Review: Fedora 10 Beta (Gnome) - 04/10/2008 by Andrew
Gaming on the Cutting Edge – Part 9
In this multi part series I've previously looked at the following distributions:
Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 2
Mandriva 2009 Beta 1 (KDE4.1)
Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4
Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4
Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 6
Xubuntu 8.10 Alpha 6
Mandriva 2009 RC2 (Gnome), and
SimplyMEPIS 8.0 Beta 2
The aim of these reviews is to give the Linux user (and specifically the Linux gamer) an idea about what distributions are coming up as well as what applications, games and cool features are set to blow your socks off – or in the case of early alphas – what still needs work. There's also a selfish reason for doing these reviews; I'm looking for a new distro to be my main gaming machine. I need something that's relatively bug free, quick to configure and access the latest open source games and applications.
Fedora 10 Beta (Gnome)
Fedora, for those that didn't know, was born out of Red Hat Linux as a way to continue a free community based distribution and keep Red Hat Enterprise for those with deep pockets and data centres. The first release of Fedora was back in 2003 so there's been on average two releases a year since. As I was a Red Hat user back in the day (at University I was using Red Hat 6.0 as a way for me to do my C code at home rather than pulling all nighters on campus) I was happy to continue on with Fedora. Unfortunately the first couple of releases of Fedora weren't to my liking and I parted ways. These days Fedora has matured and is arguably one of the top 5 distributions. It's RPM based (similar to Mandriva and OpenSuse) and has a vocal and passionate community. It's also been ear-marked by me as one of the possible distros to upgrade to, so long as it ticks all the gaming boxes and doesn't play up too much! I downloaded the 64bit install DVD (no time for mucking around with Live CDs!) and burnt Fedora-10-Beta-x86_64-DVD.iso to a DVD and fired up the old test box:
AMD Athlon 3200+ (2.0Ghz)
Gigabyte 939 Motherboard (GA-K8NSC-939)
2x512MB Geil DDR400 Dual Channel
Gigabyte 6600GT 256MB AGP 8x
LG DVD Burner (GSA-4163B)
Seagate 40GB 2MB cache ATA100
Logitech G15 keyboard + G5 mouse
First thing I noticed was that the install DVD has a very clean GUI based installer, rather than the text based installer that the Ubuntu 'Alternate' CDs. Sexy stuff and will definitely scare the noobs less. One weird thing was the language selection available. Normally I'd choose English-UK (note: There's never English-Australian, but then again I wouldn't want a Linux distro sounding like Steve Irwin) though here there was just the option of “English (English)”. I can only assume that this is English from England (allo allo allo) though who knows.
There was also a message box stating that this release is only a beta and asking if I'm happy to continue. I can't remember another distro doing this. Also the root password had to be at least 6 characters and there was automatic dictionary attack checking – great stuff.
The installation process took longer than other distros I've tested on this hardware, though this is a DVD (4GB odd) of install media and not the usual 700MB.
Desktop, Graphics and Games
Fedora does seem slower, at least compared to Mandriva and Ubuntu using the same version of Gnome (2.24.0). It's not much slower, just enough to take some of the snappiness out of gnome. This would only be a problem with older machines, if you have a grunty machine you'll be fine.
After applying the 300+ updates I decided to get the Nvidia propriety drivers downloaded and installed so I can get to gaming. This is where things went bad. Fedora doesn't automatically install the propriety Nvidia drivers for you (just the open source 'nv' one) so I expected that I'd find a '3rd party' drivers, hardware drivers or a proprietary drivers app to handle the downloading and installing for me. This wasn't to be so I went to the Add/Remove programs and searched for Nvidia. No results were returned. After a bit more searching I decided to give up and hit the Fedora rooms on Freenode IRC. I proceeded to bombard a chat room regular by the name of 'linuxguru' with a bunch of questions regarding Nvidia proprietary drivers and Fedora 10 Beta and I got a lot of help, though the answers weren't the ones I was looking for. Basically, to get Nvidia drivers working you have to enable extra repositories that are not part of the official Fedora repos or manually install the Nvidia drivers yourself. By the time the final version is released, this may, or may not change. In my view, this isn't great. It immediately isolates the Window gaming users checking out gaming under Linux as well as those new users who decide to download a few OpenGL games under Fedora 10 just to have them Segmentation Fault.
Ok, lets assume you're a seasoned Fedora user and have gotten your drivers (Nvidia or ATI) cranking, the standout games available to you include:
OpenArena 0.7.7 (and not the most recent 0.8.0 - though this has been recalled)
Battle for Wesnoth 1.4.5
Some of the usual suspects are missing; Slune, Warsow, SecondLife and Dopewars are absent, though of course, not everything can make the cut when it comes to distro repositories.
As for the applications, you have Gnome 2.24.0, Firefox 3.0.1, OpenOffice 3.0.0 (Build 9357) and Rhythmbox 0.11.6 as well as Linux kernel 2.6.27.
Using the system is a real pleasure. Even though this is a Beta, I didn't experience any memorable bugs or problems. Everything looks and feels complete and you can really see that this distribution deserves to be in the distrowatch.com top 5 club.
If you're looking for a distro for gaming though you want the proprietary Nvidia or ATI drivers to be easily installed and configured, look elsewhere. If you're brave enough (or have walked the path before) to install them yourself manually or by adding extra repositories that aren't official, then you'll be rewarded with a solid distribution that's easy to use and is packed full of new games and applications. It's also not Ubuntu, which is beginning to become Linux cred these days (separates the Linux noob with the Linux 1337).