Wednesday 12th April 2006
A little while ago, I tested Fedora Core 4, and was pretty impressed. However, I felt that Ubuntu and SUSE had it beaten, if not by a huge margin. That was around half a year ago. So, what has Fedora managed to do in that time?
Well, first of all, they've managed to get their distribution to fit another CD, bringing the total to five. Personally, I'd prefer having some CDs as optional or just downloading from Internet repositories. Still, never mind. As usual, there is a Torrent available, and so I found myself with five newly burnt CDs after a quick bit of downloading.
We start off, once again, with a media check. Once again, some of my CDs failed until I used the boot option
linux ide=nodma. I'm not sure exactly of the cause of the problem, but it did happen on both machines I tried it on. After that, we boot into a graphical installation - Anaconda.
The first order of business is partitioning. You can choose to delete all the partitions, use the free space, use a custom setup or, in a nice touch, delete all the Linux partitions. I particularly like the inclusion of the final option (assuming it works) since it would be helpful for those reinstalling on a dual boot machine that don't want to obliterate Windows. Unfortunately, I can't comment on whether it works or not.
The custom partitioning brings up a graphical representation of the hard drive and its partitions, making it easier to judge which partition is which. The interface is intuitive, and you can also mount existing partitions here.
The installation of GRUB follows, which sadly does not detect that other distribution residing on my hard drive - Debian. A quick edit of the GRUB files later would solve this without a problem though it would be nice if Fedora did detect Debian itself. Another nice touch is the ability to set a password for GRUB, or rather for editing GRUB. Certainly something that network administrators might appreciate.
Speaking of networks, we also have network configuration, which allows you to use either DHCP or set it up yourself - something I appreciated since DHCP never works for me.
Selecting the time zone has also been improved - you first zoom in a region of the world, and then select your timezone. This makes finding the little dot that represents your location much easier.
This is followed by setting the root password, which gets a tick in my book - I prefer the good ol' fashioned arrangement of root and normal users.
Next up is the selection of packages. Firstly, you select a broad grouping of packages - beyond the basic installation, you have the choices of Office and Productivity; Software Development; and Web Server. You can then customise the selection further still by choosing each individual program. The only change I wanted at this point was to also install KDE, just to see how much attention it has been given compared to GNOME, the favoured desktop.
The layout is, as with the entire installation, straightforward and intuitive. Down the left hand side, you can choose a category, such as Desktop Environment, Applications, Languages and Base System. You then choose the packages you want on the right hand pane - these tend to be broad groupings, such as the aforementioned KDE and GNOME. Within these groupings, you can then select the individual packages you want.
Finally, I was ready to start making actual changes to my hard drive. This process took fifty minutes, including a couple of CD changes. It should be noted that at no point did I need CD 4 or 5 - a case perhaps for making them optional. This was followed by the traditional reboot...
... and the traditional further configuration. Nothing out of the ordinary here - setting the username and password, configuring the firewall and setting the resolution and colour depth. Firewall setup was easy, including the option to enable or disable SELinux, and what services to allow e.g. SSH, FTP. You can also choose individual TCP or UDP ports to open, meaning that the firewall should, and indeed does, work as you'd expect once installation has completely finished. Which, in this article at least, it has.
One minor gripe is that the installation is split into two parts, but the reason behind this is understandable, and it is hardly a stop-start installation, so I won't hold this against Fedora.
The installation of Fedora Core 5 was relatively headache free, despite the extra boot option I had to use. If you haven't just skipped to the end of this section, you will have noticed that I keep pointing out nice little touches, such as being able to delete just Linux partitions, or opening specific ports in the firewall. The installation should be easy to follow for almost any user, while keeping options open for the more experienced user. The little touches show that effort has been put into making the installation as smooth as possible, and the result is an installation that easily keeps up with SUSE's - I cannot think of a way in which the installation can be drastically improved. Well, except for being able to detect Debian.