The Linux Project XI
Fedora: What's the buzz about?
Let me start right off by saying I am not even close to impressed with Fedora. As a matter of fact, considering the pain in the balls that it has turned out to be, that you are reading this review at all speaks to how well I have grown in being patient with a patently irritating system. Fedora's web site is (http://fedora.redhat.com ).
The foibles start almost immediately with Fedora. The standard installation set is five CD's plus a sixth "rescue" CD. While I can't blame Fedora directly, as I was downloading the ISO files, a SCSI hard drive that I had installed into the test system decided to give up the ghost. On it were three of the five ISO files, and a just recently installed hyper-sped up Slackware installation. I wound up downloading those ISO files all over on my main machine. Of the five disks created by these files, only three were needed at install time. While I figured such would be the case, I didn't want to gamble on my assumption.
Fedora is the free version of Red Hat Linux. Red Hat was one of the first Linux distributions available. One of the three distributions contained on my original Info Magic Linux disks (from 1994) was Red Hat. At the time, it was freeware. Such is no longer the case. Just a quick trip to the Red Hat web site (http://www.redhat.com ) and you will see that Red Hat expects you to pay more for their software than you would have to pay for Microsoft equivalents. All I can say is if Fedora is cut from the same felt as Red Hat, I'd rather pay for the Microsoft stuff. At least then, I'd know I'd get decent tech support for three years. Goddess knows what kind of support you'd get from a company that at one time dealt in free open system software. Also, the Microsoft stuff is sure to run a whole lot better out of the box than Fedora could even begin to hope to achieve.
Getting to the criteria, Fedora earns two stars for installation. I give it a low rating for two reasons.
Firstly, if all five disks weren't needed, why on earth force people to download the files and create the disks from them? It seems an incredibly unnecessary waste of time to me. My installation required only three of the five disks. I get the feeling that even if I had told it to install everything, I probably wouldn't have used all five.
Secondly, for a system that installs pre-compiled packages, installing Fedora takes hours to finish. Fedora provides a countdown clock to tell you how much longer you have to wait for your installation to finish. Don't trust it! It lies!
The first disk took almost an hour on it's own. The second took forty-five minutes. The last one I don't know how long, because I went downstairs to eat brunch. Suffice it to say, I was incredibly unimpressed with the time it took for Fedora to install. Even Debian didn't take that long to install, and the lion's share of the Debian system was installed directly from the Internet. I have no idea why Fedora took so long to install. Suffice it to say, I was left in a less than impressed state because of the time requirements.
From there, things only get more annoying. Once it is completely installed, it takes you to the Gnome desktop. Considering the time it took, I was sure it loaded BlackBox, FluxBox, FVWM, Gnome, KDE, TWM, Xfce, and every other known or unknown X Windows desktop that had ever existed. Nope, all that time, and all I got was Gnome; a cluttered, barely functional version of Gnome I might add!
This brings me to the second criterion, basic system operation. In this area, Fedora gets two stars. While it worked just fine on the Internet, which is one of the basic key points of the second criterion, attempting to install stuff that didn't get installed from the disks was almost a no-go. For some reason, Fedora sets up not just one, not just two, but three background update and installation programs. That renders you incapable of installing ANY new programs or updating the system. In order to get to the point where I could install KDE and the one hundred plus file upgrades, I had to go into the system and shut down those three different programs before I could get the package installer to come up and work properly. I can only imagine how the newbie would have balked at this juncture. I imagine that might have resulted in at least one computer doing a swan dive from the highest possible window.
Once I finally put the background programs to rest, it took a far shorter time to install KDE and some other programs. However, even that process wasn't trouble free. For some reason, the program came back telling me there was some dependency problem with one of the required libraries to install KDE. A few clicks on the "apply" button, and this glitch went away. Yet another glitch that could have sent a newbie into fits!
Once KDE was installed, it seems that Fedora mellowed out a bit. Obviously it did. I am writing this review under Fedora. It's a good thing the system can't tell what I am writing. It would probably implode if it did!
On the third criterion, device support, Fedora gets three and a half stars. It found, set up, and configured all the installed cards and so on. However, the libraries Fedora uses for the video card are problematic at best.
S3 Verge DX video cards aren't noted for their bulletproof nature. They have always had a sketchy problem with the way they access their video memory. This can cause white streaks to flash across the screen, especially when using the mouse, keyboard, or while the hard drive is accessing. All the other distributions tested up to now can seemingly handle the S3 Verge problems. Fedora seems to have a real problem in this area. While it's not as noticeable with the KDE desktop, it's incredibly annoying with the Gnome desktop. It's an incredibly glaring deficiency.
I am so glad it's Fedora and not Red Hat. I'd be royally pissed off if I spent the long dollar for Red Hat and it worked as badly as Fedora. It makes me wonder just how badly Red Hat sucks. I'll not spend the money to find out. Of that you can be sure.
For the fourth criterion, look and feel, Fedora gets two stars. The initial Gnome desktop is very cluttered for no good visible reason. There is nothing that shows up on the upper task bar that isn't also accessible through the program menu. Considering the dearth of installed programs that come with Fedora out of the box, it's not like you are going to have to negotiate through an overloaded program menu to get to the word processor.
When I upgraded to KDE, things didn't get much better. I have come to expect three icons to show up on the KDE desktop: Home, system, and trash. Of these three, only "trash" showed up on the desktop. In order to get to the other two, I had to click on the "start" button. Even then, home and system didn't operate as I have come to expect them to work under all the other distributions tested so far. The Samba system which is usually under "system" wound up having its own little program icon, and a different program as well. This was yet another irritation because one of the many tests for look and feel is how easy it is to connect to other systems on the LAN. I did figure it out, but it wasn't nearly as intuitive as the other Samba iterations I have encountered as a part of The Linux Project.
As far as look, the standard Fedora wallpaper is pretty imaginative. It contains a stylized letter "f" enclosed in an infinity symbol (like the logo above). These "infinite 'f's" are hooked together in a double helix making it look like a Borg ideal of digital DNA. Eye catching, yes; however, considering the numerous annoyances with Fedora, I wish they'd have spent more time fixing some of the more glaring and irritating bugs and less time creating nifty digital DNA graphics. Given a choice of form or function, when it comes to an operating system, I'll pick function any day. Obviously, Fedora's programmers and checkers don't put such a high value on function. Once again, this makes me question whether Red Hat is even close to being worth the exorbitant price they want for it. I get the feeling the answer is no.
For the fifth criterion, overall impression, I give Fedora two stars. I have read of many people who swear by Fedora. I am not even close to impressed. There are far too many petty annoyances and serious irritations that come with Fedora. Whether it's the unnecessarily long installation time, the numerous background installation programs preventing software installation and upgrade, or the crappy video card libraries, Fedora has far and away too many bugs for my taste.
I could understand some of Fedora's shortcomings if it was all contained on one installation CD. However, I can think of three distributions that were contained on only one disk that are far more functional and infinitely less buggy than Fedora. I could understand Fedora's shortcomings if it was a recent software offering from a new kid on the block, so to speak. However, Red Hat has been making Linux distributions since Linux first existed. I know! I have the evidence right here next to me on that old Info Magic CD with Red Hat. I could understand the bugs if this were the first version of Fedora. However, it's not. This is version 6 "Zod".
Frankly, I don't understand why Fedora sucks so badly. Considering all that it has on its side, I should have spent the last hour and a half heaping mounds of praise on Fedora. Obviously, that's not the case.
Considering the friendliness and operability of distributions such as Ark Linux, Vector Linux, and Ubuntu, I can't recommend Fedora to anyone, newbie or geek. There are far too many bugs and irritations that would offend both newbie and ultra-geek alike. As a matter of fact, this install of Fedora is the second one I did. The first one was sacrificed pretty much as soon as the system rebooted after installation.
The three upgrade and install programs running simultaneously I spoke of above spelled doom for the first set up of Fedora on the test system. However, I figured it was hardly fair to slap the crap out of Fedora without giving it a fair trial and hearing. Now that I have done that, I can say with real conviction that there are so many other functional and friendly Linux distributions out there; Fedora should only be considered as a last resort. I'd sooner recommend Debian. At least Debian has excuses for the time it takes to do its installation. Besides that, once you get Debian installed, you can install and update software packages without having to shut down three other automatically started programs. Debian may be unstable and buggy, but at least you can load programs that help mellow it.
What else can I say? Fedora is one of those distributions that I will be happy to fdisk into oblivion as soon as I get ready to set up the next distribution. It's the only system with pre-compiled software packages to go on that list. As a matter of fact, once this article was finished and sent to the main machine to be stored, I deleted Fedora and replaced it with Ubuntu. I needed to get the bad taste out of my mouth.
Good-bye Fedora. If this is the best that Red Hat can do with its free open source system, I shudder to think how badly Red Hat proper sucks. I ain't about to spend two grand to find out, either!