Open Source

Linux shakedown: Testing both GNOME 3 and Fedora 15

GNOME 3 is just around the corner. For those anxious about how it will look and feel you can kill two birds with one stone by testing both Fedora 15 and GNOME 3 on a single Live CD. Jack Wallen fires this alpha release up and gives his opinion on where it stands.

The good folks at the Fedora Project decided to do something very intelligent - they released a candidate of Fedora 15 along with what will be the new default desktop - GNOME 3 for testing purposes. I decided to download the special GNOME 3 test ISO image and shake it down to see what happens. I have to say, I was fairly surprised at what greeted me. Not only had GNOME 3 undergone some changes since I last used it, but the release, as a whole, was in very good shape for such an early candidate.

Let's take a look and see what it has to offer.

What's special

As this is an alpha release, going through the litany of included software will only result in frustration as many of these will have changed by the time the official release is out. But for those of you who are curious:

  • GNOME 3 - the obvious, most startling change.
  • Firefox 4
  • Kernel 2.6.38-0
  • Pino Twitter
  • Cheese
  • Rhythmbox
  • Evolution

What is really not all that surprising is the release does not ship with an office suite. Why is this not surprising? Two reasons: This release is all about GNOME 3 and Fedora is still in transition from OpenOffice. I wouldn't worry about an office suite shipping with the final release of Fedora 15...it will, and it will be LibreOffice.

GNOME 3

When the live desktop finally booted up I was very pleasantly surprised at how good the desktop looked. It was clean, sharp, well designed, and worked very smoothly. Figure A at left shows the default desktop of GNOME 3. As you can see, the desktop is incredibly clean...so much so, the first time user might not have a clue as to how to fire up their applications. This is simple. There is a hotspot for the cursor in the upper left corner of the screen. If you hover the mouse in the hotspot the launcher area will open (see below right) where you can launch applications, search your desktops, and choose between your currently open windows.

Figure 2

You will notice a "Favorites" menu. You can add to this Favorites menu by right-clicking an application launcher and selecting "Add to Favorites".

As I mentioned earlier, there have been some changes since I last previewed GNOME 3. Most notably, the location of the search bar has changed and the Windows button has been added. (The Windows button is what you click to preview your currently open windows). Although minor changes, the new locations make perfect sense.

Another fantastic change is the notification area is now more interactive. If you click on the username you can configure specific actions and features. You can also configure universal access features by clicking the icon in the notification area (looks like a small person inside a white circle).

How will GNOME 3 go over?

Back when I first reported on GNOME 3 I was proclaiming it to be the future of the desktop. I still feel that way...very much so. Although it may take some time to get used to the cleaner look and feel of the desktop, GNOME 3 should make many user levels very happy. It is a drastic departure from the standard, but one that is long overdue and will make using the desktop (especially in the touch-screen happy world) much easier.

Fedora 15

Because this release was so focused on GNOME 3, it was hard to even really notice Fedora 15 in the background. That says a lot about where Fedora is heading. The OS, underlying the desktop, was about as solid an alpha release as I have ever laid fingers on. And running from the live CD was incredible - if someone were to sit at this computer (the very PC I am writing this article on) and begin using the desktop, they would never know they were using a Live CD.

Give it a go

I realize that many of you look down on Fedora for one reason or another. But this testing release should not go unnoticed by the IT public. The GNOME 3 testing release of Fedora 15 is crucial to the growth of both Fedora and GNOME. This release will go a very long way in the testing of what will soon become the default desktop for many Linux distributions (for a very long time). So please, do your fellow Linux community members a favor...test this release and submit bug reports. Your help will be much appreciated and long remembered.

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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