Fedora 18 to 19
It all started when we reformed the Berkshire Linux Users Group. We had ideas. Lots of ideas. There was so much to talk about - the group had basically disbanded a few years prior, and not much had been done. I got the idea while talking with Perry one day to re-start the group, and actually do something with it. So a few of us got together, and discussed some of the ideas that we had, which included podcasts and distro reviews.
We set our goal: Pick a distro, and use it for a solid month, and as much as possible. No windows, no OSX, no other distro. We all picked our distros to review, mine being Fedora. At the time Fedora 18 had just come out, and I was eager to give it a shot, as I’d been a Fedora user on and off for several years. (Since 2003 actually). So, I went to the website, downloaded the iso, and burned it to a dvd. I put the dvd into the same PC I burned it with, to finally remove windows off my PC.
The installation was not fun. I have a raid setup on my desktop, which I understand is a little less than common, but not so uncommon that a major distro like Fedora shouldn’t be able to install to it - but I was wrong. The installer, upon disk setup, claimed I needed more storage space. I attempted to free up the space, but it didn’t recognize the raid partition. Didn’t matter what I tried, it just wouldn’t work. The installer even crashed after trying to format the drive. So, I rebooted, removed my raid, and went back to a regular disk setup. After that, the installer went pretty uneventfully, and worked as I would have expected it to.
On first boot, my graphics were broken, which can sometimes be expected of a linux distro, however, they were bad. I was getting glitches, and random artifacts all over the screen. I was able to get rid of them easily enough with some basic updates, however that’s pretty scary upon first boot, especially if you’re new to linux. That would be enough to scare most away.
There’s also no easy way to get software installed. I found the software center that was provided to not be very intuitive, and didn’t have a very good selection at first. I found myself using yum to install software instead, and even that only worked well after downloading and installing some extra repositories. Repositories, or repos, are add-ins for linux that allows you to search for software from other sources, rather than just the initially provided ones. Now, that was another issue I found - there wasn’t an easy way to add the repositories. I found a guide online, but it was all command line. It seemed to be a bit off putting, especially if you’re a new user, or if this is your first time using this distro.
Once I got past that, and made sure everything was working properly, I found it extremely annoying that there was no minimize or maximize buttons. I understand this to be against Gnome 3’s (the default desktop for Fedora) philosophy, but as a power user, I find that I need them to continue getting work done in an effective manner. So, I searched around the settings for a good 20 minutes, then took my search online, where I found that you have to install a third-party tool to be able to re-enable this. Not such a terrible thing, but an annoyance to say the least.
I found that basic things such as printers, which I would guess to be an easy install, is not the case. I had to enter my password in 4 separate times, just to get my wireless printer installed, and working. After all that, I still couldn’t find a way to scan to the PC. I also thought that the default icons we’re ugly. Not just ugly, but more like: “Who’s idea was it to leave this horrible atrocity in the final version” ugly. Yes, they were that bad. So, I went to my recently installed tweak tool, went to change the icons, and yet, although there were other choices, none worked. I tried multiple icon packs, and those made no visible changes - which doesn’t show well for a “Top-Notch” distro. I found, again, after more research, that I had to install additional icon packs, to get the ones that were included, and the new ones I installed, to work. Also, when I would try to change certain settings, many would require a reboot before taking effect.
I would like to note that not everything was bad - I had a good experience with wine right out of the box, I was able to switch my input method, which was important to me, so I could have the correct shortcut keys mapped to programs, making my workflow smooth, and functional. (At least for me). The dark theme that was included was terrific. I thought it was much better looking than the default lighter theme, and didn’t over do it with the amount of black used. My phone also worked right away, and had no issues copying files to and from it. Another thing that I thought was great, was the way gnome handles dual monitors, especially when you have a fullscreen window open in one of the monitors. I much prefer it to other offerings, such as Unity, or KDE.
I should mention that I use VirtualBox when in linux, and I use it quite a bit. Sometimes for testing other distros, sometimes for using windows apps, like Dreamweaver, or Photoshop. (I work with a lot of web development, and I’ll get to that shortly). VirtualBox setup was as I would expect it, however, I couldn’t drag and drop folders like I was able to on other distros, and it seemed to run slower than other operating systems.
As a web developer, I rely heavily on both an IDE, and Photoshop, or Gimp. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gimp. It has it’s shortcomings, but overall it’s a terrific application, and I can work almost 100% in it, with no additional programs needed. However, in my install on this F18 box, it would crash without warning, destroying all my unsaved worked. Now, part of that is my fault for not saving more frequently, but some blame should be put on the fact that it crashed, for seemingly no reason, which is not something I’ve experienced very often with Photoshop.
When it comes to actual web development, I prefer Dreamweaver, based on it’s robustness, it’s built in FTP, and multiple user support. However, when in linux, I rely heavily on Aptana Studio. I chose Aptana due to it’s built in FTP, its similarity to Dreamweaver in both functionality and keyboard shortcuts. Hence why I had to change my input methods - so CTRL + Shift + U will auto-upload my file to whatever FTP is currently default. I don’t like relearning key combos, so that’s an important feature that I like.
The last things to note, are some one off issues that I had. It may have just been my hardware, (I was also testing on my laptop) - but I feel they were important enough to be mentioned. When my battery was about to die in my laptop, it would not warn, or go to standby, or hibernate. It would just close. Die. Shut off. No warning, no anything. Just dead. Maybe my battery is shot, but I assumed that I would get at least a basic warning. Also, when trying to watch a video, Fedora complained that I didn’t have the necessary codecs to watch it. It asked if I wanted to install the codecs, to which I of course said yes, yet somehow, it didn’t have those codecs in the default repositories, and I was left unable to watch my video until I installed VLC through a third party repo. My last issue that I had was font installation. I have a rather large font collection, that installing one by one could take hours. However, in order to install them all at once, I had to copy them to some hidden folder, and then, it completely broke firefox, with no obvious way to get it back.
Overall, my experience wasn’t that great. I might even call it bad. But it wasn’t enough to completely take me away from Fedora, as I’m typing this up on F19 now. I will admit that I used OpenSuse 12.3 in between. I was apt to give something new a try, as F18 turned out to be a bit of a bust, and I wanted to try something that was KDE based. I did some digging, and found OpenSuse. Overall that was pretty good. Yast was fast, KDE/OpenSuse didn’t ask me for my password anywhere near as often, and the customization was unreal. However, a handful of broken packages later, (Which were very easy to break) and I had a relatively unstable system, that didn’t seem fit for everyday use.
At this point, I had heard so many good things about Fedora 19, that I wanted to give it a shot. So I downloaded the gnome version, figuring that if it turned out anything like 18, I could just install KDE, and live with it for a little while. However, they fixed the installer so I was able to make myself an administrator during the install, and not require a password. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this makes all the difference in how easy it is to use.
Every single problem that I had with F18, is essentially gone in 19. Minus the small things like window decorations, which is easy enough to fix, I didn’t have any other issues. Everything installs with the package manager, which is no longer confusing to use, and it doesn’t ask for my password for every single thing that I need to do in my system. I went to add my printer, and that was basically a 1-click install. No passwords. Found it, downloaded the drivers, installed it, and set it as default, with very little input from me. It just worked. All of my hardware worked right out of the box, without needed the additional updates to make it function correctly. The icon set that it comes with by default is much better than the one in 18. It still needed to be tweaked, as I didn’t personally like it, but it was still much better than previous offerings.
I’m using Fedora 19 now - and I really like it. Everything operates smoothly, it’s fast, stable, and is everything that Fedora 18 should have been.
This may just be my distro.