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Steve Carl

Fedora 13

Posted by Steve Carl May 12, 2010

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


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.


KDE 4.4.2


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


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.


I described in my last post setting up a Pre-GA version of Ubuntu on an IBM T43. With Ubuntu now being GA, it was time to start propagating that release out to my "production" systems. Production here means the Linux laptop and desktop that are my primary workstations.


The laptop went first: I'll do the desktop last because it is the most central of my systems. It filters my email, stores my .ISO's and .PDF's, and so forth. The laptop is less critical, so it goes first. I was not too worried about it though: I have installed Ubuntu 10.04 on several systems including a Dell D600, so I was pretty sure that the install on the D620 would not have any major issues. It did not.


In fact, I was sure enough that I would have no issues that I decided it was time to have a look at KDE again at the same time. Changing multiple things at the same time is normally a bad practice for a Systems Programmer, but I felt fairly sure it would be OK.

Gnome, Evolution, and LTS

Ubuntu 10.04 is a Long Term Support (LTS) version of Ubuntu. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is obvious: three years of support available.


The bad thing is that LTS releases changes the mindset of the people working on the release. Package selections become more conservative: Stability is favored over being out in front. Even that all sounds like a good thing from one point of view... but it means that Ubuntu 10.04 is not easily usable as an Enterprise desktop in a MS Exchange 2007 environment, at least not without adding DAVMail. Further, that conservative thought modality about packages is already out there in Enterprise Linux Desktop space: Two other vendors have that covered already. People choose Ubuntu over them many times because they want the more current package levels. Looked at another way: It is easy to stay backlevel. Everyone can do that.


The Gnome version released with Ubuntu 10.04 is 2.30. That is that latest and greatest. But the Evolution released is 2.28.3. That is the last version. The reason it is backlevel is that Evolution 2.30 has some major changes in it (the elimination of the Bonobo dependency chief among them). That had the Ubuntu folks worried that Evolution would not be stable.


At the same time it meant that Evolution-MAPI would stay backlevel. I do not know if the 2.30 version of the MAPI package is workable, but I do know the 2.28 version of it is not. Most of the changelog information for the 2.30 version of MAPI looked promising for at least making MAPI better. By staying backlevel on Evolution, 10.04 stayed backlevel on MAPI too.


I am not sure how much that matters: I am not convinced from anything I have seen that MAPI is the right way to go. RPC-over-HTTP (Outlook Anywhere) is. And I have seen nothing about that coming to Evolution anytime soon.


Evolution 2.28 + Davmail is the same for Ubuntu 9.10 as it is for 10.04: There is no advantage to moving up to 10.04 if you have an MS Exchange 2007 dependency, other than being on a release with three years of support. You are supported on backlevel stuff for three whole years... something is just wrong with that picture. It feels like having to live with a bad haircut till it grows out.


This is of course a limited problem: You have to be a Linux desktop user in an MS Exchange 2007 based shop for this to affect you. If you are a Linux user with something else providing you email and calendar, you are probably better off and see this as a non-issue.

KDE 4.4.2

I started with a standard Gnome based version of the install, in case I wanted to revert back to or at least look at the GA version of Gnome 2.30, but I have been using Gnome for years, and the pre-GA version of Gnome on 10.04 for months, so I was pretty sure I had seen most of what I wanted to, at least for now.


At the same time, I have looked at KDE a couple of times since the 4.0 release, and every time I have decided it was not quite fully baked yet and went back to Gnome. KDE took a huge risk with such a major redesign of just about everything, including the very core ways that video was composited. It was a huge break with the past, similar in magnitude to what Apple did between OS9 and OS.X. Gnome is about to make a change with their new 3.0 release, but from what I have seen and read, it will not be as major a redesign as KDE's was. The 10.04 version of Gnome is 2.30 ... mostly.... and that is the last 2.x version of Gnome that will be. GNOME 3.0 will be released in September 2010. About the same time as Ubuntu 10.10. Hopefully the Ubuntu folks will be back to thinking like early adopters, and we'll get to see Gnome 3 as part of the distro.


The trades had been reading recently like the growing pains for KDE 4 were about over with the new 4.4 release, and so I decided it was time to have a look and see what all the pain had bought.


I am still feeling my way around this new place, but KDE is not a bad place to be now. It is a bit more eye-candy-ish that I like, but everything seems to be working. No app crashes. No odd slowdowns. Everything unified in the control panel ("System Settings") that you would expect.


Gnome apps like Evolution 2.28.3 work smoothly under KDE 4. If anything, they seem to run better there, but that could just be that this is a fresh clean install, and so Evolution has not had time to build up digital cruft. Evolution at 2.30... without Bonobo... would have built up less digital cruft. I am just saying...


I needed to do an expense report for a recent trip, so I fired up Google Chrome 5.0.375.29 dev, which I had installed from the developers channel at Google, and walked through an expense report and scheduled a trip on the internal travel web site. There were no major hiccups: Chrome and Linux were well accepted by the internal server infrastructure. What a change from the bad old days when all the web sites around the Internet were IE and only IE tested.


Printing was not problem either: I started system settings, told it to find printers on the network, it found one nearby, and I printed from Chrome to it. Easy... way easier than when I had to do the same thing on Windows 7 not that long ago.


I loaded up Blogilo, a KDE blogging client to write this post. I had used it under Gnome in the past, but KDE is its natural habitat, and it works very nicely there.


It took me a minute to figure out the way that panels worked now. I kept adding panels expecting a panel to appear, and I kept getting little bubbles in the corners that were the panels all squished down and minimized. Then I had to figure out that to add applications to a panel required looking at the app and right clicking on it from the application list. In Gnome you tell it to add and application, and it brings up a selector. Not saying one way or the other is better: I just had to get used to the difference.


I added a few widgets from the Internet, and not all of them work. Many complained about missing something. PyWifi was one of them. There were a number of others. It seems odd to me in this day and age of apt-get and rpm that a simple applet type install would fail for lack of a pre-req.


When I told it to install more widgets, that dialog opened *behind* the panel dialog. Nothing moved out of the way, and there seem no way to shift focus short of closing the panel dialog. All together it added up to feeling like it still is not fully cooked yet.


A few years back, when I was giving the labs at LinuxWorld about how to use Linux in a corporate environment, I was using KDE, and in particular showing folks how to set up the calendaring part of Kontact to access the calendar on the MS Exchange server. This was an experimental plugin that never really worked all that well, especially relative to something like todays DAVMail.


I had read that, coming soon, Kontact was going to start accessing MS Exchange the same way that Outlook does: RPC over HTTP. From poster BradH in February of 2010 in the KDE forums :

"We are planning to implement RPC-over-HTTP (the "outlook anywhere" connection method). It needs a bit of support within OpenChange, quite a lot of code within the samba libraries, and a bit of code in the akonadi resource."

That would mean that kmail and kalendar and whatnot would be full replacements for Outlook. I was curious if it was there yet. Short version: Nope. Not even. Whenever that feature is planned, it is not in Ubuntu 10.04 / KDE 4.4.2.


Frustrated and even more curious I starting poking around trying to find out more about the feature and possible delivery version. So far I have not been able to uncover anything that looks authoritative.


Will I run back to Gnome? No. Not yet. There are things to learn here. I imagine the Gnome team looked at the pain the KDE folks went through with all the major change and decided to dial back just how major a change Gnome 3 will be. Spending some time with KDE ahead fo the Gnome major release should be instructive.

The Install on the D620

When I set up the D620 as dual boot XP / Linux several years ago, I was having problems with XP running out of space on several systems, and I over-compensated with the 80 GB storage on this laptop. I split it 50/50. XP was allocated 40GB at SDA1, Linux's "/" had 5GB at SDA2, there was a 2GB swap at SDA3, and a 33 GB "/home" at SDA4. With Ubuntu 9.10 I was always having to manage that "/" a bit, since /var was in there. It was a pain.


With the advent of more recent versions of OpenOffice, and DAVMail, my need to ever boot XP had also diminished. It was a waste of space. XP was using 23 GB of the 40GB. I needed that storage, and it was right up against "/", where I needed it.


I have resized NTFS many times before with the Ubuntu installer, and had done it on the Dell D600 with 10.04, so I was not worried about messing around with the XP's NTFS based partition. I kicked off the resize, went and made some tea, and came back to find it already complete. I played it fairly safe and only shrank /dev/sda1 by 5GB. That would leave XP 12 GB of free space. That was added back in the /dev/sda2 partition which was now 40% full after the first install completed.


The way I installed was fine for Gnome, but I installed KDE via Synaptic: This was not the nicely packaged up Kubuntu. That is probably OK, except that it meant that I kept coming across missing bits I forgot or did not know to install for a while: KDE's base level of packages are very basic. For example, I did not have wireless card management by default, nor did I know what Kubuntu installed to provide that. I poked around in Synaptic to see what sorts of packages were available there, and installed several. Ultimately I went all shotgun on it, and installed KDE-full, and Kubuntu-desktop. This put a ton of new packages on, and took the "/" to 6GB... glad I expanded that file system! That left me plenty of room to add even more software packages, and to have /var grow over time.


I now had the ability to manage the wireless card, and since this D620 uses an Intel wireless card, there were no issues getting things going. I already knew there would not be because I had checked with the "iwconfig" command. There was also that it had been working before on the Alpha and Beta levels, and the GA 9.10 version of Ubuntu before that. I just wanted the GUI under KDE. Call me lazy.


This was probably not the optimal way to install KDE for Ubuntu 10.04, but at least it is up and mostly running and I have both Gnome and KDE available in their entirety. If I have some time, and I decide to keep KDE, I may go the other way, and install Kubuntu and add Gnome.

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