Fedora is the premiere showcase for GNOME 3, the new and somewhat controversial version of one of the top desktops used in the Linux community. This is a review of Fedora 16, in its 32-bit version, which uses Gnome 3.2. I installed it from the primary Live disc image that you are encouraged to download from the main site. Fedora uses the RPM Package Management system, not .deb files as Debian, Ubuntu, and Linux Mint do. This is because Fedora is the community version of Red Hat Linux, the company that developed RPMs as a package management technique (RPM used to stand for “Red Hat Package Manager” but it has changed to the recursive name RPM Package Manager). Where Debian-based systems use apt-get as a front end, Fedora uses “yum”, which can resolve dependencies.
Installation, as usual these days, went quite smoothly. I set up my wireless connection with the Live disc and it carried through to post-install. Not all distributions do this, but it’s a nice convenience. There were 7 steps to the installation, with a few further afterwards. It asks about what language you need to use, then you must choose the type of storage device – basic or specialized. Next, you provide a hostname for the computer, and confirm your timezone. The routine then asks you to create a root password (but doesn’t indicate relative strength). There are 5 possible types of installation and I chose “replace existing” (the choices are use all, replace existing, shrink the current one, use free space, or create a custom partition).
After you confirm your partitioning choice, the installation proceeds. This edition of Fedora still uses ext4 as the default file system, although I understand that brtfs will be chosen as the default in Fedora 17.
The post installation is quick, simply letting you see brief license information, setting the date, creating at least one user (and here Fedora shows you a password strength indicator) and letting you assign the first user to the administration group. Finally you have the option of sending a hardware profile back to Fedora.
Fedora, unlike most distributions I prefer, does not install media codecs during the installation. This means that you won’t be watching Youtube or listening to DVDs right away. Even so, there are quite a few applications that are installed by default, and many more available in the repository.
In addition to the roughly 40 applications that the CD installs, you also get release notes, an automatic bug reporting tool, the add/remove software program (GUI for “yum” I assume), and the updater.
I have to say that so far, I do like GNOME 3. It has the date & time (and a calendar) in the middle of the top bar, while on the right hand side you’ll find an accessibility tool, the volume control, the network manager, the battery/power settings, and finally your user area where you can access system settings, your online accounts, switch users, log out, or suspend/turn off the computer.
Most notifiers appear at the lower right corner, as you can see above. When you first insert a DVD, USB drive, or CD of music, you get a larger notifier in the center at the bottom, offering the option to open files – and the file manager does show the volume for you to browse:
Accessibility is a topic that I plan to discuss in more depth in an upcoming post, but Fedora does install Orca by default (a free screen reader program for visually impaired people). The gdm login screen now shares the same simple yet elegant theme as the rest of GNOME.The name area includes online accounts, system settings, lock screen, switch user, log out, suspend/power off. Currently, the online accounts tool only lets you add Google.
The default for GNOME 3 is to lock the screen after several minutes of inactivity.
Fedora easily detected my HP Printer – one of the easiest configurations I’ve done, actually. The “hplip” tool seems to have been installed by default and it all just worked.
Although most people will want to add the 2 RPMFusion repositories as soon as possible, there is plenty in the vanilla Fedora repositories to make you happy – lots of games, lots of applications, and the main programming languages (Ruby, D, OCaml, Haskell, and of course Python 2.7 & Python 3, C, and C++). Many IDEs can be installed – Codeblocks, Glade, KDevelop, Qt Creator, and Anjuta among others. Subversion, CVS, and tools to use them are there as well.
[later 11/12 edit: Removed a section about CDs not being seen, because the issue is not exclusive to Fedora.]
[later edit, 11/13: Discovered on Mint 12 that I can detect and play CDs with the Banshee music player, but not when I'm in the GNOME 3 desktop - it works with LXDE. So if you are having issues playing CDs, try an alternative to GNOME 3. I'll check Xfce and KDE later to see if they work too.]
Fedora does see DVDs, even though it can’t read them without installing the codecs. After codecs are installed, DVDs play easily, on either the Totem movie player that is installed by default, or on VLC, or some other video player.
Also, Fedora is one of the distributions where you can easily watch Apple Quicktime videos inside the browser:
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