working functionality — functionality that has been provided over multiple releases — has stopped in Fedora 17.

The fact that much of this functionality comes from RPM Fusion, and not Fedora itself, does not detract from its impact. Using RPM Fusion is the normally the first stop a new Fedora user will make when they learn why their MP3s are not playing. RPM Fusion is an integral part of the Fedora landscape, and if it has problems, they reflect badly on Fedora, regardless.

That the vast bulk of the upgrade works fine. It is very close to being one of those "no-brainer, just go get your six-monthly GNOME/KDE upgrade" updates. But, through experiencing a series of paper cuts, I cannot recommend that existing Fedora users update to it.

In a perfect world, I'd be able to roll back to Fedora 16 and undo the upgrade. Ha! That's not going to happen without a full re-installation.

Given that a re-installation may be one way out of this mess, it raises the question of why not change distribution while I am at it? A rolling distribution would, hopefully, make it possible to roll back an update of this nature; or, do I plow into the world of proper Fedora unstableness and start running Fedora's Rawhide branch?

I hope that fixes appear shortly to fix these paper cuts. I will not last the full six months if Fedora 17 remains in this state.

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Some would say that it is a long way from software engineering to journalism, others would correctly argue that it is a mere 10 metres according to the floor plan.During his first five years with CBS Interactive, Chris started his journalistic advent...

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