Fedora 18 – a preliminary look

While I mainly use opensuse, I have tried a number of other distros.  And one of those was Fedora.  I’m currently putting that as my first choice after opensuse, the distro I would switch to, if opensuse were to become unavailable.  Naturally, when Fedora 18 was released a little over a day ago, I decided that I should give it a try.

Note that this is a very preliminary report.  I have not yet installed Fedora 18, though I have booted the live KDE image on two different computer, so as to get a feel of it.  I will try to install within the next few weeks, and give a more complete review.

When testing with the live image (booted from a USB), it is easier to quickly find that bad points than it is to find the good points.  So this preliminary review will be a bit of a gripe session.  I’m expecting that I will have some more positive things to say after I have had time to install and try using the installed system.

For reference, my main earlier posts on Fedora 17 can be found at:

Downloading

I visited the Fedora Project Homepage, which wanted me to download the live Gnome image.  I had to search a little to find the DVD download.  I clicked on the link for “Full set of download options” which is a misnomer.  A further link on that page for “All download methods” took me to a page with a full set of choices, including the DVD images and the network install images.

I did the downloading from my opensuse 12.2 system.  So I selected the metalink option for the particular image that I wanted, copied the url, then used:

aria2c -V 'pasted url'

It is important to use the quotes there, because the URL that I pasted contains shell metacharacters (a “?”).  Other methods, such as the use of torrents, or a direct download from a mirror, are also available.

The downloads themselves went smoothly enough.  The DVD image took around 1 hour, and the 64bit KDE live image took around 10 minutes.  Both ran at around 1.4 MB/s, which is close to what my ISP provides.  The surprise was with the 32bit KDE live image.  That took around 90 minutes.  I’m not sure why that was so slow — perhaps it is a popular download, and there was competition for bandwidth at the server end.

Verifying the download

After downloading, it’s a good idea to check whether the download was accurate.  The page that I used for downloading had a link for verifying.  And the verification page had several checksum files.  I used “wget” to download the checksum files.  The checksum file for the 64bit DVD image is “Fedora-18-x86_64-CHECKSUM”.  It’s a small text file.  It contains the sha256sum for the DVD image, and the network install image.  And it has its own PGP signature for checking the validity of the CHECKSUM file.

To check the DVD image, I used the command:

sha256sum -c Fedora-18-x86_64-CHECKSUM

That told me that the checksum was correct for the DVD image.  It complained that it could not check the network image (I had not downloaded that), and it complained about misformatted lines (the PGP signature).  It is safe to ignore those complaints.  Using the “-c” option for sha256sum, and ignoring those complaints, is better than doing a visual comparison of the line in the text with the locally computed checksum.

I also checked the PGP signature of the checksum file.  And here comes my first gripe.  The checksum file is signed by a newly created “Fedora 18” key.  I was able to find the signing key at a key server, and a copy was also there on the Fedora site.  But there were no certifying signatures on the “Fedora 18” key.  This is poor practice.  People in the Fedora project should have signed it.  The “Fedora 18” key could have been signed with the “Fedora 17” key.  Some well know RedHat folk could have signed it.  That’s the whole idea of the PGP web of trust.

Admittedly, it is unlikely that someone would have broken into the Fedora project site, replaced the images with bogus versions, replaced the checksum files with corresponding bogus ones, signed with a bogus key.  It’s particularly unlikely on the day of release, when the site is probably being closely monitored for problems.  So I was not concerned about a bad download.  But I would prefer that people use PGP the way that it is intended, which includes making use of the web of trust.

Incidentally, the download was already checked by aria2c (the “-V” command line option), using checksums in the meta file.

Running the live image on a desktop

My first real test was to boot the KDE live image on a desktop computer.  I first copied the image to a USB using dd_rescue, then booted from that USB.  It booted smoothly into a live KDE session.

The booted system was using kernel 3.6.10-4, and it was running KDE version 4.9.4.  The KDE desktop had a pleasing appearance.  What I tested seemed to work, but this was not a thorough test.

The only web browser available was konqueror.  Presumably, if I install from the DVD image, I will be able to select firefox and/or other browsers.

After leaving the system idle for a while, when I came back to it, I found that the mouse pointer was missing on the screen.  I won’t call this a gripe, because the same thing happens on that computer when I am running opensuse 12.3M2.  It is probably due to a flaw in the nouveau driver.  When logging out, there was a message that KWIN had crashed.  I won’t call that a gripe either, because it might be due to the same nouveau driver problems.

I’ll note that with opensuse 12.3M2, the way I avoid this problem is by configuring the screen to never switch off (in power settings).  That would probably also work for Fedora 18, but I would have to install first (or change the settings everytime that I boot the live image).  I could probably also avoid the problem by installing the Nvidia drivers, but again that’s not practical when running an uninstalled live image.

Running the live image on a laptop

I also booted the live image on my laptop (using the same USB).  Again, booting went smoothly.  I did not run into any video problem – the laptop has an Intel graphics card.

The main things different about the laptop, apart from the different video card, are that it has bluetooth and WiFi.  And I ran into problems with both of those.

If I look at the bluetooth settings in the desktop configuration, it tells me that no bluetooth adapter was recognized.  Sigh!  The same thing happens with opensuse 12.3M2.  Maybe this is a problem with 3.6 level kernels.  I guess I can’t blame Fedoro, so I won’t call this a gripe.

My problems with WiFi are gripes.

First problem.  When I tried to setup a WiFi connection, I was prompted to setup KDEwallet.  Sigh!  You would think that for a live demo system, they would pre-setup KDEwallet, with a blank key.

My first attempt to connect failed.  Future attempts also failed.  I rebooted, to make a fresh start.  This time, when entering the network key, I check the box to show the key.  That way, I could be sure that I had typed it in correctly.  The connection still failed.

I rebooted yet again.  This time, I first clicked on the NetworkManager tray icon, and selected “configure connections”.  I then configured the connection that I wanted that way.  I set it to an auto-connect system connection, entered the key, and saved the result.  The network promptly connected.

It looks to me as if the standard way of connecting does not work, but the harder way of preconfiguring as a system connection does work.  I’m wondering why they didn’t find this and fix it during beta testing.

Summary

I found a few problems with using the live KDE image.  Most of those will probably go away or have work-arounds, once I do a full install.

If your computer use depends on bluetooth, you might want to hold off installing until you hear more about its status.  The other problems that I have mentioned are not likely to cause serious problems.  I’ll hold off on any personal recommendations, until I have installed and done some testing on the installed system.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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  1. Adios Fedora « Thoughts on computing - 2013/01/25

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