Saturday 15th October 2005
As you may have been able to work out from the marvellously cryptic title of this article, this is all about Fedora Core 4. This is essentially the free counterpart to Red Hat, and provides a test bed for the next version of Red Hat. Compared to other distributions, such as Debian, it is relatively simple, akin to Ubuntu and Mandriva. (Of course, the similarity to Mandriva goes beyond simplicity - Mandriva, previously called Mandrake, was originally Red Hat with K.D.E.)
As an aside, this was originally going to be a review of Linspire. However, I was not impressed by Linspire. Not only did it not give me the option of selecting a British keyboard, it decided that it would rather destroy my Debian distribution by refusing to see the free space on my hard drive. That's fine - I'll just install Fedora Core 4 instead.
I didn't start off well with Fedora. I tried a media check, and it told me that my disc was faulty. That's odd, seeing as I checked the image when I downloaded it, and then checked the burnt disc. So, I tried the check in another CD, and came up with the same error. A quick search on the internet reveals that it is a far from common problem, the solution being to type linux ide=nodma at the first prompt. After that small piece of keen investigation, I was off.
Fortunately, the rest of the installation went far better. The installation, as you might expect, is graphical, presumably based on Gnome. With both keyboard and mouse working straight away, going through the installation wasn't a problem, with the questions usually being relatively simple to answer. After choosing a language and keyboard layout, you're asked which install process you want. There are a number of setups, such as Desktop, but I plumped for Manual. The next screen uses Disk Druid, which is Fedora's disk partitioner. It found the free space on my hard drive, so it did much better than Linspire. It found my swap space as well, meaning I just needed to tell it to use the free space. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, the next part was just about the only other bad part of the installation - it couldn't find my Debian installation, meaning that I would have to add it back to the GRUB menu manually, something that many may not want to do, especially considering that Fedora should be attracting those that want a nice, easy distribution. Hopefully, it will do better with detecting Windows if it wants to catch some Microsoft customers.
The rest of the installation was relatively pain free. There is a moderate range of packages to install, again with a wonderfully simple interface - the packages are put into various groups, from which you select the packages you want installing, such as Gnome, Firefox, OpenOffice.org and the GIMP. At this point, I will diverge slightly. Your choice of packages is limited to what is on the CDs. Unfortunately, there is no option in the installation to grab packages from the internet. I would have preferred to be able to download just one CD, rather than all four, and then being able to download the rest of the packages from the internet. With four CDs worth of data, there's bound to a be lot of data that I won't use - a point proven by the second CD remaining unused.
Eventually, after some more steps, the computer restarted itself, and I was presented with... a login prompt! A relatively easy installation, but I would like the initial problem to be sorted, along with detection of other operating systems.