notes on my adventures in fedora-land

I’ve been irritated for a while by some of Mark’s positions on ‘freedom’ (slamming Red Hat for non-freeness while seriously considering binary drivers and encouraging free software projects to rely on proprietary software for development), and obviously if I’m working for Red Hat, I should eat my own dogfood. So yesterday I spent a few hours installing Fedora for the first time… well, since roughly around when I ate my shorts. (NB: I can’t find a link or picture of that; if someone still has them, I’d like a copy.)

Some notes, good:

  • desktop effects actually work, with free video drivers. A very pleasant and unexpected surprise. (Unfortunately they seem to conflict with xrandr. Doh. But they were shiny while they lasted.)
  • most stuff Just Worked when I upgraded and left my old homedir in place; it appears that some gconf keys are not compatible, which is irritating, and some things I use were not installed by default, but otherwise, positive. (Most irritating: my xchat-gnome settings appear to have disappeared. [Ed.: mv .xchat2 .xchat-gnome. urgh.] Most silly/avoidable: ubuntu openoffice appears to use .openoffice.org2 and fedora openoffice uses .openoffice.org2.0.)
  • the session manager is much, much improved. I owe someone a beer for that- I assume Dan Winship?
  • Newest rhythmbox is very polished. Still prefer muine’s mental model, but rb is impressive, especially the ability to interact with music stores.
  • I’m quite impressed with yum; the performance is much better than I remembered. Still wish it had the rug two-letter commands :)
  • xournal is available through Koji, which is awesome. Gimmie is packaged too- more awesomeness. (Overall, sadly, little has changed on the tablet software front since last year.)

Some notes, bad:

  • my first user is not added to sudoers; apparently root’s password is still used to install software. This feels very primitive compared to the slick OS/X/Ubuntu default behavior. I know there is a jihad on to fix this problem in a more Correct and Sophisticated ™ way, but in the meantime, it still feels like a primitive situation for single-user boxes.
  • my wireless card works out of the box (great), but somehow NetworkManager doesn’t run by default, so nm-applet fails silently and inexplicably. Winner! As a bonus, system-config-network appears completely hosed, and dhclient appears to want to daemonize instead of actually get me a network address like I expect it to.
  • deskbar applet is vastly superior to the standard run dialog and mini-commander; it boggles my mind that GNOME still ships those by default and not deskbar-applet. (I know there are some performance issues, but c’mon- fix ’em. This is a clear, huge winner for the users.)
  • my IBM volume keys didn’t work out of the box. You can fix that by installing tpb, but even after that the volume keys don’t get tied to the master volume, and the xosd visualizations take me back to the 80s. I know the fedora guys think that Ubuntu’s solution for this is a hack, and that it will be fixed ‘the right way’ for F8, but the Ubuntu hack has worked out of the box on every thinkpad I’ve used recently. I can understand being a puritan on licensing issues, and I realize hacks carry a maintenance cost, but I have less understanding for being a puritan on ‘hacks’ when it means your user experience lags the competition by 18-24 months.
  • the fedora installer did not attempt to recognize/make bootable my windows partition. Not a requirement (I have no idea if other installers do this) but it is a ‘would be nice’.

Some notes, mixed:

  • (sigh) All the proprietary bits that I shouldn’t want/need, but I do. Ubuntu makes it easy to get them; Fedora does not. I know Fedora is doing the right thing here, but… ugh. What a lose-lose situation for everyone- Fedora gets beat up for doing the right thing; Ubuntu gets makes a nice user experience (which is good) but significantly reduces our leverage to get some of these things fixed.
  • None of my tablet PC bits were not detected at install-time; this wasn’t surprising but I’d been hoping. Have been documenting the tablet parts of my adventure at ThinkWiki. Most frustrating part: if someone had just updated F7’s copy of linuxwacom at some point in the last seven months, 3-4 hours of my time would have been saved. (Will put a spec file and updated build patches in bugzilla tomorrow- yes, I built an rpm for the first time yesterday.)
  • It is my own damn fault that I did not read the older thinkwiki documention more carefully before installing. It says that screen rotation works, but ‘works’ has different meanings for different people, it turns out, and the thinkwiki definition of ‘works’ is not my definition of ‘works’. I have cobbled something together for now, but I’m not thrilled. Hopefully more time fixing that soon.

Overall, I can’t say I’m thrilled; I spent lots of yesterday cursing at various things. But I’m pretty much back where I was functionality-wise (or almost); I’m using a very Free distro; and I’m doing the right thing by supporting my employers and giving feedback on our product. Hopefully my experience will lead to a better experience for lots of folks in F8, if I can just bend the right ears :)

[Ed.: I should note that Ubuntu’s out of the box tablet experience is not great either; much of the most serious regressions are from Ubuntu-as-massaged-by-Emperor-Linux rather than stock Ubuntu. Still, there is polish in Ubuntu that Fedora can learn from, just as Ubuntu could learn some lessons about freedom and maintainability from Fedora.]

24 thoughts on “notes on my adventures in fedora-land”

  1. networking, video, and external devices I tried with Fedora 7 all worked fine. Fedora did miss one of the finer points with sound, though — my volume control buttons on the ThinkPad don’t work by default under Fedora 7. My understanding is you can fix this by installing the tpb package, but it’d be nice if this were done by default. Speaking of hardware, I allowed the Smolt hardware profiler to upload my hardware profile for the Fedora developers to use for testing and such. According to Smolt

  2. Luis, the reason your xchat-gnome setting disappeared is that in Fedora xchat-gnome uses .xchat-gnome for it’s directory instead of using .xchat.

  3. The Ubuntu installer (at least, the text “alternate installer”) since Dapper (6.06 – year ago) recognizes Windows partitions and adds them to Grub, though I don’t think it mounts them, FYI.

  4. If it makes you feel any better, and I’m sure it won’t, Fedora recognised my Windows partition and made it bootable!

  5. Actually, it does make me feel better; bugs are easier to fix than design decisions or a lack of resources.

  6. If you had installed the from the live cd (which is much smaller, faster and easier (no crazy package selection etc. – you’re supposed to add/remove packages after the install if you so desire)), I’m pretty sure NetworkManager would have been enabled by default.

    Unfortunately NM is not on by default in the installer spins; there’s always this vocal camp of Fedora server users that whine about it everytime the topic comes up. And as you know, it’s much easier to punt the decision to the user :-).

    I had hoped these people would do their own “Fedora Server” spin and then we’d never have to hear from them again. But with the core+extras merge happening and all… that didn’t exactly happen.

  7. Install a small RPM from, and then you can get the proprietary bits easily, with yum.

    Red Hat can’t tell you that, because of the lawyers.

  8. Joe beat me to it, but Livna is what you want for proprietary/patent-encumbered bits. It’s like PLF was for Mandriva and Ubuntu, and like debian-multimedia plus non-free hardware drivers.

    I would assume that big OEMs like Dell will eventually solve this problem by licensing codecs properly (at least for MP3 and DVD) and rolling them into the price of the hardware, but for now this is the state of the world.

  9. Davidz: I have no CD drive on the laptop, so I did a network install and selected only the desktop selection- surely NM can be wired into anaconda such that if I select only that, and not any of the dev or server packages, I get NM?

    Joe, Mark: Livna does not have flash; I stopped paying attention to it at that point, since that was mostly all I wanted. I’m well of the reasons why it doesn’t happen, since I *am* one of the lawyers. :)

  10. Fedora’s Firefox will ask you to install the Flash plugin as soon as you need it, so you don’t really need a repository for that.

    From the freedom point of view it annoys me that Fedora’s firefox package suggests the installation of proprietary software. Hopefully swfdec will be in F8 by default and this won’t be a problem anymore. :)

  11. For yum vs. apt, in case you didn’t notice already, apt-rpm and Synaptic are available in Fedora’s Everything repository. So if you miss apt-get, yum install apt and you’ll never have to use yum again. ;-)

  12. None of my session-management stuff has landed yet, so you don’t owe me a beer. I haven’t seen much of 2.18 yet, but I know Vincent did a bunch of gnome-session stuff, so maybe that’s what you’re seeing?

    (Also, I owe you at least one beer anyway, so even if you did owe me a beer, it would just cancel out. :-)

  13. I can have both RandR 1.2 (i.e. Intel driver v2.0, X server v1.3) and compiz / beryl running with no trouble on Mandriva 2007 Spring (or Cooker).

    I still *don’t*, because beryl / compiz don’t play well with gimmie. But it works. There’s no fundamental incompatibility there.

  14. oh, unless you really meant the rotation aspect of RandR, which I haven’t tried. I just kinda assumed you meant RandR 1.2 =)

    I hit the xchat-gnome thing the other day. I think it’s an upstream change – xchat-gnome used to just use xchat’s settings in ~/.xchat2 , but now it seems to have its own.

  15. If Adobe Flash is your poison, I would suggest trying… They got your RPM’s, and your *.repos (just install the RPM and ‘yum update’ or run the GUIs that use yum). You know why Red-Hat didn’t tell you where so I will spare you that…. through, keep your ear to, they talk about it there among other we-can’t-tell-you-that-‘jim stuff.

  16. RPM version of Flash is laso available on Adobe website. As for the Windows partition, Fedora actually recognized it, you only need to rename the title from “Other”.

  17. Fedora actually recognized it, you only need to rename the title from “Other”.

    It didn’t make it bootable.

  18. […] buttons on the ThinkPad don’t work by default under Fedora 7. My understanding is you can fix this by installing the tpb package, but it’d be nice if this were done by […]

  19. […]  後述するFireWireの問題以外には、Fedoraはハードウェアを問題なく認識した。音声、ネットワーク、ビデオ、その他に試した外部デバイスなどはFedora 7ですべて問題なく動いた。ただ1点だけ音声に関して惜しい点があり、ThinkPadの音量調整ボタンがFedora 7ではデフォルトでは動かなかった。tpbパッケージをインストールすればこの問題を解決できるとのことだが、それでもデフォルトでそうなっていれば嬉しかった。 […]

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