Korora 21

Fedora has always been a popular desktop Linux distribution, but it has not always had the reputation of being welcoming to new Linux users or to those who just want it to work right “out of the box” with multimedia codecs or proprietary software. Korora is a Fedora spin that tries to provide a user-friendly desktop experience with little or no additional work needed by the user. Korora 21 is the latest release and it offers a number of improvements for users.

Note that Korora is offered in a variety of options in terms of the desktop environment. You can get it with GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon or Xfce. For this review I opted to install the Cinnamon version of Korora 21.

Korora 21 Desktop

Korora 21 Cinnamon Desktop

Before I get into the review, here’s a brief explanation about how Korora differs from Fedora:

Korora is a Fedora Remix, which means it ships with regular Fedora packages along with others that Fedora cannot ship. We also make changes to the system, so exactly how does Korora differ from Fedora?

Firstly, all our code is open source and freely available to anyone via our GitHub account. We also provide a tool called kp which will let anyone rebuild all of our packages and an entire Korora image, or modify these to build their own variation. That’s the tool we use to build all of the Korora packages and images.

We do however ship some software that is proprietary, such as Adobe Flash, and others are installable, such as Google Chrome. We don’t have source code for these as they are not open source; however, anything we create, or modify is.

The base kickstart also spells out the repositories to pull packages from. Many of these, and in particular RPMFusion, are added by most Fedora users and we can do this out of the box because we aren’t restricted by Fedora’s own project rules. They include:

Adobe
Fedora
Fedora Updates
Korora
RPMFusion Free
RPMFusion Non-Free
RPMFusion Free Updates
RPMFusion Non-Free Updates

Korora is an open source project and we do support open source software, even though some of the software we ship is proprietary. What we have done is to put all the pieces together and try to make a Fedora Remix that is useful for anyone out there, but there’s nothing that we do that you couldn’t do yourself.

What’s new in Korora 21
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Cinnamon 2.4
GNOME 3.14
KDE Software Compilation 4.14.3
Xfce 4.10.1

Korora 21 download and install
You can download Korora 21 from this page. You can get Korora 21 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. Korora 21 is a live distribution, so you can create bootable media and boot into it without having to do an install on your system. Please note that Korora’s speed might be slower in the live desktop than if you are running an actual install, so bear that in mind if you opt to try the live desktop.

Korora 21 also uses Fedora’s Anaconda installer. So if you are familiar with that then you should have no problems installing it on your system. If you’re new to the Fedora installer, don’t worry. It’s quite usable but it’s a bit different than the installers used for Ubuntu, Linux Mint and some other distributions. The Fedora Project has an install guide for Anaconda that you might want to check out before doing an install of Korora 21.

Korora 21 Install

Korora 21 Install

My install went quite well, I had no problems and the install itself was relatively speedy. Bear in mind, however, that I have used the Anaconda installer often in the past. So I’m quite familiar with how it is laid out and what it has to offer. Use the Fedora install guide for Anaconda I linked to above if you’re new to it as it might save you some time when installing Korora 21.

Korora 21 desktop
As I noted above, I opted for the Cinnamon version of Korora. When your Korora 21 desktop first loads, you’ll see the welcome menu. You can access documentation and support links on the menu, and you’ll also see an option to contribute to the project. Additionally, there’s a link to see the new features in Korora 21.

Korora 21 Welcome Menu

Korora 21 Welcome Menu

If you’ve ever used Cinnamon in Linux Mint then you’re in for a bit of a surprise with Korora. It has an entirely different set of desktop and menu icons that make it look much different in some ways than the Linux Mint version. Whether or not it’s better depends entirely on your own perspective. You know what they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I liked the icons but your mileage may vary.

Applications on the Cinnamon menu are laid out pretty much the same as in Linux Mint. They are broken down into the usual categories: Graphics, Internet, Office, Sound and Video, Administration, Preferences, etc. So not much is different in that sense. But visually the Korora menu icons are certainly different as you can see from these two screenshots:

Korora 21 Cinnamon Menu

Korora 21 Cinnamon Menu

Linux Mint Cinnamon Menu

Linux Mint Cinnamon Menu

Another difference between Korora’s implementation of Cinnamon and Linux Mint’s is that the panel appears at the top in Korora while it’s at the bottom in Linux Mint. If this bothers you then you can easily go into the panel settings and put it at the bottom. I rather liked it at the top so I left it there and had no problems using it.

The panel has icons to show the desktop, launch Firefox, start Thunderbird, open the terminal or access your files. You’ll also find icons to adjust brightness, the size of your display, access multiple desktops, your network connection, volume and the date and time.

The desktop itself has just three icons on it: Computer, Home and Trash. The wallpaper is quite simple and is a relatively neutral color with the Korora logo in the middle. If you right click the desktop you can change the wallpaper. The Backgrounds tab offers the biggest selection of different wallpapers.

Overall I had no problems with the layout of the Korora 21 desktop. It’s set up in a way that makes it easy and fast to use even if you’ve never used Korora or Fedora before. The icon design and colors are relatively pleasing to the eye and they offer a nice change of scenery from Linux Mint’s version of Cinnamon.

Korora 21 system settings
If you need to change your system, you can access System Settings on the menu. You’ll see sections for Appearances, Preferences, Hardware and Administration. As with the desktop and menu, the icons on the system settings have a different look than in some other distros. But everything you need to tweak your system is available in Korora’s system settings.

Korora 21 System Settings

Korora 21 System Settings

Linux software included in Korora 21
Here’s a sample of the software included in Korora 21.

Games
None installed by default

Graphics
Darktable
Document Viewer
Font Manager
GIMP
Image Viewer
Inkscape
LibreOffice Draw
Shotwell
Simple Scan

Internet
Deluge
Ekiga Softphone
Empathy
Firefox
Gwibber
Liferea
Thunderbird

Multimedia
Audacity
Brasero
gtk-recordMyDesktop
Handbrake
OpenShot Video Editor
PulseAudio Volume Control
Rhythmbox
Sound Converter
Sound Juicer
VLC

Office
Document Viewer
FBReader
LibreOffice
Project Management

As you can see, Korora 21 comes with a very good selection of software installed by default. Flash is already installed if you want to run videos, and there are plenty of other applications available in the application menu for all the usual categories.

There’s enough available that most desktop users will probably be quite happy with it on their systems. And that’s a good thing because Korora really stumbles badly when it comes to adding more software.

This is the first review I’ve written of Korora, and when I first booted in my desktop I looked for the software management tool as I always do when doing a review. It’s important that it be placed in a prominent area where new users can easily find it and begin adding or removing software. I looked all over the place and I finally found Yum Extender, which seems to be the only GUI-based tool for managing software.

If you have ever used Ubuntu’s Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager then you will be quite disappointed with Yum Extender. It’s very primitive visually compared to the other two and it’s not easily found if you’ve never used Korora before. Yes, you can find software by searching for packages or by browsing but it’s not intuitive and there are no screenshots or user reviews of applications.

Frankly, I was very surprised by this since Korora’s mission is to provide a user-friendly version of Fedora. Yum Extender flat out stinks as a tool for desktop users to add or remove software. I’m not sure why the Korora developers picked it but it clearly needs to go, and the sooner it is replaced the better.

Now you might think I’m exaggerating here but if you were a newbie to Linux or just a casual desktop user which one of these tools would you pick: Yum Extender or Linux Mint’s Software Manager? See the screenshots below before you choose, I know which way I’d go.

Korora 21 Yum Extender

Korora 21 Yum Extender

The Linux Mint Software Manager

The Linux Mint Software Manager

After seeing Yum Extender, I realized that it’s a darn good thing that Korora has a good selection of desktop software installed by default. Using Yum Extender to find more applications would certainly be no fun if you were new to Linux and had no idea which applications to search for in it.

Now don’t get me wrong here, there’s nothing wrong with Yum itself if you prefer using the command line. It can be a great tool, but that’s a very different kettle of fish than Yum Extender. A GUI-based software management tool should be far easier to use and much more visually intuitive than Yum Extender. It comes across as a relic of the Linux desktop from days gone by, and it prevents Korora 21 from being on par with other desktop distributions in terms of graphical software management.

Where to get help for Korora 21
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Korora 21 resources:

Korora Documentation
Korora Engage
Korora Support

Final thoughts about Korora 21
I think that Korora 21 has the right idea in terms of making Fedora more accessible to casual users or those new to Linux. It hits all of the sweet spots of a desktop distribution until you get to the software management tool. And, as I noted above, that’s where it stumbles and stumbles very badly. This is such a shame because otherwise Korora 21 is a fine desktop distribution.

If I had to make a recommendation, I’d suggest that only experienced Linux users try Korora 21. Yum Extender shouldn’t matter to those folks one way or the other since they’d probably opt to use Yum at the command line anyway. But newbies or casual desktop users would be much better served by sticking with the Linux Mint version of Cinnamon until Yum Extender is replaced by something that more closely resembles an app store.

So in the end I was left with mixed feelings about Korora 21. It’s a desktop distribution with a lot of potential, but the software management tools need a complete overhaul that put it on par with Linux Mint, Ubuntu and other top desktop distros. Until that happens Korora 21 is a desktop distribution that only partly gets it right.

What’s your take on Korora 21? Tell me in the comments below.



Fedora 21

Fedora 21 is out and I’ve been able to spend some time with it. The last version of Fedora I looked at was more than two years ago, so there have been quite a few changes since then. The new version of Fedora comes in three basic options: Fedora Cloud, Fedora Server and Fedora Workstation.

For this review I opted to use the GNOME version of Fedora 21 Workstation. The GNOME desktop is the default environment of Fedora, but there are a number of other Fedora spins available for including the following:

KDE
Xfce
LXDE
MATE-Compiz
Electronic-Lab
Security
Scientific KDE
SoaS
Design-suite
Robotics
Games
Jam-KDE

So do check out the alternative spins if GNOME isn’t your cup of tea. The Fedora developers have made sure that there is a desktop environment for everybody to choose for their computer.

What’s new in Fedora 21
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Linux kernel 3.16.3
GNOME 3.14
Software installer
Terminal application improvements
Support for Wayland (experimental)
DevAssistant developer helper
Web service integration
HiDPI support

GNOME 3.14 has a number of changes including a redesigned GNOME weather app, a redesigned Evince app, better support for Wi-Fi hotspots, multitouch gestures on touchscreen devices, Google services support in Photos, and a few other things. The GNOME 3.14 release announcement has more information about its features and changes.

I’ll have much more to say about the Software installer in that section of the review, but suffice to say it’s a big step forward for Fedora and kudos to the Fedora developers for getting it done.

The terminal application now supports transparent backgrounds, automatic title updates, a toggle for disabling shortcuts and you can search for terminals by name in the GNOME desktop.

Experimental support for Wayland is included in this release for developers to test their applications. Developers will also enjoy the DevAssistant which helps setup different programming environments, as well as better web service integration. And all users will appreciate the improved HiDPI support in Fedora 21 Workstation.

Fedora 21 download and install
You can download Fedora 21 from this page. You can get Fedora 21 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. I downloaded the 64-bit ISO file and it weighed in at about 1.47 GB.

Fedora 21 is also a live distro, so you can run it right off the disk to test it before installing it on your computer. I recommend that you check out the live desktop if you’ve never used Fedora before, it will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with what Fedora has to offer before committing to an actual install.

Here are the recommended minimum system requirements for Fedora 21:

1GHz or faster processor
1GB System Memory
10GB unallocated drive space

The installer in Fedora is quite good though it is a bit different than what you’ll get in Linux Mint and some other distributions. It may throw you off if you haven’t seen it before, but stick with it and you’ll find that it’s very easy to use. Just follow the on-screen prompts and you should have no problems. You’ll need to type in a root password and create a user account. While you do that the installer will be installing software and you can watch its progress at the bottom of the installer menu.

At one point you’ll also be able to connect your various online accounts. Google, ownCloud, Windows Live and Facebook are all options on the Connect Your Online Accounts menu. Since I have don’t plan on using Fedora as my day to day desktop distro, I opted to skip trying to connect any online accounts. I also loathe Facebook so there was no chance I would have bothered with that anyway.

The Fedora installer seemed pretty fast (though I didn’t actually time how long it took, I would have noticed if it lagged like some other distros), and I had no problems completing my install. One thing that it lacks is a slideshow that users can view while installing Fedora 21. Other distributions offer this and it can be a nice way of easing new users into a desktop distro by pointing out various things such as new features, updated applications, etc. I’d like to see the Fedora developers add something like that in the next release.

If you need assistance with installing Fedora 21, see the official install guide for more information.

The Fedora 21 desktop
I noted earlier that the default desktop of Fedora 21 is GNOME. GNOME is…well…it’s GNOME, and you either like it and want to use it or you don’t. If you haven’t used GNOME before then I recommend patience, it’s a different way of working that you can get used to if you give it some time. But it is not the same as MATE, Cinnamon or Xfce and if you are used to just those desktop environments then Fedora 21 might throw you off the first time you try it.

Note that you can also opt for the GNOME Classic desktop if you prefer that to the current version of GNOME. Just click the gear icon on the login screen and then select GNOME Classic. There is also an option to use GNOME on Wayland if you want to give that a try too. My preference would be GNOME Classic, but I tend to be a bit more old school in my desktop environment preferences. Your mileage may vary considerably, so try the old and the new versions of GNOME if you aren’t sure which one will work best for you.

Assuming you load the current version of GNOME, you can get started using the Fedora 21 desktop by clicking the Activities button after your desktop loads. Firefox, Evolution, Rhythmbox, Shotwell, the file manager, the Software installer, and the Show Applications button are all available on the panel. At the top of the Activities screen you’ll find a search box, and on the right the desktop switcher.

If you click the Show Applications button you’ll get a list of all the other applications on your system. Two tabs are available on the bottom: Frequent and All. After you’ve used Fedora 21 for a while, you’ll probably appreciate the Frequent tab since that’s a fast way of accessing the applications you use most often. Or you can use the search box to quickly find them.

Fedora 21 system settings
If you want to change how your system is set up, click on the Settings icon after you click the Show applications button on the panel. The Settings menu will come up and you can do all of the usual things such as change your background, adjust online accounts or privacy settings, change your network settings, manage users, etc.

There are three main categories on the settings menu: Personal, Hardware and System. So it’s easy to quickly locate the settings icon that you need to click to make your changes.

Linux software included in Fedora 21
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Available in Software installer

Graphics
Cheese
Image Viewer
Shotwell

Internet
Empathy
Firefox
Transmission

Multimedia
Rhythmbox
Videos (Totem)

Office
Evince
Evolution
gedit
LibreOffice

Fedora 21 provides a fairly good default selection of software that should cover most desktop needs. If you want more applications just click Activities and then Software. The Software installer is quite reminiscent of the Ubuntu Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager. If you’ve used one or the other you will feel at home in Fedora 21’s Software installer.

When you load the Software installer, you’ll see a featured application at the top, followed by Editor’s Picks and then some Recommended Applications for one category or another. Further down the menu you’ll see a list of applications categories. Click one and you’ll see some sub-categories in the left frame, along with some featured applications in the right frame.

Applications categories include Audio, Education, Games, Graphics, etc. And you can always search if you prefer that to browsing around for applications. You can also see all of your installed software in one tab of the Software installer, and your available updates in another. I updated my system immediately, and had no problems installing the updates.

Installing or removing software is easy. Just click the blue Install button or the red Remove button, and then your administrator password. The Software installer will do the rest of the work for you. After the application installs, you can click the Launch button right from the application’s menu in the Software installer.

Overall, I think the Fedora developers did a good job with the Software installer with a couple of exceptions. Currently you can see star ratings, but no user reviews are available to read. I always enjoy reading the opinions of other users before I install software. Sometimes it helps me to filter out applications I might not actually enjoy using, so I appreciate having that option. I’d like to see it in the next version of the Software installer.

The other thing that I don’t like about the Software installer is the name. You can sort of tell that Fedora is a distribution geared toward developers because it’s never been very slick in terms of naming things. I’m not sure why they just didn’t call it Software Market or Software Central or Software Center or something similar. Right now it’s just labelled as “Software” and that comes across as half a name.

The name thing is a minor nitpick, of course. The Software installer works well and provides access to many different applications, so I have no complaints about the actual usage. But a full name would be better than just the generic term “software.”

Where to get help for Fedora 21
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these Fedora 21 resources:

Fedora Help
Fedora Downloads
Fedora Community
Fedora Site

Final thoughts about Fedora 21
Fedora 21 ran very well for me, I had no problems using it. It seemed fast when launching applications and none of them crashed for me. As a desktop distribution it seems quite stable right out of the box, and I think most users will appreciate that when putting it through its paces.

For desktop users the biggest and probably most appreciated change in Fedora 21 is the Software installer. It puts Fedora at almost the same level as Linux Mint, Ubuntu and other desktop distributions with intuitive and easy to use software management tools. As I noted above, there are a couple of things that need to be improved in the Software installer, but the overall experience is quite strong already.

Now one question remains: should you use Fedora? You most certainly can use it as your main desktop distribution, but remember that Fedora 21 Workstation is geared toward developers. Casual users can and should check it out, but there are things in it that might have no appeal to non-developers (such as the DevAssistant). If that’s a deal breaker for you then Linux Mint, one of the Ubuntus or some other distribution might be a better option. If the developer-centric focus doesn’t bother you then Fedora 21 might just be your next desktop distro.

Fedora 21 is best suited to intermediate and advanced Linux users, but beginners can certainly give it a try in a virtual machine or by running the live desktop off the disc.

What’s your take on Fedora 21? Tell me in the comments below.

Fedora 21 screenshots:

Fedora 21 Install 1

Fedora 21 Install 1

Fedora 21 Install 2

Fedora 21 Install 2

Fedora 21 Install 3

Fedora 21 Install 3

Fedora 21 Desktop

Fedora 21 Desktop

Fedora 21 Software Menu

Fedora 21 Software Menu

Fedora 21 Updates

Fedora 21 Updates

Fedora 21 Featured Applications

Fedora 21 Featured Applications

Fedora 21 GIMP

Fedora 21 GIMP

Fedora 21 Installed Software

Fedora 21 Installed Software

Fedora 21 Settings

Fedora 21 Settings

Fedora 16 KDE

Fedora 16 was released a while back, and I’ve finally gotten around to checking it out. For this review though I’ve opted for the KDE version of Fedora. As you may already know, Fedora comes in multiple spins including GNOME, Xfce, KDE and others.

If you’re interested in checking out other versions of Fedora, you can see a full list on the Fedora Spins page. There are ten different versions of Fedora listed there, so chances are that you’ll be able to find one that might work well for you.

Fedora 16 KDE Desktop

Fedora 16 KDE Desktop

Software Manager

Software Manager


What’s New In This Release

Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

KDE 4.7
DigiKam 2.0
Updated KWin
New shutdown dialogue

One of the things that annoys me about Fedora is that it’s more of a headache to track down the new features that are specific to each spin. The Fedora developers do not do a good job of easily documenting them the way the Linux Mint developers do. It would be extremely helpful if the Fedora folks would have a What’s New section or link on the page of each spin.

Okay, my griping aside, I’ve listed what I could dig up on Fedora 16 KDE. There’s not a huge amount of stuff to get excited about in this release.

KDE 4.7 does have some interest features. If you aren’t familiar with it you should check out the KDE 4.7 announcement page to familiarize yourself with all of the new stuff.

The DigiKam update adds geotagging, face detection and recognition, and some other new features.

The shutdown dialogue will be useful for those running multiple operating systems since it lets you choose the next OS you want to boot into and run.

Next, I’ll look at the hardware requirements and I’ll show what the install routine looks like in this distro.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

  • a CD or DVD drive, and the capability to boot from this drive.
  • a 400 MHz processor or faster
  • at least 1 GB of memory (RAM)
  • at least 10 GB of permanent storage (hard drive) space.

Installation
The install is easy, as you’d expect. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9a

Install 9a

Install 9b

Install 9b

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Grub

Grub

Login

Login

 

The Desktop
The desktop is…well…it’s a bit drab looking if you just go by the wallpaper. I generally prefer something a bit more upbeat and colorful when I first boot into a desktop. Fedora’s wallpaper leaves a little to be desired. However, it’s obviously very easy to change it and wallpaper preferences are very subjective. I’m sure there are some out there who would like the little submarine floating in a dreary looking ocean.

If you’re new to KDE, take note of the Desktop link in the upper right. Click it and you can begin using helpful widgets on your desktop. Widgets are small applications that do various things. Click the + sign after you click the Desktop button to add widgets. You’ll see a big list of them pop up at the bottom of your screen.

Here are some of the widgets that are available:

Bookmarks
Bouncy Ball
Comic Strip
CPU Monitor
Current Applications
Calendar
Hardware Temperature
Keyboard Layout

That’s just a few, there’s quite a bit more to choose from. So take a moment and browse around. You can probably find some very useful widgets to run on your Fedora 16 KDE desktop.

Fedora 16 KDE Desktop

Fedora 16 KDE Desktop

Widgets

Widgets

Admin Tools

System Management
Here’s a look at the system settings menu.

System Settings

System Settings

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
KMahjongg
KPatience
KMines

Graphics
Gwenview
Kamoso
KolourPaint
Ksnapshot
Okular
KColorChooser
KRuler

Internet
Akregator
Blogilo
BlueDevil
KGet
KMail
KNetAttach
KNode
Konqueror
Konversation
Kopete
KPPP
KRDC
Krfb
Ksshaskpass
Ktorrent

Multimedia
Amarok
Dragon Player
JuK
K3b
Kmix
KsCD

Office
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
KPresenter
KSpread
KTimeTracker
KWord
KThesaurus

Software Management
Apper is the software management tool for Fedora 16 KDE. It’s…um…okay. I really can’t put it in the same category as Linux Mint or Ubuntu’s software management programs. It feels outdated and the interface seems somewhat non-intuitive by comparison. But it is very functional and it will no doubt get the job done for most users. I’d like to see a bit more polish in future releases though, the user experience should be better than this, given how other distros have progressed in that area.

Software Manager

Software Manager

Software Categories

Software Categories

Updates

Updates

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
You’ll need to install the flash plugin to watch flash content in Konqueror. It’s not there by default so fire up Apper and go get it.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
There’s a reasonable mix of multimedia applications included with Fedora 16 KDE. Amarok, Dragon Player, JuK, K3b, KMix and KsCD will perform many of the functions needed by users. However, I also recommend that you spend some time browsing Apper’s Sound and Video section. There are other programs that you might useful listed there.

Problems & Headaches
I didn’t run into a lot of problems with Fedora 16 KDE. It installed well and ran fine for me. If you notice any problems, please list them in the comments section below. Others might benefit from your experience. Thanks in advance.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Fedora KDE spin support page. It has links to various support mechanisms.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Fedora 16 KDE is fine for what it is, but frankly it left me feeling rather ho-hum. There’s not a heck of a lot to complain about, but there’s also nothing to get really fired up about either. It’s a competent version of KDE, but it’s not something I would opt to run. I’d much prefer Kubuntu or Linux Mint KDE.

Fedora 16 KDE is probably best suited to those who are true Fedora fans, and who prefer the KDE environment. Others should look elsewhere as there are other distros are less blah than Fedora 16 KDE.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Fedora 16 KDE
Web Site:  http://spins.fedoraproject.org/kde/
Price: Free
Pros: Includes KDE 4.7, updated version of DigiKam.
Cons: Software management interface is somewhat outdated, wallpaper is dreary.
Suitable For: Fedora 16 KDE is best suited for true Fedora fans that also prefer the KDE environment.
Rating: 3/5

Fedora 15 KDE

Fedora 15 was recently released and I decided to snag a copy to review. Since there are a billion reviews already of the default desktop version with GNOME 3, I’ll be covering the KDE version in this review (though I may circle back to the GNOME version at some point for a review). As I noted in my column “The Many Faces of Fedora,” there are quite a lot of Fedora spins now available. You can get spins that focus on gaming, design, security or that use different desktops (such as LXDE, KDE, Xfce or GNOME).

Fedora has moved into a number of niches with this release and it should be interesting to see if makes this distro even more popular than it already is. As I write this review, it’s #3 on DistroWatch’s page hit ranking list. Not too bad for a distro that used be regarded as a bit of a fuddy-duddy with limited appeal.

Splash Screen

Splash Screen

What’s New In This Release
There have been quite a few changes in Fedora 15, I’ve focused mainly on the notable KDE changes in the list below. You can see much more in the full release notes.

KDE 4.6.2
Activities easier to use
Power management system improved
KWin has new scripting interface
KWin can detect graphics hardware and adjust performance for your computer
Open applications can be pinned to the task manager
Plasma netbook interface improved for touch-screen monitors
Dolphin has search bar and filter sidebar
Graphics applications can export photos to social media sites like Facebook
Oxygen-GTK theme works for GTK+ applications (KDE and GNOME applications look the same)

Fedora 15 provides the excellent KDE 4.6 desktop. If you aren’t familiar with what 4.6 has to offer, check out the KDE 4.6 release announcement for details and screenshots. Given all of the hoopla going on about GNOME 3 (and Unity of course), KDE 4.6 is quickly emerging as an important alternative to some GNOME and Ubuntu users. The KDE developers have wisely refrained from going the same route as the Unity and GNOME 3 developers and KDE itself may well see an influx of users coming from the other two desktops.

KDE 4.6

KDE 4.6

 

Activities are simply different applications that close or open at the same time. You can add an activity by right-clicking on the title of a window. I confess that I never use activities so while this is nice, it’s not something that I’d use on a day-to-day basis. But your mileage may vary.

Activities

Activities

The power management system has been overhauled to be faster and various bugs have been fixed. I’m not on a mobile system these days so power management isn’t as much of a concern for me, but it’s good to see these improvements anyway.

Power Management

Power Management

KDE 4.6 has a helpful search bar and filter included in Dolphin. Very useful for quickly finding files that you need.

Dolphin

Dolphin

Although I can’t imagine using it too often, it’s nice that KSnapshot and other graphics programs can easily export files to various social media platforms. With so many people on Facebook, etc. this is bound to be a popular feature.

KSnapShot

KSnapShot

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

1.3.1. Processor and memory requirements for x86 Architectures
The following CPU specifications are stated in terms of Intel processors. Other processors, such as those from AMD, Cyrix, and VIA that are compatible with and equivalent to the following Intel processors, may also be used with Fedora. Fedora 15 requires an Intel Pentium Pro or better processor, and is optimized for i686 and later processors.
Recommended for text-mode: 200 MHz Pentium Pro or better
Recommended for graphical: 400 MHz Pentium Pro or better
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 640 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 1152 MiB

1.3.2. Processor and memory requirements for x86_64 architectures
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 640 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 1152 MiB

1.3.3. Hard disk space requirements for all architectures
The complete packages can occupy over 9 GB of disk space. Final size is entirely determined by the installing spin and the packages selected during installation. Additional disk space is required during installation to support the installation environment. This additional disk space corresponds to the size of /Fedora/base/stage2.img (on Installation Disc 1) plus the size of the files in /var/lib/rpm on the installed system.
In practical terms, additional space requirements may range from as little as 90 MiB for a minimal installation to as much as an additional 175 MiB for a larger installation.
Additional space is also required for any user data, and at least 5% free space should be maintained for proper system operation.

Installation
The install is pretty simple and straightforward. The ISO file weighs in at about 725MB. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 9a

Install 9a

Install Complete

Install Complete

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
As I noted at the beginning of the review, Fedora 15 comes with KDE 4.6 so there’s an enormous amount of desktop features to enjoy. One of the first things I did was to turn off KDE 4.6’s sliding menus. Those always drive me crazy as I feel it’s a waste moving back and forth. Just right click the kicker button (the F) and choose classic menu. Once you’ve changed the menu it’s pretty much a joy to use Fedora 15 KDE’s desktop. Everything is laid out well in the menus and it’s easy to find the applications, utilities or whatever it is you’re looking for.

The desktop doesn’t have a bunch of icons on it, just Home and Trash in the desktop folder. Otherwise it’s free of icons.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
The default theme is attractive but if you dislike it just pull up the Desktop Theme settings in System Settings and you can pick from a range of others. Or click the Get New Themes to download more.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
I really like the default “lovelock” wallpaper. It’s attractive in a “moonlit-night” sort of way. I was somewhat surprised to see this as the default wallpaper but I think it works very well. It’s much more attractive than some of the generic backgrounds I’ve seen on various distros. Yeah, I know. It’s just wallpaper but wallpaper helps set the mood and it’s one of the first things people notice about a distro. So if it’s pleasing to the eye it helps get people started on the right foot with the distro.

If you don’t like it just pull up Desktop Settings and you can download plenty of other wallpapers.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Admin Tools

System Management
Here’s a peek at the system settings tool. You’ll find all the usual stuff to control, tweak and customize your system to you’re heart’s content.

 

System Settings

System Settings

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Various KDE board, card and strategy games

Graphics
AcquireImages
digiKam
DNGConverter
ExpoBlending
Gwenview
KolourPaint
KSnapshot
Okular
showFoto
KColorChoose
KRuler

Internet
Akregator
Blogilo
bluedevil
KGet
KMail
KNode
Konqueror
Konversation
Kopete IM
KPPP
KRDC
Krfb
Ksshaskpass
KTorrent

Multimedia
Amarok
Dragon Player
Juk
K3b
KMix
KsCD

Office
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
KPresenter
KSpread
KTimeTracker
KWord
KThesaurus

Software Management
Fedora 15 KDE uses KPackageKit for its software management. KPackageKit is not as elegant as the Ubuntu Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager. But it will serve adequately for basic software management. You can also get software updates to keep your applications up to date. The settings tool lets you easily change how often your system checks for updates.

Adding & Removing Software
You can search KPackageKit to find software or browse based on category. When you first open KPackageKit you’ll note that you can click to browse applications, but you can also click to browse other categories such as Desktop Environments, Development, Servers, etc.

KPackage Kit

KPackage Kit

Application Categories

Application Categories

Application List

Application List

Software Updates

Software Updates

Software Management Settings

Software Management Settings

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash isn’t installed by default in Konqueror, so you’ll need to add it if you want to watch flash based content on the web.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
There’s a reasonable amount of multimedia applications that come with Fedora 15 KDE including Amarok, Dragon Player, JuK, K3B, KMix and KsCD. There’s a bunch of other applications available in the Sound & Video application category in KPackageKit though, so you should be able to find alternatives to the default multimedia applications.

Amarok

Amarok

Multimedia Applications in KPackageKit

Multimedia Applications in KPackageKit

Problems & Headaches

One mistake I think the Fedora 15 KDE developers might have made is relying on Konqueror as the default browser. Yes, I know this is Fedora 15 KDE and that Konqueror is a natural part of a KDE based distribution. But newbies might be more comfortable with Firefox and Firefox is arguably compatible with a wider range of sites than Konqueror. So I’d like to see Firefox included as the default browser in Fedora KDE releases in the future. Konqueror can be kept but it should not be the only browser listed on the Internet applications menu.

The other thing I noticed was that KPackageKit seemed a bit slow doing searches. I’m not sure why but I found it rather annoying. I’d like to see some significant speed improvements in it next time.

Some might also notice that this release ships with KDE 4.6.2 instead of the current 4.6.3. I’m not going to bark about this too much since it’s a minor update for the most part anyway. But just be aware of it if you decide to try Fedora 15 KDE.

Those things aside, I had a very good experience overall with Fedora 15 KDE. I didn’t notice any overt problems or instability. It was fairly speedy and I had no problems running various applications.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Fedora Documentation page, the Community page, and the Help page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I enjoyed using Fedora 15 KDE; I think it has definitely arrived as a viable alternative to the GNOME version. Given all of the controversy and problems with GNOME 3, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see an exodus of disgruntled users move from the GNOME version of Fedora to the KDE version. If so then I think they might find this release of Fedora KDE to be just what the doctor ordered.

One thing that some users coming over from GNOME might notice is the lack of LibreOffice in the default selection of office applications. Since this is a KDE-based distro, it contains the KOffice applications. No problem though, just fire up KPackageKit and you can snag LibreOffice in just a couple of minutes.

Overall I think Fedora 15 KDE is a very attractive desktop distro. It comes with a good selection of software and an attractive & highly usable version of KDE. There’s not a lot here to complain about and there’s quite a bit to be happy about. I suspect that Fedora 15 KDE will be one of the distros that wins over wavering GNOME & Unity users.

Fedora 15 KDE is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Fedora 15 KDE
Web Site: http://spins.fedoraproject.org/kde
Price: Free
Pros: Good selection of default software. Provides a viable alternative to the GNOME 3 version of Fedora 15. Neat, attractive wallpaper.
Cons: Konqueror is the default browser. Flash not installed by default in Konqueror. KPackageKit searches seemed slow. KDE 4.6.2 included not KDE the current 4.6.3.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced users.
Rating: 3.5/5

 

Fusion 14 Thorium

Fedora is one of the best-known desktop Linux distros, but not many derivative distros are based on it. Fusion 14 is a new distro that uses Fedora 14 as its base. Don’t be fooled though, Fusion is not your father’s Fedora at all. There’s more to it than meet’s the eye and it stands a good chance of replacing generic Fedora for users who crave value-added features that take it to another level.

If you aren’t familiar with Fedora 14 itself, please see the earlier review I wrote of it for DLR. KDE users may want to refer to the review of the KDE version of Fedora 14.

Here’s the official description of Fusion from the Fusion site:

Fusion Linux is a Fedora Remix that uses a combination of free and open-source, non-free and non-open-source firmware and software, to bring the user the most advanced experience on the Linux platform.

Fusion Linux includes an outstanding theme, multimedia functionality out of the box and added desktop tweaks for better usability.

And finally, Fusion Linux is 100% compatible with Fedora.

Live DVD Desktop

Live DVD Desktop

What’s New In This Release

Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Custom theme
Post install welcome wizard
Multimedia support
More games
Skype removed
Better hardware compatibility
Mint menu
DockbarX
GNOME Do

The post install welcome script is a really nice touch in this distro. Once your install is finished and you reboot, a terminal window will open and you can configure your system. The script lets you update your system, install Skype, setup sudo, use Redshift, install Dropbox, or change your wallpaper. While it would be nice if it didn’t run in a terminal window, it’s still a useful tool for those who want to tweak things a bit before using Fusion. The desktop section of the review has images of the entire configuration process.

Enhanced multimedia support is always a welcome thing in any distro, as far as I’m concerned. Fusion gives you flash, MP3 and DivX support by default.

The removal of Skype was done to facilitate free distribution of Fusion Linux. I don’t regard it as a big deal at all since the welcome script lets you put it back in with ease in seconds.

The inclusion of Linux Mint’s menu is welcome indeed. I know that some people don’t like it but I always have, so I never mind seeing it borrowed by other distros. It adds some extra value to any distro that uses it. I hope more distro developers will consider adding it to their offerings at some point.

Mint Menu

Mint Menu

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
I was not able to find a list of hardware requirements on the Fusion site, I hope the developers will put on in an FAQ or other prominent place at some point. It’s always a good idea to let people know what is required to run a distro.

I think it’s safe to assume that you should at least meet the minimum requirements to run generic Fedora 14 if you want to run Fusion 14.

Installation
Fusion uses the same installer as Fedora and it’s just as easy. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Install 12

Install 12

Install 13

Install 13

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Install Boot Menu

Install Boot Menu

Login

Login

Welcome Configuration Script
As I noted at the beginning of the review, one neat thing about Fusion is the welcome configuration script. When you boot into your desktop, the first thing you see is a terminal window that lets you configure your system.

The screenshots below walk you through the configuration process.

Configuration 1

Configuration 1

Configuration 2

Configuration 2

Configuration 3

Configuration 3

Configuration 4

Configuration 4

Configuration 5

Configuration 5

Configuration 6

Configuration 6

Configuration 7

Configuration 7

The Desktop
When I first booted into the desktop, it had the icky default Fedora 14 wallpaper. I really dislike that wallpaper, so I was happy to be able to change it with the welcome configuration script. I ended up with the neat, spacey Fusion wallpaper in the image below.

As you can see in the image, the desktop has a few icons on it but it’s not cluttered up with too many things.

Clicking the Menu button in the panel displays the Mint Menu. As I noted earlier, I really like the Mint Menu so I’m glad it’s included in Fusion. You can opt to see a list of favorite applications or application categories if you prefer. The menu also shows Places, System, Search, and the usual logout/quit/lock screen options.

There are icons on the panel for showing the desktop, Chromium, opening a terminal window, updating Fusion, clipboard, networking, volume, date and multiple desktops.

Overall, I find the Fusion desktop a pleasure to use and I like it much better than generic Fedora 14.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
Fusion 14 uses a custom theme that is based on Faenza icons and the Alliance GTK theme. I find it quite attractive. However, if you don’t like it you can easily change to a different one that is included or get more online.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
I really like the cool Fusion wallpaper that I ended up with after running the welcome config script. If you don’t like it there are a few other common selections available and more are available online.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Admin Tools
Here’s what the Control Center looks like. You can also access system tools and preferences from the applications menu in the Mint Menu.

Control Center

Control Center

System Tools in the Mint Menu

System Tools in the Mint Menu

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Abe
Alien Blaster
Blob Wars
Chromium BSU
Critical Mass
FooBillard
Freeciv
Freeciv Server
Frozen Bubble
Glaxium
Kobo Deluxe
Maelstrom
Numpty Physics
PlayOnLinux
Teeworlds
WineMine

Graphics
Blender
F-Spot
Fotowall
GIMP
Inkscape
MyPaint
PhotoPrint
PosteRazor
Scribus
Simple Scan
Viewnior

Internet
aMule
Chromium
Dropbox
Empathy
Firefox
ggz-gtk
Giver
Gwibber
Net Activity Viewer
Pan Newsreader
Remote Desktop Viewer
TeamViewer 6
Thunderbird
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
AcetoneISO2
Arista Transcoder
Audacious
Audacity
Audio CD Extractor
Avidemux Video Editor
Banshee
Cheese
GNOME MPlayer
gtk-recordMyDesktop
HandBrake
K3b
Miro Internet TV
Movie Player
MusicBrainz Picard
Pitivi Video Editor
VLC

Office
OpenOffice.org

Others
Marble
Stellarium Night Sky Viewer
Wine

I’m not much of a gamer these days, but the game selection is a nice touch in this distro. There’s enough stuff there to keep casual desktop gamers busy when they need a break from work.

There’s also plenty of other software to meet the needs of just about any average desktop user. Fusion’s default software selection is quite good, indeed.

Software Management
If you find that you need more software, you can click the Menu button and select Package Manager. Software is broken down into the appropriate categories and it’s easy to browse around or search if you prefer. After finding an application, click the check box next to it then click the Apply button. You can see a description about the package as well.

The software management tool in Fusion is not quite as nice as Linux Mint’s or the Ubuntu Software Center. But let’s not forget that Fusion is based on Fedora so this is to be expected. Overall, it’s a fairly good experience though I would like to see user reviews and ratings added to the package manager at some point. It’s always nice to see what other people think of an application before installing it.

Software Management

Software Management

Software Updates

Software Updates

It’s also easy to update your system. Just click the updates icon on the panel and you can begin the process of updating your Fusion system.

Sound and Multimedia
As I noted at the beginning of the review, Fusion has support by default for flash, MP3 and DivX playback. So there’s no need for you to install anything to enjoy video on the web. I had no problems running YouTube videos on my Fusion system. They all looked and sounded great.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Well pardon me while I gush for a moment. I was very happy indeed to see the default selection of multimedia applications in Fusion. There are about 17 applications included by default including some of my favorites: VLC, Pitivi Video Editor, Cheese, GNOME MPlayer, HandBrake, etc. My guess is that multimedia mavens will be quite happy with all of the apps included in Fusion. Of course if you need more you can get them from the multimedia section of the Package Manager.

Miro Internet TV

Miro Internet TV

Problems & Headaches
As I noted earlier, you see the nasty Fedora 14 wallpaper at times when logging in or seeing the desktop for the first time. I’d like to see that gone completely and the pretty black/space Fusion themed wallpaper replace it. Fusion needs its own brand identity. So I hope the developers get rid of the weird Fedora wallpaper altogether, it just looks out of place.

I was disappointed to see OpenOffice.org included as the default office suite rather than LibreOffice. Hopefully the Fusion developers will fix this in the next release and consign OpenOffice to oblivion.

Beyond that, I saw no overt problems with Fusion. It was quite reliable and seemed fairly speedy for me. None of my applications crashed and my system seemed quite stable. There’s not a whole lot to complain about with Fusion.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Fusion blog, forum, and mailing list.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I’m very happy that Fusion 14 has been released; it’s pretty much what I had always hoped Fedora could become. It adds significant value to the Fedora base and makes it much more in tune with the needs of a desktop user rather than a developer. I highly recommend that current Fedora users give Fusion a try. My guess is that a significant percentage of them will at least consider switching to Fusion.

Fusion is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Fusion 14
Web Site: http://fusionlinux.org
Price: Free
Pros: Takes Fedora to another level; multimedia ready; includes Mint Menu; great selection of software including desktop games; customized theme; welcome configuration script.
Cons: OpenOffice.org is still the default office suite; ugly default Fedora wallpaper appears in certain places.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced users.
Rating: 4/5

 

Fedora 14 KDE

In my last look at Fedora 14, I covered the GNOME version. Fedora comes in other flavors though, including a KDE version. Since there are many KDE users out there, I thought it wise to cover the KDE release. Please note that I’ve skipped doing a video review for this release, but you can watch the review for the GNOME version though.

KDE has been updated to version 4.5 in this release. See the KDE 4.5 release announcement. If you aren’t familiar with what it has to offer desktop users.

Here’s a brief sample of what KDE 4.5 has to offer on the desktop:

Notification area cleanup
KWin upgrade
Plasma Activity Manager
Better Workspace controls

Live CD Desktop

Live CD Desktop

Utilities

Utilities

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Spice – Spice aims to provide a complete open source solution for interaction with virtualized desktops and provides high-quality remote access to QEMU virtual machines.

Mobility options – This release includes software from the MeeGo™ project which is designed to support platforms such as netbooks, nettops, and various embedded devices.

Amazon EC2 – For the first time since Fedora 8, Fedora will release on the EC2 cloud.

D Compiler – Support for D, a systems programming language. Its focus is on combining the power and high performance of C and C++ with the programmer productivity of modern languages like Ruby and Python.

Some other features include:
Updating Perl to version 5.12, Python to version 2.7, Boost to version 1.44, Netbeans to version 6.9, KDE to version 4.5, Eclipse to the Helios Release, and Sugar to version 0.90.

As with the GNOME version, most of this stuff is geared toward administrators or programmers rather than average desktop users.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

Processor and memory requirements for x86 Architectures

The following CPU specifications are stated in terms of Intel processors. Other processors, such as those from AMD, Cyrix, and VIA that are compatible with and equivalent to the following Intel processors, may also be used with Fedora. Fedora 14 requires an Intel Pentium Pro or better processor, and is optimized for i686 and later processors.

Recommended for text-mode: 200 MHz Pentium Pro or better

Recommended for graphical: 400 MHz Pentium Pro or better
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Processor and memory requirements for x86_64 architectures
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Hard disk space requirements for all architectures
The complete packages can occupy over 9 GB of disk space. Final size is entirely determined by the installing spin and the packages selected during installation. Additional disk space is required during installation to support the installation environment. This additional disk space corresponds to the size of /Fedora/base/stage2.img (on Installation Disc 1) plus the size of the files in /var/lib/rpm on the installed system.

In practical terms, additional space requirements may range from as little as 90 MiB for a minimal installation to as much as an additional 175 MiB for a larger installation.

Additional space is also required for any user data, and at least 5% free space should be maintained for proper system operation.

Installation
The Fedora installer is the same for the KDE version as it is for the GNOME version. It’s easy and it doesn’t take long.

The thing that irritates me about is that the actual install doesn’t include setting up the user account, so there are a few more screens to go through after the install finishes and you reboot. This is a minor thing but it would be nice if the installer had all of the steps included in it.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Booting & Login
Here’s what the login screen looks like. It has the same weird looking wallpaper as the desktop.

Login

Login

The Desktop
Here’s a screenshot of the Fedora 14 KDE desktop. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, a KDE 4.5 desktop with Fedora customizations.

Desktop

Desktop

It uses the default KDE sliding menus. If you don’t like those menus, just right click the F (kicker) button on the panel and you can switch them to Classic easily enough. I generally use the classic mode since the sliding menus annoy me.

KDE Menu

KDE Menu

 

Classic KDE Menu

Themes
If you don’t like the default theme, go into System Settings and choose Workspace Appearance then Desktop Theme. Click the Get New Themes button to browse through a large selection of alternative desktop themes.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
The Fedora 14 KDE desktop has the same odd-looking wallpaper as the GNOME version. I really don’t know what to make of it; it sort of reminds me of Krypton for some reason (the home planet of Superman). I’m not sure why but it has that kryptonian space type thing going for it.

If you don’t like it just right click your desktop and choose Desktop Settings then click on Wallpaper then Get New Wallpapers. There are plenty of cool ones to choose from and most are much better than the odd default wallpaper.

Desktop Settings

Desktop Settings

Admin Tools

Here’s a peek at the system settings menu, which gives you everything you need to manage your system.

Admin

Admin

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
KMahjongg
KPatience
KMines

Graphics
KSnapshot
Gwenview
KolourPaint
Okular

Internet
Akregator
Blogilo
KMail
KNode
Konqueror
Konversation
Kopete

Multimedia
Dragon Player
JuK
KMix
KsCD

Office
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
KPresenter
KSpread
KTimeTracker
KWord

As you can tell, this distro is definitely KDE all the way in terms of its software. You won’t find OpenOffice.org, for example in the office applications menu. But you can still add it and lots of other software via Fedora 14’s software manager.

Software Management
Fedora 14 KDE uses KPackageKit as its software manager. KPackageKit has gotten a lot better recently; it’s not too far behind the Ubuntu Software Center or even Linux Mint’s Software Manager.

Applications are broken down into categories, and you can search as well. There’s plenty of software available in KPackageKit, you shouldn’t have trouble finding applications to cover most desktop needs. You can also get your software updates through KPackageKit.

Software Manager

Software Manager

Software Updates

Software Updates

KPackageKit Settings

KPackageKit Settings

Installed Software

Installed Software

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very easy to add or remove software. Just find the package you want to add and click the Install button then Apply. If you want to remove an application, click the Installed Packages tab and find it. Then click the Remove button then the Apply button.

You can also opt to have KPackageKit check for updates (daily, hourly, weekly, monthly or not at all) and install them automatically if you want.

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash is not included by default, so you’ll have to install it yourself in Konqueror if you want to run YouTube videos, etc.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
As I noted earlier, you get four multimedia applications with this release: Dragon Player, JuK, KMix and KsCD. That’s not exactly an overwhelming selection, but you can find 268 more packages available in KPackagKit. So chances are that you’ll find additional applications that will fill all of your multimedia needs.

Dragon

Dragon

Problems & Headaches
My experience with Fedora 14 KDE was very positive. I didn’t run into performance issues or application crashes while running it.

The most irritating thing to me is that it defaults to Konqueror as its browser instead of Firefox or Chromium. This is a very subjective thing, obviously, but it seems to me that the days of Konqueror being used as the default browser in any distro are pretty much over and done with. It just doesn’t make sense to default to it when there are clearly better choices available. I don’t want to harp on this too much though since it’s very easy to grab Firefox from KPackageKit and use it instead of Konqueror.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Fedora community page and the Fedora help page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Fedora 14 KDE is well suited for experienced users who prefer the KDE desktop environment. The Fedora developers have done a good job blending Fedora’s tools and features with KDE. So there’s a lot of value here if you are a KDE user.

However, as with the GNOME version of Fedora, this distro is probably not well suited for beginners or casual desktop users. If you aren’t sure about whether or not Fedora 14 KDE is for you, I’d say give it a download and check it out. It never hurts to experiment with a new distro to see what it’s all about and if it matches your desktop computing needs. My experience with Fedora 14 KDE was pretty good, all things considered.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: Fedora 14 KDE
Web Site: http://fedoraproject.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Comes with KDE 4.5; good selection of software.
Cons: Install routine is a bit odd and could use a tweak or two; software management is good but not quite as good as Linux Mint’s or the Ubuntu Software Center.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced Linux users, particularly those who prefer or require the KDE desktop.
Summary: Fedora 14 KDE is a good choice for experienced Linux users that prefer the KDE desktop environment.
Rating: 3.5/5

 

Fedora 14

With the release of Ubuntu 10.10 recently, it’s been Ubuntu overload recently in Linux land. Thankfully, another heavy weight distro has weighed in with an update: Fedora 14.

Fedora 14 has wisely decided to stick with GNOME, unlike the next version of Ubuntu (which promises to use the Unity interface on the desktop). Fedora 14 is also available in KDE, LXDE and XFCE versions. For this review, I used the GNOME version.

Live CD Desktop

Live CD Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Spice – Spice aims to provide a complete open source solution for interaction with virtualized desktops and provides high-quality remote access to QEMU virtual machines.

Mobility options – This release includes software from the MeeGo™ project which is designed to support platforms such as netbooks, nettops, and various embedded devices.

Amazon EC2 – For the first time since Fedora 8, Fedora will release on the EC2 cloud.

D Compiler – Support for D, a systems programming language. Its focus is on combining the power and high performance of C and C++ with the programmer productivity of modern languages like Ruby and Python.

Some other features include:
Updating Perl to version 5.12, Python to version 2.7, Boost to version 1.44, Netbeans to version 6.9, KDE to version 4.5, Eclipse to the Helios Release, and Sugar to version 0.90.

As you can tell, there’s not much of significance here for desktop users. Most of these new features probably appeal to administrators or developers more than your average desktop user.

Fonts

Fonts

Updates

Updates

Hardware Requirements & Installation
Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

Processor and memory requirements for x86 Architectures

The following CPU specifications are stated in terms of Intel processors. Other processors, such as those from AMD, Cyrix, and VIA that are compatible with and equivalent to the following Intel processors, may also be used with Fedora. Fedora 14 requires an Intel Pentium Pro or better processor, and is optimized for i686 and later processors.

Recommended for text-mode: 200 MHz Pentium Pro or better

Recommended for graphical: 400 MHz Pentium Pro or better
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Processor and memory requirements for x86_64 architectures
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Hard disk space requirements for all architectures
The complete packages can occupy over 9 GB of disk space. Final size is entirely determined by the installing spin and the packages selected during installation. Additional disk space is required during installation to support the installation environment. This additional disk space corresponds to the size of /Fedora/base/stage2.img (on Installation Disc 1) plus the size of the files in /var/lib/rpm on the installed system.

In practical terms, additional space requirements may range from as little as 90 MiB for a minimal installation to as much as an additional 175 MiB for a larger installation.

Additional space is also required for any user data, and at least 5% free space should be maintained for proper system operation.

Installation
The ISO file I downloaded for this review weighed in at about 719 MB. Fedora 14 is a Live CD distro; so you can try it without having to install it. Just pop the CD in, boot into it and then begin using the Fedora 14 Live CD desktop.

The install is relatively easy though still not as slick as that of Ubuntu. One weird part of it is that you don’t set up your user ID until the second part of it. I’m not sure why it has been set up this way but it’s a bit strange to create the root password but then have to wait to create the actual user account. I would like to see the Fedora developers take a look at Ubuntu’s installer and steal ideas from it; it’s much simpler and intuitive.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Install 12

Install 12

Install 13

Install 13

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot

Boot

Login

Login

The Desktop
The Fedora 14 desktop had four icons on it when I loaded it up: Computer, Jim’s Home, Trash and the Fedora 14 CD. Otherwise, the desktop is uncluttered.

The default wallpaper is the first thing I really noticed though, it’s rather weird. The wallpaper looks like you are staring down into some sort of blue chasm, with lightning flickering around it. I give it points for being creative, but it is a bit on the odd side. Were the Fedora developers sipping some beer or smoking something when it was developed? I’m not sure, and I doubt we’ll ever know the details of how it was created.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
If the default Fedora 14 theme doesn’t appeal to you, there are 7 other choices available. Right-click your desktop and choose the Theme tab to browse around. More themes are available online from the GNOME Art site.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
If the default wallpaper doesn’t float your boat, right click your desktop and you can easily change the wallpaper. As with themes, more choices are available online and in the wallpaper menu.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Overall, Fedora 14’s desktop is quite good. It’s solid and very easy to use, even if you’re a total newbie to the distro.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release. The selection is fair but not overwhelming; most common computing tasks are covered. However, I suspect that most folks will want to spend some time browsing Fedora’s software manager to find some additional options.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
lagno
Mines
Sudoku

Graphics
Shotwell Photo Manager
Simple Scan

Internet
Empathy IM
Firefox
Remote Desktop Viewer
Transmission

Multimedia
Audio CD Extractor
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player

Office
Evolution
Project Management

Software Management
The software manager for Fedora still lags behind that of Ubuntu or Linux Mint, but it is usable and should meet the needs of most users.

Software Manager

Software Manager

Software Repositories
If you click the System menu, you can access the Software Sources menu. The Fedora 14 category is checked by default, as is the updates category. The third checkbox is for test updates and you probably should not bother checking it. It’s best to wait for final updates. There’s no other option in the Add/Remove Software tool to add other repositories.

Software Sources

Software Sources

Adding & Removing Software
Adding or removing software is quite easy. Find the application you want to install or remove, then click the checkbox then click the Apply button. Your software will then added or removed.

Add or Remove Software

Add or Remove Software

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash is not installed by default, so you will have install it yourself if you want to play YouTube videos, etc. in Firefox.

YouTube

YouTube

Flash

Flash

Multimedia Applications
Fedora 14 comes with Brasero, Movie Player, Rhythymbox Music Player, Cheese Webcam and an Audio CD Extractor. The Pitivi Video Editor is not included nor are there any codecs for playing DVDs, etc. (for obvious legal reasons). So if you want to do certain multimedia functions, you will need to download some additional software either from the Add/Remove Software tool or from some other source.

Rythymbox

Rythymbox

Problems & Headaches
The lack of OpenOffice.org is somewhat shocking, there is no real office suite included at all. However, it is easy enough to download via the software manager. I’m not sure why a project management application was included rather than some sort of basic word processor or office suite. Abiword, at the very least, ought to have been included.

The software management tool itself needs a drastic overhaul. It comes across as somewhat primitive and ugly compared to the Ubuntu Software Center or Linux Mint’s excellent Software Manager. Users should be able to see screenshots of applications, and should be able to rate and review applications.

It’s also disappointing that flash, for example, was not included in the Add/Remove software tool. I had to get it from Adobe’s site. This is a small thing, perhaps, but potentially annoying to some users. I’d like to see the software selection in Fedora 14’s Add/Remove Software tool to be a bit more desktop-friendly. Perhaps a “featured” category that focuses on desktop applications would be helpful in a future release.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Fedora help page, and the Fedora community page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Fedora 14 is a good, solid distro but it lags behind some other distros when it comes to the desktop. It comes across as something a bit more suited to programmers or other advanced users. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be used for a desktop OS by most users, but there’s less desktop polish and ease here than in some other distros. The software stuff I mentioned above is a good example of that.

I’d really like to see the Fedora developers concentrate on tweaking the install program and the software management in a future release. Fedora 14 gives me the feeling that it’s almost…but not quite…ready for general desktop users. The developers just need to press onward and make some additions and changes that will move this distro into the top heap of desktop distros. It’s almost there but a bit more remains to be done.

Despite that, I am a fan of Fedora 14. It’s certainly worth a download if you are curious about it.

I recommend Fedora 14 for intermediate and advanced Linux users. Beginners can certainly install it, but it’s just a tad bit less desktop-friendly for them than Linux Mint, generic Ubuntu and some of the other desktop distros out there.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: Fedora 14
Web Site: http://fedoraproject.org
Price: Free
Pros: Solid desktop; relatively easy to install; stable and reasonably fast.
Cons: Software manager needs to be updated to match the Ubuntu Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager. Installer needs to be tweaked just a bit to be more intuitive.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Fedora 14 remains a solid choice for those with prior Linux experience. Newbies would be better off with a more consumer-oriented distribution.
Rating: 3.5/5

 

Fedora 13

Well it’s often been said that “it never rains but it pours” and that seems very true about distro releases in the last two weeks. Fedora 13 has just been released. Fedora 13 follows hot on the heels of Ubuntu Linux 10.04. So how does it match up? Is it worth using? Read on to find out.

What’s New In This Release
Desktop users have some interesting new features to enjoy. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find:

Automatic print driver install
Automatic language packs install
Package kit integration
NetworkManager improvements
Free and open source nouveau driver for NVidia video cards
Shotwell replaces Gthumb and F-Spot for photos
Pino social media client included
Deja Dup backup tool
Simple Scan
GNOME color manager
GNOME 2.30
Nautilus enhancements
Gnote enhancements
Rhythmbox support for iPod Touch and iPhone music
Abiword removed from default live image

I’ll cover the removal of Abiword in the problems section; suffice to say I wasn’t pleased with the near complete lack of bundled office software in this release.

Automatic Printer Driver Installation
If you plug in a supported USB printer, Fedora will automatically install the appropriate driver for it. This feature should make life easier for Fedora desktop users. I hate messing around with printer drivers, so anything that makes it easier and faster is welcome indeed.

Pino Social Media Client
I’m happy to see that Pino is now included in the Fedora 13 desktop, but it’s too limited. Gwibber connects to more social media services than Pino. Pino appears to be limited to Twitter and Identi.ca. I’m not sure why the Fedora developers went with Pino instead of Gwibber. Let me know in the comments if you know anything about why they made that decision. I’m not knocking Pino; it’s okay for what it is. But why not go with something that connects to more services?

Pino lets you connect to your Twitter account.

Package Kit Integration
I’m not a big user of Brasero but if you are, you’ll be pleased to find out that Brasero can now automatically install codecs needed to burn audio CDs. File-roller can also now automatically install the necessary items to handle archive formats.

Brasero can now automatically add codecs for burning audio CDs.

GNOME Color Manager
If you need accuracy in color then you’re going to love the fact that Fedora 13 includes the GNOME Color Manager. You can install, manage and generate color profiles for your Fedora 13 system. I have no particular use for this but it will be quite useful for artists and others who require it.

You can install, manage and generate color profiles.

Shotwell
As if it’s not bad enough that GIMP is being displaced by F-Spot in a lot of distros, now F-Spot itself is being displaced by Shotwell in Fedora 13. Shocking! Just kidding.

Frankly, this doesn’t matter to me a bit since I don’t have much use for either of them. GIMP is available via the Add/Remove Software tool so that’s the first thing I’d download for image editing, rather than bothering with Shotwell or F-Spot.

Shotwell works well enough though for a basic photo manager. You can import photos, organize events, use tags, publish photos to Facebook/Picasa/Flickr, reduce red-eye, and rotate/mirror/crop photos. It will probably meet the photo management needs of most desktop users.

Shotwell replaces F-Spot as Fedora 13’s photo manager.

Free Nouveau Driver for NVidia
This release builds on Fedora 12’s experimental support for ATI cards. This time around Fedora is supporting 3D via the free, open source nouveau driver for Nvidia cards.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run Fedora 13:

Processor and memory requirements for x86 Architectures
Recommended for text-mode: 200 MHz Pentium Pro or better
Recommended for graphical: 400 MHz Pentium Pro or better
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Processor and memory requirements for x86_64 architectures
Minimum RAM for text-mode: 256 MiB
Minimum RAM for graphical: 384 MiB
Recommended RAM for graphical: 512 MiB

Hard disk space requirements for all architectures
The complete packages can occupy over 9 GB of disk space. Final size is entirely determined by the installing spin and the packages selected during installation. Additional disk space is required during installation to support the installation environment. This additional disk space corresponds to the size of /Fedora/base/stage2.img (on Installation Disc 1) plus the size of the files in /var/lib/rpm on the installed system.

Installation
Installing Fedora 13 is no more difficult than installing any of the Ubuntus.

Note that after you finish the basic install, you’ll need to reboot and then set up your user accounts, date/time, etc. I’d really rather do these tasks during the actual install, instead of having to do it after the reboot. Since the install asks you for a root password at one point, I’m not sure why you don’t also set up your user account on the same screen.

The screenshots below walk you through the install process and show you the additional screens you’ll see right after you reboot.

Booting & the Desktop

Bootsplash
There doesn’t seem to be much of a Fedora 13 bootsplash screen. There’s just a black screen, with a blue/white bar at the bottom and the words “Fedora 13” in text.

Login Screen
The login screen features the pretty but unremarkable Fedora 13 wallpaper. You can configure your universal access preferences from the login screen (on-screen keyboard, screen magnifier, enhanced contrast, larger text, etc.).

The Fedora 13 login screen.

What passes as a bootsplash screen in Fedora.

The Desktop
Fedora 13’s desktop is uncluttered, with icons for Trash, Home and Computer available. Fedora 13 uses GNOME 2.3 for its desktop environment (yes, a KDE version is available but that’s for another review). Applications, Places and System menus all contain the usual content. The rest of the icons on the panel include Firefox, Evolution, GNote, Updates, Pino, Volume, Networking, and the date/time.

The Fedora 13 desktop.

Themes
The default theme is Custom. Clearlooks, Crux, Fedora, Glider and others are available. You can also go online to get more themes via the link on the Theme menu.

Wallpaper
The default wallpaper is attractive, if a bit unremarkable. It seems to fit in with Fedora’s image as a stolid distro, without a lot of flash. However, there are other attractive backgrounds available in the Appearance Preferences menu that brighten up Fedora 13 considerably. More backgrounds are available online.

The default Fedora wallpaper is a bit bland compared to the others that are available.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
lagno
Mines
Sudoku

Graphics
Shotwell Photo Manager
Simple Scan

Internet
Pino
Firefox
Empathy IM
Transmission
Remote Desktop Viewer

Multimedia
Audio CD Extractor
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player

Office
Evolution Mail and Calendar
Project Management

Software Management
The Add/Remove software tool in Fedora (Package Manager for GNOME) is actually quite usable. I like it better than Synaptic for sure though it’s not quite as slick as the Ubuntu Software Center. I think I like the interface of Fedora 13’s software management tool better than Ubuntu’s, however. I find it easier to navigate with the application categories in the left pane of the interface rather than navigating up or down in one pane. Your mileage may vary, however.

Software Repositories
There doesn’t seem to be a way to add your own repositories to Fedora 13. The Software Sources menu in the Add/Remove Software tool gives you some additional choices, but it lacks the ability to add new repositories. This isn’t too big of a deal since there’s a lot of software available anyway. But some folks might not appreciate not being able to add other repositories.

Adding & Removing Software
Adding or removing software is easy. Find the application you want to add or remove, then either check or uncheck the box next to it in the Add/Remove Software tool. Then click Apply and your changes will take effect.

Use the add/remove software tool to manage your Fedora 13 software.

Update your Fedora 13 system.

YouTube & Flash

Flash wasn’t installed by default, nor could I find it in the Add/Remove Software tool. I had to go to the Adobe site to download and install it. After the install, I had no problems running YouTube videos. The sound was fine too.

DVDs
For legal reasons the software necessary to play DVDs isn’t included with Fedora 13. You’ll need to download and install it.

After installing flash, YouTube videos played in Firefox.

Problems & Headaches
As I’ve noted in previous reviews, it would be nice if flash were installed by default. Not having it installed and not having it in the Add/Remove Software tool just means more work for the user. I’m not a big fan of flash, but it is still the de facto video standard for now. So I’d like to see it installed by default in Firefox, at least until HTML5 displaces it.

I was also surprised to note that the only two office applications included with Fedora 13 are Evolution and a project management application. Huh? What about OpenOffice.org? Abiword? Neither of them is included by default in Fedora 13.

You can download them from the Add/Remove Software tool. But that requires more work on the user’s part (assuming they aren’t newbies, and actually know where to look), there should be something available for a user to use right after installing Fedora 13.

Word processing is something that almost all users need to do, so you’d think that something would have been included for it. Perhaps an OpenOffice.org installer link could be put into the office applications menu? That might make it easier and faster for those who are new to Fedora.

As I noted earlier, there seems to be no way to add your own software sources to Fedora 13. I’m not sure how many people would want to do this but it’s something to bear in mind if you prefer to have that kind of control.

Where To Get Help

Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Fedora help page. The help page contains links for IRC, email, forum support, and written documentation.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I have mixed feelings about Fedora 13. I can’t help but feel that it’s a bit of an also-ran distro these days. It works well enough but there’s nothing in it that really distinguishes it as a desktop distro versus its competitors (Ubuntu, SimplyMEPIS, etc.). I keep wanting to really like Fedora 13 and to be passionate about it, but it leaves me sort of cold for some reason.

Still, there’s no denying that it might have significant value for some desktop users. I’d recommend Fedora 13 for beginner, intermediate and advanced users. Beginners may get more out of Ubuntu or one of its derivatives (Linux Mint 9 springs to mind) though, with less effort on their part.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: Fedora 13
Web Site: http://fedoraproject.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Easy install. Pino social media client included. Automatic printing & language pack installation. Free and open source Nvidia driver included.
Cons: Almost no office software installed by default. OpenOffice.org and Abiword are available via the Add/Remove Software tool but must be installed by the user. Pino social media client only supports two social networking sites.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: Fedora 13 adds social media to the desktop, the GNOME Color Manager and numerous other updates and enhancements. It’s definitely worth an upgrade if you’re currently using Fedora 12.
Rating: 3.5/5

 

Fedora Linux 12

Some desktop Linux distributions are perennial favorites and Fedora is definitely one of them. Fedora’s slogan is “freedom, friends, features, first” and, while some may consider it rather cheesy, it’s a nice sentiment.

The latest release of Fedora is version 12 and it includes some nifty new features. I downloaded the Live CD version of Fedora 12 that features the Gnome desktop environment.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of some of what’s new in this release:

Updated version of Grub with ext4 support
Faster boot time
Spanning desktop across dual monitors
Better webcam support
ABRT (automatic bug reporting tool)
Gnome 2.28
KDE 4.3
Empathy replaces Pidgin for IM
Epiphany uses WebKit instead of Gecko
Ogg Theora 1.1
NetworkManager enhancements
PackageKit command line software install enhancements
RPMs use XZ for compression instead of gzip (smaller downloads)

For most desktop users the faster boot time, better software compression, Gnome 2.28 and KDE 4.3 will probably be the main reasons to upgrade to this release. Some of the other new features may come in handy though, depending on your individual needs.

I don’t run multiple monitors nor do I do much with webcams so neither of those features is useful to me. Nor do I install software from the command line so the enhancements to PackageKit don’t hold much appeal for me. Still, there’s nothing to really complain about as far as new features go. There’s probably more than enough here to make it worthwhile to upgrade.

fedoradesktop

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of hardware requirements necessary to install Fedora:

The following CPU specifications are stated in terms of Intel processors. Other processors, such as those from AMD, Cyrix, and VIA that are compatible with and equivalent to the following Intel processors, may also be used with Fedora. Fedora 12 requires an Intel Pentium Pro or better processor, and is optimized for i686 and later processors.

  • Recommended for text-mode: 200 MHz Pentium Pro or better
  • Recommended for graphical: 400 MHz Pentium Pro or better
  • Minimum RAM for text-mode: 128 MiB
  • Minimum RAM for graphical: 192 MiB
  • Recommended RAM for graphical: 256 MiB
The complete packages can occupy over 9 GB of disk space. Final size is entirely determined by the type os release being installed and the packages selected during installation.

The Fedora 12 installer was fast. Very, very fast! It took about 4 minutes for it to install from the Live CD desktop. I think it’s probably the fastest installer I’ve seen recently on any Linux distro.

The install itself was easy and I had no problems with it. Kudos to the Fedora folks for speeding up the install in such a big way. I had expected a much slower and rather chunky experience from Fedora 12 but I was pleasantly surprised to note how fast the install went.

If you opt to install Fedora 12 be sure to post in the comments and let me know how quickly it installs on your system. I’m curious to know if my experience will be typical for most Fedora 12 users. Thanks in advance to all who share their install times.

Desktop & Apps
The Fedora desktop is somewhat bland looking in comparison to distros like moonOS. It has the usual blue wallpaper, etc. You aren’t going to be dazzled by how the Fedora desktop looks but that can always be changed. Functionality and features matter far more than aesthetics to most people and Fedora’s desktop is easy to navigate. The default set of icons consists of the usual:

Computer
Jim’s Home Folder
Trash

So you don’t have to worry about a zillion icons scattered everywhere. Fedora doesn’t have a cluttered default desktop.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
Mines
Same GNOME
Sudoku
lagno

Graphics
gThumb Image Viewer

Internet
Firefox
Empathy IM Client
Transmission
Remote Desktop Viewer

Multimedia
Audio CD Extractor
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player

Office
Abiword
Evolution Mail and Calendar

Adding & Removing Software
Fedora 12 comes with a good tool for adding and removing software. However, I had an initial issue with the time it took to refresh the package list (more about this in the problems section) after I started it.

For the most part it reminds me of the Ubuntu Software Center in some respects. The categories are well organized and it’s easy to find the packages you want to install onto your system. Overall, I give it a thumbs up.

addremovesoftware

Sound and Multimedia
I popped in my usual test DVD (the old Superman cartoons) and noticed that it didn’t play. I got an error message when I tried to open the movie player. Youtube videos also did not play by default as Flash was not installed in Firefox. If you do a search for Flash in the Add/Remove software tool you will find a number of different options for adding it to your Fedora 12 system.

Problems & Headaches
I was somewhat surprised not to find GIMP or OpenOffice.org available as part of the default installation. When I looked under the Office section of apps neither was present. Both are pretty much a must-have on a desktop version of Linux like Fedora 12 and their absence was glaring, to say the least.

When I started the Add/Remove software tool to find these apps and install them, it took about 15 seconds for tool to refresh the package lists. There was a visual cue that told me that it was starting but no progress bar or anything like that. I found this to be somewhat disconcerting as I expected to click on a category and see packages available without having to refresh the list or do anything else. I wasn’t sure if I was seeing some kind of bug or malfunction until packages finally started to appear in each category.

After the package list refreshed, I found OpenOffice.org and GIMP and installed both of them. I liked the fact that OpenOffice.org was broken down into each app, I opted to install the word processor part of it and skip the rest.

Beyond that and the multimedia issues I noted above, I didn’t find too much in the way of problems with Fedora 12. For the most part this seems to be a pretty polished release.

dvdproblem


Where To Get Help

You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Fedora forum, mailing list and documentation.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Fedora 12 is a nicely polished release and I put it at the top of my best desktop Linux distros. It provides a good alternative to Ubuntu and some of the other common desktop distributions. It’s definitely worth trying as a Live CD at the very least.

I feel comfortable recommending Fedora 12 for anybody looking for a good desktop distro, including newbies to Linux.

Summary Table:

Product: Fedora 12 Linux
Web Site: http://fedoraproject.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Fast install, better webcam support, KDE & Gnome updates, and a faster boot time.
Cons: Doesn’t include OpenOffice.org or GIMP by default.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced desktop Linux users.
Summary: This release includes a faster install, updates to KDE and Gnome, faster boot time, update to Grub with ext4 support, and better webcam support.
Rating: 4/5

 

Vixta Linux 2009.7

A lot of Windows users have considered switching to Linux and usually when they do switch it means getting used to a whole new look and feel on their desktop computers. Usually it involves picking Gnome or KDE or perhaps one of the light-weight window managers for their desktop environment.

But what happens when Linux is made to look like Windows? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Vixta is essentially a remaster of Fedora designed to look somewhat like Windows Vista. Yup, Windows Vista. Some would, perhaps, argue that it’s insanity for a Linux distribution to try to mimic what might very well be Microsoft’s greatest Windows failure (well after Windows ME) but others would argue that it might help Windows Vista users switch to Linux.

Before I get into this review let me be blunt in saying that I never liked Windows Vista all that much. I used it for a while after it’s initial release and it left me quite cold. However, I built a computer for a friend of mine and put it on that box for her and she loves it. She’s still using it and has no complaints. Your mileage may vary but Windows Vista has never been viewed very positively by me.

The Vixta Linux desktop is, for the most part, a blend of KDE and Windows Vista.

The Vixta Linux desktop is, for the most part, a blend of KDE and Windows Vista.

So how does this Fedora-based version of Linux fare? Is it worth checking out? Read on and find out.

What’s New In This Release
Based on the info available on SourceForge about this disto, here’s what seems to be new:

Kernel 2.6.29
Google Gadgets
GIMP 2.6
KDE 4.2
Firefox 3.5.1
OpenOffice.org 3.1
VLC 1.0 Media Player

That’s about it as far as I can tell that might be new.

Requirements & Installation
I was unable to locate exact system requirements for Vixta. So I suggest you proceed as if you were installing Fedora (which is what Vixta is based on anyway).

Vixta is a Live CD distro so you can check it out without having to actually install it. It takes quite a while for the Vixta desktop to load up when you first boot into it. At one point I gave up on VMWare and switched to Parallels instead because it was taking too long for the Live CD desktop to load. I finally got into the Vixta desktop and started to install it. But then it seemd to hang so I switched over to VirtualBox.

Unfortunately it seemed to hang in VirtualBox too so I ultimately gave up on that after waiting more than 15 minutes for it to finish loading. So I went back to Parallels and reset my virtual machine there. After that I didn’t bother trying to install it again so this review is based on the Live CD version of Vixta.

Unfortunately my install hung in Parallels and I was not able to get Vixta installed.

Unfortunately my install hung in Parallels and I was not able to get Vixta installed.

I’m not sure what the problem is with Vixta since Fedora doesn’t seem to take that long to load a Live CD desktop nor does it have the install problems that Vixta seems to have. Anyway, be aware you might run into some install burps if you try to put Vixta on your computer. It’s possible that these were VM problems but most other distros install quite well in VMWare, Parallels or VirtualBox so I’m suspicious of Vixta.

Desktop & Apps
As you already know by now Vixta is made to look like Windows Vista. But it seems that the resemblance is more or less skin deep since Vixta is really KDE. When you go to move around in the Vixta interface you’ll see the familiar KDE “sliding” menus (which I still can’t stand…ugh).

Here’s a sample of what you’ll find in terms of apps on the Vixta Live CD:

Graphics
Okular Document Viewer
Gwenview Image Viewer
Kolour Paint
Ksnapshot Screen Capture

Internet
Firefox
Konqueror
Skype

Multimedia
VLC Media Player
Cheese Webcam Booth
Leitor Multimedia

Office
OpenOffice.org (Spreadsheet, Word Processor and Presentation)

Problems & Headaches
GIMP is supposed to be included according to the Vixta SourceForge site but I couldn’t find it anywhere in the Live CD desktop. It’s possible that it’s included when you install Vixta but since I was not able to get my install to finish I’m just not sure about that.

Overall I was not impressed with the software selection included with the Live CD. Again, it might have been better after a full install to the hard disk but what I saw on the Live CD seemed quite skimpy to me.

But what about running Windows programs? You’d think that a distribution like Vixta that is designed to look like Windows Vista would run at least some Windows programs easily right? Well you’d be wrong as there’s nothing included in Vixta to facilitate running Windows programs. So Windows Vista users seeking to switch to Linux and to keep running their Windows programs are not necessarily going to find Vixta to a be a big help to them.

Although it has the color of Windows Vista, the Vixta app menu is pure KDE.

Although it has the color of Windows Vista, the Vixta app menu is pure KDE.

There doesn’t seem to be any desktop games included with Vixta either. A bit of a letdown for those who like to while away a few minutes here and there playing them.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Vixta forum on SourceForge.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Vixta probably appeals to a very small audience for the most part. Those who genuinely like the Windows Vista look and feel will probably enjoy Vixta to one degree or another. Distro hoppers will also have fun playing with it. But beyond that there really isn’t much here that lends itself to me recommending it for use as a daily desktop operating system. Most people will be much better off with regular Fedora or with one of the many other distributions out there.

Windows users looking to switch to Linux would be much better off with Linux Mint as their starting distro insead of Vixta. While Linux Mint may lack the Vista-like look and feel of Vixta, it’s far easier to install and will provide a superior overall experience.

Still, Vixta has its place as – at the very least – an interesting curiousity. I suspect that whatever interest there is in it will fade quickly once Windows 7 arrives and Windows Vista is relegated to the dustbin of computing history.

Summary Table:

Product: Vixta Linux
Web Site: http://xange.serdigital.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Resembles the interface of Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system. Based on Fedora.
Cons: Very slow install. Doesn’t offer any way to run Windows programs. Adds little value to the desktop experience beyond mimicking Windows Vista.
Suitable For: Distro hoppers mainly. Windows users new to Linux would be better served by starting out with Linux Mint instead of Vixta.
Summary: Vixta is an interesting curiosity that will amuse distro hoppers for a few minutes.
Rating: 2.0/5

Fedora 11 (Gnome)

It’s been ages since I last did a review of Fedora. I had planned to do one of Fedora 11 at ExtremeTech but I couldn’t get the beta to install properly in VMWare (my preferred tool for doing Linux distro reviews). Fortunately the final release is in much better shape and I was able to finally do this review.

Please note that this is the Gnome version of Fedora 11. I will be taking a separate look at the version that uses KDE later on. As you may have noticed from some of my ET reviews, I have always tended to be more of a Gnome person than KDE. Nothing wrong with KDE, it’s quite nice. But for some reason I always leaned in the direction of Gnome.

The Fedora developers are continuing in the Four Foundations tradition:

Freedom represents dedication to free software and content. We believe that advancing software and content freedom is a  central goal for the Fedora Project, and that we should accomplish that goal through the use of the software and content we promote. By including free alternatives to proprietary code and content, we can improve the overall state of free and open source software and content, and limit the effects of  proprietary or patent encumbered code on the Project.

Friends represents the strength of our community. The Fedora community is made up of people from all walks of life, working together to advance free software. There is a place in Fedora for anyone who wants to help, regardless of technical skill level, as long as they believe in our core values.

Features represents our commitment to excellence. The Fedora community creates many of the technical features that have made Linux powerful, flexible, and usable for a wide spectrum of  millions of users, administrators, and developers worldwide.

First represents our commitment to innovation. We are not content to let others do all the heavy lifting on our behalf; we provide the latest in stable and robust, useful, and powerful free software in our Fedora distribution.

The Fedora 11 Desktop

Fedora 11’s desktop is clean and uncluttered (albeit a bit bland).

New Features in Fedora 11
There’s quite a bit of new features in this release, more than I can list here but here’s a small sampling of new stuff you’ll find in Fedora 11:

20 Second Start Up
Anaconda Storage Rewrite
Automatic Fonts & Mime Installer
ext4 Default File System
Fingerprint Reader Support
Firefox 3.5
Gnome 2.26
NewTexUI Installer for Anaconda
Improved Power Management
Python 2.6
Synaptic Update
Better Volume Control
Xfce4.6

You can check out a full list of new features here.

Installation
Since Fedora 11 is a Live CD you get the option of running it without installing it. Booting into the Live CD posed no problems and I soon had my installation going in VMWare. The installation took just a few minutes. After it finished I had to add my user name, etc. and then I was able to login to my Fedora 11 desktop.

This release seems very fast to me. When I played with the beta it was just god-awful slow. If I had to characterize this release in terms of boot performance for the Live CD, I’d say it’s much quicker than before. And thank goodness. I detest slow-loading distributions that waste my time when I’m writing a review.

After booting into my installed desktop, I noticed the performance was still very good. The Fedora developers really seemed to have cleaned up the slowness of previous versions. At one point I’d more or less written off Fedora as it seemed just way too chunky and slow but those days appear to be over.

How to add OpenOffice.org to your Fedora 11 system.

How to add OpenOffice.org to your Fedora 11 system.

Desktop & Apps
Booting into my Fedora 11 desktop was quite pleasant and, as I noted above, fast. The desktop is uncluttered and the default wallpaper is attractive enough albeit rather bland in comparison to what you get with the satanic version of Ubuntu.

If there is a weak area in Fedora then it is with the number of apps included with it by default. Now I’m a bit of a hypocrite here because in the past, in other reviews, I’ve complained about “app overload” where a developers pack in huge numbers of apps and bloat up a distribution unnecessarily.

However, Fedora has gone in the other direction and, frankly, ought to offer more apps installed by default. Here is a list of most of what you’ll find broken down my menu section:

Accessories
Archive Manager
Calculator
Character Map
Indic Onscreen Keyboard
Screenshot
Text Editor
Thesauraus

Graphics
GIMP
gThumb Viewer

Internet
Firefox Web Browser
IM Client
Transmission

Office
AbiWord
Dictionary
Evolution

Programming
OpenJDK Policy Tool

Sound and Video
Audio CD Extractor
Brasero Disc Burner
Chese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player
Sound Recorder

There are some system tools available as well but, other than that, this is about what you get with Fedora. OpenOffice.org is missing (which I very much disagree with, it should be in all distributions by default) as are many other useful programs.

The problem, of course, is where do you draw the line with what’s included by default? I really don’t know and that’s one reason why I like the idea of letting users pick the packages they want during the installation process. For some reason this seems to be the exception and not the rule and, frankly, I find it disappointing.

Fortunately it’s quite easy to add additional software via the Add/Remove Software tool. However, this really should not be necessary in the case of must-have applications like OpenOffice.org. Adding apps like that ends up wasting the user’s time and it really should be included by default.

Fedora 11 includes the Firefox 3.5 beta.

Fedora 11 includes the Firefox 3.5 beta.

Problems & Headaches
My gripes about the lack of bundled software aside, I really didn’t have any significant headaches with Fedora 11. As I’ve said before, I rather hate when that happens because it doesn’t give me much to talk about in this section. Well boohoo for me, I guess. Heh.

Who Should Use It?
In the past Fedora would not have scored particularly high on my recommendation list for desktop distros for casual Linux users. With this release I no longer have that hesitation.

I would certainly place this on the same level as any of the Ubuntus in terms of ease of use when it comes to installation as well as speedy performance. Ditto with PCLinuxOS and others. A newbie to Linux could and should consider Fedora for his or her desktop distro of choice. It really has improved that much.

Final Thoughts
What a pleasant surprise to find Fedora 11 in such good shape. Frankly, I had expected it to be as it was before. But the developers of Fedora have done a truly good job in making it better and that deserves to be recognized. In short, this is not your father’s Fedora. If you haven’t tried it yet, go grab a copy and check it out. It’s well worth a download.

Summary Table:

Product: Fedora 11 (Gnome)
Web Site: http://fedoraproject.org
Price: Free
Pros: Much faster than previous versions. Boot time is 20 seconds or so and desktop performance is delightful.
Cons: Lacks some useful applications such as OpenOffice.org that should have been installed by default.
Summary: An excellent upgrade to a previously chunky and slow Linux distribution. I give Fedora 11 a big thumbs up. Check it out.
Rating: 3.5/5