Registered: Oct 2005
Distribution: Sabayon 3.5Loop2
New to FC 5, my impressions
I have shied away from Fedora for years, because I have never liked any Red Hat offshoots, but all the uproar and hype of FC 5 made me want to try it. And much tie has passed since I last gave fedora or Red Hat a good look. Previously, all of the Red Hat based products have tended to look very bland and have a lot of dependency problems. But the one thing they usually have is easily available binaries in easy to find repositories. They also tend to be usable and quick to install with more than fair to quite impressive hardware recognition. So I figured, enough time has passed, and improvements have been made, at least it should be quick to get all my hardware and software slections up and running. On top of that SuSE 10.1 is still a month off, Kororaa's release release has been delayed again, and RR4/RR64's latest version has terrible support for my hardware, and few choices to try in between... I still needed a working OS in the time being. So I said fine, I will try FC 5, after all the hype is there, the bubbles look is quite nice, and many screenshots of FC 5 with KDE looked quite nice. I though maybe, times had changed. To do it justice I did 2 installs on separate machines with different architectures from different media.
IBM Thinkpad T30 Laptop installing FC 5 32bit, 5 CD:
Intel Pentium M 2Ghz
1 gig ram 2x512 crucial PC2700DDR
Radeon 7500 Mobile
60Gig HD(used 30 for the install, 30 for default windows and recovery partition)
Intel chipsets throughout
And a Netgear WG511
Setup # 2:
Custom built desktop installing FC 5 64bit, DVD:
Gigabyte K8U-939 motherboard
160Gig Hitachi SATA drive (60 Windows XP Pro 64, 100 to FC 5)
250Gig Samsung SATA storage
120Gig WD IDE storage
Samsung dvdrw dual layer burner
ATI Radeon 9600XT AGP
Turtle Beach Santa Cruz 5.1 Soundcard
1 gig ram 2x512 Ultra PC3200 DDR
For those unaware, Fedora Core uses a graphical installer called Anaconda, it is a known powerhouse installer with great hardware recognition known for ease of installation. I don't like text installers, so a nice GUI with good recognition is a welcome feature to any distro in my eyes. And screenshots of Anaconda from FC 5 showed some impressive looks.
In both cases, I wanted to install the same selection of software, so I chose a few settings away from the default. I installed KDE, not gnome, with the same package selections. Screenshots barely gave Anaconda justice. Anaconda is smooth and easy to use, and quite easy on the eyes.. The only hitch along the user friendly and pretty installation was the partition management. It is fairly weak and counterintuitive and doesn't allow some of the filesystems I prefer, so I used default for both instead of self configuring my own. I am not a huge fan of ext3, preferring XFS and other more full featured and faster file systems myself. But aside from the partition manager, installation was flawless and surprisingly easy.
I have to qualify Anaconda, however, as quite slow compared to many other recent installers, but that is in part from being either spread across 5 CDs or a large DVD with a lot of stuff installed by default. Now, that said, I hit my first real disappointment with the package selection available, considering being 5 CDs or a DVD, there is plenty of space for a lot of common stuff, but most of what I look for is entirely missing, especially in terms of multimedia. No amarok, no mplayer, and limited support aside from Desktop Environment built-ins. On the plus said, Ruby, emacs, and many other development tools I look for were all accounted for. But the amount of overall software I was going to have to find makes post-installer setup quite long indeed. As expected, though the hardware recognition was impressive, especially considering how bad it was when I had last tried Fedora on current hardware.
Once installed and configured, the boot time is impressively short and running is smooth, but overly bland for my taste. Though some theming will fix that right up once internet is running, I expect a modern distro to have a good look and theme to it so I don't have to start getting and installing themes to make it livable before I do anything else. In fact many distros have such a wonderful and unique style, I don't want to theme over them. That was no where near the case here, however. I can't believe how bland the kicker, kmenu, and general theme is. It is truly reminiscent of OSes 10 years gone by. Considering it is brand new, a little eye candy really helps make me feel more welcome and more at home on a computer. I spend a lot fo time on mine, so I need a little comfort and taste in my OS. Aside for being bland, a 3 application tall kicker is pretty extreme, and I can't say I like that, it is way too big. The boredom of the OS is as deep as the iconset, window decoration, and buttons. I don't get why any modern distro would make something look so outdated, but, I will grant at least it all works just fine, though does not take advantage of anything X or kde 3.5+ can do visually. There is not even a kicker panel image. On the flip side, the new Fedora Bubbles used in the desktop image and the kdm theme are quite pleasant, too bad they wren't used more throughly over the distro.
One of the biggest disappointments for me, is the amazing lack of GUI tools on FC 5. I like my visual distros to have good GUI tools, and FC 5 is lacking massively. In terms of software installation, the GUI is almost a joke on the add/remove software lacking in look, but even more on usability. In order to get anything really installed Yum is okay, but I shouldn't have to go into a command line just to install and upgrade software. Also contributing to the bad experience of finding, installing, an updating software, all the guides are quite lacking on getting a lot of multimedia functionality. Using rpms and google is fine, but it really takes a long time, especially with the number of dependencies. Using yum is better, but being fully text based and lacking a good searching ability(try searching for Opera after installing a few repositories) make it very hard to find many things I want to install, even if they are available. That is just not acceptable to me. I expected a distro with a history as long as Fedora's and a userbase as big as Fedora's to produce virtually everything a guy could want, and they fell woefully short. Leaving me to manually install codecs and hand compile a lot of what wanted from source. Repository listings are incomplete and surprisingly sparse for a distro with as much press as Fedora gets and as many developers as supposedly contribute. Most of the hardware tools are also similarly unimpressive, and overall as an intro-level distro, I am very disappointed in how complicated most of the installation is.
In terms of media support for Fedora Core 5, certainly like other hardware recognition, it is quite good. All of USB devices and pen drives work, CDs and DVDs(once you install some codecs and mplayer), Even other harddrives all load up fairly well and easily, but playing media files from other drives makes a link in my home directory for no reason at all, I find that quite silly. I have not yet tried using my Creative Zen Vision M with it, or even other media players. Being as a few of the tools I normally use would have to be compiled from source and given my overall bad impressions of software installation thus far of FC 5, I won't be using it long enough to care about that.
In general, very nice setup, runs fairly quickly, sound, video, everything works just fine. But like all distros, nothing seems to have good drivers for my Radeon 7500. Of course this is in part due to ATI not releasing anything for cards under the 8500 series, and partly due to the community of open source drivers for ATI being undermanned and way behind. Otherwise, all the hardware runs very well, the boot time in comparison to other distros is good indeed.
Internet is a whole other story though... man what a pain in the arse to get wireless card to work. That goes for the internal wireless and a separate card(Netgear WG511), both of which I have had working on numerous other distros with ease. Without other internet, I have yet to successfully get either card working, though it does recognize both properly, at least in theory. It would have helped considerably had the onboard ethernet installed more easily, It probably took me 10 minutes of configuration, and with no net-setup tool, ifconfig and editting the resolv.conf finally took. It is disappointing, usually ethernet is setup properly in other distros I have tried, and considering this is a final release of FC 5, not testing, that isn't something I appreciate.
On the subject of a final release, bugs should be nearly impossible to find, instead, trying to change the bland look with desktop, kicker and others doesn't even work. Right clicking on the desktop to pull up the KDE configuration actually freezes it, and no tools ever come up. Same happens for kicker panel, cannot reconfigure size or anything else as it freezes upon trying to open the menu. This is truly pathetic. Though some settings within the KDE options menu can get a new theme and wallpaper, not working in general just isn't good enough. Bland look which you can't change and poor tools tell me that it will not be a distro I keep on this laptop.
Again installation was very smooth, configuration and boot time were impressive, but I once again found myself wanting to change themes immediately upon booting. The good news is, the configuration freezes present on the laptop are not existent here, and since I have internet was able to make it look good enough I could actually use the OS for more testing this time. With new icons, a kicker image, some configuration, and a new window decoration, it was ready to use. I certainly do not envy newbies in finding places like kde-look.org on their own, which makes them stuck with a bland theme until they are far more familiar with their new OS since very little comes with FC 5. I do admit the background wallpaper is nice though, the fedora bubbles look pretty good. Hardly a saving grace, though as that is one thing nearly everyone personalizes and won't be seen too long.
General behavior was really screwy in general. Ifconfig, IwConfig and other administrative commands which were available on the laptop install were nowhere to be found. Considering I made the same package selections for both installs, this is positively weird and downright unacceptable. Ethernet works flawlessly, though as does sound, and was looking to be going far better than the laptop install. Everything looked okay till I started running FireFox. Links don't always work, they go to a page but don't load it and sometimes I can't even go to pages. Being the featured browser, this is too bad, at least Konquerer works seems to work fine so I can actually browse the internet.
64bit seems to have some good package selection, barring a few obvious lacks in terms of multimedia. This isn't enjoyable being multimedia proved to be a really pain to setup anything short of manual install. Though I can compile my own software from source, I hate doing it, and it certainly wouldn't be very friendly to people who haven't done so before. As for my ATI drivers, what they say about the ATI being a pain is proving right again, Though many distros make it quite easy, and Fedora tries, recommending a 3rd party location to use Yum which doesn't actually work.
Overall and Conclusion:
Given the good hardware recognition and installer, FC 5 really had a chance. But the first impressions failed to meet similar expectations in a post install hopefulness. The look is boring and design in the OS itself and most of Fedora's tools are totally ignored by the developers. The usability is sadly lacking especially in the case of system tools and software installation and updating. And beyond any other redeeming features, the number of blatant bugs that exist make it more of a chore to use than a joy. This gives a lack of easy use considering this is a full release that just shouldn't be the case beyond an alpha or early beta. As a test release, it might have gotten a passing grade, but even then it would have been pushing it In a full release it is inexcusable that many things just don't work. It certainly isn't ready for general use as something to setup for someone new to linux, and I would rather not use it myself as someone with a lot more experience.
To put it into a score is really tough, and I probably have a steep grading curve looking for ease of use, look and feel, ease of hardware and software install and upgrade, and general usability. They have a good start with Anaconda, but the developers really need to take another look at the rest of their project. When push comes to shove, installation is only the first step, most users will only do it once, so how the rest of the OS runs is very important, and in the case of Fedora Cora 5, completely lacking. In terms of a numeric score, I give it a 2.5/10. Maybe next time around they will look more into usability now that they will able to spend no time working on an installer.
Editted for detail. I expounded on a few things, made some grammatical corrections.
Last edited by RedShirt; 03-26-2006 at 06:30 PM.