First Impressions: Fedora Core 5

by Caitlyn Martin

Last week I installed Fedora Core 5 on two aging but serviceable systems: my eMachines desktop (2GHz Celeron, 768MB RAM) and a Toshiba Satellite 1805-S204 notebook (1GHz Celeron, 512MB PC100 RAM). The desktop had previously run Fedora Core 4 while the laptop had been running Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger) for a few months and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 4 Update 1 prior to that.

One of the claims made for Fedora Core 5 is that it was built to boot faster and run faster than the previous release. I'm very pleased to say that it's true and the difference on my laptop is especially noticeable. Those of you who are running older, slower hardware or tend to heavily load you systems will definitely be happy with FC5. It is significantly crisper and more responsive than Ubuntu Breezy Badger and RHEL 4 as well.

I've never been happy with anaconda, the Red Hat installer. The new version of the graphical installation is certainly prettier but it still lacks the fine grained control of what software packages are to be installed that other distributions do offer as an option to experienced users. Also, as I quickly learned installing to my laptop, there is no "minimal" installation and, as with previous versions, no matter how much I strip down the installation anaconda will add cruft. Things that are not truly needed which I didn't ask for do get installed. I still have to list my installed packages when I'm done and remove things. I know that corporate customers who build single purpose servers generally are unhappy about this and Red Hat may want to look at allowing a truly minimal build in the next release and/or in RHEL 5. The good news is that for the less experienced user building a typical desktop the anaconda installation is straightforward and downright easy. Hardware detection is certainly excellent and other than my printer (easily added) everything was correctly recognized and installed by anaconda.

The new Fedora offers two options for the desktop: Gnome and KDE. Gnome remains the default choice. The totally minimal twm is available as part of the X installation and you can just install that and then add other window managers or desktop environments from Fedora Extras after the initial installation. Note that anaconda will install significant parts of Gnome if you install any of the graphical system administration tools in any case, Choices in Extras are pretty limited too, but XFCE 4 and a handful of lightweight window managers are offered and will be recognized by gdm or kdm (the graphical login) session choices after they are installed.

11 Comments

glitsj
2006-04-19 08:13:10
Nice review, just wanted to inform you that the link to Fedora Core 5 misses an 'r' in the href - cheers.
Caitlyn Martin
2006-04-19 09:58:08
Good catch! I've made the correction. Thanks! -CMM
Fandanga
2006-04-20 21:07:59
Good review, thanks. The lack of a menu editor (come on Havoc ole boy, try just once listening to actual users instead of your own fevered imaginings) can be solved by downloading the Alacarte menu editor, a nice third-party app that will be included in the next Gnome release. gnome-menu-editor was based on Smeg, the original version of Alacarte.
Bombor
2006-04-25 14:14:36
Good review - positive on this (very good) distribution, but also honest on the parts that need improving.
dave
2006-04-25 19:21:19
Hi, nice review. I wanted to point out that Gnome 2.14 is likely the reason your FC5 system feels 'crisp and more responsive' as compared to Ubuntu Breezy Badger and RHEL4. It's the very 1st improvement mentioned in the release notes (http://www.gnome.org/start/2.14/notes/en/rnusers.html). When I upgraded from Ubuntu Breezy to Dapper, I noticed the same performance boost.


Just want to give credit where credit is due....


thanks for the review!


Dave

Caitlyn Martin
2006-04-25 22:17:54
Part of the improvement may be Gnome 2.14 but I feel there is performance improvement in KDE as well. Speed of booting (prior to X starting) is definitely not related to Gnome. I believe you have pinpointed one area where perhaps credit best belongs to the upstream developers but that is not the whole picture.
Carla Schroder
2006-05-13 09:16:58
Fie on the FC5 installer. I performed a netboot (look for boot.iso to perform a network installation) and ran into a number of irritating problems.


1. It would not update my FC4 installation on a multi-boot machine because there were other Linuxes installed, so FC5 gagged on the presence of other / partitions. And it forced me to restart the entire installation, wasting about 20 minutes' of work, instead of allowing me to simply change to a new clean installation. Stupid.


2. The net installer STILL doesn't present a list of mirrors to choose from, you have to dig up the information yourself. At least it gives you multiple chances to figure out the exactly correct magical filepath incantation, and believe me if you haven't done this before you'll need lots of tries


3. It activates SELinux by default, unless you do a custom installation, so you have to disable it during the post-install, which means rebooting one more time


4. Soundcard detection gives you no second chances- if you click 'no I did not hear the sound' it gives up, so you have to fix it later after installation


5. When it comes to the bootloader configuration, it STILL doesn't recognize other Linuxes, and doesn't even have the wit to name Windows correctly ('other operating system'). Come on, folks, other distributions have been correctly and automatically configuring GRUB for multiboot for years now


5. Nautilus STILL starts up in spatial mode, may the devs be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels, but at least the option to change to browser mode is now in the prefs


6. Still no menu editor. As another poster mentioned, thank goodness for Alacarte.


After installation it's the familiar old nice Fedora. If they would bring the installer into the 21st century that would be ever so luvverly.

Caitlyn Martin
2006-05-13 16:53:16
Thanks for your comments, Carla. As I said in the review I have never been happy with anaconda. In place upgrades have always been somewhat to very broken. I didn't do one -- I had planned a clean install from the start -- so I couldn't comment. I'm not surprised by your results nor I am surprised that multibooting is still broken. I was lucky in that my install must have found a fast mirror immediately.


Alacarte is now in Fedora Extras and I did try it and found it horribly broken as well.


You know what? I have yet to find any distro I can't nitpick to death. The choiced Red Hat/Fedora made with SELinux and Nautilus are just that: choices that you and I may not like. They aren't bugs. Anaconda, OTOH, is buggy. I still think that once it's installed and working Fedora is one of the nicer distros out there.

John
2006-07-11 23:38:27
Great review. I just want to add that FC5 have a much better support for USB devices.
Leigh Klotz
2006-08-10 12:01:39
I wondered how to get the Shell menu item back on the desktop context menu. I learned about pirut and alacarte here, clicked on "Available packages" and got it installed quickly. But how do I find the desktop context menu? Is it available in alacarte customization, or am I stuck editing a file (and if so, which one)?
Leigh Klotz
2006-08-11 12:59:48
Found it, cleverly hidden in the Fedora Core 5 release notes:
To get the context-menu "Open terminal" shell menu item back, install the package nautilus-open-terminal .