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Fedora 7 "Moonshine": Freedom vs. Ease-of-Use (Part 2)

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Usage Notes

There are some great tutorials about how to set up a complete Fedora box, including the Howto Forge's excellent article, The Perfect Desktop - Fedora 7, the Fedora FAQ (not yet updated to Fedora 7 as of this writing, but it surely soon will be), and Stanton Finley's Fedora Core 5 Installation Notes (many of which still apply, particularly the advice about which repos work together, and which don't). So I won't go into a rundown on how to get everything working; I'll just mention a few things I found most interesting or challenging, in no particular order.

   

Various office and multimedia apps

Default GNOME desktop

  • One of the first things you'll want to install is a GUI for YUM. Yum is the front end for Fedora's package management system, and it's extremely easy to use via the command line (see its "man" page for the gory details). It's even easier to use with a GUI. I recommend one named "yumex". To install those, you'd go to a console, log in as root, and issue the command

    yum install yumex

    and follow the prompts. Then start "Yum Extender" from the "System" menu (if you're running KDE) and browse packages!

  • Fedora's a historically GNOME-centric distribution, and has, in the past, tried to make KDE look and feel as much as possible like GNOME through the use of its Bluecurve theme. With this version, however, KDE fans (like me) will find that KDE's on the same footing with GNOME.
  • Even if you added the Livna repository during installation, it seems you have to add it again afterwards, which you can do by downloading and installing the livna-release-7.rpm package.
  • With this kernel, all hard drives are treated as if they're SCSI disks. In other words, what you're most likely familiar with is "hda1", "hdb3", etc. In Fedora 7, they're now referred to as "sda1", "sdb3", and so on.
  • As noted before, you'll need to set up your NTFS partition(s) manually after installing the ntfs-3g package, and also manually set up any FAT32 partitions so the normal user can write to them. Here are examples of lines in /etc/fstab to achieve that:
    /dev/sda1    /media/sda1    ntfs-3g auto,user,users,exec,umask=000,nls=utf8,rw 0 0
    /dev/sdb4    /media/sdb4    vfat    auto,user,users,exec,umask=000,rw 0 0
  • If you've got an NVIDIA card, and install the proprietary drivers from Livna, Beryl is good to go — just use Yum to install it (and its dependencies), and select "Beryl Manager" from the "System" menu. This is the first time I've used a stable version of Aquamarine.
  •    

  • For some reason, most of my QuickTime files don't play in mplayer or xine, even with the codecs pack installed. This is a head-scratcher, since they do on my Debian installation.
  • Be sure to check out Fedora's "Liberation Fonts," a package meant to replace three of Microsoft's core Web fonts (Arial, Times New Roman, and Courier New). They look quite nice.

Conclusion

Linux distros (the desktop-oriented ones, at least) seem to be getting more and more homogenized. We expect an easy-to-use installer; a selection of popular Linux software; a robust package manager. Fedora 7 certainly provides those features.

However, since the distro I blew off my spare partition in order to install Fedora 7 was PCLinuxOS 2007, it's impossible not to compare the two. PCLinuxOS definitely comes out the winner. Configuring hardware on Fedora is more challenging than configuring hardware on PCLinuxOS, which does most of it for you. PCLinuxOS doesn't require the manual addition of third-party repositories in order to get proprietary software; most of it is installed out of the box. In short, PCLinuxOS is simply less time-consuming and less frustrating to install and configure than Fedora.

Much of this can arguably be laid to rest at the feet of Fedora's decision to stay completely within the bounds of open-source, non-patent-encumbered (at least in their opinion) software. (Keep in mind that Fedora isn't sticking to this decision for purely ideological reasons — it has a business to run and doesn't want to get sued.) It remains to be seen how the struggle between the demand for ease-of-use/proprietary formats, on the one hand, and a strict emphasis on free-and-open-source software, on the other, will turn out.

Goodbye!

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