Review: Fedora 10 - 19/01/2009 by Andrew
I've previously reviewed Fedora 10 Beta and I liked what I saw, though was a bit jaded by the difficulties in setting up proprietary drivers. Much time has passed and Fedora 10 (final) was released on the 25th of November, 2008 – more than enough time for polish to be added and a hundred or so updates to fix the more obvious bugs.
I downloaded and burnt the F10 64bit Gnome live CD (mouthful huh?) and fired up my test rig which comprises of some pretty basic hardware: Athlon 3200+, 6600GT AGP, 1GB DDR1, 40GB ATA100. Compared to Ubuntu, OpenSUSE and Mandriva, the Fedora live CD is a bit slow with just 1GB of memory to deal with. It's obviously not going to stop me installing to the hard drive, though if I was testing out Fedora for the first time on some basic hardware I may get the wrong impression. Apart from the slow response the live CD acted as it should and gave me a good opportunity to check things out before committing to an installation. One thing that did blow me away (especially at 1680x1050 – though I've changed down to 1024x768 for the screenshots) was the desktop wallpaper. It's a similar blue to the beta version and looks fantastic. Much better than the boring green pattern of OpenSUSE 11.1 or the badly painted brown wall of Ubuntu.
Kicking off the hard drive installation was simple and without fuss. The GUI is clean and easy to follow and gives the user an option to encrypt their partitions.
The installation was quite quick though this is because it leaves the configuration of the system till the first boot. This again, isn't a lengthy process and soon I was at a fresh Fedora 10 desktop (which looks the same as the live CD, minus the install icon.
The menu style is a very typical gnome layout, though with a few differences to differentiate themselves from other popular gnome based distributions. The System menu has a grouped Preferences, Add/Remove Programs is under System/Administration and there's no shut-down link on the top panel (again, under System). This isn't bad, it's just different.
Fedora 10 comes with the latest stable offerings of the usual suspects; Kernel 2.6.27, Gnome 2.24.1 (or KDE 4.1.2 if you've downloaded the KDE version), Gimp 2.6.2, OpenOffice 3.0.0, Firefox 3.0.4 and Xorg 1.5.3. Game wise, not much has changed since I reviewed the beta, though the standouts are Nexuiz 2.4.2, OpenArena 0.7.7, Alien Arena 7.20, Glest 3.1.2 and Wesnoth 1.4.7. Warsow is still missing in action and hopefully is picked up for inclusion in Fedora 11.
Adding additional packages and games is easy using the GUI though searching is hampered. If I searched 'shooter' in Ubuntu 8.10 I'll have a stack of first person shooters returned. If I do the same in Fedora 10, I get zero hits as there isn't a package that has 'shooter' in it's name. This isn't great if you don't know what you want to get though you know what you need it to do (i.e. shooter, emulator, ripper, etc). It also sorts alphabetically based on package name, which makes manually searching a bit of pain. Though it's fun to pick on Ubuntu, they definitely do this better (also having popularity rating is an extra bonus).
One nice feature is the grouping of updates as Security, Bug and Enhancements. Most users don't care for the details (they'll be updating them all regardless) and this just adds a bit of glitz to a dull maintenance task. Yes, you can see more detail if you want, though who really cares why some unknown Python library is being updated?
After my system was update I set about the next task, enabling the proprietary Nvidia graphics drivers. Back when I did my review on Fedora 10 beta I found that this wasn't an easy task though I was assured by a Fedora IRC support group that by the time this hits the shelves (or torrents) that repositories and guides will be set up to make this task as painless as it can be. Yes, I found the guides. No they didn't work. After rebooting I was greeted with my 22” LCD saying that the input is out of range and, from my past experiences with enabling the nvidia drivers, this usually means that xorg.conf has lost the details for my monitor. No problem, I just boot with the Fedora 10 live CD and hack my xorg.conf right? Well, strangely enough I had great trouble even mounting my Fedora 10 install. It looks like Fedora uses a LVM set-up by default which makes your basic 'sudo mkdir /mnt/myhdd && sudo mount /mnt/myhdd /dev/sda1' commands useless.
With a bit more searching and a few more hours tinkering I may have found the solution (and be wiser for it) though with other distributions allowing for simpler installation of these drivers (Mandriva is automatic, Ubuntu is via the Hardware Drivers GUI and OpenSUSE is by adding in a special Nvidia.com repository) I find myself wondering why Fedora has made this difficult. Yes, I understand that these drivers aren't open source and that this can cause GPL issues – though if others are getting around this with a post-install download, why can't Fedora? Mandriva doesn't even ask you, it just does it automatically, though I don't agree with this method as it doesn't allow for FOSS users to live a peaceful existence with their PC. I'd love to hear your comments on this.
Ignoring the proprietary graphic drivers issue (which, if you're a Fedora veteran you won't have any issue with anyway) Fedora comes across as a very solid, stable and clean distribution. Their repositories are large and there's a strong user community to ensure that bugs are squashed and the noobs get the support or flames they deserve. If you're wondering what your next distribution might be, have Fedora 10 on your short-list of ones to try out.