I was in a meeting recently with a Fedora fan. I had my Ubuntu 10.04 laptop there for note taking and email during the breaks, he asserted that the new Fedora would make me want to leave Ubuntu behind. I am paraphrasing a bit: others in the room looked about in panic at the discussion, and quickly brought us back onto the topic of the meeting. This is a sign that I was in a meeting with people that did not know me, for while I am well known for not mincing words, I am also well known for not treating computers as forms of religion.
The discussion made me wonder what Fedora had baked up since I had last installed it. I generally use old laptops for testing Linux because they take up less space, use less power, and are portable when I want to take one home to continue working on something or the other. Besides all that, Laptop hardware is harder to support / less standard hardware-wise, so how well a version of Linux works on a laptop is always interesting.
I have avoided Fedora on laptops for a while, since the distro's position on hardware support is "Open or Nothing". As admirable as that might be, it has always made Fedora painful to install unless you happen to have a laptop with all the right hardware bits. I have such a laptop now though: the IBM T43.
The T43 was last running my tests of Ubuntu 10.04, but with that migrated over to the Dell D620, and the T43 was turned off an in the bag waiting for its next mission. This seemed like a good one.
Dell D620 / Ubuntu 10.04 / KDE 4.4.2 on left, IBM T43 / Fedora 13 / KDE 4.4.2 on right
The installation was done twice on the laptop. Both times it was the beta Fedora available at the time of this writing, which is less than a week from the release of the OS. There have been no updates in the last two days, so this is probably pretty close to the released version..
In addition, this is the KDE 4.4.2 based version of Fedora 13. I decided that as part of this test that I would continue looking at where KDE has arrived at after the major rewrite that was release 4.
KDE is not normally considered Fedora's natural habitat: It has traditionally been a Gnome based release. For a while now though they have been packaging up a separate version for KDE, and one would assume that it is a serviceable version.
The first and second installs were largely the same. The first one had to be replaced when I did an update, and it broke NetworkManager so badly that it would not do anything with either the Broadcom Ethernet or the Intel Wireless cards. I poked at it late into one evening trying to figure out why it was lost. The /etc//nm-system-settings.conf file and /etc/sysconfig/networking files all appeared to be correct. I could activate the interfaces manually with the correct ifconfig, dhclient, and iwclient commands. But I could never get Networkmanager to admit it could or would manage either resource. the online doc at the project was not a big help either. I finally gave up and reinstalled, and this time the update did *not* break NetworkManager, probably because it was updated *right after* my config was broken. OK: Its Beta. Reinstall fixed it. Moving on.
I was doing all this in part because I was supposed to love this new Fedora so much. You would think that would start with having a better install process, or at least one as good as Ubuntu's, but where Ubuntu has seven screens, I filled a notebook page with all the steps I took on the install, and I was taking mostly defaults. I let it write over everything, and made no effort to keep anything from the last install around.
Of particular need for updating is the date / time screen. It is still the "pick-a-city" type. Ubuntus world maps and vertically barred timezones is so much cleaner and nicer.
One very interesting question on the install was what type of disk I was going to be using: There was an option for "Specialized disks" like SAN or mainframe. This illuminates Fedora's server room rather than desktop orientation. After all, Fedora feeds the RedHat releases, and RedHat 6 is largely based off the work up to and including Fedora 12.
Also an indication that Fedora is more interested in the Enterprise is that if you let it (and I did) it installs everything except /boot in LVM. Seems overkill for a laptop.
The basic tool for installing updates is Yellowdog Update Manager, or "yum". Yellowdog is a long time distro for PowerPC based Macs and now just PowerPC based gear. it is based of RedHat, so the reverse pollination of the service tool back into Fedora has always been kind of interesting. it is what the Linux world is supposed to be about.
Yum is a nice tool, and its GUI, Yumex, is not too bad either. Yum ultimately sits on top of the RPM repository. RPM has command line options as well, but for me, at least for now, I like and use yum. It reminds me favorably of the power and ease of use of apt over on Debian/Ubuntu.
"yum update" brought down 397 updates plus 20 new packages, then after those were installed 16 more appeared. That is fairly typical of a Beta, and it is why I always retry the command after it runs to be sure I have *everything* current. It is also how I know that NetworkManager got an update after I did the first install.
I had a broken package for a day or so called usb-modeswitch, but that was fixed moments ago, when I reran yum and it not only fixed usb-modeswitch's little problem but grabbed 4 other packages. It was good to see a package problem get fixed so quickly. Clearly Fedora still has an active developer community.
The newly updated NetworkManager still has issues. The Broadcom ethernet is fine, but I can not get it to connect to a hidden access point. This is especially bothersome as I had this exact same laptop connected to that exact same access point when I was running Ubuntu 10.04 Alpha, Beta, and GA code. Fedora's track record even on supported hardware remains spotty for me.
evolution-2.30.1-2.fc13.i686 to be exact, plus evolution-mapi-0.30.1-1.fc13.i686.
A reason to be here on Fedora was because Ubuntu 10.04 had chosen to leave Evolution downlevel at 2.28.3 rather than bringing it up to 2.30 with the rest of Gnome. I discussed this in my last post and won't rehash it here. Part of the discussion I was having with the Fedora Maven revolved around MAPI. He had been following the issues around MAPI and MS Exchange and said that MAPI was showing promise. That so did not match my experience that I had to try the current code.
Bottom line: "Meh". Its better than 2.28, and stable enough to show that Ubuntu's decision on staying back level with Evolution was probably just a resource / time issue. Evolution had it's Bonobo removed, and was supposed to be having some early stability issues as a result: I did not see any major crashing in Fedoras implementation of the Evolution 2.30, but it was slow to access Exchange, and I had notes I sent just hang and refused to be delivered. Calendaring seemed to work, albeit slowly, and I only looked at viewing, not scheduling.
Maybe the MAPI code is promising, but I stick for now with my opinion that rpc-over-http is the way to go. I recently loaded up Outlook 2010 on a test system, and it appears that MS is even using some version of RPC-over-HTTP on their regular desktop clients these days.
Part of this exercise was to continue t use KDE. I have some slight sympathy with MS Windows being forced to learn new things: It has been long enough, and KDE is different enough both from itself in the pre-release-4 days, and from Gnome, that I feel frustrated that I can not just do things like I am used to doing.
For this post, I started in Kjots, which is a sort of Tomboy-like notetaker. It is very nice, and has much better controls, but there was no spell checking, and it's HTML export is every bit as messy as Tomboys. I switched to Blogilo, which I have used before... and it has no spell checking either. This is odd because under Ubuntu it does. I must be missing a package, or Fedora does not enable it by default... something. Annoying though. I ended up back in Tomboy because it would at least spell check, even if it did not have some of the other packages formatting features. As noted, Tomboy's export to HTML feature is not very good, so I'll end up taking this back through Blogilo before I post it to clean up the markup.
When I diss an HTML export, it is usually because it exports things with way too much markup. All sorts of things added to try and make a page look exactly the way it does on screen. Some may like that, but I like clean, simple code that flows, and lets the end user browser make all the choices about rendering. That may just be me though. I like the HTML code that Blogilo generates.
Having old eyes, I looked for a Gnome-Control-Center like function to allow me to control the DPI of the screen. I found one, but unlike Gnome where I can tweak it exactly, I had three options: System Settings, 98, or 120. I went with 120, and that helped, but it is odd that KDE's latest and greatest overlooks or at least under-implements this very basic function.
I was looking at a fairly complex spreadsheet on my Ubuntu system with OpenOffice: It was still .xls, so pre-Office 2007 format. Fedora does not install OpenOffice by default, at least in the KDE edition, so when I tried to open it kWrite was automatically called all I got was a blank spreadsheet. Kmail is also still not very usable against MS Exchange. I moved Evolution over to IMAP+ mode, and installed OpenOffice, and that solved most of my internal office compatibility issues.
Nothing to see here: Just Browsing
Fedora's KDE does not install Firefox by default. The Konqueror web browser, being WebKit based, and strongly related to Safari and Chrome therefore, is an OK browser. But I have pretty much standardized on Chrome 5 across all platforms, with a Firefox backup. Install Firefox was as easy as "sudo yum install firefox". Getting Chrome going took a bit more work.
First I had to get the current developer channel .rpm for 32 bit Linux at http://www.chromium.org/getting-involved/dev-channel
PackageKit would not install it directly from the browser, so I had to download it. Then I had to manually install the pre-reqs of lsb and wget. Yum made that easy. Then I had to manually run it the first time so it would appear in the menus by typing "google-chrome" from the command line.
For some reason, every time I start it is says it is not the default browser. Not sure if that is a KDE or a Fedora thing right now. Guessing KDE. But it is installed, and in the menu, so I am good to go. It is fast: Faster than Konqueror, to be sure. It works well with Oracle Financials (the only web pages I have tried it on so far) so everything seems to be in order.
What happens next is anyone's guess. I'll leave Fedora 13 on the T43 for now, and jumps back and forth between the Dell and it. Both have KDE 4.4.2, so I'll get a chance to try and learn KDE again, one way or the other. In the meantime, I'll upgrade my desktop from Ubuntu 9.10 to 10.04... but that is another post.