Enterprise Software

Fedora 9: Was it worth the wait?

Jack Wallen installs Fedora 9 to see if it has improved enough to lure him away from the Debian-based Ubuntu distribution.

As many of you know, a while back I was converted to Ubuntu. Currently running (happily I might add) Ubuntu 7.10, I have had no need to return to my Red Hat roots. Of course being a writer in this industry, it behooves me to make sure I am up-to-date on the latest, greatest software. So I decided it was necessary to install Fedora 9 and see if it was worthy of me betraying the hug-worthy Ubuntu community and heading back to the distribution that first weaned me from Windows.

And thus I gave Fedora 9 a try. How did it go? Let's take a look.

Installation

One of my biggest gripes of late is how finicky the Fedora ISOs are. I have had many burned images that had bad MD5 or were corrupt, or simply wouldn't install. Fedora 9 was no exception. After burning all SIX installation CDs (I have no usable DVD burner at the moment), I found that disk 2 gave me trouble. So I reburned disk 2 and gave it another try. No luck. Now this image came directly from the Fedora site - not a mirror. So I downloaded the image once again only to find the MD5 was not with the image. No problem, I let the install continue. And finally, after quite a long time (much longer than I have grown accustomed to with Ubuntu), Fedora 9 was up and running.

First impressions

My initial impression of the default wallpaper was that it looked like something in a Disney movie. I was looking for a princess or fairy to appear, wave its magic wand, and have the real wallpaper shimmer into reality. It didn't happen. So I decided to change the wallpaper. Naturally, they included the standard nature-themed wallpapers. (Why is it that a Linux distribution doesn't include the standard fare for Linux users as well as the pretty 3-D looking nature pictures?) I chose one and moved on. But then something struck me...GNOME 2.22.2 (at least the Fedora 9 variety) doesn't have a theme manager so much as a "look" manager. Oh sure it says "Theme," but the included themes are mostly just color variations of the same theme. This is a far cry from the GNOME I am used to. Oh well. Time to move on.

Some other observations:

  • I was happy Fedora included Firefox 3 - not any of the beta releases mind you.
  • There's an interesting addition to the GNOME panel - Tomboy notes. I haven't played with this too much but it certainly seems promising. And bravo for them to add it as a panel applet.
  • Once again SELinux tripped up some of the updates. During the update process SELinux stopped a number of the updates from following through. So I had to switch SELinux to temporarily permissive in order to finish the process. The good news - changing SELinux is now a very simple process. The bad news - new users aren't going to have the slightest idea what SELinux is.
  • Firefox 3 and Fedora 9 do NOT like my scroll wheel. I just finished this blog post and scrolled to check it out and, without a single click, Firefox thought I had clicked something and went away from my post. Needless to say I just lost a lot of work. So it's rehashing what I just wrote. Ahhhh...advances.
  • Fedora 9 runs well on this old machine. My test machine is an old 1 Ghz processor with 384 megs of ram. I have to say I am impressed with the way it zips along.
  • Video and sound worked out of the box. No extra configuration necessary. The graphics card is an old Radeon 7000 and the sound is on board. Granted I am not trying to run Compiz.
  • It is still a nightmare to install my favorite desktop, Enlightenment. This has been an issue for a long time. It's also not limited to Fedora, but on Fedora, for some reason, it is a more difficult process.
  • The dictionaries are all wrong. Even though I set the local to Louisville, KY during installation, all the dictionaries are defaulting to UK.
  • After a year of not actually having a "root" account it felt strange being able to "su" to root. Maybe I have drunk the Ubuntu Kool-Aid too long, but having a real "root" account is somewhat fear-instilling. I guess I have just grown used to sudo.
  • Boot time is far slower than Ubuntu. I did not install any servers on this machine - it is strictly desktop. But this machine running Fedora 9 boots much more slowly than it does when running Ubuntu 7.10.
  • Someone has disabled the GNOME splash screen. One of the things I have always disliked about certain applications or operating systems is that you never know what is going on after you click a button. I want to see progress. And with some of the newer releases (think KDE 4) you never know if the desktop is starting or crashing. Fortunately it's GNOME 2.22.2 so most likely, it's starting.
  • It was pretty easy to connect to my Samba share. However, it was not intuitive to do. I had to go to the Places menu, go to Network, and (when Network wouldn't find anything), I had to make the connection manually. Now when I say "manually" I don't mean that I had to open up a command line. But I did have to enter the information for the server in a configuration window. And even less intuitive was that the connection type for Samba was labeled "Windows Share." This would be misleading for a new user trying to connect to another Linux machine through Samba. The connection did work, however, and I was able to create a bookmark for the connection that is now seen in the Places menu.
  • Because of legal issues, it seems Fedora (and most Linux distributions) are hog-tied by music formats. I wanted to test the music player (by default, it uses the least of all possible offerings - Totem), but nearly every song I have in my collection is still currently in either MP3 or M4A format. I am in the process of changing those formats. But if any Linux distribution thinks it is going to win over the hearts of new users by making them convert all of their music to ogg, they are way off.

So, was it worth the wait? Does Fedora 9 leap ahead enough to woo me back from Ubuntu? Quite simply...no. I have to say, although I am impressed with the performance (I have not used it enough to test stability), I am dulled by Fedora's "same ole, same ole" approach. As I look at Fedora 9, it seems that, outside of a few tweaks, I am looking at any given Fedora release. Think about it - when Microsoft releases a new version of Windows it is done so with banners, theme songs, and commercials. On top of that, each release (at least from XP on) looks and feels much different than the previous. With Fedora it's just a rehash of the same thing. I understand that a lot of this is GNOME (or KDE), but a distribution that is supposed to be "cutting edge" should actually be cutting edge. Fedora 9 is no different (at least from first impression/appearance) than Fedora 8, 7, or 6. Granted, it does benefit from a far superior kernel than its predecessors; it just doesn't benefit from a sleeker look or feel. It's just the same old Fedora.

So no. Fedora will not woo me from Ubuntu. I had hoped that with the release of 9 something special might have been waiting for me...but nothing was. It's just generic Linux with the yum package manager. Ho hum. Fortunately my main machine is still beautifully chugging along with Ubuntu. And now I can wipe this machine and install something really different.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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