At the beginning of November 2010, Fedora 14 was officially released to the public. It is often said that first impressions rarely tell the full story. How does the Red Hat backed distribution fare in terms of individual desktop/portable usage? To find out, I decided to install it on four different machines; two desktops and two portables.
- ZaReason Breeze 3110: The first low-power consumption desktop from the California based OEM. It has a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom CPU, 1 GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive (they were out of the stock drives at the time of purchase), and Intel integrated graphics from the 945 chipset. The 32-bit edition was installed.
- HP Pavilion Elite HPE-410y: This powerful 64-bit system has an AMD Phenom II X6 1045T CPU, 8 GB of RAM, a 1 TB hard drive (half was allocated for Fedora 14), Blu-ray drive with Lightscribe, and an ATI Radeon 5370 with 1 GB of dedicated memory.
- HP Pavilion dv7-4069wm: This notebook has an AMD Phenom II Triple Core Mobile N830 CPU, 4 GB of RAM, two 320 GB hard drives (one of them was used for Fedora), a Blu-ray drive with Lightscribe, 17.3” diagnal screen (resolution of 1600 x 900), wireless, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 (for when the system is plugged in), and an ATI Mobility Radeon 4200 (to save battery power). The 64-bit edition was installed on this system.
- HP Mini 311 Netbook: The current specifications of this system have been altered since I purchased it earlier this year. It currently has a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom CPU, 3 GB of RAM, a 160 GB Intel solid state drive, and Nvidia ION LE graphics. The 32-bit edition was installed on this system using an external HP DVD burner.
The 32 and 64-bit Live CDs were used to install the operating system in question. Both discs leave out any office suite as well as The GIMP or Mono-based applications in order to save space. The software in question may be obtained through PackageKit.
The Live installer was fairly straightforward. The HP dv-7 notebook and Pavilion Elite desktop are both dual-boot systems (both have Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit). With the 64-bit desktop, the Windows 7 partition was shrunk in half, leaving the rest for Windows. The second 320 GB hard drive was utilized in the dv-7 for Fedora. The 32-bit systems exclusively had Fedora 14 installed.
The open drivers for AMD-based graphics on the 64-bit desktop and notebook allowed for 3D acceleration. Glxinfo indicated that 3D was working, and glxgears was able to render the gears in all their graphical glory. The distribution worked perfectly on the Breeze 3110, and why shouldn't it? The motherboard in the 32-bit desktop is none other than an MSI Wind with Intel graphics. The Noveau driver worked quite well on the HP Mini 311. Upon installation, a root password is chosen, a reboot takes place, and a new user is created.
Post Installation Updates and Issues
Since being released on the 2nd of November, Fedora 14 has had several updates, including newer kernel versions. Over 100 updates had to be downloaded and installed. After that, the systems were rebooted and the real fun began. The HP Mini 311 had some software issues, while the Breeze and dv-7 systems had a hardware issue that could be worked around, but is annoying.
Ironically, the Noveau drivers resulted in GNOME being more responsive than the proprietary Nvidia drivers, which were obtained via the RPM Fusion repository. Basic 3D worked with Noveau, but desktop effects didn't work so well with the proprietary driver in use. The Breeze system with its weaker Intel graphics was more responsive with desktop effects enabled than the Mini with the Nvidia driver in use. Though glxgears did produce higher framerates with the Nvidia driver enabled, 2D was not as responsive, which can be somewhat annoying when trying to be productive.
In terms of annoyances, the DVD-ROM drive in the Breeze system worked well with the Live CD in the drive. When trying to read a DVD-R that had backup data on it, it would not do so. The external HP DVD burner was used instead. The dv-7 notebook's quirk concerning the touch pad was very irritating.
In Windows 7, the touchpad works great.
There are no separate buttons for left and right clicking. In other words, it's entirely integrated. The drivers on Windows detects when a mouse button on the touch pad is being touched. The bad news is that in Fedora 14, when the hand is on the left click area, the drivers treat that section as part of the touch pad area, thus making it difficult to double-click, and downright impossible to right click. The only solution (other than fighting the touchpad) would be to use a USB mouse instead. Also, with the dv-7's switchable graphics, there is currently no practical way to switch between GPUs out of the box.
Firefox is installed by default for web browsing needs while Empathy is there for those who wish to use instant messaging. The Transmission BitTorrent client is installed for file sharing purposes as well. Shotwell is available for organizing photos while Simple Scan can be used with various scanners to import various images. The Project Management application and Evolution suite are the only office productivity software applications to be installed. Even though OpenOffice.org was available, LibreOffice was chosen instead. The following command was used to install the software:
rpm -ivh *.rpm
In order to integrate menu entries into the GNOME desktop, the RPM for the menu entries was installed. The Free Desktop menu package was used and the entries worked flawlessly. It is not recommended to use the menu package aimed for Red Hat, because when it was done on the Pavilion Elite, errors occurred when attempting to launch the office suite.
The only system that LibreOffice didn't work on was the Mini, because it would crash when attempting to load. It works well on all the other systems. As for note taking, Gnote is used in place of Tomboy on the Live CD in order to save space. Both applications function the same (with Gnote having less strenuous requirements).
In order to have MP3 playback, the RPM Fusion repository had to be enabled. The appropriate links at rpmfusion.org were clicked for both the free and non-free portions of the repository. After authentication through the root password, the encryption keys were automatically integrated.
The repository in question allows for users to check the keys in question to validate the safety of the software being installed. With the recent exceptions added by the U.S. Copyright Office this year, it appears that it may be legal to use libdvdcss to watch legally purchased DVDs on a computer running Ubuntu, Fedora, or any other operating system that is not Windows or OS X.
Unfortunately, the exceptions only apply to the U.S. And not all of Europe. In order to enable DVD playback, the Livna repository had to be enabled, because RPM Fusion will not make libdvdcss available.
The 32-bit systems were able to easily add Adobe Flash support through using the RPM to add Adobe's repository. There is an experimental 64-bit build, but there are stability issues. Right clicking in a Flash area on a website causes Firefox to run into problems on occasion.
In one instance, YouTube was forced out of full screen mode. Audio worked fine on all systems; good news for those wanting to whistle while they work (or just listen to music). Hopefully, Adobe will have a new 64-bit release for those who have computers with 4 GB or more of RAM.
As for stock multimedia applications, Brasero is there for disc burning. Also, Cheese is available for those who have web cams installed. Totem is there for watching video while Rythmbox is installed for music listening pleasure. For those wanting to rip audio CDs, Sound Juicer is installed.
Fedora 14 is a good distribution. Parts of it may not be for the inexperienced, such as partitioning disk drives. It may also require more knowledge and understanding to add multimedia functionality to the system, but once everything is set up, the user is generally good to go. Those not feeling adventurous may want to install OpenOffice.org instead of LibreOffice.
In terms of being adventurous, Fedora is generally referred to as bleeding edge. For bleeding edge software, it was mostly stable. The exerimental build of 64-bit Flash was the only software that was not completely stable, yet only Firefox was negatively affected.
Through the System Monitor utility, Firefox could be killed so that it could be relaunched. The most helpful thing of all for new users is the revamped website, which offers information for those encountering the ditstro for the first time. Those who are wanting to become intermediate users may want to refer to the online instructions available at fedoraproject.org.
All in all, Fedora is a solid system that will have to be configured with some know how in order to get an environment that is most desired to the individual. Those familiar with installing Windows XP through 7 should be able to find their way around the installation process. When in doubt, forums at fedoracommunity.org and/or linuxquestions.net are available in addition to the official documentation. It is not Slackware, but some effort is required to truly make the system one's own.