Finally, Fedora 17 has arrived. The main rpm-based distribution was delayed for a couple of weeks, but it was worth waiting to ensure last minute bugs were fixed. There are, of course, updates across the board – Gnome 3.4, KDE 4.8, Eclipse Juno, and GIMP 2.8 to name just a few. I installed the 32-bit GNOME 3 live CD edition for this review.
The installer hasn’t changed since my Fedora 16 review, so I won’t go into detail. The btrfs file system is still not ready to be used as the default (I suspect that for most users, ext4 will remain the best option for a few more years). Your wireless connection is carried over to the post-install, which I like. Another thing I appreciate (because I dual boot Linux with Windows) is that the installer makes it very simple to replace an existing Linux system. Overall, I think the Fedora installer very easy to use, yet powerful.
The default live CD installs about 50 programs and utilities, including several casual games (a nice feature). Among these are a document viewer, an image viewer, a scanner utility, the Firefox web browser, the Evolution mail client, the Empathy IM/chat client (which includes some video chat ability), the Transmission torrent client, Rhythmbox for music playback, Brasero to burn CDs, Sound Juicer to rip music CDs, and the Totem movie player. Firefox comes with several useful links to the Fedora project and a few open source websites.
I’m not sure I care for the default programs in the Dash, though. There are only six: Firefox, the Evolution mail program, Rhythmbox for music, the Shotwell picture manager, the file manager, and a “Documents” viewer. My previous experience has shown I can get 12 to 15 icons on the Dash, so perhaps 3 or 4 more programs, like Terminal, wouldn’t hurt. The “Documents” viewer seems to be a work in progress. It showed a .docx file that I had in the Documents folder, but since I’d used Abiword instead of LibreOffice, the file would not preview (LibreOffice was not installed yet). PDF files are opened with no problems, luckily.
Considering that LibreOffice is not installed by default, there seems to be at least one assumption there. It’s also not clear how to actually close the previewer window; I resorted to using the Activities button to display all open windows and closing it from there.
Perhaps Fedora could use the method found in PCLinuxOS: they have a link to install the latest version of LibreOffice on the desktop, but leave the files out of the live CD. The lack of a word processor of any kind in the main edition, even Abiword, is really not something to be pleased about. As I note below, the KDE Spin does install office software, and it had the same space restrictions. You can always install from the DVD edition if this is important.
I am not really happy with the main add/remove software manager. It does the job, but trying to both install new programs, and remove others at the same time, is difficult or impossible (unless there’s an unintuitive way I am missing). There is a useful help manual, though. In fact, GNOME has a help application whose icon is a personal floatation device, accessible in the Applications area.
Programmers, as usual, will be pleased with Fedora. Fedora’s repositories include a fairly complete set of programming languages, IDEs, and editors. Python, PHP, Ruby, Haskell, Perl, GCC, and Java are all quite current. Codeblocks, Glade, Geany, ghc, KDevelop, and Qt Creator are also available. (If you use Python’s IDLE, it’s in a package called python-tools.)
Most all of your usual software is available, from music players and music creation programs, to video editors, to various graphics tools (Blender, Inkscape), and other applications.
Due to size limitations of the live CD, Fedora doesn’t install the LibreOffice suite, so you need to add either that or Abiword if you want a word processor. LibreOffice is version 3.5.3, which is only 1 minor version behind the current one. (if you prefer Open Office for some reason, you’re out of luck – I was unable to find it in the repositories.)
There is a graphical firewall tool installed and ready to go:
One thing I’ve been doing is learning to use KVM for virtualization. Although you can find Virtualbox in the nonfree repositories, Red Hat and Fedora use KVM and the Virtual Machine Manager to create and work with virtual machines.
Fedora does not install the codecs and extras that most people like to have. In addition to RPM Fusion, there are 3 third party utilities to help you do this: Autoplus, easyLife, and Fedora Utils. I’ve had no issues using either Autoplus or easyLife, so you should just pick one and use it. Fedora Utils shows you what you have installed, and lets you uninstall things, which I couldn’t see as an option in easyLife. All install a graphical icon into the Application area. Once you do that of course, you can use all Flash-based websites, watch Apple movie trailers, and play Windows media.
Fedora makes no changes to the default GNOME desktop as far as I can tell. You still need to hold down the Alt key to reboot or shutdown, for instance. I do like having the calendar application in the very middle of the bar, although that’s a personal preference. (If I could figure out how to change that in Cinnamon, I would.)
Special note: My laptop has a Radeon 3200 card, and if you have one of the older ATI ones, keep in mind that you are now limited to the FOSS driver. ATI’s most recent Catalyst no longer will support certain series of cards anymore. I didn’t have any trouble playing games despite this, but check the documentation to see whether you can still use the proprietary driver.
Fedora contains most of the best games Linux has available, in their most recent versions. Frogatto for instance, is version 1.2, the first time I have seen it show up in a repository.
Some of the few games I did miss are Megaglest (Glest is available, but it just isn’t as feature-full), Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, Angband, Sauerbraten, Assault Cube, and Simutrans (OpenTTD is in the repositories).
For emulators, you have Wine, DOSBox, and the most common console emulators. These include ones for NES, Genesis, Super Nintendo, GameBoy Color and Advance, Playstation, Nintendo DS, Gamecube, and arcade (MAME). The only one I missed was Mupen64plus (for Nintendo 64). Certain emulators in the repos do not have a graphical front-end – mednafen, osmose, and a couple of others.
Fedora also comes in 3 other desktop editions: KDE, Xfce, and LXDE. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that their KDE Spin edition is what I’ve come to refer to as a “pure KDE” one. There are no GNOME/GTK+ applications or libraries installed, and even LibreOffice and Firefox are left out. To make up for that though, this edition installs 3 of the Calligra office suite applications, so you do start off with a word processor, a spreadsheet program, and a presentation application, with Konqueror as your initial web browser. I may take an in-depth look at this edition later this summer.
If you like GNOME 3, Fedora is definitely for you. If you like KDE, Fedora has a spin for you that is one of the better editions I’ve seen. I continue to like Fedora overall. They have a strong community, and always offer the most recent software versions.
One of the few problems I see is that distributions using RPMs are still not reliably compatible with each other’s packages (there are also 2 incompatible versions of RPM in use). It would be a great step forward if the main 3 or 4 Linux distros that use the RPM package management system would take steps to increase their compatibility. This aggravates the fact that repositories for Fedora, openSUSE, and PCLinuxOS have fewer applications and games than can be found in Debian-based distributions; and each one seems to vary just slightly the games and programs they provide.