"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson

Fedora Core 6

Tuesday 21st November 2006

Categories: Reviews, GNU/Linux, FLOSS

Fedora Core is often called a test version of Red Hat, but many believe that it deserves to be recognised as a fully fledged distribution in its own right. Led by a community and sponsored by Red Hat, Fedora is probably one of the most popular GNU/Linux distributions in the world, with users including Wikipedia. It recently reached its sixth release, so let's see what's inside.

Installation

Fedora's installation can be easily broken down into several stages:

  1. Language selection.
  2. Keyboard selection.
  3. Partitioning, with choices of:
    • Remove all partitions on selected drives and and create default layout.
    • Remove linux partitions on selected drives and and create default layout.
    • Use free space on selected drives and create default layout.
    • Create custom layout.
    It should be noted that the "default layout" will result in the use of LVM, and that, even if creating the default layout, you can always choose to "Review and modify partitioning layout" before the changes are made.
  4. GRUB setup - including the opportunity to add other operating systems, and set a GRUB password.
  5. Networking setup - including whether to use DHCP, and the ability to set IP, hostname, DNS, etc.
  6. Timezone selection - uses the same sort of map interface as GNOME.
  7. Setting root password.
  8. Package selection, with choices of:
    • Office and Productivity
    • Software Development
    • Web server
  9. File copying.
  10. Reboot!
  11. Firewall setup - which ports/services to allow access to.
  12. SELinux setup.
  13. Date and Time setup, including NTP.
  14. User creation.

The only part that needs expanding upon is package selection, where there's the long overdue inclusion of Fedora Extras, allowing you to choose a far greater range of packages by default. The only problem is, every time I tried to enable Fedora Extras on one computer, the installer decided that it would crash - a common problem if Bugzilla if is to be believed. You can also add extra repositories at this point, and can choose to customise the package selection further if you wish. If you do decide to customise now, you get a two paned dialog. Down the left hand side are broad categories, such as Desktop Environments and Applications. On the right are more specific categories within the broad categories on the left, such as GNOME or Graphical Internet. Within these specific categories, you can choose the exact programs you want, such as Firefox and gedit. All in all, a relatively straightforward method of selecting packages, with the specific categories making it easier to setup a system e.g. if you want virtualisation but are not sure what packages you need for that.

On one occasion, after the basic package selection, I got an error message stating, "An error occurred unmounting the CD. Please make sure you're not accessing /mnt/source from the shell on tty2 and then click OK to retry." Clicking OK resulted in the same dialog over and over again, meaning that I had to start again.

Logging In

Upon finished the user creation, you should get a nice graphical prompt. One time I installed Fedora Core 6 I did - the other time I didn't, and was left with an ordinary command line. Hitting Ctrl-Alt-7 sorted the problem, but it was a problem that shouldn't exist, and kept occurring erratically on that system.

The theme of Fedora Core 6 remains as Clearlooks, meaning a clean, simple interface. The only real differences in appearance are the change in default font to Deja Vu (the same as many other distributions), and a different set of artwork. It's all fairly easy on the eye, and also fairly easy to change if you don't like it.

Network browsing works as you'd expect, with links in the usual GNOME places - both 'Network Servers' in 'Places', which is on the panel, and in the 'Go' menu of Nautilus. Sometimes, I would need to force the window to refresh so that I could access everything properly (e.g. when trying to access a computer, Nautilus sometimes complains about it not being a folder). Although easily fixed, it is a frequent occurrence, and it can take a couple of refreshes to get everything working properly. I don't get this problem with other GNOME distributions, so I do not see why Fedora has a problem.

USB sticks are (seemingly) mounted perfectly, with an icon on the desktop, but like so many other distributions it fails to provide an eject command - instead, the best you can do without a terminal is unmount it. For those wondering, the difference is that unmounting the drive simply removes it from the filesystem, but does not actually turn it off. While I am uncertain as to whether it makes any difference, it is safer to switch the stick off before removing it, as well as being more reassuring to users that it is safe (since ejecting it will turn any LEDs that the stick has off). CDs on the other hand have the eject command in the proper place.

However, something went wrong with USB sticks - if I write to them, take the stick out, and put it back in again, the same computer that just wrote to it, let alone any other computer, can't see the new files - it is as though I had never done anything. Exactly what caused this I do not know, but a quick test in Debian shows that it is not a problem with the stick or the computer.

An oddity with Fedora Core 6 was that, every so often, it would decide that I had clicked my mouse when I had done nothing of the sort. A quick reboot into Debian confirms that this problem is isolated to Fedora Core 6. Another annoyance is the way in which applications are dragged between workspaces using the applet in the bottom right. In most other GNOME distributions I've tried, you can simply click and drag the application windows from one workspace to another, and the same is true in Fedora - the difference is, when you start to drag, instead of the window staying the same size, it balloons up so that you can't see what you're doing clearly! Rather than making it easier to see, it just gets in the way. This might be new for GNOME 2.16, or it might just be Fedora Core 6 - either way, it's not helpful in the slightest.

A large Firefox logo being dragged across workspaces
Dragging a program across workspaces

Fedora Core 6 comes without support for playing DVDs, MP3s, or the myriad of proprietary codecs that exist - no surprises there then. You can add additional repositories to grab the relevant packages, but if you want this support out of the box, Fedora Core 6 is not for you. While adding this, as well as support for Java, Flash, etc. isn't too difficult, it's not as easy as for most other programs, meaning that their installation is not a just a few clicks away. For Java, GIJ/GCJ is provided as a substitute for Sun's version, but it still does not run every application perfectly.