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Fedora, Linux and Stuff :: Fedora 7 Review

Fedora 7 Review

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007 ~ 11:01 pm by Mauriat Miranda

I have been using Fedora 7 for 2 weeks now and feel I’ve setup and configured almost all of the software and hardware as I would like. The following are my observations and assessments of this release.

Installation: Media

Many people have complained that the methods for installing Fedora 7 (F7) were poorly thought out. There are 2 types of ISO’s available for download: Live Images and basic DVD Installs. The Live Images boot to a useable instance of Fedora in memory and provide a method to install the contents of the disk onto the drive. Similar to Knoppix and Ubuntu, but new for Fedora. The DVD install contains the basic set of software and is identical to previous releases.

There is however one major caveat: If you wish to install by CD-ROM you must use a LiveCD. Previously releases provided a multi-CD set which was identical to the contents of the DVD. This has been discontinued. Hence if you have installed via CD you will have to download a great deal more independently and a further limitation is that you cannot upgrade via Live Image.

To make matters worse the forums and mailing lists are flooded with people complaining about the inability to boot or improper detection of CD or DVD drives. I destroyed 1 DVD-RW and 2 DVD-R before I got K3b (in F7-Test release) to burn correctly. Even worse, the DVD kept “disappearing” during the initial steps of the install. However eventually it did finally make it all the way to installing.

Installation: Package Selection

Anaconda (Fedora’s installer) has not significantly changed since Fedora Core 6. The most significant change in F7 is that is merges the 2 main repositories: Core and Extras into one. That being said, one might expect significantly more software available on the DVD media. Quite the opposite, the DVD contained significantly less than previous releases (more later). I followed my common package selections and performed the install.

I was thrilled to find NTFS-3g included in the package selection. It is great to see NTFS read and write support out of the box - considering countless users dual-boot with Windows.

While I personally do not need an “Install Everything” option, I am greatly disappointed with the lack of any form of Disk Space Usage indication. The installer does count the number of packages (~1100) but that does not help much. In the end I installed about 4.0GB of from the 2.8GB DVD.

First Boot Startup: Smolt

Like previous releases, F7 does several setup steps upon the first boot. The most notable addition is the ability to use Smolt to provide Fedora developer a snapshot of the hardware details of your machine. While this may appear to be a privacy issue, I have seen many users on forums provide their smolt-id to help diagnose problems. This is incredibily better then having to ask for lspci output and similar redundant questions. The first boot has this disabled but does strongly encourage users to submit the information. While I have no personal problem with this, I wish more people with low-end systems would use Smolt!

Software Setup: Desktop

I logged into Gnome (default in Fedora) and went first to the terminal to begin my software customizations. I find it very annoying that the terminal has yet again been moved! This time again from “Accessories” to “System Tools”.

Other than the new background the only major attention grabbers were the login animated logo screen has been removed and the “Fast User Switching” shows up in Gnome. I should mention that this functionality has been in KDE for quite some time. The silly thing about it is that I only have 1 main user. Why would I want this enabled? It only shows my name. I added some other users but depending on how you add them it may have problems. For example: I manually added “User” who cannot login (set shell to /sbin/nologin), I do not think that account should show, but it did. Is this a “lets copy someone else without thinking things through”-feature? I don’t find much use for it.

One new feature included is the automatic creation of some commonly used directories: ‘Documents’, ‘Download’, ‘Mail’, ‘Music’, ‘Pictures’, ‘Public’, ‘Templates’ and ‘Videos’. By design if you delete them they come back - a feature by the name of xdg. The irony is not they come back but that no applications use them! Firefox downloads by default to the Desktop and not Downloads! Similar behavior can be seen in Multimedia applications and Mail applications.

Firefox 2 - while it really is not that new, Fedora Core 6 only had version 1.5 with no support for FF2. The disappointment I have with FF2 in F7 is that it kills my CPU. My Athlon-64 throttles the CPU from 1Ghz to 2.4Ghz (I use the CPU Frequency Scaling Monitor in Gnome). The problem is that EVERY SINGLE PAGE LOAD spikes the CPU to max 2.4Ghz - JUST to load the page. This happens for simple sites as well and also when I’m scrolling in FF2. I never saw this behavior in FF1.5 (or for that matter with FF2 in Windows). The browser seems to get worse with more tabs. I do not know if I should blame Mozilla, Fedora or GTK/Cairo/something-or-other-widget - either way I am very disappointed in the performance.

Included Software

Considering the 2 main Fedora repositories Core and Extras were merged, there was not a considerable amount of new software included on the DVD. The inclusion of NTFS was nice, and KDE users would be happy to see Amarok included. But for the most part a great deal of default software was removed. Many of the compatibility libraries and related software were removed. I manually had to install: Vim X11, Thunderbird, GFtp, X-Chat and K3b. These were all previously included in Fedora. Why the change? While some exclusions are minor, I was surprised to see K3b removed from the installation media. This is a highly polished CD/DVD writer application.

Of all the exclusions on the default install, the one that will NOT be missed was Beagle. This is the (clumsy and quirky) desktop search application which consumes unnecessary CPU and Disk, but yet fails to work really well.

System Changes

SELinux: Security Enhanced Linux
While not a major change some new utilities were added to better support SELinux - namely the SE Troubleshooter Applet. At first I found it helpful and used some of its reports to “fix” issues with files or options in SELinux. However the problem with it is that after a short time of using it, I became overwhelmed with the amount of warnings it provided. Many for things I did not realize I was running and many for very minor things that should not be restricted. An annoyance was that many times when I followed the “recommendation” to resolve the issue, it had no effect. Even though I always end up disabling SELinux, I was hoping this would help me leave it enabled. However it only re-enforced my opinion that I’m wasting my time with it.

YUM: Software Installation with Automatic Handling of Dependencies
A significant improvement was made to YUM. The time it takes to perform software installations (# yum install package) was reduced. It made the “yum experience” much more pleasant. However I was greatly disappointed to read that this comes with the price of higher system resources. Luckily I use YUM sparingly and keep track of every package I install.

Memory Consumption - I cannot be sure if this is the result of Fedora 7 or whether or not I had a memory hog running in Fedora Core 6 - BUT my memory consumption is incredibly lower in F7 than FC6. A few hours with F7 leaves about 1GB used and 1GB free (that’s free NOT cached), whereas the same time period in FC6 would leave about 1.9GB used and 100MB free. I don’t know the culprit, but with the exception of VMWare installation I have everything I had in FC6 installed in F7. Odd, but I’m not complaining.

Hardware Support

The news surrounding the release mentioned notable improvements in wireless. However I am not able to test this. The biggest change I found was in the handling of drives. I do not know if it is related to the new libata features in the kernel, but countless people have problems with their CD-ROM’s or DVD-ROM’s - many during the installation (considering that FC5 and FC6 worked correctly on the same hardware). There are some reported issues with partitions and RAID system, etc - however I did not run into these either. While I had problems with the DVD-ROM I was able to resolve it. … As an opinion/comment - I am curious why so many more hardware quirks showed up with this release? Kernel? Library? Well, something new seems to be causing regressions - one of my greatest frustrations with Fedora in general.

ACPI - Power Management
Some improvements and changes were made to power management that would affect how Fedora handled Suspending and Resuming. While the changes are supposed to improve the experience for more people, some previously working suspend/resume functionality maybe quirky. At first I thought I was immune to this. I tested S3 - Suspend to RAM and it worked (with Nvidia) and S4 - Suspend to Disk failed (as expected with Nvidia). However after only a few days with suspend my USB system stopped resuming correctly at random times! I was forced to manually remove USB modules/drives using and reload them using modprobe. I thought I had seen the end to this in Fedora Core 4!

Conclusion

I think overall the installation was the worst part of Fedora 7, everything else seemed simple enough to work around. While I do feel a marginal speed improvement in the general feel of the operating system, I do not feel like there was a notable improvement over Fedora Core 6. The improvements to some applications such as YUM are welcome, but they really cannot excuse the new quirks (i.e. ACPI).

My basic view of improvement when it comes to a new release is that it should take less time to setup everything and that setup should be done with more ease. In this case that did NOT happen.

Unless there is some immediate need for something new in Fedora 7 (which does not apply to many people), I think people should either wait to upgrade from FC6 or just hold off for Fedora 8. In the meanwhile Ubuntu or OpenSuse look nicer everyday. I do not mean to dismiss the great deal of hardware put into the infrastructure for Fedora, but frankly this release just lacked some much needed quality.

8 Responses to “Fedora 7 Review”

  1. Marlon Walcott Says:

    I quite agree with the review, I think I’ll be going back to FC6 this weekend. I ‘m also trying Vista for the first time this week. Needless to say with XP, Vista and F7 I spend most of my recreational time in XP.

  2. Brad Scalio Says:

    Greetings

    The INSTALL:

    I agree with the install 100% … I had major issues with packages NOT installing properly, even though the DVD passed the media-check and sha1 was identical to that provided by fedora-project.org — Gnome was missing several libraries, e2fsprogs was missing thus fsck.ext3 was not found, cups libs were missing, hidd is having some issues, more boot-up “ok” errors so now on top of the usb errors, I get to see pcscd udev errors which I need to troubleshoot (but just cosmetic right now).

    The GOOD:

    I have an Intel Pro-Wireless IPW3945ABG wifi card — in FC6 it would randomly drop the connection due to “timeout” after much googling, it ended up being a bug, with no fix from Fedora or Intel … well, in F7 the connection hasn’t drop out yet, in 3 days since I installed … it would usually drop about once every 2 hours.

    APCI is working amazingly well for me .. before this install, FC6 had issues with lid shut, suspend to RAM, and various other laptop features, I had to configure nothing to get it to work this go around, which was nice

    NVIDIA driver for my GeForce card, FYI running on Dell XPS M1710 gen3, would have issues — mainly cosmetic, but on logout, the screen would distort, and sometimes freeze, requiring a reboot — on shutdown the shutdown messages would distort and become unreadable — occasionally I would get sketchy icons on the desktop, and especially on the “on launch notification” jumping-icons the backgrounds to which would be fuzzy and static looking — I have had none of these problem on F7

    The BAD:

    You said most of it — most of the bad for me is cosmetic and personal preferences, like the terminal in gnome … I also don’t like how packages and kernel names still are appended fc7 … if we had to drop the core, then drop the “c” as well, it should just be f7

    In all — I am glad I decided to install f7 over my fc6 … I haven’t had any of the major issues I have seen, like LVM/initrd problems, etc

    I would recommend f7 to anyone with a Dell XPS M1710

    Thanks for your HowTos … they have gotten me through 4 Fedora installs now ;-)

    Brad

  3. Tim Lauridsen Says:

    fc7 = “Fedora Collection 7″ in package names.
    Cant be changed to ‘f7′ because it would spoil the package comparation

    fc7 > fc6
    f7

  4. frantic Says:

    I somewhat disagree with rather negative tone of your review. I myself used Fedora KDE Live CD for installation and am impressed. Reasons?
    1) Reasonably small install with no major unneeded rubbish (I know I can deselect some packages in DVD install) and with no big tweaking required (everything except wifi and card reader works out of the box) and wifi is easy to work out with ndiswrapper (or fwcutter but I prefer ndiswrapper).
    2) KDE is lightning fast compared to what I was used to from other distros and even faster than Gnome in F7 (my laptop is Acer 5030 Turion 64, 1.8GH, 512M RAM).
    3) Nice font rendering out of the box.
    4) Yum finally usable and responsive enough for normal use.
    5) After adding Firefox, Openoffice, Acrobat reader, KPlayer and multimedia codecs (thank YOU for nice guide especially Acrobat Reader part!), I have complete desktop for what I’ll ever need.
    6) So far no crash, no application misbehaving, no instability occured.

    I do not use/recommend upgrading of any distro from version to version+1 (like in this case from 6 to 7). I keep personal files in separate parition and always do a clean install. Fortunatelly, I do not need heavy eye candy and UI customization, so I’m ready to work fully in less than 1 hour from inserting of install CD to DVD drive:-)

  5. Mauriat Says:

    frantic:

    Thanks for your comments. I did not criticize KDE in anyway.
    Your points 3, 4, 5 and 6 apply to both Gnome or KDE. As for stating KDE is “faster” I would agree as I’ve been observing Gnome become more sluggish with every release.

    As for the CD issue, you apparently have not seen or heard of the troubles with booting for many. Furthermore, many people do not have time to re-install since the upgrade options are limiting with how the LiveCD works. I’m glad it worked out for you, but understand that there are many users with different configurations that may have worked before that are having trouble now.

    As for the “negativity”, well rather I’m being critical.

  6. mahesh Says:

    (my grammar is not good so plz do ignore the mistakes
    if its not posible to ans here plz to mail me )
    hi,
    i am new to linux i liked ur comments very much thank u for the info as a new bie i am found it very help full i have done with f7 as u people have said s there are many problems in the installation for many users i have read them its quite painful to hear that

    if users find so much of pain to install many people will think its more complex and new persons who want to switch over may not wish to continue with plans

    i have a doubt i dont know if it should be asked here or not but still out of curiosity i am asking

    well we know beryl i have installed it on intel 865gbf mother board its working very fine
    i have a dual boot with vista
    in vista i dont get the areo interface saying that my board does not support
    why is this so when beryl supports the hardware why cant vista i really dont understan this things
    the major reason i like linux is
    the optimal performance with minimum resources
    i like the way it shapes up but let me ask
    how many users will go to terminal and install the softwares or will take the pain of searching all the web
    and getting the solution
    as we know the major people who use the system does not know any think expect the work they are assigned other than that how many people will take pain to get all the thinks get done
    i am sure if once this thinks are answered linux will be a head of all the other os its technically head of all the other os which i belive

  7. Jaap Says:

    Clear comments,

    I was running FC5 and tried the FC6 upgrade. It failed recognizing my (old) HP printer and new Wifi card. Went to Suse 10.1 which recognized everything. But I found Suse sluggish, especially compared to F7, which recognized all my hardware and runs smoother than Suse on my VIA 1Ghz, 1GB RAM system.

    I suppose Suse is realy meant for larger systems; while I love YAST for years, the system seems just too big for my hardware. (I run a quiet, fanless system)

  8. William Brumley Says:

    Dear Mauriat:
    Thank you for your pertinent review. I searched far and wide for one that seemed to mirror my impressions as most seemed gushing over the release. It is an attractive release but in view of the many bugs reported, it seems often flawed depending I suppose on hardware issues although as you point out new developments like libata have created problems. So far it is less capable than fc5 and that is judged by the fact that the DVD cannot be enabled to have dma, the sound did not work, the browser does not work right, the execution is noticeably slower (e.g., synaptic as I use KDE), and Konqueror is fine if you do not need flash. Also, recognition of sata drives is flawed and these may all be related to ASUS 8V8 AMD64 type system with its BIOS (I like Award better). Who knows?
    I am a hobbiest programmer and I like to write applications in linux for the desk top and for my real job (scientist). Now I am thinking of trying Debian.
    If anything, I think you understated the issues with this distribution. I second your wish that it should be getting better and easier not the reverse but I am beginning to think that this is an experimental kind of thing witnessed by the release cycle and the stated intention to test new stuff. I venture that a “stable” version would require a year at least just to address all the bug reports.
    Regards, Bill