Fedora at a Glance
Given Red Hat's recent announcement that Red Hat Linux and Fedora Linux are merging into the Fedora Project, I thought I would see what Fedora was like. I began by downloading the source files for Fedora Core 1. Installation was fairly straightforward, and my Philips monitor and SiS onboard video were detected correctly. I recommend using the optional CD media test provided to test all CDs before launching the graphic installer, as it can save you time by finding out immediately if one of the CDs is faulty. I chose the automatic partitioning option and the Personal Desktop install. While the packages are installing, the estimated remaining time is shown. An overall progress bar shows the name, description and size of each package as it's installed. A graphic changes periodically, providing details about the dev-log mailing list, the Fedora Web site and the Fedora IRC channels.
Once the installation was finished and the computer had rebooted, a post-installation menu appeared. This menu included a license agreement, the facility to set the date and time (including support for NTP servers), user account creation (including NIS or Kerberos support), a sound card test and an option to use additional CDs.
The usual Red Hat firewall script for iptables (GNOME Lokkit) is enabled by default. Simplified options are shown from redhat-config-securitylevel during the installation of Fedora to allow you to enable common services, such as a Web server, and to allow a device to be trusted, for example, a network card on a local network. On the topic of security, Zebra has been replaced by the Quagga Software Routing Suite, and Sendmail accepts connections from only local computers by default.
Fedora has a semi-graphic boot loader where you can see the initial steps like mounting filesystems in text mode. The rest of the set up is shown on a slick graphic screen and progress bar, using the rhgb package.
One of the differences between earlier versions of Fedora and the new Fedora Project is things will be updated more often. As a result, there potentially will be newer packages and more packages overall. The Fedora Core 1 Release Notes has more details, but some of the most obvious changes are listed here.
Default packages include the usual stalwarts, such as GNOME, OpenOffice.org, Mozilla, Evolution and instant messaging and GNOME Games. In addition to Aisle Riot and FreeCiv, GNOME Games now includes TuxRacer and Chromium BSU.
The kernel includes a native POSIX thread library, ACPI support, support for CPU clock throttling control, laptop mode and exec-shield. ACPI support is disabled by default, but it can be enabled by specifying a boot-time argument.
Fedora features GNOME 2.4, which offers support for CD burning from Nautilus and such accessibility features as the onscreen reader/magnifier Gnopernicus and the on-screen keyboard GOK. The Galeon Web browser no longer is included; it has been replaced by Epiphany. GNOME also has Bluetooth support, a text-to-speech package and a PDF viewer called GPdf. There's a new Resolution menu item that arguably is handier than going into the Display item for changing the screen resolution.
Mozilla (1.4) now supports NTLM authentication for Web sites that use "Windows integrated security". Gaim 0.71 is included, which supports MSN protocol 9 so you can use MSN Messenger. Several bugfixes have been made since that version, though, so you may want to upgrade it. OpenOffice.org 1.1 doesn't seem to load much faster than did 1.0, but it now offers the ability to export to PDF and Macromedia Flash formats.
In addition, some packages previously available in Fedora have been removed from this new release. These removed packages include the LPRNG printing program, which was replaced by CUPS; php-manual; Pine and Tripwire.
One of the criticisms of recent Red Hat releases by home users has been the lack of default multimedia support. Unfortunately, Fedora is no different. And due to licensing issues, Xmms is crippled with an MP3 placeholder plugin, so it can't play MP3 audio files. Fedora also was not able to include media players such as Mplayer or Xine. On a more positive note, a new package called Sound-Juicer has been included for extracting music from CDs. RhythmBox also is offered for managing and playing your media library and connecting to Internet radio stations; it's a program similar to Apple's iTunes. RhythmBox has the same limitation as Xmms, however, in that it does not include the MP3 plugin.
The Red Hat Alert Notification Tool tray applet was a bit confusing, but running up2date did work once I installed yum with default channels fedora-core-1 and updates-released. You can add to these by editing /etc/sysconfig/rhn/sources. Both yum and apt are supported, but you need to download apt yourself. I used the version provided for the 0.95 beta from the download.fedora.us site. Before you can use yum, you need to first run it as root so it can install the required headers.
Several third-party repository sites are available, but at the time of this writing, some are not yet providing packages for Fedora Core 1. You can specify these sites in /etc/apt/sources.list and /etc/yum.conf; you also may need to download and install the GPG keys for those sites.
When I was installing packages using redhat-config-packages (Add/Remove Applications in the menu), an error occurred when trying to find the RPM source. Changing the line self.packagesDir = "RedHat/RPMS" in /usr/share/redhat-config-packages/method.py to Fedora/RPMS resolved this. I've since found this particular bug listed in Bugzilla, though, and updated versions of redhat-config-packages are being made available.
Documentation from the main site is still coming, but there's useful information at the following sites:
In summary, there are some promising new features in Fedora and it is reassuring to see it has the stability and slick interface we've come to expect from Red Hat, but it is not quite as polished as some of the recent Red Hat releases. If you know Linux already and don't mind installing some extra packages and changing some settings, then it's for you. If you are new to Linux or want it to all work perfectly "out-of-the-box" with an automatic package resolver, you might be better off to wait for the next Fedora release.
Adam Jenkins has been playing with Linux on and off for many years and was most recently working at Information Technology Services for the University of Sydney.