The coming of GNOME 3

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It seems there is some strife in the Fedora community over the upcoming GNOME 3 / GNOME Shell in Fedora 15. Some people see it as a dumbing down of the user interface and others don't. I wrote a fairly long response recently that I thought I'd share here.

This is the "a lot of KDE 3 users really hate KDE 4" being applied to GNOME. I've been a KDE user since 0.x and remember happily compiling KDE 1.0 from source.

The GNOME developers have decided to go a direction you aren't happy with... and you certainly aren't the only one. Fedora dropped KDE 3.x when 4.0.0 came out... and a significant portion of Fedora KDE users weren't happy. The main problem there though, at least for me was that KDE 4.0.0 was too darn buggy and bordering on unusable for every day work. As a result I switched to GNOME. I wasn't really happy with GNOME but at least it worked. :) Then I watched each release of KDE 4.0.x come out and I tried them. I could tell they were making progress. Then 4.1.0 came out and I found that to be good enough to switch back. Ever since then the KDE developers have been making rapid progress with each release getting better. Now we are at 4.5.5 and 4.6.0 will be in Fedora 15. How many releases? I'm not sure... but I think they came out with 5 or 6 third number releases for each second number release... ie 4.5.0, 4.5.1, 4.5.2, 4.5.3, 4.5.4, and now 4.5.5. One thing I love about Fedora is that they have followed KDE's development and upgraded it several times each Fedora release lifecycle.

So, GNOME 3 is a huge change from GNOME 2. Let's consider how much of a change it is... in contrast to KDE. KDE 4 was different than KDE 3 but it still had many of the same elements... so I'll give it an arbitrary grade of a 5 on the 1-10 change scale. GNOME 2 to GNOME 3 (aka GNOME Shell) is probably a 9.something. While there are still some things that are the same, the number of things that are different is great.

To me, as a result of the vast change... GNOME 3 / GNOME Shell, no matter how good and stable it is (unlike KDE 4.0.0)... has a big chasm of disruption that I think a significant number of users will have trouble crossing over. There are going to be a lot of unhappy people. I'm sure there will also be a lot of happy people as well. Those are the folks who have probably already tried GNOME Shell some in its pre-release state and liked it... those who are better at accepting disruption. And of course completely new users might prefer GNOME 3 over GNOME 2 if they don't have any previous experience with either... or vice versa.

Should Fedora face the challenge and ship GNOME 3? I think so. Fedora is the distro where it is more important to make change happen than it is to keep everyone happy. That's just the way it is and Red Hat Linux was that way before Fedora was even born. After all Fedora dropped KDE 3.x and shipped KDE 4.0.0 as default one release (Fedora 9?) and the world didn't end for Fedora KDE users. Many of us probably switched away until updated releases made us feel comfortable enough to switch back... but switch back I did. I'm sure there are still those who were KDE 3.x users who have refused to go to KDE 4.x even after it became pleasurable to use... but that is to be expected.

There isn't much you can do about GNOME 3. The developers get to decide. If a significant chunk of the GNOME community abandons them because they can't take the vast change... then either they'll have to swing it back some to make those folks happy... or they'll have to just continue on and hope for a new crop of users. We'll just have to see what happens. But it is their decision to make... and we won't really know how it pans out until AFTER. :)

Keep your chin up.

Of course I do want to point out that this is in stark contrast to your belief that Fedora is wanting to pander to newbies and be another Ubuntu... unless of course that is what you think GNOME 3 is?!? I've played with the Gnome Shell pre-releases some and it seems more aimed at advanced users to me.

Fedora: How many Fedora-based distros are there?

I noticed the creation of a new Fedora mailing list today when Rahul Sundaram sent out the first post on it... a mailing list for Fedora Remixers.

That made me wonder just how many Linux distributions there are that are Fedora-based. I did a quick search and found a Fedora wiki page that says, "There are roughly over a hundred distributions based on Fedora." Then it links to a distrowatch.com search page that shows 41 distributions that are "Fedora based".

I decided to take a brief look at those 41 distros to see how many were still active and if they were actually based on Fedora. I do not consider CentOS / RHEL derived distributions to be strictly "Fedora-based".

What do I consider active? Given Fedora's rapid release cycle and their somewhat brief support cycle, any distro that hasn't released in a year or more, isn't very active.

OpenVZ: Contributed Fedora 14 OS Templates


I noticed Kir's blog post about the updated vzctl today. Cool! Finally I can create Fedora 14 containers... and the container restart mechanism has been fixed up too.

I downloaded the beta OS Template that the OpenVZ Projects offers for Fedora 14, created a container, did all of the updates, removed the samba* packages, added a few packages I wanted (mc, screen, links), and modified the httpd.conf so it is more like factory. Then I disabled a few services that aren't really needed... after all, who needs xinetd running when it it doesn't have any services configured? Then I stopped the container, cleaned up the container filesystem some, and tar.gz'ed it up and uploaded it as a contrib OS Template.

I did this for both the 32-bit and 64-bit OS Templates. Enjoy!

Fedora: A Bug Report I Filed Today

While investigating a bug in TigerVNC and noticing it was fixed in a recentupdate I discovered that there was a tigervnc-license package. Just what is that? ...I wondered. When I found out I felt compelled to submit a bug report that I thought I'd share.

Taking SPICE for a Spin

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I finally figured out how to get SPICE working on Fedora 14.

What is SPICE? - It stands for "Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments". What does that mean exactly? SPICE is a remote display protocol designed specifically for use with the Linux kernel's built-in virtualization hypervisor KVM. SPICE is similar to terminal services but rather than multiple users sharing a single, remote physical machine, SPICE allows you to graphically connect to and use a local or a remote KVM virtual machine.

For those who want to just watch a video, here it is. Please note that I kept bumping the tripod by accident and autofocus can be annoying in some spots... and it isn't the highest quality... BUT it does give you a good idea of how well SPICE works.

If you can't see it, your browser probably doesn't support the WEBM video format yet. Right-click on any of the links below (webm and ogv) and download. Then play the file you downloaded in a recent version of VLC.


Fedora 14: Who is Reviewing the Reviewers?

I like to write reviews. I have written quite a few of them over the years... even back in my Atari days for a few print magazines. I mention this because while I'd like to write a review of the Fedora 14 release I feel like too much of an insider to be objective and I'd have trouble being as critical as a non-biased observer would be.

The Anti-Review

Yesterday I ran across a link on Fedora Planet for a video review on the Linux Action Show. I have watched a few of the LAS episodes before but am not a regular viewer... but since the topic of the episode was listed as "Fedora 14 Review" I decided to give it a viewing. About 33 minutes into it they get to the Fedora review... although it is hard for me to call it a review. It is unfortunate but they started with the Fedora 14 Release Announcement and used that as a basis for their review. Historically release announcements are very brief documents that give only spartan details but include links to other sources of more complete information, like the Fedora 14 Release Notes for example. Given the fact that the release announcement only states two new features for desktop users (libjpeg-turbo and Spice) it seems they assumed that was all there was to the release, given the fact that their main focus is desktop usage. As a result they spent most of their review time in ridicule mode... divided in two... with both an attempt at humor and at a "wake up call" style denouncement of everything Fedora. They even included an original conspiracy theory.

I think everyone who knows me understands I have a pretty healthy sense of humor that can sometimes go to the dark side... but I found almost nothing about their show funny. I'm guessing some people find their show hilarious... but me... and this episode... I'd say frustration was my reaction.

I did get on the Linux Action Show IRC channel (the only form of contact on their contact page that I use) for a few minutes and discuss with someone (probably not them) that it was unfortunate that Bryan and Chris had chosen the very brief release announcement as the authoritative source of "what's new in Fedora 14" rather than the release notes... but I do concede that the release announcement could have been much better than it was.

Fedora 14 Coming Soon


Fedora 14 WallpaperFedora 14 WallpaperThe Fedora 14 RC1 build passed QA and it is a go. Fedora 14 will be released on schedule on Tuesday, Nov. 2nd, which many of us know as "voting day".

I've been following the development and building my MontanaLinux remix every so often, usually after a bunch of updates. All in all, I'm pretty impressed with the release.

Getting It

If you know where to find the RC1 release, which is freely available, that is the final release (to the best of my knowledge). So if you want Fedora 14 early, download that. I did, although I'm mainly using my remix.

MontanaLinux Remix Update


Since the Fedora Remix build process on Fedora 13 broke some time ago after some package upgrades and they were dragging their feet about fixing it, I switched to Fedora 14 devel for my MontanaLinux Remix effort. It sure is fun. Luckily the RPM Fusion folks have devel packages for Fedora 14 so I'm not missing anything.

The only problem I've run into is with adding the Google Chrome Browser to my package set. For some reason, if I install Google Chrome as part of the build, I run into a issue with a failure to umount a loopback interface that causes the building of the iso to fail. Removing Google Chrome from the package list makes the issue go away. I guess that's actually a good thing because I'm not sure how Google would feel with me pre-installing their browser and distributing it. If I had picked Chromium, I'm sure there wouldn't be a distribution issue.

Anyway, the switch to Fedora 14 devel seems to have worked out quite well and it is actually in pretty good shape. There is one minor bug that I find annoying and hope they get fixed before the final release. Also the devel kernel has a lot of debugging options turned on that makes it a bit slower than usual, and I do have an occasional issue with sound after resuming from sleep on my Acer netbook... but I'm guessing that will get fixed in the release kernel. The switch has gotten me more involved with testing and reporting bugs and that is good.

If anyone wants to give it a try, email me and I'll give you a URL to download the .iso. 32-bit and 64-bit versions are available.

MontanaLinux Remix: The Bug Fairy Pays a Visit

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I've been building a Fedora Remix for some time now. If I remember correctly I started around Fedora 9 and have continued to build them with each new release. I'm on Fedora 13 now. I usually rebuild the remix every time a new set of updates comes out. So far I had rebuilt the i686 and the x86_64 remix 46 times each... and then someone reported some problems with the last couple of builds. I didn't notice because I had been on vacation and was doing the rebuilds remotely without testing the final product. I figured if it built ok, it was probably ok... because I hadn't previously had any problems with any builds.

Death of the Desktop Take II


I wrote a rather long response to a posting I saw on Fedora Planet entitled, "Death of the Year of the Linux Desktop". I'm sharing it here as well.

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The desktop is dead? Some disagree. See this very compressed video on the "Death of the Desktop":


What makes someone a winner and what makes someone a loser? Linux on the desktop has tens of millions of users. While that might not be double-digit market share it is still a significant number of users. Anyone who looks at those numbers and calls them losing must have thought the game was winnable to begin with. It wasn't. FOSS does not spend hundreds of millions on advertising and billions on under-the-table deals with hardware makers... FOSS simply does not operate on the same playing field. The free hand of the market happens to be attached to a twisted arm.

In reality there aren't any winners and losers because it isn't a race. While those who are in it for money have certain ways to measure success, in FOSS you just make the best software you can and hope users will appreciate it. Of course the squeaky wheels always make the most noise and there are lots of complainers out there (see discussions on KDE 3.x vs. 4.x as an example) but that doesn't mean that vast majority of us FOSS users aren't very happy.

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