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...

11 comments
awollman
awollman

I'm a longtime Fedora user and haven't had any of those problems with Fedora 17. The problem you're having is more of an issue with upgrading directly from Fedora 16, possibly without having enabled RPMFusion during the upgrade process itself. With an ordinary fresh install these problems should not crop up.

aroc
aroc

First thing I do with a new browser installation is set default font to serif (and try disallowing sites from setting their own fonts, but sometimes that is a losing battle, and I have to "pick my battles"). Oh, right, I guess you do not have visual issues with one's, ell's, capital i's, "blending" together ( 1lI ), and other groupings with lots of vertical ascenders as some of us do - especially with the vague grey font "color" that is so much in vogue on web sites now. I guess the younger (or "hip" older) web designers like to exclude us geezers and other visually impaired folks from their messterpieces. Still, you have a legitimate gripe - I would be just as outraged if I could not choose serif fonts to help me see the text better.

pgit
pgit

I don't have an 'official' fedora 17 install, I was running rawhide and the repos got frozen in preparation for the upcoming release. (rc stages) Once this freeze occurs I think the rawhide repos for whatever the version become links to the official release repos. In order to keep using rawhide you have to change repos, in this case to fedora 18. It's been running great since day 1, with only one problem along the way that got fixed within 2 days. (broadcom wireless) I don't see any unreadable text like your screen shots. Maybe because I doinked around with themes and don't use the default. I hadn't noticed the verdana thing. I'll look into that and see if I have a problem. BTW I'm not clear on one thing; are you saying the rpm fusion packages were uninstalled? Or were they broken by the upgrade? Either way, simply reinstalling them may do the trick. That fs shuffling is buggier than you might imagine. (especially if prior to the upgrade your /usr was on it's own separate partition) Using the upgraded installer might place some critical link somewhere that was in a different location in f16 and prior.

WarrenRobertson
WarrenRobertson

I've been using Fedora sense it was Redhat. I always do a full install formating all partitions except /home. A quick trip to mjmwired for the trained-monkey-routine and all is good. While I usually check out Gnome on first boot it's back to KDE for the next 6 month run. Nirvana!

zefficace
zefficace

ArchLinux. As often said on the forums, it is as stable as you make it. I' ve been running Arch for 2 years now, and stability is not an issue. It runs fine, day after day, on both a desktop and laptop. Keep things down to what you really need, avoid the testing depot for production machines, and you're good to go. Installing looks like a chore, but it's faster than it seems, and you should technically only install it once for the life of the computer. Basically, everything on your computer is your choice, so if you don't care for some choice you made, you just change it. No need to reinstall!

apotheon
apotheon

Serif fonts were invented to improve readability in print media by creating a sense of line-continuity when reading. As it happens, sans serif fonts are more readable in active displays (that is, displays that actually radiate light rather than merely reflecting it) such as CRT and LCD monitors, because serifs create visual clutter that makes the characters indistinct. There are exceptions for cases where a sans serif font is badly designed so that there aren't sufficient cues for differences between some characters, but there are serif fonts that do similar damage to readability through poor design, so that's hardly a one-sided argument. That's what's wrong with a serif font, at least on a computer screen. Other factors come into play, such as color schemes (as you mentioned) and kerning, of course, but that does not particularly bear on the specific question of what's wrong with a serif font.

pgit
pgit

I'm stealing that one, it's a natural. :D

apotheon
apotheon

Arch Linux seems to be pretty raw and unpolished. It actually had problems finding the empty space on my laptop hard drive when I wanted to install it alongside a couple other OSes -- obviously a show-stopper. My preference is for FreeBSD, which makes any Linux distribution I've used over the years look unstable and aggravatingly stubborn by comparison.

aroc
aroc

For me serif is more readable on displays, although not all serif fonts are so readable by any means - I do have to experiment with display/page/color scheme/browser combinations to see which one works best for me in a given situation. Sometimes I can tolerate some sans serif renditions in the interest of saving that tweak time, but it is almost always sub-optimal for me. Lots of those vertical ascenders, as I mentioned above, will impel me to find relief with the tweaking. YMMV

aroc
aroc

so, my remedy is pick fonts I know are likely to work for me when I have the option (and time - move on if not). Although I think stylistic preferences are also a factor - I like blue better than red, too ;-)

apotheon
apotheon

It sounds like the real problem that bugs you about sans serif fonts is bad font design. There's a lot of bad font design out there, especially for sans serif fonts (because that's what all the cool kids are tweaking these days).