In my last post, I talked about not being happy with the new Ubuntu. Short term, I rolled that desktop down to Mint 11. Mint is now more popular than Ubuntu, so I am not the only one unhappy with the Ubuntu design and attitude. More on that in a bit.
Mint 11 is a great version of Linux. If it were not for the fact that I want a more current version of Evolution, I would just stay there. However, upstream in Evolution there is something called Evolution-EWS, and that is a plug-in to the more upstream version of Evolution that can access MS Exchange without a DavMail proxy.
Here then was the choice thing that Linux users have. My goal: Get a windowing user interface that looks a lot like Gnome 2.x, but have Evolution-EWS.
I knew Ubuntu 11.10 did not package -EWS, so that probably meant Mint did not either. I looked. it didn't. I went ahead and installed Mint 12 over Mint 11 just to have a look at the stuff the Mint team was doing to try and mitigate some of the Ubuntu decisions. It was better. Not great, but I think I could have tweaked it out to meet my needs. The multi-monitor support was terrible, and various thematic elements were coarse looking. But it worked and was usable. if I was going to stay in the Ubuntu-based end of the pond, I would have stayed on Mint 12, and when the Mint 12 LXDE version came out, jumped over to that. Or perhaps run over to the Mint Debian based version. Either way I could have gotten Mint set up the way I wanted it to be. I think the Debian based version is going to be the future of Mint if Ubuntu keeps hopping down the 'ignore the end users' bunny trail.
I don't have time to wait for it, and I don't have to. I am a Linux user, and I have choices. I set Fedora 16 up as a VM, tested everything I wanted would work,and then today, while on a con-call no less (and mostly listening to the con-call), I installed Fedora 16 over the top of Mint 12. I had practiced on the VM, and knew what I needed to do, so it was simplicity itself.
Fedora 16, LXDE spin
One of the first things about being on Fedora is switching to RPM think from APT think. They mostly do the same things, but syntax is different, and the GUI is Yumex, not Synaptic. It is not a hard adjustment.
First up, my hard drive was already partitioned the way i wanted it, so I just had to take manual control of the Fedora disk setup (which it lets you do easily), and tell it how to install things:
Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/sda1 * 2048 23437311 11717632 83 Linux
/dev/sda2 23439358 31250431 3905537 5 Extended
/dev/sda3 31250432 312498175 140623872 83 Linux
/dev/sda5 23439360 31250431 3905536 82 Linux swap / Solaris
/dev/sda1 is '/'. /dev/sda3 is '/home'. A simple layout that keeps my data separate from my OS.
Once everything was installed (which took practically no time. Linux Installers are so easy these days) I rebooted, answered a few more questions about me and my account. It noticed there was already a home directory with my name on it, and asked if it should be adopted. I said yes, and now I was up and running with my data intact. Multi-monitor support was instant and the default. Very different than Ubuntu or even Mint in that regard.
DHCP was the default, and worked, but my desktop has a static IP address. Right clicking the icon in the panel for the network took me to the menu to fix all that.While I was in the panel, I like a lot more detail in my clock than the default hour and minute. I changed the setup string from '%R' to '%r %m/%d/%Y', which puts it into 12 hour time, shows the seconds, plus the month / day / full year number. This is a first clue just how lightweight LXDE is. There is no GUI for setting that up. I arrived at those settings by pure guesswork.
The first order of business (even before patching!) was getting up and running against MS Exchange 2007. I had practiced this, and captured all the information I needed, so this was easy. The first time around: Not so much.
To set up EWS under Fedora's Evolution 3.2.2 version, you need two bits of information that Outlook and mac's Mail.app are able to auto-discover. Watching the forums, the Autodiscovery is coming. You enter your MS Exchange name, plus the 'Host URL' and the 'OAB URL' What took a while was in reading through to forums about where to find this inside of Outlook, they kept referring to 'right clicking on the Outlook button'. I, being literal minded, looked all over for something like that. Finally I started right clicking on everything everywhere that had anything to do with Outlook, and at long last figure out that this was that litte micro-icon in the task bar, over on the right. If you hold down the control key, and right click on that icon, you will see an option labeled 'Test Email AutoConfiguration'.
Run that, and you will get back, buried in a raft of other things, those two URL's. Copy them into an email to yourself or something, and get them entered in the EWS configuration. Your Exchange GAL, your Calendar, your task lists all appear. When I was running this virtually it worked pretty well, but running it on the real hardware, it flies.
This effectively replaces not only DavMail, but the Evolution MAPI plugin. at least for me. I keep getting crashes of the address book in the Fedora bug tracker for some reason. Three times so far today. A SIGSEGV signal 11. I may have to re-add Davmail, or go to direct LDAP connection to an Active Directory server someplace to work around the directory issue.
[update: after many successive SIGSEV Signal 11's, I did in fact add an LDAP address book pointing at one of our MS Domain Controllers. It is working very well that way. Also, the bug I reported against it is closed upstream, so hopfully Fedora 17 will fix that, if not sooner.]
Other Config Items for Fedora
Once Evolution was up and running and, other than the address book issue, running very well (better / faster than I have ever seen it do in fact), It was time to get the rest of the patches on. a simple 'sudo yum update' took care of that. My userid is in the 'admin' group, so sudo works about the same on Fedora as it used to work on Ubuntu / Mint.
I wanted Chrome, and that requires LSB on Fedora. 'yum install lsb' took care of that. Fedora only has Firefox on it, and while that works just fine, I actually use both browsers most of the time for research reasons.
I normally enable the Fusion repositories, so that I can get easy access to some things Fedora does not package. Today the mirrors for the Fusion repositories have been having some issues. I'll wait and see what is happening there over the next few days.
The fonts are not as smooth by default as I would like in LXDE, but via googling I found a way to configure the .Xresources file to change that:
Again, like the clock settings, there is no GUI for this. Welcome to the world of light weight display managment.
I had an MP3 audio track from a meeting I needed to listen to, and that required installing Audacity. With Fusion installed, getting MP3 support was no problem.
There is no GUI to get remote desktop access going, so I am going to try and get that set up using this: http://forums.fedoraforum.org/showthread.php?t=259665. Seems to be working so far.
It is not convenient to have to manually set up all these things that I used to have easier, more GUI ways to do in Gnome. (Side note: I loaded up XFCE as well, and played a bit with it instead to see if it makes anything easier than LXDE. Not enough time on it to tell yet, and another choice to be explored.)
The choice is whether I want to go back and relearn where all the manual setup is that Gnome hides from me, or use the Gnome 3 or Ubuntu Unity interfaces. For me, that answer is to go back to the manual configs, at least until LXDE picks up some unified tools. You'd hate for LXDE to not be light and fast anymore, but a few more config tools would go a long way towards making it a viable desktop for a wider range of people.
I mentioned at the top of the article things about ignoring the user, and the general attitude of some about the redesigns. I know that no one is ever going to think and feel the same way about every design. One example: Looking a a recent car redesign I said 'Wow: They really beat that car with an ugly stick'. I did not like all the new angles going off in odd directions. My mom, looking at the same car, said "It looks like a used bar of soap". OK. She did not like it either, but we were clearly not seeing the same things. Then another person said "Oh: Look at that cute little car!"
No design will please everyone.
What I have seen however in various forums is that people (like me) who do not like the design changes are more or less told to shut up: The decision was made. Please stop talking about it. We don't want to hear about it any more. That is even OK. Its their project, and they can do with it what they want, even if what they want to do with it makes fewer people happy with it.
However, closing off the discussion. Stopping the listening. That is how you lose people, and that is part of why I am gone from the world of Ubuntu and Gnome. If they someday come up with something interesting, I will of course look at it, but Fedora is a big world to explore and find Linux happiness in.