Review: Fedora 9 Preview


Boot SplashBoot SplashYesterday the Fedora Project released a "Preview" of Fedora 9. Today Ubuntu released a "Release Candidate" for 8.04 "Hardy Heron" and the openSUSE team released openSUSE 11.0 Beta 1. Since my preferred Linux distribution for the desktop is Fedora, I've been keeping up with all of the test releases. What follows is some commentary about my experiences with the Fedora 9 Preview including an image gallery. I'd like to encourage MontanaLinux users of other distros to write up their experiences with their preferred distributions.

Firefox 3 beta 5Firefox 3 beta 5

Fedora 9 Preview - the media

Some time ago the Fedora Project decided to follow Ubuntu's lead... and started offering a number of single LiveCDs. They offer a GNOME-based LiveCD as well as a KDE-based one. Since the Fedora Project decided to focus on making it easy for anyone in the community to create their own "spins" a number of other LiveCDs have cropped up including one that is XFCE-based. I downloaded the GNOME LiveCD, the KDE LiveCD, and the DVD media which is NOT a Live media. Since my home computers have 2GB of RAM or less, I just use the i386 flavor rather than the x86_64.

KDE Apps MenuKDE Apps MenuMy preferred desktop environment is KDE but I do use a mix of GNOME applications too. One of the things I don't like about the single LiveCD approach is that you have to choose a single desktop environment and as a result you don't get any of the applications available from the other desktop environments. So on the KDE LiveCD, you don't have GIMP or Firefox. Since there isn't a whole lot of room, some of the larger apps have to be scrapped for their lighter footprint alternatives... so on the GNOME LiveCD you get Abiword and Gnumeric rather than If you do a disk install you can certainly install all of the additional applications and desktop environments your heart desires post-install. I generally prefer the DVD (that is for installation only) because with its larger size it provides a number of desktop environments and applications. I did try out each of the three media I downloaded. The LiveCDs I booted as virtual machines with VirtualBox. I installed the DVD release on the Linux side of my wife's computer... which I use mostly for testing.

If you haven't tried out KDE 4.0.x yet, it is quite interesting. Using the KDE LiveCD is a good way to try it out. I'm not really going to cover what's new in KDE 4 as that would be a lengthy review all in itself.

There wasn't anything unexpected from the GNOME LiveCD. It's GNOME 2.22 and includes Firefox 3 beta 5.

The DVD install went smoothly. I used my existing partitions so I did not try out the new partition resizing features which supposedly includes the ability to resize both Linux partitions as well as Windows NTFS partitions non-destructively. I also did NOT try out the new ability to create and use enctrypted filesystems for everything except the /boot partition. I picked to alter the package selection and added all of the desktop environments and additional applications that are included on the DVD. The result was a combination of the LiveCDs. I used the update applet to install a handful of updates that have been released since the media was finalized. I also used the new PackageKit application to install some additional software. It all worked well.

The new theme and desktop background takes a little getting used to. At first I didn't like it but it grew on me quite quickly.

There are a ton of new features but I'm only going to mention a few that were really interesting to me. For a complete list of what's new in Fedora 9 see their Release Notes wiki page. There is a lot there and it is well documented. I strongly recommend that if you are interested in Fedora 9 you read through every section of the Release Notes although when the final version is released (pushed back 2 weeks to May 13th), the Preview Release Notes will surely be replaced so if the link is broken, fish around for the updated/current Release Notes.

LiveUSB with persistant data

One new feature that I am excited about is the LiveUSB with persistant data. While the ability to create a LiveUSB stick from the LiveCD media has been a feature of Fedora for a while, the ability to have persitant data is new. For more info on that, see the interview with Jeremy Katz in Red Hat Magazine. I originally thought that the persistant data feature was only for user data but as it turns out it applies to the complete system... so not only can you store your documents... but you can also install updates, new applications, create accounts, and save settings. There is nothing special you have to do... it works just like a hard drive would.

The USB thumbdrive I used was a 2GB drive and when I created the LiveUSB setup from the GNOME LiveCD image I created a 1200MB persistant data area. The creation process only took a few minutes. When it was ready, I plugged it into my wife's computer. Her machine is a couple of years old and some older computers do not have the ability to even boot from USB but after a few BIOS setting changes, I was booting from the LiveUSB media.

Boot time seemed to be about the same as from hard drive... USB 2 is pretty darn fast. The first thing I did was create an account and then login as the new user. I also set a root password. Then I upgraded the system and added a lot more software. Everything worked as expected. One of the updates happened to be a new kernel. Since the LiveUSB was created from the LiveCD media, it inherits the bootloader setup from it which happens to be syslinux. I'm very familiar with grub but not so much with syslinux. One thing that is obvious with syslinux is that it offers a better color depth for its splash images. Rebooting the system after upgrading the kernel, I didn't see the new kernel on the boot menu and in fact it did not boot the newer kernel. So at this time I'm not sure how you update the kernel with syslinux. I'm sure it is doable, I'm just not familiar with the process.

Oddly enough on my 2GB thumbdrive I had about 1.9GB of free space. How that is possible I'm not sure but that is what it said. I removed Abiword and Gnumeric and installed The new PackageKit is different and takes a little getting used to but it works quite well. All in all I was very impressed with the LiveUSB setup and look forward to trying it on additional machines. I'd like to get a 4GB or 8GB thumbdrive and install a lot more software.

FreeIPA is forward looking

Have you heard about FreeIPA? It is is a new feature in Fedora 9. I haven't tried it out yet but reading about it, it sure seems neat. Here is a brief description from the FreeIPA website:

FreeIPA is an integrated security information management solution combining Linux (Fedora), Fedora Directory Server, MIT Kerberos, NTP, DNS. It consists of a web interface and command-line administration tools. Currently it supports identity management with plans to support policy and auditing management.

This is the first release of FreeIPA so it currently isn't feature complete but they do have a roadmap. This sounds a lot like a Linux alterative to Microsoft's Active Directory although it is NOT trying to be a clone of Active Directory. As you would expect it is powered by a number of server applications including Fedora Directory Server.

Closing Summary

I was suprised at the polish of the Fedora 9 Preview release... but as mentioned I didn't try several of the more tricky new features (partition resizing during the install and encrypted partitions). A lot of distro reviews are filled with note after note about the specific hardware the reviewer is using and how well the hardware support went. The machines I use have been around a couple of years and have no challenging hardware (I'm NOT using wireless) so I really don't have anything to report regarding lack of hardware support. Since I booted the LiveCD images under VirtualBox, which presents fairly generic hardware, there isn't much challenge there.

I look forward to the final release and I also hope to enjoy the LiveUSB with persistant data on a variety of hardware as time progresses. I will probably create a custom spin LiveDVD using the tools Fedora provides and then convert that into a LiveUSB with peristant data so I have all of the apps I want without too much trouble.

All of the screenshots are below. They were taken from the Gnome LiveCD and the KDE LiveCD running in VirtualBox. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version in a popup window.

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My old FC 7 it a lot better.

No i don't like it, when i get used to fedora 7 now i try FC9, FC9 is a lot worse, it get slow startup when it try to check update,

Konqueror is nicer with a tab support and right click to extract file compared to dolphin

and i like external toolbar in FC7 that i put it at the bottom. FC9 is confusing and slow, i don't like widget, it's useless.

I'm stick to my old FC7, until i find better FC.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Fedora 10 will be out in a couple of weeks

You are still using Fedora Core 7 eh? Hmm, what release did the drop the word "Core"? I don't recall.

Fedora 9 definitely had some ruff spots. I didn't use KDE until quite late in the update cycle when they came out with KDE 4.1.x packages. Currently Fedora 9 has packages for KDE 4.1.2. The KDE folks just released 4.1.3 five days ago. I'd expect Fedora to have packages for Fedora 9 in a week or so. I'd guess that they are currently in testing.

In any event, Fedora 10 Release Candidate just came out on Nov. 4th (US election day). I've given it a try and really like it. I haven't decided if I want to do a writeup on it yet or not. The LiveUSB key of Fedora 10 RC is pretty solid although it is still possible to overfill the filesystem if you try.

Fedora 9 :(

Well I run fedora 8 I upgraded one of my servers to fedora 9. Bad Idea for me fedora 9 is very unstablle and has tons of bugs I tried it when it first came out then tried it like a week ago and still the same and doesnt look like there going to fix it :(

Too often bleeding edge is

Too often bleeding edge is nothing more than an excuse for poor craftsmanship and a license to create as many bugs as possible without any responsibility. That is what Microsoft does. Real bleed edge design and implementation WORKS the first time. When you break old technologies it only proves you don't understand what you are doing. To much ego and to little knowledge. There are other distros and if the arrogance continues then people will migrate to them and Fedora will be a niche product. I don't need Fedora 9 if it doesn't work. There are plenty of distors that are bleeding edge with competent people behind them. The new motto for Fedora should be NO EXCUSES.

Scott Dowdle's picture

What any distro is

Fedora is what its community wants it to be... and what it makes it. Sometimes what it wants it to be falls short of what it was able to make it. To me the problem isn't the fact that Fedora decided to leave out KDE 3.5.9 in Fedora 9... and left KDE users stuck with KDE 4.0.x in its semi-done state... but the fact that that was the plan for the 6 or so months it was in development... and how it was with the alpha, beta and preview... and no one really raised a red flag... but all of the sudden... when it is released... OMG look what they did... like it was some surprise or something.

The lazy people aren't the Fedora developers but the people who want to use it that didn't participate in the process and then complain about the results of the process. If you don't like something, get involved. If you don't want to get involved, move on. Posting a negative comment to this review months after it was written... months after the final release... talking about craftsmanship... well, it seems to be a waste of your time and mine.

I have to admit that I'm sceptical that you are even in a position to judge. What have you crafted? What projects have you lead or been a member of? Me? I'm mostly a user but I do occasionally report bugs... and write reviews... and read what's going on... and try my best to keep up so I won't be shocked with something turns out the way it was planned.

Now, having said all of that... please realize that having lots of distros is great. Fedora isn't for everyone. No distro is for everyone. If you don't like Fedora fine. If you do / don't like Ubuntu, or openSUSE, or Slackware, fine. When you find something you do like... if you can find the time, find a way to get involved and make it better.

Linux has always been about people not being afraid when something didn't work... and enjoying the challenge of playing with the pieces and figuring it out. These days it seems there are a growing number of vocal people who expect everything to be perfect, who don't want to know how things work, and they just want a cost-free replacement for Microsoft Windows or some other software that cost them money... and they want their free software to have all of the features of the commercial stuff... and they want stability and ease of use. In some areas we are there and in other areas we have a long way to go.

What it will take to get Linux closer to perfect isn't more and more consumers, but more and more contributors. I'm not sure the increase in consumer-only Linux users over the last year or two has been a good or not... but it doesn't really matter what I think about it because that is the way thing are... and we just learn to deal with it.

I would like MUCH longer release cycles, as packageKIT is bad

You guys are clearly paid to be here :)

When liveCD booted, I gotta admit I really wanted to like this, due to some really nice touches,and some really kewl omissions ( disease control done right) .

I am rather shocked though about the VERY iffy inclusion of packageKIT ( and that you TOTALLY did not mention this is beyond belief ), as to be only able to install ONE app at a time in a release is really unprofessional and crude , and I expected more from fedora. It's VERY slow as well on many fronts, though maybe that is only the livecd version ; if not, then man they really blew package management. I am beginning to see trends here in linux distros and Im very sadened by it, but very unsurprised. Where is it written that release cycles have to be 6 mo's, - can't they just be relased when they are ready and after sufficient testing has been done ?

Good show on some fronts for sure with little nice touches here and there, but I think including packageKIT needed alot more thorough consideration.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Getting paid?

Nope. Not getting paid for being here... although I have had a few people try and entice me with offers of targeted ads... but I'd rather keep this site ad free. I mean, the ads don't really pay very much... and I suspected it was a front for Microsoft. :)

Yeah, PackageKit currently does only one package at a time. I didn't really notice until after the final release because I use yum mostly. PackageKit isn't a Fedora specific thing though... and you can use yum if you like. Heck, you can even install apt and synaptic if that floats your boat.

Ummm, both Fedora's and Ubuntu's release schedules are mandated by their corporate overlords. I agree, it is quite agressive... but I believe it leads to faster innovation.

Regarding testing? Who is going to do it? We are, that's who. Being part of the community means that you take the good with the bad and you are part producer as well as consumer. I must admit that while I have done some bug reports, I find myself sometimes being lazy. There are only certain bits of software I use so I'm sure I miss quite a bit.

It seems that several of the reviews for Fedora 9 have been quite negative. It's too bleeding edge... KDE wasn't done... etc. Well, everyone knew what was coming so I'm not sure why some were surprised. Sustaining a better release time after time is not doable... and sometimes they overshoot... but at least they are trying.

I don't expect that Fedora is for everyone, but I know it is for me... on desktops anyway.

reviews and comments

I haven't read the review yet but I have downloaded FC9 and will look at your review before installing as I value your reviews. I am now using FC7 on my tower and FC8 on the laptop.

I am including a couple of URLs concerning critics and those who comment. I'm sure you will recognize several of the types described.

7 Pundits
6 Trolls

Keep up the good work.

Eureka is a little far for an evening meeting in Missoula but I intend to make it someday :-)

Thanks again, John

I may be wrong now
but I don't think so.
Theme from Monk

Fedora 9 is way too slow,

Fedora 9 is way too slow, even the live cd way too slow. Seems like bleeding edge is popular in linux distros. For example Ubuntu if bleeding edge of Debian. I'll stick with freebsd which is far faster and more stable than Fedora.

how to save the settings from the live CD Fedora 9

I like Fedora 9 live. It booted, sound came on and I was able
to install my ISND Fritz card in a few minutes.
But I shut down and reboot, all my settings are lost.
Is there a way to save the configuration.

Can somebody help?

Scott Dowdle's picture

LiveCDs and persistent

The LiveCDs do not have persistent data because there is nowhere to save data to. You can make a LiveUSB with persistent data though.

Another vote for Mandriva...

I am running Mandriva One on QEMU 9.0 (on top of Vista, it is the best application I run on Vista! :-)

All the features of Mandrive work fine (there were small problems with other distros. For me, Ubuntu
comes up a close second and I still want to try Fedora...)

I would love for openSUSE to be one of the better distros, but there are sound and realtime clock issues with QEMU. (I have ran it in the past on hardware and it worked fine.)

I have also tried:
Kubuntu (while KDE is my favorite desktop, I still prefer Ubuntu with GNOME)
Puppy (cool, and so tiny!)
DSL (another small one with an awesome looking desktop)

Using QEMU on Vista lets me check out each distro and see which one I like the best (I give them each a little 10GB disk image and 512 Megs of RAM. If I hate one, I just delete it.)

Thanks again everyone, for just being here.

Good Review, but fedora still lags behind in Desktop

I also tried Fedora 9 Preview and compared it with Mandriva 2008.1. I calculated performance of their KDE Live CDS.

Excuse me, but Mandriva seemed to be a responsive and fast desktop than Fedora. May be Fedora a better general distro, but definitely lags behind Mandy otherwise.

looking forward...

I know that I am looking forward for the release of fedora. Since they have moved away from the java beans or what ever they called it, I am going to give this release of fedora a really hard look. I have always had a place in my heart for fedora / redhat since they were the first distro that I tried and paid for, long ago red hat 7 if I remember right. So maybe this will be the magic release that pulls my desktops from opensuse but only time will tell on that one.

i can't create a liveusb

i can't create a liveusb with fedora preview , i tried to follow instructions in the interview but it keeps saying :
./ [--reset-mbr] [--noverify] [--overlay-size-mb ]
and get me back to bash prompt , can you explain it in more details , plaese ?

thanks for the review

Scott Dowdle's picture

More info please

First of all, you need to use the script linked to in the article. I'm sure that will be included in the upcoming Fedora 9.

I was able to create the LiveUSB from Fedora 7 and Fedora 8. On Fedora 7 it complained about not having the program that does a checksum of the .iso image but let me skip that.

Here's what I used: \
--overlay-size-mb 1200 \
/full-path-to-iso/Fedora-9-Preview-i686-Live.iso \

Please note that /dev/sdc1 was a vfat/fat32 partition on my thumbdrive. If you aren't sure what your thumbdrive device name is and how it is partitioned, plug it in (and wait about 20 seconds) and do the following as root:

fdisk -l

And from the output, you should be able to see how your thumbdrive is partitioned.

If you still have a problem, please give me some info on your environment, your thumbdrive device, etc.

thanks , it was my mistake

thanks , it was my mistake at writing the path to my usb ( i was writing the mount point ).
now it works fine .
thanks scott.

Fedora 9 Preview

It was a good review but I was not overly impressed with the partitioning tool. It was rather primitive compared to Fedora 8. However, Fedora has good hardware compatibility even with SCSI disks. It is quite fast, easy to administer. Very impressive.

"Some time ago the Fedora

"Some time ago the Fedora Project decided to follow Ubuntu's lead"--Incorrect statement, it implies that ubuntu was the first distro to offer live cd's, they were not.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Not the first with LiveCDs no... but

Ok, perhaps that comment wasn't fair. I do remember the Fedora Project folks doing an online survey where they asked a number of questions including if the users wanted LiveCDs. So the users picked it.

When you look at it though, Ubuntu was one of the first distributions that offered a LiveCD with the default being GNOME, and then the Kubuntu folks came around and started offering a KDE LiveCD. That's the model the Fedora users picked too. Not much original there as it is basically an obvious choice.

I'm not that fond of the LiveCDs myself but they do have a place.

Ubuntu and Dowdle-isms

It's obvious that you're a Fedora fan boy. I think the success of Ubuntu sticks in your craw!


knoppix started it


that's where live CDs came from before ubuntu existed. ;)

after knoppix did it, choosing kde, gnome, some new distro, or whatever packages you want is just a matter of configuration. ubuntu just followed, as did fedora (as is everyone else and their brother these days, it seems).

it's nice that fedora finally had the time to start making live CDs, though. :)

Fedora rocks

Excellent review; thanks for the hard work on it, Scott! You summed up a lot of info that would take a lot of reading through the (Fedora release) notes to find. I've never had a problem with the last two versions of Fedora -- good hardware compatibility, fast UI, easy to administer, and more cutting edge than most distros.

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