Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fedora 19 Beta Review

The Red-Hat sponsored, community-driven Fedora project is gearing up to release its 19th installation of their Operating System; it is named Schrödinger's cat. In fact, there is a funny story regarding the name, and the first thing that this review will touch on. The name, containing the exotic ö unicode character, crashed the bug report system since it could not properly handle Unicode. It has yet to be seen whether or not this problem effects other software that will process the distribution's name, but it's impossible that the decision to put this character in the name will not cause any grief. It was silly to let something like a name cause technical uncertainty (they could have just as easily named it Schrodingers cat).

Now that that part of the review is out of the way, let's look at the meat and bones of the Fedora system.

If you do not already have the .iso, grab it here: The .iso file is very large, coming in at 4.4 GiB (enough to fit on a DVD -- Barely. It will trim down a LOT after the release)

I do not have pictures or video of the installation. In fact, this review is mostly text-based because of how little has changed from 18. The installer DID change in a positive way, however. My first impression was of a particularly weird boot with text that was semi-selected. I couldn't tell which option in the boot screen was selected, but I could tell if I was at the very top or bottom of the list, so it was enough information to boot the .iso.

The installer then presented the option to either install the system, or try and install the system. I chose installation. The installer is still similar to the installer from Fedora 18 (which caused a LOT of controversy for various reasons. Yes, it does still try to look pretty. Yes, the done buttons are in weird spots.) The installer felt snappy on my hardware, and it had some options I wouldn't have inspected, like installable software sources with really good developer support (like a patched Eclipse).

The disk partitioner didn't ask me what I wanted to do, but since I didn't have enough room to install the image (10 GiB for me when all was said and done) it dropped me into an advanced partitioning tool. In terms of aesthetics and ease-of-use, it was probably the easiest to use out of any of the major distros. Feature-wise it was lacking. I saw no option for full-disk encryption (but it may have it; I just didn't see it) and no option for BTRFS.

When the disks were set up, it began the installation with a slide-show down on the bottom of the screen like Ubuntu has. The slideshow's pictures were not antialiased, and the viewing window was unusually small, almost like an ad. Most of the screen space here was wasted, except for options to set the root password and set up users. The user setup was impressive, toting features like changing the username based on the real name in real-time. 

I installed the Gnome version, so if you went a different route that is where this guide will differ a bit from you. Later on it will converge, but I have to get a lot of Gnome stuff off my chest.

When you log into the desktop environment, there is a nice post-installation greeter (graphical) like (Arch|Crunch)bang's to let you move through some userland options. When all of that is done, it plays an annoying little Gnome video tutorial, which was unnecessary but helpful for people new to the system. Up to this point, all was going swimmingly. On the surface it was a good system, but Gnome had a way of ruining that.

Problems with Gnome
Why would I put this in the review? Well, Fedora is strongly tied to Gnome, therefore a majority of Fedora users will be running Gnome. I had a particular amount of trouble doing simple tasks, even logging out.

GNOME takes a weird approach when it concerns their users. GNOME believes that GNOME knows best, and that GNOME'S users are inherently stupid and need to be protected from their own idiocy. I have heard this grip from within the Linux community since 3.2, but it is only now in Gnome 3.8 that I have seen the effect full-on.

Problem 1: No Logout Button
Gnome has a policy now where it will not provide a logout button within the Desktop Environment unless more than one user exists. There's NO ESCAPE. Want to switch Desktop Environments? Nah, Gnome says you can get back to work in your crappy fisher-price diluted Environment that they give you. There are only a few ways to circumvent this, and more in-depth guides will come later. In short, running "sudo pkill gdm" in the terminal will terminate the display manager, which systemd will re-initialize, bringing you back to the login screen. This is a dangerous hack, but aside from adding a user it is the only way.

Warning: Technical
Installing Desktop Environments aside from GNOME is a whole other ordeal. Because of how gdm works, in some Desktop Environments X clients (windows) that are closed will remain drawn onto the screen. Completely changing the display manager is the only way I found to get around this. To do so, install one that you are comfortable with (lightdm is a good choice; I prefer lxdm) and then run "systemctl disable gdm.service && systemctl enable [your display manager].service" before rebooting. These are systemd commands that will disable gdm from booting and replace it with something else.

The Verdict
The Fedora Experience will vary judging by who is having it. Personally, I have very much liked the repositories, package manager, and some of the defaults that it came with, even if it was a pain for some reasons (i.e Chrome not being installed properly).

Technically this is not a production OS. TECHNICALLY. It is  strange, but I have had less usability and stability problems with Fedora 19 than I had with Fedora 18. Hats off to the volunteer developers and Red Hat backing for that one.

Fedora 19 could help Fedora regain its reputation after the crash that was 18.


  1. I also agree with you about gnome thinking and switched To Cinnamon which is best for me and my open source development.
    thanks for sharing this post early and pointed out some of challenges for open source community.

  2. As a person who just tries out Linux distros once in a while I didn't even try to install Fedora 18 because of the problems I read about. This review isn't about the final release, but seems pretty safe for me to install the final version in the near future (format HDD, install Fedora 19 and leave space for Windows 7).

  3. Yes - Gnome is a piece of rubbish nowadays.