A New Fedora Release – Worse Than Ever?

[Regarding the title – well, probably not]
I’ve migrated from Ubuntu 10.04 to Fedora 13 on my laptop (because Ubuntu 10.04 was released to the public, so its not interesting to run it anymore 😉 ) and I’ve just finished listening to The Linux Action Show review of Fedora 13 and I wanted to relate to that and to my experience of using Fedora.

The Linux Action Show review is useful, and good, but its not really fair – Chris and Bryan ranted on a lot of things that do not work well for Fedora, such as not a lot of applications pre-installed and some new and immature applications being introduced, Flash being hard to install, codecs missing and obscure instructions on Fedora’s wiki pages on how to address these issues, and more.

The thing is, is that all those comments are fair when looking at an operating system that is geared towards the general public – like Ubuntu – but Bryan and Chris themselves mentioned that Fedora is not aimed at that crowd but is meant for power users and developers (the debate about what is the target audience for Fedora is raging – I think the best description I heard so far, is from Máirín Duffy – heading Fedora’s design team – where in an interview she said “Fedora is aimed at people who want to work on Fedora).

When taken into the context that Fedora is an operating system for developers and power users, and specifically those that want to work on Fedora, then most of these problems are not important – its like harping on MS-Windows that it doesn’t come with a lot of software out of the box – its not supposed to1.

Fedora people are very cautious with everything that is proprietary software and/or patent encumbered – hence the very ambiguous “You can find many interesting things using a search engine like Google” quote Chris mentioned: Fedora does not want to get involved in anything remotely DMCA applicable, and as much as I don’t like it – them being based in the USA and sponsored and hosted by a commercial company, I guess it is understandable.

I would love it if Fedora will put up detailed “follow these easy steps to enable patent-infringing and possibly copyright-violating codecs on your new Fedora system”, but I doubt they can get away with it and there is no point ranting. Chris and Bryan, if you’re listening – I’m not saying its all your fault, but that’s what you get for living in that crazy country you call home ;-).

My Fedora Experience

My impression of Fedora 13 is also about mixed feelings – less about all the stuff that was already mentioned (because I was expecting it) and more because I expected a lot of other (quite advanced stuff) to work properly out of the box (or with-in reasonable tweaking) and it didn’t.

One of the things that works mostly well for me in Fedora 13 is KDE: I really like the KDE implementation in Fedora 13 (based on KDE SC 4.4.3) – it is very very pretty. While the 3D desktop effects are not as polished as Compiz on the GNOME side2, they are still very nice (though I had to tweak the wobbly windows effect quite a bit and it still not exactly what I want, but hey – at least I can tweak it!) and the Plasma based desktop itself is extremely nice. I’m a very big fan of the “desktop activity” model, and I really dig the default activity which is a widget board with a single “folder containment” widget showing the desktop icons at the top left corner. I easily added a battery monitor, trash can, quick launcher (which I rotated 90° and put vertically on the right side), a system monitor and a weather applet.

The folder containment has a very useful effect where you can hover on a folder and then the folder will open in a sub-widget and will let you browse the things inside the folder – into whatever depth you want:
KDE folder containment widget showing nested folder previews

Here is a full picture of my current desktop, without any application running – because my laptop has a small 1024×768 resolution, I ran applications on the entire screen without any panels: the bottom panels is set to “windows can cover” so that it is visible only if there is no full size window (though you can bump the mouse cursor on the bottom edge to get it up) and the small top panel I use for status notifications is auto-hiding.

My KDE 4.4 desktop

(Also, please don’t mind the background – one of the setting for the desktop activity is to choose a slideshow for the background, so I have several hundreds wallpapers and the desktop keeps changing every 15 minutes).  As usual, a static picture doesn’t do it justice – you have to see how it behaves: all the UI elements have eye-catching transition effects such as sliding and fade, notifications are transparent bubbles that pop up form the bottom and stack on top of each other, windows have transparency effects, menus slide up and down.

What is not to like about the KDE desktop – the integration is not up to par with the current GNOME setup – for example, I use bluetooth a lot and it simply doesn’t work well or at all in KDE: you can’t right click a file and send it to bluetooth and bluetooth pairing is problematic at best and impossible at worse. Don’t even talk to me about dial-up. The bluetooth software isn’t even running unless you run it manually3. Another thing which I also like a lot in GNOME is that you can get into any part of the system through GConf or DBus, while in KDE 4.4 – even though they pioneered the message bus with their DCOP bus which was the basis for FreeDesktop.org’s DBus – currently not many services are exposed to that kind of manipulation, specifically Plasma stuff (which is mostly what you have on a KDE desktop today) is very hard to control programatically.

The lack of an SSH agent for KDE is also bothering me that makes using pass-phrase protected SSH keys as annoying as using passwords directly. When you try to access a remote file system over SSH4 you get a dialog that looks like a password entry dialog – including a username field – but that asks you for your SSH key pass-phrase. This is really easy to miss a few times until you figure out what to type in, and when you ask it to “save it in the wallet”, it will still prompt you for that next time. SMB access has even more problems. As I said – integration is not great, which is why I still pop into GNOME from time to time, though I’m using KDE now more then I ever used it since version 3.5 – I still can’t say its my primary desktop, but its getting really close.

Now about GNOME in Fedora 13: its OK. There’s nothing new and exciting there, and the GNOME experience in Fedora 13 is somewhat worse then what you get in even Ubuntu 9.10, but its useful and works well and they finally got rid of that annoying Nodoka theme – the replacement is the old Clearlooks style which is easy on the eyes, but as the Linux Action Show guys noted – it looks old.

My main gripe with Fedora 13 is that it keeps crashing! The operating system itself is rock solid, and they added a service that monitors for crashes and allows you to easily report them to the developers as bugs (somewhat like Ubuntu’s apport, but works better and doesn’t require you to use a browser to actually submit the bug, although it has the horrible name “abrt”), but I would have like it a lot better if applications wouldn’t keep crashing all the time – to the point that with most crashes I don’t bother reporting on them.

I’ve ranted on Evolution crashing in a previous post, but that is nothing new – with Fedora 13 everything crashes, I even had Nautilus (the GNOME file manager) crash on me multiple times! When has Nautilus ever crashed? – it was probably the most stable GUI application ever created. It is very important that they extended the maximum size for crash reports, because I sure as hell need it.

Interestingly enough – and back to the Linux Action Show review commentary – I don’t miss Mono at all. While on principal I don’t approve with Fedora’s move from Mono (regardless on which basis it was done), I wasn’t horrified by Fedora 13 dropping Mono completely from the default installed. I was expecting that I’d go and install Mono at one point or another, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’ll probably install it again at one point when I go back to playing with developing in Mono, but at the mean time I don’t need it.


After using Fedora 13 for about 2 months, I’m basically ready to give up on it and conclude that it is indeed the worst Fedora version ever.

Technology-wise its fine and has many useful and interesting features, but from the stability point of view it is computing hell – I’ve used many alpha versions that were more stable then Fedora 13 GA release. Heck, the beta I’ve been using since December was more stable then the GA release! And it seems to be getting worse, not better – the last update to Evolution (2.30.2) completely destroyed my ability to manage my calendar: ever since the update, whenever I receive a calendar invitation or try to create a new calendar entry, the Evolution data-server process crashes and the calendar access fails.

I’m currently running Fedora 13 on two different machines (a desktop and a laptop), but I’m going to move both to Ubuntu 10.10 Alpha 2 that was released recently – I’m sure it will be more stable 🙁 .

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  1. also somewhat on that issue, I want to rant that Bryan mentions that Fedora 13 ships with a very old OpenOffice version – “from last year” – while in fact they ship OpenOffice 3.2 which is the current stable release, with 3.2.1 coming out shortly. I think the confusion is that Fedora are using an old splash screen for OpenOffice, unlike Ubuntu which uses the current one. The reason I believe, for the old splash screen, is that the new one says “Oracle” quite boldly and I can see it if there is some bad blood between RedHat and Oracle. But the software behind the splash screen is very up to date. []
  2. yes, I know I can run Compiz as the compositing manager on KDE, but then I have to use this Emerald thing as the window manager instead of KWin, and the integration of that kind of sucks []
  3. in GNOME it is launched automatically when you plug a bluetooth adapter, while in KDE it isn’t running even if you have bluetooth capabilities full time []
  4. which annoyingly use the “fish://” protocol schema in KDE unlike simply “ssh://” in GNOME, where using “ssh://” in KDE opens a terminal to the target []

2 Responses to “A New Fedora Release – Worse Than Ever?”

  1. Decio Fonini:

    About your SSH-agent rant on KDE: both ssh-agent and gpg-agent are running in the background when you log in. Just run ssh-add once after login, and you’re done; after that, you can use ssh, scp, rsync, fish://, ssh:// and whatnot transparently during the whole session. This has worked in Fedora since at least FC8. And I think it doesn’t even have anything to do with KDE: the agents are launched by the X init scripts, so they’ll be there for whatever desktop manager you choose.

  2. Oded:

    Yes, that works well – I can even run ssh-add from the KDE run command, and it will use a KDE KWallet-able interface to ask for the passphrase and remember it.

    Now is it so difficult to run that when I first try to access ssh or sftp, like GNOME does? Currently if I don’t do ssh-add, If I try to access an ssh terminal or an sftp file share, I get prompted for my passphrase every single time.

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