Monday, May 26, 2008

Fedora 9 first impressions

I spent some time yesterday updating my laptop to use the newly-released Fedora 9 Linux release. It wasn't a disaster – indeed, much of it went quite smoothly. Nevertheless, I hit enough road bumps that I'm not going to update the rest of my systems to F9 just yet. Things I found were:

  • Fedora 9 uses Firefox 3 as its default web browser. I've held off moving to Firefox 3 until it comes out of beta, but you don't get the choice during the install. I daresay that it's possible to remove the FF3 rpms and install FF2, but I've not got around to that yet. FF3 works well enough, but many plugins have not migrated to the new architecture yet. Top of that list for me was the Google toolbar plugin, which doesn't support beta releases of firefox. Not that Google ever release beta software or anything.
  • axel's Fedora 9 installation guide was very helpful. Kudos, axel!
  • After installing flash support, I didn't get any sound from flash-based movies. Turns out I needed to install libflashsupport, as mentioned here.
  • In previous releases, I've used my own locally installed version of Eclipse. This time I using the built-in rpm version. First glitch was that the Fedora version ships with the plugins in an inconsistent state – not all of the mylyn dependencies were installed correctly. Which prevented me from installing any other plugins. Relatively straightforward to fix through the updates manager, but since the built-in plugins install into /usr/share, I had to do that update as root. After that, I could install plugins normally as a standard user. The other weirdness was that I started seeing a security error dialog when I launched Eclipse: "Could not initialize the application's security component. The most likely cause is problems with files in your application's profile directory. Please check that this directory has no read/write restrictions and your hard disk is not full...". Googling, I find that I have to mkdir ~/.mozilla/eclipse. Which worked, but wtf??
  • Fedora 9 uses a new version of X, which apparently has new features, which, apparently, means that there's no native ATI graphics driver. I guess one will appear in time, but until then the graphics is definitely a bit laggy, video replay tears quite a bit and the GUI is just unresponsive enough to be irritating without being unusable. Which is, I suspect, why I've not noticed Firefox 3 being noticeably faster.
  • gdm (the login screen manager) is being rewritten, and the version that ships with Fedora 9 is an interim release with some missing features. Just how much writing, still less rewriting, a login manager needs is unclear. Nonetheless, a feature that has gone away with this interim release is the ability to customise the login screen (short of hand-editing the XML files). Normally I don't bother customising the login screen, but Fedora 9's default is just ugly. Almost, but not quite, ugly enough for me to hand edit the XML config files.

Apart from these niggles, things seem to be OK. The hardware features seem to be working, though I don't have a wireless network at home to try the wireless support (I've run cat5e through my house). Compiz installs by default, but the effects suffer from the abovementioned graphics driver issue. There seem to be more utilities in the software list. However, until Firefox hits release 3 and the Xorg drivers get updated, I think I'll hold off updating my other systems. linux, fedora, installation, notes

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