This is my personal basic evaluation of Fedora Core 5 Test 3 (FC5-test3). Since I had recently installed and tested FC5-test2, most of my observations will be based on the differences between these 2 beta releases. Upon initial investigation there are not significant changes since the last test release.
I installed using the ISO images on disk to a spare 8GB partition in the same way I did for FC5-test2. For the most part Anaconda (the installer) has not changed much from test2. The partitioning defaults were still the same and still rather quirky.
Installer: Software Selection
There has been a slight improvement in the package installation menu since test2. A simplified screen lets you just install the basics and skip all manual package selection if you so choose. The four basic included choices are: “Office and Productivity”, “Software Development”, “Web server” and “Virtualization Xen” (which is not selected by default). These may be over generalized groups, but should be adequate.
At first this may seem odd, but it makes perfect sense for those users who will either plan to run massive updates (thereby replacing most packages anyways) and also for people who plan to selectively add software as needed (ex: minimalistic server configuration). In any event I chose to manually select packages. The odd thing about Fedora is what is selected as defaults. The K Desktop Environment (KDE) option is not selected. Why? I always recommend new users try out both Gnome and KDE.
There is still neither Install Everything or a disk usage estimate – a really necessary option. From my very basic research, I do not think that these are trivial options. Since the installer has moved to yum based design, more work will have to be done to support what was originally available. In the end I used about 3.8GB.
Gnome provides a menu option Add/Remove Software directly from the Applications main menu. I was pleased to see this as many users had requested a simpler immediate way to install new programs. However this crashed everytime I ran it, the same thing happened when I ran pup directly. For whatever reason a reboot fixed this. Reminds me more of MS.
Again, the default services installed and running were unnecessary. I’ve noticed many new names since FC4 services. I plan to research and investigate each one before FC5 final to better understand what is necessary and what is new (or just cool).
The initial login screen was very polished. There was a cursor problem in test2 which is fixed with a shiny animated cursor that is very attractive.
As usual Gnome is the default installation. The login was quite speedy. They seem to have modified the menu layout yet again! Simple example: I want to open a terminal. Typically this is in the System Tools, but it was not there. No problem, I’ll use the Run dialog to launch either an xterm or a gnome-terminal. However the Run dialog is also missing!!! I did finally find the Terminal at the bottom of Accessories. Why? This reminds me of MS Windows putting the Command Prompt in Accessories. Go figure.
I tried the Beagle(?) Search app again, but it still would not run the daemon when selected.
Firefox 1.5 is available but I could not get the Flash plugin to work correctly. I know this is a problem with SELinux, however in my limited usage so far, I don’t find it useful to keep SELinux active. Although I tested everything against SELinux Enforcing Mode for most basic applications.
No major changes to KDE, which means it still looks odd. I played around with the Switch User option which as it turns out really does not have much to do with KDE. They simply lock the current session and create another login session on another console terminal (ex: Ctrl-Alt-F7 is standard, so the next user will be on Ctrl-Alt-F8). I’ve seen power users doing this for years.
As always with every new distribution release a newer kernel is included which will typically improve support for most hardware.
I am having some serious problems with the Nvidia driver and have not got it to work at all. There has been quite a great of discussion on the fedora mailing lists regarding this issue. When investigating the driver, I noticed that the kernel-devel RPM places files in /usr/src/kernels instead of /usr/src. While this may sound like something inconsequential, I have personally seen over years how people tend to hard code values to known locations. (Correction: This has always been the case, normally I have the kernel source installed hence making the kernel headers unncessary).
Power management (ACPI) has slightly improved. If I try S3 (Suspend) the system goes to sleep properly, however when I wake up from S3 the video failed to re-initialize. This is actually a positive change from FC5-test2. Getting the video to work is only a matter of drivers and some tricks. Since I don’t even have the Nvidia driver working, I don’t know all of the possibilities. When I tried S3 after a reboot with SELinux disabled, the system woke up perfectly! When I ran command line S4 (hibernate), the system also works 100% perfectly as it did in FC5-test2. Finally a proper working suspend AND hibernate working out of the box from Redhat/Fedora release!
Hardware Support: Peripherals
My All-in-One Card Reader detected perfectly but worked differentely from both FC4 and FC5-test2. However I was able to the access both SD and Compact Flash but I have to double click on their icons first. Which is another nuisance with the mounting/automounting system. When I insert a data CD it does not show up automatically on the desktop, but it does for an audio CD. Of course this can all probably be modified, but these defaults seem rather odd for a new user.
For the most part important things changed mostly towards the right direction between test releases, however some quirks were only replaced with other quirks. Some things I know are more problems with the individual components (ie. odd Gnome characteristics) but even so the Fedora team should try harder for consistency.
For the most part I’m happy. I disagree with some of the decisions made as how to best improve this distribution, but I still find it highly useful and my primary desktop. The progress made since FC4 is mostly in the background (hardware, system, administration, etc.) so visually I do not feel much has changed, but almost everything works as I would expect — and many things much better than FC4.
As a beta release, FC5-Test3 seems like very solid release candidate. Granted there are many bugs and oddities to address but I think they are manageable. For the time being I will try to spend as much time as I can with this release to best prepare for FC5 and to create some useful personal notes for installation. I expect a draft in a week or two, but I still have lots to learn.