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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

AisleRiot Solitaire

Shotwell Photo Manager
Simple Scan

Empathy IM
Remote Desktop Viewer

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

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.

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