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Despite my last series of posts about using the BSD based Mac in the office...

 

 

.. my main workhouse is and remains Linux. For example, and because this one is fresh in my mind: If I need to fix a hard drive at home that "broke" on a Mac, I reach for Linux.

 

At the office I have been experimenting in the odd moments with Fedora 17 on a Dell M4500 laptop, and once it settled down a bit, I decided that the XFCE version of F17 would be the next OS on my main desktop system. A Dell Optiplex 745 with 3 GB of RAM and an Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 6300 @ 1.86GHz, this is not bleeding edge hardware. It would not run MS Vista well for example. It is plenty fast with Linux on it, even with the compositing window manager enabled. To be fair, the compositing working as well as it does is partly due to the low spec Radeon HD 2400 XT with 256 GB off Video RAM. Even as low end as that is by today's standards, it works extremely well with the two 19" Dell E198FP monitors

 

That hardware has been running Fedora 16 pretty much since it came out, and Evolution with EWS has been running fairly well there, filtering my email. The EWS feature has replaced DAVMail as the way I access email from MS Exchange, and it is fast. There were occasional hangs, but nothing that a quick "evolution --force-shutdown" would not cure. I could go on vacation for two weeks, and it would just keep running, sorting my mail into folders so that when I looked at if from my iPhone my inbox was not a hot mess of trade emails from all the different mailing lists I am on. Chrome worked there, and had no memory leaks like on the Mac.

 

Painless Upgrade

 

Technically, "PreUpgrade".

 

There are a fair amount of architectural changes between Fedora 16 and 17. Fedora is quite specific about not using "yum" and doing an update, in part because of a change in the underlying file system. If you are used to the traditional file system layout:

 

/bin → /usr/bin

/sbin → /usr/sbin

/lib → /usr/lib

/lib64 → /usr/lib64

 

The file system looks like it is still the way it was at first glance, but they are now symlinks to the new locations. The reasoning behind this change is quite sound, and probably long overdue. Its well documented at freedesktop.org.

 

Any change like that would normally cause huge amounts of pain when upgrade time came, and this is part of the reason it is not recommended to use "yum" to do the OS update. If you must, there are pages out there that say how to do it. I'm the cautious type, especially on my production desktop, so I went the PreUpgrade way. PreUpgrade is a thing of beauty. It boiled down to three commands. One to get the current system as up-to-date as possible. Then to install PreUpgrade. Then to run PreUpgrade.

 

  • sudo yum update
  • sudo yum install preupgrade
  • sudo preupgrade

 

There are caveats, like making sure you have enough room for the upgrade. When I did it, it downloaded about 850 megabytes of files, but I had more than enough room:

 

Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on

rootfs           11G  6.1G  4.9G  56% /

 

Interestingly,  '/' was 55% before the upgrade, so upgrading ultimately took very little additional space.

 

A reboot showed a new menu option in GRUB: To upgrade to F17 A.K.A. "Beefy Miracle". F16 was 'Verne". Taking that option, a series of scripts ran re-laying out the file system, and then an install ran that looked like most any Anaconda installer of days gone by. I watched it for a bit, then went off to do other things. When I turned around, it was done, rebooted, and the FC17 login splash was sitting there.

 

F17

 

F16 has some of the nicest theme graphics I have ever seen associated with Fedora. As a SciFi geek, the whole idea of Verne was just cool:

 

verne.png

That image (both on the login and default desktop) would be a hard act to follow, so "Beefy Miracle" did the logical thing, and just made it easy to set that one back instead of the picture of fireworks it came with.

 

I almost went back to the Verne one. I decided instead to use pictures from Hubble and the Mars rover "Curiosity" instead.

 

desktop-mars.png

When I get time, I'll figure out how to get the fireworks off the XFCE login screen as well. meantime, I still have my geek on.

 

Overall this has been one of the best upgrade experiences I have ever had, in terms of how well things were brought over from the previous release.

 

Evolution 3.4.3

 

Being a desktop that I use primarily for office automation tasks, of course having Evolution working is the first thing I look at. I was a little worried at first when I put F17 on the laptop. Evolution was not stable. Several updates came out, and it settled down, so I had a great deal of hope for the upgrade.

 

It is working perfectly so far. Faster than before. More options for EWS setup. Better autodetection of configuration. Filters are faster. Having fast filters is key to my happiness in Evolution too: I have over fifty of them.

 

The conversion was not 100% perfect, but I do not mind what it missed. Some of my setups for default calendar and address book went missing, but that was easy to fix. It forgot that I like to expunge without being asked if that's OK. Understandable. It brought over my signature without issue, something that is often dropped.

 

Clicking on a calendar, it populates quickly. This is a far cry from the EWS of the early days, and a distinct improvement over the F16 version.

 

Smooth.. Everything

 

Its not just Evolution that is better / faster. Everything is. I liken it to when I upgraded my Samsung Galaxy SII from 4.0 / Ice Cream Sandwich to 4.1.1 / Jellybean. The whole point of Jellybean was Project Butter, to smooth everthing out. It works too. Jellybean is great, and on everything Android I own but one thing, and I am looking at that one.

 

For F17, fonts are smoother and better rendered (I never could get them to quite look right under FC16), the applications load quickly, the system boots quickly. Everything I have tried just seems to run a little better. Doubly impressive because of the antiquity of the hardware it is running on.

 

I do not think that F17 gained anything from Project Butter, but it seemed to.

 

Put it Back the Way You Found It

 

One of the things I expect to happen during an upgrade is for alternate repositories to be disabled. It only makes sense that, during an upgrade, the inputs be controlled. Google Chrome is a great example of that. It is not just an application, it is an application with its own update channel. I run the Dev version so I am usualy a couple of releases ahead of whatever is GA.

 

Often after an update, not only was Chrome not installed any more, the channel to install it was disabled. This has happened many times across many distros. Not this time. After the install, everything was back the way it should be, and updates still coming in from alternate repositories.

 

Nice.

 

XFCE 4.8.3

 

After a great deal of messing around with desktops after Gnome 3 and Ubuntu Unity forced me off those platforms, I settled on XFCE as my current standard. My home Linux system is running KDE at the moment, and I am leaving it there just to be able to watch what the KDE project is doing, but I have to admit I prefer XFCE. LXDE is good as well, but XFCE has just enough additional functionality, without being heavy, to have me prefer it.

 

The one thing I miss is Expose.

 

With Compiz stock, it is possible to set up the Apple Expose-like task switcher (called Scale in Compiz). If there is a way to do it under XFCE (with Compiz apparently buried in its guts), I have not been able to figure it out just yet. There used to be a tool called "Skippy" or "Skippy-XD", but that project appears to be dead, and never had an RPM based version as near as I can see.

 

Oh well. alt-tab it is.

 

I do have the compositing turned on, via Settings / Settings Manager / Window Manager Tweaks / Compositor, but that is just for some eye candy like drop shadows, and making windows translucent while being moved, etc.

 

I read often in the trades about the new end-user desktop paradigm that is being pushed. The latest is the don't-call-me-Metro version of MS Windows, AKA MS Windows 8.

 

Where have I seen this discussion before? This hatred of a new desktop paradigm?

 

Oh. yeah. Gnome 3. Ubuntu Unity. More treating a powerful desktop / laptop with a good graphics card like it can not window and it can not multitask. We get it. tablets are cool. I have two not counting the baby tablets called Smartphones. In that case I have five. Does mean I want my laptop or my desktop to act or work like them.

 

For us Linuxen, there are other desktops that still treat the desktop like it has a keyboard and a mouse. XFCE. KDE. LXDE. Enlightenment. Afterstep. Cinnamon. Etc. I think it is interesting that Linux Mint, formerly very tied to Ubuntu, has been the place the Cinnamon came from, and also that there is now an XFCE version of Mint. Good thinking.

 

Windowsen have a choice too, and other than staying on Win7, there is also "Classic Shell". Looks interesting. If Win 8 (and mainly its Gnome 3 / Unity looking interface) ever gets foisted off on me, I'll be going there. Windows 8 also has a desktop mode of sorts, but MS knows that people don't really want to use it, so they are helpfully blocking it, at least at boot. Going to wear you down till you just get used to the new thing.

 

Fedora Next

 

The next Fedora comes out before the end of the year. For me, this F16 to F17 was a pretty late-in-the-cycle upgrade. If it is anything like how good the F17 upgrade is, I'll be moving to that much sooner. With F17 now on my main system, the M4500 is freed up for the upcoming F18 Alpha.