Fedora Desktop and Computing

Fedora 18 was released this week and I finally got around to installing it today. To be honest, on either my laptop or desktop I have not really used Fedora much since Fedora 14. I have been incredibly happy with CentOS for over a year and a half now, and I (begrudgingly) accepted Windows 7 on my laptop.

Today’s installation of Fedora 18 made me question my use of time. I switched jobs exactly 2 years ago and found myself in the precarious position of having little to no spare time. I tried my best to optimize. Giving up dual-booting in favor of virtualization (VirtualBox and KVM) helped greatly. However I could never get Fedora18 beta or RC to boot up inside KVM. But that wasn’t the problem that bothered me. Re-running through the installation multiple times using the new Anaconda installer just got me tired of trying to understand a poorly thought out workflow. I kept questioning myself if I had in fact selected the correct options. I don’t think I would ever install Fedora 18 on some of my more complex dual-boot setups in the past.

To be fair for a clean install on a new computer for most people the installer might be a joy, but for me it just wasn’t. I’m not really complaining. I have multiple computers running some form of Linux or if I must, Windows. My existing setup works fine for me. However I just don’t think Fedora’s goals and my needs line up anymore.

I was reminded of this when I was reading Richard WM Jone’s blog post on using Fedora 17 on a Chromebook. The first bullet point is what gives me pause:

Suspend pretty much doesn’t work.

I too own a Chromebook and just like many others I have quite a few things I dislike about, but where it never fails: power management. It suspends and starts up in seconds, lets me do my browsing/work and then I can close the lid and forget about it. The last time I had this experience with a laptop was with Fedora 9. After so many years, I’m disappointed problems can still exist for power management. My desktop CentOS suspends and hibernates perfectly, so I know things can be made to work, but I just don’t have the time to find out how.

Outside of work, I spend most of my time on my Android smartphone. Occasionally I monkey around with a tablet, but the Chromebook is incredibly nice for quick tasks. And then when I have the dedicated time: I will use my desktop or laptop for more major work. What do all of these devices/setups have in common? – Answer: they don’t change much. As we all know, change is the heart of Fedora – the latest and greatest software. I commend the Fedora team and all the volunteers who manage to somehow keep it all together.

If ever find the time, I would love to come back to Fedora. I finally got it working in my Virtualbox and I’ll write up some of my notes eventually. If you plan on installing Fedora 18, the official Fedora Installation Guide has evolved amazingly. I highly recommend reading it.

HTC EVO 4G Battery Life

I have read the most serious complaints about the HTC EVO 4G have been over battery life. I would like to offer my observations.

I got my EVO on May 19 with 1 free month of service till June 20. During that time I didn’t use the phone much. I switched my primary account after I returned from India. In doing so I found that in my absence an update was available. The points that caught my attention:

  • Improvements to Wi-Fi performance
  • Addresses Facebook sync issue which can improve battery performance

Until this update I was never using WiFi on the phone, and I don’t use Facebook for addresses (or anything else for that matter).

So it has been about less than 2 weeks of usage as a primary phone, and for the most part I think the battery life is completely acceptable.

My typical usage has been less than 1 hour talk time per day. At home I leave WiFi on (even through the night) and while at work I turn WiFi off. At work my 3G coverage is not great (3/5 bars) and often does data roaming (4/5 bars). I haven’t really used much BT or GPS. I haven’t even seen any 4G :( so that’s off. … I do minimal web browsing (only when I’m not near a computer). However I do lots of email. I have 4 email accounts setup (with push email) which seem to *beep all day long*. I usually don’t run the task killer to quit any background battery wastage. I have haptic feedback enabled, use a starfield “live” wallpaper and leave the default brightness. I don’t have very many apps installed and I don’t use any widgets that constantly update. However I do use auto-sync for Google calendar.

With that, I can go well over 36 hours before I hit the 15% battery critical alarm. If double the talk time or do equivalent surfing (as talking), that comes closer to 24 hours.

Yesterday I chronicled my usage in detail. I had the battery at 100% charge at about 3:30pm yesterday. I hit the 15% critical at 1:30pm today (22 hours later – 21:52:41 to be exact). In that time I have done:

  • 1:10 hours BT music streaming in my car (two 35 min trips, no GPS)
  • 1:30 hours talk time (WiFi on)
  • 0:15 min talk time with BT handsfree (WiFi on)
  • 0:20 min GPS navigation in my car (with some GoogleMaps looking for a place)
  • 0:30 min 3G web surfing (with some youtube)
  • 0:30 min of email

During the bulk of the usage last night there was a major thunderstorm and the signal was a little weak. I did have one dropped call (which is why I disconnected the BT hand’s free).

I’m not saying this is amazing (even though the EVO 4G has one of the biggest batteries on the market). However I don’t find this worthy of my complaint.

In contrast:
I have a Motorola Droid (currently disconnected), which I only leave WiFi on. In less than 24 hours (with practically no usage) the battery is completely dead. Pushing the power button does nothing.
Previously when I used the Palm Pre, I would have to be very careful at night. Randomly I would wake up to the battery at critical. I would usually have to charge at night. And I disabled everything (no WiFi and no email updates).

The one major need for power on my phone is that it should (1) last all day for my typical usage and (2) if the battery is not close to critical when I go to bed, it should not be critical when I wake up. Currently my EVO seems to do this much better than my other phones.

I do plan to monitor this further in the future.

* Full disclosure: I got this device for free, but I was planning on buying it anyways. I do pay for service.