Reviewed: Fedora 11

Distros

Leonidas (either named after the king of Sparta who led his troops to victorious annihilation in the Peloponnese or the chain of chocolate shops), is the 11th release of the Fedora operating system. Along the way there have been a few duds, but in recent times Fedora has been really delivering on its promise of the four Fs: "Freedom, Friends, Features, First". Fedora 10 was a rock-steady release that introduced a slew of new features, and Leonidas is promising more of the same.

Other smart folk were quick off the bat to review Fedora 11, but we're not like that. Instead, it takes us a few weeks to properly settle down into a distro to see what we make of it. Read on for our findings, then read the comments to our earlier post to see what other people think...

Installing the system is as straightforward as you could possibly hope. Installers usually tread the fine line between making the process easy and supplying the advanced options that power users need. The only area where Fedora 11 possibly falls down is the disk space provisioning: the default option at install time is always to hijack the main boot drive or replace an existing Linux install. The custom route leads you into a graphical parted system, which, while comprehensive, is not often as easy to follow as you might wish. At least it handles all sorts of storage, including iSCSI.

The alternative to the install CD is to run a live CD and install from there. This is still the recommended route if you're installing on a laptop, as you can ensure that troublesome but key components actually work before you scrub the HD. As previously, both standard Gnome and alternative (spicy flavour) KDE live CDs are available, and there will no doubt be a whole slew of respins flavoured to meet more esoteric needs.

The delights of KDE 4.2 are yours to enjoy, though it still needs a bit of tweaking.

The delights of KDE 4.2 are yours to enjoy, though it still needs a bit of tweaking.

Updating from Fedora 10

It used to be that you needed nerves of steel and three levels of backup data before you would risk a running upgrade to a distro. Well, the backups are still a good idea, but it is less risky to try an upgrade these days. You can upgrade using the install media, or direct through the package manager. In the latter case, run yum update then yum clean all as root first. Then you can install the pre-upgrade package and run it to complete the task.

For clean systems, there shouldn't be any problems - you're only likely to get into difficulty if you have a load of software that hasn't been installed through the package manager.

Faster booting

Post-install, things get more interesting, and the first changes appear before you even log in. The boot-up routine is now so smooth that there is no need to hide it from your Mac-appreciating friends. A smooth transition from the PC POST screen takes you to the login screen in 25 seconds or less. Well, it does on our test machine (which takes 31 seconds to get to the same spot in Ubuntu). When you get there you may be confused by the addition of a new widget above the list of login names. That's because Fedora 11 supports fingerprint logins with supported hardware (www.reactivated.net/fprint/wiki/Supported_devices).

Part of the speed increase may be down to the use of the ext4 filesystem as default. There are some spurious benchmark figures circulating about the speed increase, but without getting weighed down in the veracity of benchmarking when it comes to real world use, most people will see an appreciable difference in speed.

I want my MP3

For newcomers, Linux can be a scary place, usually because they quickly find that they can't do 'normal' things on it, like play DVDs or listen to MP3 music files. However, Fedora 11 handles such things magnificently if you have added an external file repository like RPM Fusion. The use of PackageKit in this release has been well integrated into the desktop environment - try to play a WMV file on a base install for example, and Totem (the default movie player) will claim not to be able to read it, but it will offer you the choice of searching for it. PackageKit links into the package manager to search for something that will solve the problem. This currently works with audio and movie formats as well as fonts.

That links nicely into the general area of packaging - one of the few areas where mainstream Linux distributions still differ. The venerable and much maligned Yum package manager gets a boost in the form of Presto (not to be confused with the games library of the same name). This plugin supports the use of delta RPMs for faster system updates, as you only need to download the changes to installed files rather than the whole thing. Fedora is very late to the party on this, and it is still not enabled as default - you'll have to install the yum-presto package yourself.

The official mirrors do support it, but if you're using a local repository you may find that the deltas are not enabled. This seems to be because processor and I/O overhead at the server end is more 'expensive' than bandwidth, but that may only be a temporary excuse. If you can get a link to a delta-supporting site, think how much time you'll save when OpenOffice.org 3.2 comes out...

Happy hardware

In another case of out-with-the-old, the hardware abstraction layer, HAL is being reworked. At the moment, the most visible signs of this are DeviceKit, which is a sort of super-HAL for block devices with a pleasant front-end called Palimpsest. If you are wondering about the name, it comes from the practice of re-using parchment, wax tablets or papyrus by scraping it clean and then writing on it again.

Palimpsest the utility enumerates devices on the system and enables the user (with the correct password) to format, check mount and unmount devices. It may seem pretty straightforward, but a utility with this scope has been sorely missed from the Fedora desktop for some time.

Finally, Fedora gets a useful disk management tool, in the guise of Palimpsest.

Finally, Fedora gets a useful disk management tool, in the guise of Palimpsest.

DeviceKit can also keep a health check on your drives or RAID arrays and will pop up helpful warnings when bad sectors have been reallocated. Smart tests can be run from within the utility if you want to check the drive manually, or even if you're just interested in the range of noises that a multi-platter device can make when spinning at 10,000rpm with the heads flicking about.

KDE 4.2 was flagged up as one of the major inclusions in Leonidas, and indeed, it is here, and it does indeed work. One can't help feeling that nobody wants you to actually use it though. Red Hat has a long relationship with the Gnome desktop, and many years ago refused to include KDE in its official releases because of its reliance on a non-free (in those days) library, Qt.

Even though KDE was welcomed to the fold before the Fedora project even started, it has always felt like an add-on. There just isn't the same care and integration. As a Linux desktop it works fine, but it seems somewhat disconnected from the Fedora system tools in many respects. Try switching to a new session from KDE for example and see what happens. If you really want to run KDE as the main desktop, you had better try it out through the KDE live distro first.

This aside, Leonidas is a competent and comprehensive release. Some may balk at some of the beta software included (Firefox 3.5 most notably, but this has been patched after release), but the balancing act between cutting-edginess and stability has been well maintained. This isn't a must-have release in the same way that Fedora 8 or Fedora 10 were, but sometimes little skips are better than great leaps.

Our verdict: Other distros are in danger of being outbuntu'd by this freedom loving, Gnome-centric star performer.9/10.

Virtual machines made easy

Open Virt-Manager

Open Virt-Manager: Virtual Machine Manager (aka Virt-Manager) enables you to easily set up and manage Qemu- or Xen-based virtual machines.

Configure

Configure: You'll need to allocate some memory, configure storage options and set up networking options for the guest OS.

Install

Install: Boot from an ISO image or install from a network or a real device. Your piggyback OS will be running in mere seconds.

First published in Linux Format

First published in Linux Format magazine

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Your comments

Impressive, most impressive.

I'm quite a big Gnome user and after toying with Fedora, learning some of its gotchas (as I'm used to a certain debian-based distro), I'm very impressed! Initially yum put me off with its tiny installation packages but I get it, giving you just what you need like. Good stuff.

Truth be told, I've thought about making the jump permanently!

Impressive Indeed

Fedora is probably one of my all time most favourite distros, ranking extremely close to Ubuntu.

I had been using it for quite a while and was really impressed by the new improvements they made on the 11th release.

But since my initial purpose at the moment is to run Linux from a Live USB, Fedora doesn't offer rich application selections, I have to switch to Ubuntu.

Boot speeds and ext4

do not seem to be related. I choose to stick with ext3 with Fedora 11 because of some concerns over some still linger bugs with ext4.

My boot time is just shy of 22 seconds long. This is with full updates and such. Nothing fancy on the hdd or the partitions as well.

From what I can tell, ext4 has nothing to do with the fast boot times ( I'm loving it).

Meatsack

KDE works fine

I can't help it, but this "nobody wants you to actually use it" statement about the KDE integration is way biased, isn't it?
Just look into the Fedora Forums, look into the (even non kde related) bug reports: lots of folx are using fedora with KDE. I for myself came from kubuntu 8.10 and I do not regret it in any way - fedora with KDE is soo much better. Now just because I use it, it does not mean it has to be well done - I know :)
But your complains feel a bit out of place anyway: Those mentioned "Fedora system tools" - what fedora system tools?! You mean the entries in the gnome-settings panel? What is so Fedora specific about them? Most of the settings there are just linux related, not fedora related - most of those can be done from within the KDE system center anyway. And for the small rest: Any apps from the gnome administration/settings panel do appear within the KDE Kickstart menue anyway (Programs->Administration). And do run.
To put it in a short way: I agree, Fedora is a classic gnome distribution (way typical for non European distros), and so gnome works really well. This doesn't mean that KDE is not working well (you did not say this, but the impression is there). The KDE does simply not push this "I am fedora" message in to your face - it feels a bit more independent, and that is right what I want. You call it not (as) carefully integrated (as the gnome desktop). But who cares about that "integration" (whatever this means), as long as it works smoothly out of the box?
Also, a bit of sympathy for the KDE packagers in fedora wouldn't have hurt - they are all freelancers, other than fedoras gnome devs. Of course this is not required for a "usability test", but considering the fact, that you had months of time to polish this test (and even tell me, that this is, what makes you so different from all those speedy testers which had this out months before), this all just fits into the impression that the whole article feels a bit poor.
Regards,
Coschuetzer

cant log into kde

I updated from Fedora 10 to fedora 11 recently and now I cannot log into KDE desktop. When I try to log into it it always comes back to situation where you have to choose the user and type the password. WHY???

RE: cant log into kde

Does this mean you cannot login, or do you expect auto-login to work and it doesn't?

When you can enter your username and password, does it work?

way biased

Way?

Way as an adjective? Lost your way? folx?

What a dick.

I have used KDE with Fedora

I have used KDE with Fedora since FC5 and it has always worked great and there are lots of people who does too.
Sure some of the redhats system setting apps are made with GTK+ but who cares as long as they work great and integrate well enough.
Also you have to remember that there are lots of KDE specific features and apps that aren't in Gnome edition.

xange.sf.net

great, great distro!

but i prefer a derivative one: xange.sf.net

@Anonymous Penguin: yes, way

@Anonymous Penguin: yes, way as an adjective. There's nothing at all wrong with that.

This review has made me want to try out Fedora.

RE: cant log into kde

When i enter the username and password and press enter it shows the image that it is loading KDE desktop but after it has highlighted the four icons in the process of loading KDE it takes me back to selecting the user and entering the password. Gnome works just fine no problems with it but I would like to get KDE working since I prefer it.

RE: cant log into kde

switch login manager from kdm to gdm, leaving KDE as default DM.

RE: cant log into kde

How do I get into login manager in gnome?

RE: cant log into kde

After choosing the user system asks password and if I choose KDE in this situation it still won't let me log into it eventhough the username and password are correct

hmm....

I'm starting to fail to see the point of subscribing to LXF if the content's going to be on the web a couple weeks after I get my magazine in the post. (in the USA)

USB live tool??

Let's not forget the Live USB Creator tool. This has been around for a while but was updated with this release. I used to create a live USB and I use it all the time.

2 ways: 1: sudo

2 ways:
1: sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm
and change from kdm to gdm
2: vi /etc/X11/default-display-manager
add # in the begin of this line: /usr/sbin/gdm
add this line: /usr/lib/kde4/bin/kdm

done:)

RE: cant log into kde

sorry, do this inversely:

1:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm
and change from kdm to gdm

or

2:
vi /etc/X11/default-display-manager
comment /usr/lib/kde4/bin/kdm
add /usr/sbin/gdm

'cause U wanted to switch from kdm to gdm.... my mistake.

RE: cant log into kde

When I enter the linse dpkg-reconfigure gdm it tell me that command not found
also when i go to the folder x11 there is a xdm folder which has xdm-config file. Did yo mean that I should have opened this file and add those lines comment/usr.... etc??
I am quite lost now in this.

This review is a POS!

How could ye spend weeks on a review and not cover such things as how does a user install graphics drivers on this distro? It is easy/hard?

Problem logging in KDE

I have a very similar issue like the one Johny River describes:

- i installed fedora 11 (didnt update from fedora 10 to 11)
- i only installed kde, not gnome
- i succesfully logged in to kde one single time, did the yum update thing, some admin stuff and rebooted
- i cant login into kde, i enter the username and password and the log in screen appears again asking for logging info, again... and this repeats...

Any ideas? Right now im gonna try to install gnome and see if i can log in through gnome.

USB install?

Can it be installed from USB drive, like ubuntu?
If so how do I get it unto a USB stick. I tried in ubuntu and it didn;t like the ISO image of Fedora 'it's not an desktop app'

Unbiased..

I intended to post an unbiased review/opinion on F11 but I can't.
It's quite simply the dogs dangly bits.

can and American (USA) greenie use Fedora 11 or any Linux sys?

Good afternoon,
I am really interested in moving from Windows OS to a Linux based system. I have the Fedora 11 DVD from the Linux Mag.
Biggest problem,,, I am not an IT guy. I am capable to run around in Windows and fix stuff but have never set foot in Linux. Also, have not used line code for movement, action, loading changing etc since DOS in the early 1990's. Yes, I am that old...
Is there hope? Is there a Linux/Fedora Website for Dummies?

thanks....
Cajun Player

To: American Greenie

We all start green somewhere.
There are numerous friendly people at various forum sites willing to pitch in
and give you a hand. Remember when you have a problem, use Google,
just type in your Linux operating system and a short description of problem.
I guarantee,
you won't be the only person who has asked a similar question.
If you can muck around with Microsoft, you will find Linux a breath of fresh air.
Don't fear the reaper, dive in. Ah, don't forget to come up for air, now & then.
You really don't need to use a terminal, but I bet you will as it's convenient.
Most sites tell you exactly how to use it. A matter of copy and pasting.
Like any endeavor, the longer you work at it, the more you'll understand and
the easier it gets.

"Fedora 10 was a rock-steady release"

I think you meant "Rock Solid"

Rock steady is a music genre that was the successor to
Jamaican ska, and a precursor to reggae :)

Other than that, I enjoyed the review and
considered it fair.

peace
mick

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