I keep up with Fedora releases. Fedora 19 was due for an "Alpha" release last Tuesday but they had to delay. As most everyone already knows, delays in Fedora are to be expected. Anyway, I thought I'd check out their Alpha test builds. They actually seem to be working quite well. I did several installs from the "Desktop" media which is GNOME 3.8.x-based. The installs I did were inside of KVM-based virtual machines. Then I added on all of the other desktop environments and tried them out. Even in this early stage, it seems to be quite usable and stable. I obviously did NOT run into any of the "blocker" bugs that were the cause of the Alpha release delay. I think most of those were EFI related.
Remixing from Alpha
I thought I'd try doing a MontanaLinux remix from the development repositories. For those not familiar with MontanaLinux, it is basically the vast majority of desktop environments and desktop managers and a lot of desktop software rolled into a 2+ GB live .iso. It includes packages from rpmfusion (codecs, gnome-mplayer, vlc, etc), Google (google-chrome-stable and google-talkplugin) and Adobe (flash-plugin).
So from my Fedora 19 pre-alpha VM, I installed the various kickstart packages, extracted out the KDE related kickstart (.ks) files, and then melded them into a single file, added the packages I wanted to the %packages section, and then did a tiny bit of customization in the %post and %post --nochroot sections of the kickstart. With a MontanaLinux-F19.ks file done, I proceeded with the build.
It built. I discovered (with help from nirik in #fedora-devel on freenode) that Fedora no longer looks at /etc/sysconfig/desktop for the default desktop environment and display manager. That is done with systemd's systemctl.
The Bug Fairy Always Visits
There are a few glitches here and there but that is to be expected. lightdm was messing me up... so I had to add an exclude in the %packages section. I'm still in the process of refining the kickstart but it seems to work well enough.
For some reason, when I boot the .iso in a KVM VM on a Fedora 18 host I can't use the combination of SPICE/QXL. If I change it to VNC/any, SPICE/VGA, or SPICE/VMVGA it works fine.
I made sure to add in the GNOME 3.8.x Classic extensions so the GNOME Classic mode shows up in the display manager Session options.
I've only been working on this for a few hours so I'm sure I've got a bit of learning left to do. Fedora has since released a number of Fedora 19 updates and I haven't tried those yet. More later.
Update: April 22 - There was an additional flood of updates over the weekend. I guess the current build from Fedora went gold for the Alpha release and they had stockpiled some updates until after. I put in a few more hours on my configs and got the 32 and 64-bit versions built. They are working well and the SPICE/QXL combination now works fine. Updates included KDE 4.10.2 and MATE 1.60 among others.
If anyone wants to try it out, feel free to email me (email@example.com) and I'll reply with a URL.
Update: April 24 - Fedora DID release Fedora 19 Alpha yesterday. I've done yet another rebuild and created a screencast video (no audio) showing the Live DVD iso booting inside of a KVM Virtual Machine connected to with the SPICE remoting protocol. I didn't do any fancy editing of the video so there are long boring parts where you stare at a blank screen as it boots or loads. In the 25 minute video I boot, do an install, reboot and then do a quick survey of all the desktop environments, some apps as well as how I like to personalize KDE. The pre-release Fedora 19 base has a debug kernel and I'm sure the installer is doing a lot of extra logging... so the installer and the boot is a lot slower than the final product will be but that is to be expected. Everything seems to be working nicely except for Cinnamon.
Anyone who would like to watch it can do so with the link below. Right-click to download or play in your webm compatible browser. It is about 66MB in size... which is about 3 times the size of my first hard drive back in 1986. :)
DistroWatch had a review of Fedora 18 in today's Weekly Edition. I spent a little while commenting on it on their site so I thought I'd share it here too. For the context of my comments, you might want to read/skim the review first.
@12 - When I first started using the new installer (about two months ago with the Alpha release) I too was appalled with it... yes, especially the partitioning portion After doing several installs I figured it out. I'm a long time Fedora user and I was used to Anaconda... and the new installer is a lot different. The resistance to change and not actually reading the screens is what made it a bad experience for me. Once I decided to give in and actually read the screens, it started making sense. I think a lot of the issues that people perceive with the new installer has to do with the fact that it is very easy to use now. Almost too easy for us with Linux experience. As a result, too easy becomes hard... but once you do it a few times and actually read the screens, it works well. I have done various installs and I haven't had the first bit of trouble with it. One thing I haven't done though... is try to install Fedora on a system that has another Linux distro on it. Maybe it isn't well suited for that. For new Linux users, I think it is more friendly and usable than the previous installer and that was one of their goals with it. What is there isn't an accident. They did mockups and planned for quite a while... and how it turned out is exactly how they planned it except for any bugs that might have creeped in.
@Jesse Smith - I agree with most of your review. I've been fairly lucky and haven't had any problems with the video cards I've used (about a dozen) except for one. I'll grant you that if the video sub-system is not optimal, it becomes less pleasant to use.
Fedora really needs to do something with PackageKit. I understand that it is a distro-neutral package manager and is fairly easy to use... but it just plain doesn't work well... which is why I think everyone who isn't afraid of the command line (and we aren't) use yum. Hopefully they'll change that... and given the fact that they are working on an alternative to yum which will probably land in Fedora 19, I think that is likely to happen. No disrespect to Richard Hughes who I believe wrote the bulk of PackageKit.
Regarding GNOME 3 and launching applications and switching between them... there are a few ways to do that and I think you picked the slowest way with the most steps. As @vw72 pointed out, GNOME 3 has search-based launching capabilities so why not hit the logo key, start typing and select with mouse (or hit enter). That is the fastest way. Another way would be to add your most commonly used applications to the dock (drag and drop to add) and just launch applications from there.
Regarding switching between applications there are several hotkey ways to do that too. My preferred way is Alt-Tab. For any applications where you have multiple windows open, Alt-Tab is augmented with Alt-~. Another way to do it, especially if applications are on different virtual desktops, is to simply switch directly to the desktop your application is on. The hotkeys for that is Ctl+Alt+up/down arrow.
While GNOME 3 takes a little getting used to and can fail completely on unsupported hardware... and be slow on hardware that is sub-optimal... on systems where it loves the hardware, I find it to be a pleasure to use. I also use KDE, XFCE, LXDE and others... depending on my needs and the hardware I'm running on.
Regarding the "various applications have slightly different looks and everything doesn't seem to be integrated as tightly as it could be" thing. I agree... but that really isn't something I care about. I use a lot of applications from a lot of different desktop environments and there isn't really an easy way to make everything integrate with every desktop environment. All of them share way, way more than they differ so it really isn't much of a challenge to use. I'd prefer Fedora to continue doing what do and focus less on the "make everything have GNOME topbar menu entries" work. I'm a Fedora fanboy so I know I'm not typical but hey I dig what they do.
Regarding it was still released too early assessment... maybe... but in Fedora's defence... as long as it isn't a critical bug (aka a show stopper) why delay the release? That's what updates are for... and as you mentioned, they have a firehose of updates. As you are probably aware, a lot of things change and are updated during the lifecycle of a Fedora release. They can add new desktop environments. They can upgrade existing desktop environments and the kernel version. They add new packages... and they fix a lot of bugs. With tens of thousands of packages, there are always bug fixes and updates to do. It is unfortunate that Fedora doesn't refresh their install media during the lifecycle (so there are lots of updates) but that is understandable given their short release cycle and that they are usually supporting 3 releases much of the time. Some have called Fedora 18 the worst release ever... but I totally disagree with that. I find Fedora 18 where I want to be.
I created some fairly short screencasts showing off GNOME, XFCE and KDE on Fedora 18. This was primarily to show students in a class I'm doing the basics of each desktop and some of the common customizations I prefer to make but I thought I'd share them more widely. The were done using a SPICE connection to a remote KVM virtual machine and recorded on my local system with qt-recordMyDesktop. Then I used ffmpeg to convert them from ogv to webm.
Please note that microphone I used sucks and has a lot of background hiss. I have a better microphone coming for future videos but if anyone wants to do some Audacity filtering magic on them to clean them up, be my guest. They are 1280x800 in size and in webm format. I've embedded the GNOME one and provide links to the others below. Enjoy!
I may do a few more... for MATE, Cinnamon, and LXDE but I haven't done them yet.
While I'm considering writing a review of Fedora 18... I'm not sure how useful it would be. I mean, I"m a Fedora zealot, right? Every release of Fedora is awesome! If every package of their tens of thousands of packages isn't perfect on release day, that's ok... there will be a constant stream of updates over the release life cycle. Over the course of the next 13 or so months they even continue to grow the updates repository by adding some new packages (that weren't available on release day).
My personal remix of Fedora (MontanaLinux) was completed by the official Fedora release date. Since then I've rebuilt it to include the firehose of updates that have come out in the two days it has been out. Those updates include going from KDE 4.9.4 -> 4.9.5, Firefox 18, Kernel 3.7.2, etc. The remix also has a lot of desktop environments (KDE, GNOME, XFCE, LXDE, CinnI love it.amon, MATE, OpenBox, and few others) as well as desktop software (LibreOffice, Calligra, GIMP, Inkscape, Dia, Scribus, etc). Also included is a bunch of stuff from RPMfusion (multimedia stuff like VLC, gnome-mplayer, ffmpeg, etc), Google Chrome browser, and the Adobe Flash plugin. It has all of the software I used to install manually post install.
I have written about this a few times over the last couple of years... but with each release I like to retell the story. My remix is nothing special. I just took the stock Fedora KDE kickstart configuration and added a bunch of additional packages to the list. The iso file is right at 2GB and it is somewhere between 5-6GB installed. Building it is fairly easy... a single command line with a few options. It takes about 30-45 minutes to build... but I have a local repository mirror. If you are downloading all of the rpms from the stock Fedora mirrors it might take a while to download the ~2GB worth of rpms. :)
While there is some overhead and time involved with building ones own remix I think it is really worth the effort if you happen to do a lot of installs. I have not bothered much with customizations nor re-branding. Fedora makes it so easy to re-spin (using only stock Fedora Project packages) and/or remix (using additional third-party packages not included in Fedora). Some of us actually even enjoy doing it.
Fedora just releases so many updates that using their stock install media a month or more after initial release is just painful... with all of the updates you have to do post install. Since it is so easy, I rebuild about every week to two weeks... to incorporate updates... so my remix is always current.
Thanks Fedora Project! Thanks Red Hat for sponsoring Fedora! Thank you to developers who interact with us users on the bug reporting systems. You actually listen and fix bugs in a timely fashion. Keep up the good work.
I've been remixing Fedora 18 pre-release for quite a while now. As you may recall The Fedora Project has delayed the release of Fedora 18 Beta several times now... mainly due to blocker bugs in their new installer and Fedora Updater (fedup). I think the rest of the distribution has benefited from the delays because I've been running it a while and it has been very solid for me... as or more solid than Fedora 17. In fact, Fedora 17 and Fedora 18 share a lot in common... because a Fedora release, during its lifecycle, gets a lot of updates and upgrades.
I started by putting Fedora 18 on my netbook. Then I put it on my home desktop system. I ran it for more than a month... oh, and by the way, I disable the updates-testing repository. Since it has been so solid on my hardware at home I finally decided, perhaps being a little haphazard, to put it on my workstation at work. When did I decide to do that? Well... I picked the day before Thanksgiving about 1 hour before it was time to go home. Care to follow me on my journey?
Update: (8PM, Thanksgiving) - I noticed an email that said that there was a Fedora 18 Beta release Go/No Go meeting today and that the decision had been made to finally release the beta on Tuesday, Nov. 27th... the so called "exploding turkey" release. Yeah!
If you have been paying any attention to the development work going on with Fedora 18, you're probably aware that they have been running into repeated delays because of a complete rewrite of the anaconda installer. I've been working on remixing Fedora 18 and generally it is in fantastic shape with the exception of a few pieces of the installer that I'll not mention now. Below is a video of me booting the latest build, installing it, doing a firstboot, and then showing off some of the new desktops.
I do the install on top of an existing KVM virtual machine so that's why I nuke the partitions that were already there. The desktops shown are Mate, GNOME 3, and Cinnamon. Also included but not shown are KDE, LXDE, XFCE, openbox and a few other window managers. The latest Firefox, Flash plugin-in, and Google Chrome are included along with several of the multimedia apps and codecs provided by rpmfusion.
There is no sound. I guess I could have put some Euro-synth-pop in there but nooooo....
Direct link, right-click save as:
montanalinux-f18-beta-boot-install-run.webm (25.7 MB)
Thank you Fedora Project! The One Laptop Per Child XO-1.75 unit arrived via FedEx today. It was sent to me by the Fedora Project as part of their Summer of Fun and Open Hardware contest. It didn't come in a traditional OLPC box but rather it was wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in a cardboard FedEx shipping container.
One thing that is cool about this unit is that it has a "high-school" keyboard on it which is made of hard plastic and much like a traditional netbook keyboard... rather than the standard soft rubber keyboard. I'm actually able to touch type on the keyboard without too much effort. There are a few keys that have been moved around to accomodate the cramped size but the vast majority of keys are fine. I never thought I'd be able to type very fast on an OLPC but this keyboard makes that very easy. In fact I typed this blog post on the OLPC.
One of the Sugar Activities I like a lot is "Get Books" which is a combination book catalog and reader. It ties into Feedbooks.com website which has plenty of public domain books to choose from in a number of genres. Most books are available in PDF and EPUB versions... both of which are readable inside the "Get Books" activity. The features provided by the program to adjust font sizes and jump around in the book work quite well. There is even a feature to have it read a selection aloud using a software-based mouth. I believe it uses the popular Festival text-to-speech system but I'm not positive. If one rotates the screen and flips it down, the navigation keys on the screen work well for scrolling, changing the font size, etc. The OLPC is a darn good eBook reader.
For more pictures see the OLPC gallery. Credits for some pictures go to Christoph Derndorfer and Mike Lee on Flickr.
Máirín Duffy from Red Hat / Fedora did a lightning talk about the creative tools available in Fedora 17. Please note that while she does mention Fedora, the same tools are avalable for most all Linux distributions... and many are also cross platform.
If I used the correct embed code from YouTube, it should use the webm format rather than that icky Flash.
I submitted an application for the Fedora Summer of Open Hardware program. Haven't heard of that? Well, the Fedora folks had accumulated quite a bit of hardeware that they wanted to pass along to their community members. The hardware consisted of Aurdino, Raspberry Pi, and OLPC XO-1.75 units. Since I already have a Raspberry Pi that I bought myself... and I'm part of an OLPC Lending Library project that already has X0-1.0 and XO-1.5 units... I thought I'd go for an XO-1.75. I just got word today that I was approved and should get the laptop in a few weeks.
How does the XO-1.75 differ from previous models? Well the main difference is that it uses an ARM-based CPU rather than an Intel compatible. As a result the XO-1.75 supposedly has an improved battery life. All of the OLPC models so far use the same case so even though they may be vastly different inside, they all look the same on the outside. Another area where some of the models vary is in the keyboards they have. For example, the "HS" model stands for "high school" and it has a hard plastic keyboard like a traditional netbook rather than the rubber keyboard the non-HS models have. With the XO-1.75 it appears that the keyboard has changed again. While it is still a rubbery keyboard, it is mostly covered by a white, hard plastic cover that has holes that they keys stick out through. See the picture above. The laptop on the left is an XO-1.75 whereas the one on the right is a previous model with an HS keyboard.
If you didn't notice, today is Fedora 16 release day. Yeah! I've been using Fedora 16 for a while now preping my MontanaLinux remix. I made a 41 minute screencast that does two things: 1) Showcases the desktop environments available in Fedora as melded together in the MontanaLinux LiveDVD remix, and 2) Shows using KVM and virt-manager some.
Please pardon my voice and occasionally sniffing... an allergy is bugging me.