So, most of my recent use of Linux has been on Linux Mint, a distribution based on Ubuntu. I currently have a dual-boot set up, and installed the new Fedora 15 (beta) to give it a spin. I have not used Fedora very much. I am used to the GNOME 2 desktop but the upcoming Fedora – which will be released on May 24 – is using the brand new GNOME 3 with no ability to return to GNOME 2. This is something Windows users wouldn’t be expecting – the same “desktop” but implemented differently. In Ubuntu and Fedora, the main taskbar is at the top. In Mint, and some other distributions of Linux, it is at the bottom, as Windows users usually see it.
I installed the CD sized version, not the full DVD one. This is a live session that includes the ability to install to your hard drive. The installation routine is in the Activities>Application section. Please note that the CD installation media does not include XChat, nor any office software beyond Evolution mail manager. LibreOffice is available from the repositories, so this is not a huge problem, unless you don’t have internet access right away.
There are extra unofficial repositories for software, RPMFusion (free and nonfree). The website’s instructions to add them are clear and worked well. After adding those additional repos, emulators available included: 2 for SNES, one for Sega Master System, one NintendoDS, 2 NES ones, Amiga, Commodore 64, GBC, Gamecube, 2 for Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, MAME, Saturn, and DOSBox. Just about the only thing I missed was one for Gameboy Advance. The Wine files are available as well, and of course Fedora includes the most recent version.
My Windows partition was available under “Devices” – no need to mount the NTFS volume.
GNOME 3, although lacking some customizing, includes over 25 wallpapers:
Updating your software is fairly simple:
And although it’s been simplified, the control center still has most of the settings you are used to from GNOME 2:
GNOME 3 also debuts a new searching ability straight from the desktop. As you can see from the screenshot below, as you enter a term, it returns results that refine as you finish typing. If you click on the Wikipedia or Google buttons, the search term will be sent to a new tab in the current (or default) web browser, and brings up the appropriate web page search result.
Things I liked:
- The dock takes up about 2/3 of the left hand side. This is where your Favorite apps are located. As you add more items to it, each icon shrinks in size to make room. I was able to have 15 programs in the dock, and I’m sure that isn’t the maximum number.
- Adding an app to the dock was simple – drag and drop. A small unobtrusive notification at the bottom of the screen let me know it was successful.
- when I turn off the touchpad on my laptop, I get a nice (large!) graphic showing me that it is turned off or back on, that slowly fades away. This is a nice touch for people with visual problems.
- some people have complained that in GNOME 3 there is only a close button, not a minimize or maximize button. Well, double-clicking the title bar of a window maximizes that window unless it already was maximized (which is a Windows behavior also). This seems to work for me.
- Fedora includes 4 games out of the box – Minesweeper, Aisleriot (solitaire), Iagno (Othello) and Swell Foop. More distributions should do this. These are fun games, very appealing to the casual gamer. Also available in the repositories are most of the games I have covered in past posts – puzzles, shooters, FPS, and more. While the selection isn’t exactly the same as what you find in Ubuntu, the overlap is at least 80%.
- When you mouse up to the activities area, your window resets to about half size and the left-hand dock returns along with all your windows partially exposed on the right hand side. Clicking on the window restores it to maximized size.
- My wireless connection was detected, and it carried the setting over into the post-installation. Some distributions make you re-enter the information.
- ‘Release notes’ in the “accessories” section is an entry that will open up in a web page so you can read them.
- To the left of the “Volume” button on the top taskbar is a “Universal Access” setting. This provides several settings to make the desktop easier to use for those who are vision-impaired. (In addition, Orca is installed by default, and KMag is in the repositories. Orca is a fairly complete free assistive technology program for people who are visually impaired, and KMag provides a magnifier for a section of your desktop)
Things I didn’t like:
- Fedora doesn’t install Flash automatically, so you can’t watch Youtube or do other Flash-necessary things right away. This preference for only open source software is commendable, but it won’t pull more users in from the Windows and Apple world.
- The way GNOME 3 works is that when you open a new program, it creates a new desktop to put it in, not the 2nd one that is already there. It seems like there’s an extra step to switch desktops – click Activities, mouse over the desktop you want to move into, and click it to maximize/make active. There are keyboard shortcuts, but I didn’t take the time to get used to them. I’m betting that you’ll benefit from learning and using them frequently
- Rhythmbox didn’t want to quit easily when I tried, I had to “force quit” it. Same with the New Printer wizard. Hopefully these are bugs that get fixed in the final release.
- Although I do love the little icons in the GNOME update manager, the Add/Remove software application isn’t as intuitive as I was hoping. You either check or uncheck programs and files to install or uninstall. I’m not sure if it is a bug, but occasionally the checkbox won’t show up at the left, so you can’t install or uninstall what you want. The quickest way to refresh this is to select a different “section” of software. Also, there don’t seem to be any single “task” installation options i.e., installing one entire desktop’s software with one metafile. Mandriva does this well, and the Debian Synaptic frontend also includes such items. Trying to add, for example, KDE’s whole Software Center is problematic without such a feature.
- Fedora has a decent selection of alternative window managers, but I wasn’t happy with their implementation. IceWM, Fluxbox, and Xfce all seemed not as well-integrated as they are in Ubuntu and Linux Mint. If you use one of them, be prepared for extra work getting them set up properly. The term “bare-bones” comes to mind.
Some distros let you find the closest geographical repository location to download your software from. Can you do that in Fedora?
Why is there still a Desktop folder if you are discouraged from putting icons on the desktop? I also gather that GNOME applets will be no more. Will there be some kind of replacement?
Can you have different wallpaper on different workspaces? Can you rename the workspaces?
Can you disable the upper left-hand corner hot spot? Seeing as how the “Windows” key (usually in between Ctrl and Alt) performs the same function, I would prefer an option to do so, so that when I’m working with a maximized window I don’t have to worry about moving the mouse too far to the upper left.
The add/remove software application will offer to “close” or “run” the list of software you just installed. I don’t understand the point of this, especially if you installed several things at once.
I was much more impressed with the new Fedora than I expected. I think that it’s an excellent distribution, and although it won’t replace Linux Mint for my own day to day use, I definitely can see its appeal. If you like Fedora, or if you haven’t used it but favor the more open-source focused distros, give this a chance. I can’t compare GNOME 3 to Unity, since I haven’t yet tried the latter, but I hope GNOME 2 users will at least try the new version for themselves for a week before making the decision to give up on the new direction GNOME has chosen to take. Remember: no matter how many opinions you read, you are the one in control of your operating system and its interface. GNOME 3 is brand new, and some of what is lacking will probably be returning fairly soon.
EDIT 5/7/11: For some additional discussion, please see my second post, Fedora further thoughts.