Saturday, 18 January 2014

Fedora 20 Review

Fedora 20 arrived at last. With each release Fedora appears to produce a more stable distribution. While testing the Fedora 20 alpha release on VirtualBox I hit a problem, nothing to do with Fedora 20. While altering my setup on my laptop for a new project I made a mistake. The result was a laptop that would not boot, without the help of a rescue disc. I needed to rebuild it. I bit the bullet and used Fedora 20 Alpha release for the build! All went well, no problems at all.

Since the introduction of Gnome 3 I wanted a few extensions/enhancements. They have come along Gnome 3 works for me, once I have enough extensions installed. One problem is that my single user systems do not have a “Log Off” option. Fedora 20 does not solve that (if you install another desktop as well as gnome, like KDE or xfce the problem is solved because they provide log-off). But there there is now a new extension to provide the Log Off option. For me this is bliss.

If you use Gnome Tweak then you will notice a big change. It looks much nicer, the changes are mostly cosmetic but some words and meanings have changed. I for one have in previous releases dived straight for the tweak tool on first installation to select “Have file manager handle the desktop” in the Desktop tab. Now you will not find it, however the Desktop tab allows us to select “Icons on the Desktop”. It may still be a pain to get Gnome 3 to act like a desktop, but those not familiar with its workings may have a better chance of stumbling on the correct option to make it act like one.

Tweak also has a start-up application tab. You can add applications here to be started when you next login to Gnome 3. This means no more remembering gnome-session-properties as the program to run about time. Gnome 3 is maturing.
I now have all the extensions I require installed. I use Gnome's own web site to install them. I have found that the ones included in the Fedora yum repositories were not what I wanted.

I don't use gnome-packagekit. I am sure it is wonderful but I feel the need to enter the murky world of the command line on occasions and typing “yum update -y” appears the perfect occasion. In the interest of a fair review I took a look. Wow! It looks like one of these new “App Stores” with all its fancy graphics. Are Gnome moving into Ubuntu territory? I doubt it. There is no undertone, other than making things a little prettier for the user. There is also a lack of pushy text and user feedback. The first is a good thing but I am becoming comfortable with users giving feedback and that would be a good idea to incorporate.

Without a doubt it is the best looking of all the PackageKit iterations. It is not for me. The very nice graphics are not accompanied by a list of all the installed software. I searched for “dkms”, it is not there, it shows up if I use “yum list dkms”. The only thing that appears to be in the list are desktop applications. I cannot find a web server but I found lots of browsers.

Presentation is good, content is lacking. Still this is a huge leap forward.
Another desktop tool that is required is a way of changing the update schedule, a new method that we can get at without knowing the system. You can update applications from the Gnome application but not all updates are there. Doing a “yum update” listed a few updates but according to the “Software” application all my software was current.

A quick glance at the Fedora 20 feature list shows it will have “No Default Sendmail”. This does not sound like a feature but the removal of one, says he with his grumpy hat on. Still sendmail was there for me, smiles all around.
There is also “No Default Syslog”. I know how to use journalctl but in the panic how long will it take me to remember? OK it will save a bit of disc space and I could continue to install rsyslog if I want. No hassle just a learning curve that I do not need.

Unversioned document directories? My only question is “Unversioned” is this a word? Still I understand the reasons and am not bothered. Most of the other features do not interest me, although the thin provisioning changes to LVM may make my professional life much easier, once it has filtered through to the enterprise distributions. I will take a look at these changes later.

All the software loaded without problems and without a massive test script I just dabble in whatever takes my eye. I usually start with graphics applications, I enjoy photography. Everything worked fine. I use Gimp, Darktable, LightZone and Geeqie. Nothing any different to my current versions so all was as I expected. I then move on just to look at LibreOffice. Again it did what it says on the tin. An Office suite is the most boring thing to check out, so I took it no further.

I did find one thing that is annoying. I use gramps (Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System). This has moved on to version 4.0.2. To the eye little has changes, I have not looked at a list of features or bug fixes but I am sure the major release change is significant. For me it still works as ever, perhaps a little better. There is an issue that when it presented lists I could only see 1 line of the list. Not much to complain about until you realise that I have 400+ people to choose from when I want to add somebody as a parent for instance. It now takes forever. This appears to be a problem with a python gtk toolset, zenity has similar problems with the list options.

Basically there is not much going on. I am sure we will see a few applications evolving but do not expect trend setting changes.

I am a big fan of what Red Hat has done in the past, I have used it since Red Hat 5.2 and the original Gnome desktop, which was a toy. I am an avid Fedora follower, using it since Fedora Core 3. I will get some benefits in my professional life from Fedora 20. It does not grab me as anything other than a competent step forward. I will upgrade, I will enthuse to all my friends but I will know that the giant leap forward I want to see will have to wait for Fedora 21. It will happen, thousands of avid community members cannot be wrong, or am I living in dream land? Is it about time to take some action? Probably not. I will sit down and devour all that the various projects can throw at me, write a critical review and yet find absolutely nothing to complain about. Fedora 20 works, it is stable, it just does not grab you. In fact it felt more like testing a RHEL release that the bleeding edge cousin.

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