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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.

59 comments
a.southern
a.southern

I've tried this a number of times, but can't get it to recognise a PCIMCA network adaptor. I've pulled whatever little hair I have out. I've tried Mint as well as it has the codecs for video and audio, but I need something in Chinese with a Chinese IME on it too. Any ideas?

scarl
scarl

I've used Fedora since Core 4, and I'd have to say, No, it was not worth the wait. Granted, my system isn't as up to date as the other people here have - it's a 2GHz Compaq - but Fedora 7 was humming along nicely. I upgraded to 9 (actually had to reinstall, it wouldn't upgrade) and the nightmare began. Systems hangs, core crashes, software not running, audio working one day and not the next, networking not working... After a couple of months I gave up and installed Ubuntu 8.04. Now everything is working fine and I doubt I'll be returning to Fedora in the future.

bailianhua
bailianhua

Dude... for a tech "specialist" you use a petty 1 GHZ processor .. show us what it can really do... right now , it's like saying " Man...I've put premium unleaded and slicks on my 1980 LADA..see it fly" ...... :) By the way Ubuntu is for newbies.... cuddle cuddle

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's what you are around here. TR staff frequently test software using less-than-optimal hardware because those are the circumstances many TR members encounter in the real world. Consider lurking a while until you have a better idea of the environment here.

ksarkies
ksarkies

Based on this reported experience, I would have to say no. I used RH for many years before switching to U, which made my life much, much easier. Unfortunately for the distros, they either have to excel in a niche area, or they have to beat the competition. Otherwise it is just not worth the trouble of continuing.

if3gt4
if3gt4

I understand what you are getting at but mostly it all seems like "pretty Pretty windows" complaints. ALOT of people who spend much time on NIX systems of any flavor do alot of work outside of the X (GUI) anyway. You can customize the GUI of ANY OS using various desktop environments or window blinds or whatever....pick one. bottom line the kernel stability security and speed should be primary function concerns for any release of anything and from everything i have seen and tested ill take pretty much any version of NIX over Vista any day of the week for all of the above reasons. Ubuntu is a great distro ill give you that but i think it really just comes down to the preferences of the given user. some people like to be more involved in configuring every aspect of the box and some people like distros such as Ubuntu because you don't have to. Fedora 9 is a good release with alot of good and improved features over 6,7 8. but honestly I Hate KDE 4 and will always revert back to GNOME just because of stability alone. If you take away the issues with KDE 4 and pretty pretty windows fedora core 9 is a screaming release.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

I'm a user who likes the look, feel, and operation of Windows XP. So, for me, KDE 3 provides a very satisfactory desktop. In contrast, I have no use for Windows Vista or its counterpart KDE 4. Both seem to have been created for developers' reasons, rather than to meet users' needs. Ubuntu is ok, but its installation is too simplistic for me to get it working right on my multi-drive, multi-boot system. SuSE, in contrast, provides excellent control over the installation. SuSE also will install Gnome, KDE 3, and KDE 4 side-by-side so you can explore each, or use the one that best suits the task at hand. Perhaps Jack will investigate how his favorite desktop, Enlightenment, installs into the newly released SuSE 11.0.

mitch
mitch

I DO NOT like the "new" KDE. I can't find anything. Yet. Things are missing. Firefox 3 doesn't behave well. Yet. I'm USED to running as root with a couple of terminals open - it's not intuitive to figure that out. I still haven't figured out some of the basic configurations. Like - wallpaper, for example. So, for me, no - I prefer Fedora 8, so far.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I do not like it with Firefox I do not like it on my box I do not like it with a mouse I do not like it in my house I do not like it here or there I do not like it anywhere I do not like new KDE I do not like it, Mitch you be. With apologies to Theodore Geisel

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

KDE is awful...blech...Gnome isn't much better, but at least it's not ugly. I use Fluxbox ;-)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I couldn't tell the difference between KDE and Gnome (or any other Linux GUI) without opening an 'About' screen (or whatever the Linux equivalent is). I don't have enough experience to have a preference and have never tried to replace whichever one came with the distros I've experimented with. I was just inspired by Mitch's opening sentence. I'll send your heart back in a peer mail. Forward it on to boxy. Maybe she has a warm spot on an Antarctic ice plain for it where she'll stuff it full of fresh herring guts. Don't send it to TiggerTwo; she'll just feed it to various rainbow-colored cats.

smason
smason

You actually burned 6 CDs because you don't have a DVD burner?? Why not do what a normal geek would do, download the DVD ISO and mount it on your precious Ubuntu system, and install over your LAN... Then the first complaint after installing is you don't like the default desktop background? Sorry, you lost all credibility afer I read that.

jlwallen
jlwallen

and i didn't have time to get a new one and install it before i needed to get the article out. so i burned them on CD. the DVD burner has been replaced and was just used for gOS space (which will be covered next week.) and i don't have to validate myself. i think my reputation here on TR speaks for itself.

yschoo1
yschoo1

If I hadn't known you for quite awhile, that last statement of yours looks pretty cocky. Cocky aside I have intended to stick to your advice not to touch Fedora 9. I had tried Fedora 8 for about a week and I abandoned it for good and put my Ubuntu back to keep. Now I have 2 machines running Ubuntu 8.10. Yippee! No more yumming this or that just to play MP3 or DVDs.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

to be a little cocky? Seems to me you have earned the right here on TR. Personally, I did not see your comment as cocky, but a simple statement of fact.

jlwallen
jlwallen

is because i pretty much built the linux side of techrepublic back in 1999. i was the editor in chief of Linux content and was championing the OS back when no one would give it any credibility. it was a long, hard-fought journey but i think it paid off. but i am sorry if i came off as cocky. that's not who i am.

lastchip
lastchip

Tried gOS and it looks like something from Toys-R-Us. Can I suggest you give us your comments on SuSE, a very competent system that receives very little coverage here on TR. Personally though, I'll stick with Debian, which I've grown to love!

ds4211a
ds4211a

I had problems trying to get SuSe 10.3 to upgrade to 11.0. I kept getting error messages that would take me into an endless loop trying to repair the install. I finally got tired of that and made a fresh install of 11.0 from the live CD. That worked fine. But I can see where that method would be a problem if you are trying to keep your old data.

r_widell
r_widell

I made the mistake of "upgrading" my mailserver from OpenSuSE 10.2 to 10.3 and got so frustrated with the software management and updating under YAST that I decided to give 11.0 a try. Unfortunately, they've been working so hard on all of the virtualization stuff that they've neglected the basics. Not only are software management and updating still painfully slow and rife with fatal network timeouts, they also managed to break the VNC server, it won't even work over http with the Java applet that comes in the same package. The slow and halting file transfers are not just an RPM thing either. Mandriva S/W updates and installs happen almost as quickly as the apt-based equivalents under Debian. ron

Jaqui
Jaqui

that Debian is also slak based? ;) not quite true, but both have the same install model.

Jaqui
Jaqui

like I said, most think it's Red Hat based because of ther use of almost all RH tools. RH's anaconda installer it looks like, RPM, yast. It's so different from Slak now that calling it Slak based still seems inaccurate, while calling it RH based seems to fit perfectly.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

All this time I would have sworn it was Red Hat based... Well, at least they picked a solid groundwork. "Slackware is Linux for people who aren't tards." --Linux Action Show

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

and its Debian that binds them.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Suse lets you pick a KDE or Gnome desktop. it's supposed to be slak based yet it looks and feels a lot more like Red Hat based.

jlwallen
jlwallen

it's OpenSuse 11.0. i'm worried because it comes with KDE 4 but i thought i'd see what they did with it. :D

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Jaqui suggested I look at it since they improved the integration with Microsoft's Active Directory. I haven't got off my can, but I look forward to a review of it. Thanks.

jlwallen
jlwallen

i have tended to ignore SuSE. i will download it, kick the tires, see what's under the hood these days, and give it some words. thanks for the suggestion.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't know how many of Jack's posts you've read, but you may not want to determine his credibility based on a single blog post. I suggest you review some of his other material before you make a determination.

Jaqui
Jaqui

it's Red Hat Bloatware and defaults to the garbage gui of gnome. [ if I wanted macos look and feel, I would be running macos, but then, I say the same thing about distros that use KDE, since I don't run windows I don't want a "windows" look and feel. ]

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"... when Microsoft releases a new version of Windows ... each release (at least from XP on) looks and feels much different than the previous. ... 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." We Windows users would love to have a functional upgrade that looked the same as its predecessors while featuring significant improvements under the hood :-)

john3347
john3347

Palmetto, I wish you could climb to the top of the Sears Tower and turn toward Redmond and scream your statement at the top of your lungs. Maybe Ballmer and crew could hear you that way!! "Functional" would be the most significant word here.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I won't be messing with Fedora again anytime soon. Fedora 7 was a nightmare as far as acquiring and burning the install discs. I finally broke down and purchased a pre-burned cheapie from OSDisc. Compared to Ubuntu the install was slower than molasses in January. The lack of proprietary codecs and the difficulty finding and installing same was enough to put me off it for a good long while. Apparently, from your article, little has changed in that regard. I don't have the time or inclination to migrate my mp3's to another format, so I'll just stick with Ubuntu for now. And play with other distros on the old laptop until it shoots cr@ps. Thanks for that review.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

FC9 is far better in terms of everything (so far) and it seem to be far snappier and easier to use. It also looks like there are more repositories for various codecs and usability stuff.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

and K cars fit in this? Or since those were more "nicknames" based on models do they not count? Oh, crap, also not vowels... will now proceed to hit head on desk. Personally I look forward to the Y series... YTV, Yphone, Yplayer, Ycare(plan)....

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

First it was 'e-this' and 'e-that'; e-mail, e-commerce, etc. Now it's the Apple-uninspired 'i-everything'. I suggest you start trademarking 'o-words' since that's o-bviously what's next.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

and their Ithis and Ithat, where if you remove the I, you know what it does... Icar, Istove, and Icat all coming soon to a store near you. Names should be a programers choice, given, but I do think some descriptions could be greatly improved on. A big project to be sure.

Jaqui
Jaqui

are you nuts? if they made sense then you wouldnt have to rtfm ;) the name is uusually some shortened form of the application description. [ screem = Site CReation and Editing EnvironMent ]

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

That is one of my biggest gripes when it comes to learning my way around Linux (almost any version I have tried). Repository names, AND file names. Those file names, in particular, often make no sense whatsoever to the n00b, even the lightly experienced.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

but...do put FC back on your list, it's gotten better and I think they learned their lesson(s) from FC7 being a usability nightmare.

jlwallen
jlwallen

that is one thing i forgot to mention. it does seem to have more repositories in the GUI which will ease updates for new users. i would make one suggestion to them though: make the descriptions of each repo so new users will know better what they are.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I tend to trust your advice re: Linux. Will consider putting it back on the list.

jlwallen
jlwallen

i think that's part of the issue. Linux users have grown accustomed to all the underneath bits functioning very well. that's why you always hear so much yelling and screaming about which KDE and which GNOME are to be included. we know the kernel is good...we just want what's on top to be as good.

jlwallen
jlwallen

TR had a hiccup. sorry folks

jlwallen
jlwallen

i think that's part of the issue. Linux users have grown accustomed to all the underneath bits functioning very well. that's why you always hear so much yelling and screaming about which KDE and which GNOME are to be included. we know the kernel is good...we just want what's on top to be as good.

jlwallen
jlwallen

i think that's part of the issue. Linux users have grown accustomed to all the underneath bits functioning very well. that's why you always hear so much yelling and screaming about which KDE and which GNOME are to be included. we know the kernel is good...we just want what's on top to be as good.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...so much yelling and screaming about which KDE and which GNOME are to be included." At the risk of starting one of the very same GUI arguments you mentioned, what do you mean by "which KDE and which GNOME"? This Linux neophyte thought there was only a single current version of either in release at any one time. First, what's the proper term for different 'flavors' of either GUI? 'Version'? 'Distribution'? 'Release'? 'Build'? 'Configuration'? Second, what differences are there between 'flavors'? Third, do other, less frequently bundled GUIs also release multiple 'flavors' at the same time?

pgit
pgit

A while back you got me interested enough to try E17. In my experience it is not 'ready for prime time.' Far too many video artifacts and much of the graphical inputs simply do not work. I've tried it on a number of machines, all the same. Might be the Mandriva packaging, but I don't have problems with any other of their packages, so I have to assume it's enlightenment.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

So this is strictly a version issue? That I can wrap my head around. For some reason I just 'assumed' distros would routinely include the latest stable version of an application. Thanks.

Jaqui
Jaqui

which will confuse you even more ;) you can get even older version of the desktop environment / graphic user interface if you want. [ if you really like a particular version and don't want or need the new feature of the newer versions you can keep the version you like, and never go away from it. ] generally the new version will fall into one of 3 categories: x.0 [ KDE 4.0 for example ] New Version, more "features". often though the .0 release is a good thing to stay away from, they also have a trend of being buggy. x.1 the "bugfix" release, usually still pretty bad vis a vis bugs, though it is more usuable generally. x.2 The "Good" release, worth looking at. Stable, bugs fixed. This doesn't always follow though, since Enlightenment is now r17.. oops, lets get more precise there, r 0.17 http://www.enlightenment.org/ Some projects are far slower on the releases, and in general are far less prone to bugs. [ Perl, 8 years to go from 5.8.8 to 5.10.0 being a good example of slow steady improvement done right ] edit to add url

jlwallen
jlwallen

take for instance the current state of KDE. KDE 4 is horrible. the KDE 4.1 release is almost worse. many distributions were itching to be the first to release with KDE 4.x. some did - not knowing how bad the response was going to be - and then quickly backpeddled. also there are development versions and stable version. the average user should only ever use the stable version of any software unless they just want to see what's up and coming. and take for instance Enlightenment. currently there is DR16 and DR17. although they say DR17 isn't ready for prime-time i'm using it in production environments and am not having any problems.

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