Distro Review: Fedora 12

The Default Desktop

The Default Desktop

Today I’d like to talk about my experiences with Fedora 12 over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been running it as my main desktop and really getting a feel for how it ticks. Fedora is the community release from corporate Linux giants Red Hat. I’ve used it on and off since its inception back in the early 2000′s, it’s fair to say there have been big highs and lows in that time. I considered Fedora 11 a definite high though, and I was interested to see how this release would stack up.

Vital Stats:
Distro Base – Red Hat
Packaging – RPM (Managed by YUM)
Kernel – 2.6.31.6-162.fc12.i686
Default Desktop – Gnome 2.28 (KDE4.3 LiveCD Also Available)

Installation:

Plymouth Bootloader

Plymouth Bootloader

I began by downloading the standard Gnome LiveCD. I noticed they were heavily promoting the KDE4 version at the Fedora stand during Linux Tag in Berlin, but the Gnome edition still seems the most established to me. I booted it up and was greeted by the rather funky looking Plymouth bootloader. Plymouth is a Red Hat/Fedora development, it’s been in use for a couple of previous Fedora releases and it’s quickly becoming dominant in the Linux bootloader world; even Ubuntu recently announced they will use it in their next release, despite initial resistance. For some reason the live session was a very slow to boot, taking about 10 minutes in total and I have no idea why. Booting from a CD is always slower than a hard drive of course, but not usually by this much. Once the desktop was loaded it was quick and responsive, so I thought no more of it. The stock Red Hat installer – known as Anaconda – is very polished, it’s been refined over many years. It takes you through all the usual steps you’d expect, choosing keyboard layout, language and time zone; before moving to setting up disk partitions. I always choose to configure my disk partitions manually with any distro. I keep my home folder with all files and settings on its own /home parition you see. I use about 12gb for the system root (/) and another 4gb as swap space. This allows me to hop between distros quite happily without losing data. I back it up to external drives as well though of course, I can’t emphasize the importance of that enough. There’s no such thing as too many backups, so be warned.

Anaconda Partitioning

Anaconda Partitioning

I found the partitioning tool in Anaconda easy to use and understand, a bit more so than DrakeX which I recently used in Mandriva. A personal thing perhaps. In no time I was ready to confirm the install and copy the files onto my disk. I set it on its way and sat back to watch, yeah my life is just that exciting. It took about 15 minutes to complete this process but didn’t automatically eject the disc at the end or offer a button to reboot, you have to do this manually. I was pleased to see the boot process go a lot quicker this time off the hard disk. This isn’t the end of the install process though. Next you’re prompted to accept the license, set up user accounts and more. I’ve talked about these 2 stage installers before and while I don’t have a major problem with them, I do think it’s better to just gather all the information in one go and perform the install. I entered all the relevant information and completed the set up pretty quickly, the whole install taking about 25 minutes in total including reboots, which is respectable. I could now set about customizing the system. That turned out to be a long and drawn out process, I would soon discover.

FULL INSTALLATION SLIDE SHOW

My 3D Graphics Troubles:

Nvidia Settings Tool

Nvidia Settings Tool

I don’t normally devote a whole section of a review to just setting up graphics drivers, but unfortunately in this case it’s warranted. It was a huge part of my F12 experience. I should start this off by saying that it could all be the fault of Nvidia and their evil corporate ways, but I find that a little hard to believe. I know I’ll get tons of comments from people saying “that’s what you get for having an Nvidia card” or “If the drivers were Open Source this wouldn’t be a problem”, I agree, it probably wouldn’t. But that doesn’t change the facts. Installing proprietary Nvidia drivers on Fedora 12 is about as much fun as trying to remove your own tattoos with sandpaper. By default F12 detects that you have an Nvidia graphics card and enables the open source Nouveaux drivers. That’s all well and good, I would happily use the Nouveau drivers over the freedom hating offering any time, if it wasn’t for one slight problem. They don’t support 3D graphics properly yet! Fedora doesn’t ship with any proprietary software by default, much the same as OpenSUSE and some other distributions. I understand the legal reasons for that and I have no problem with it, provided access to this software is easy enough for those who chose to opt in. I looked up a few different guides to installing the Nvidia drivers and ended up doing this 3 times, even having to reinstall the whole system twice. I installed the RPM Fusion repositories, a 3rd party service that contains all the software Red Hat can’t or won’t distribute. This part is really easy. Honestly, dead simple and I have no complaints. You simply go to the RPM Fusion website and click on a couple of package links, this downloads and installs the repositories via RPM package files. Couldn’t be easier. Things were about to get a lot more messy though.

Fedora12_29

Compiz Error

You have to stop the Nouveau driver from grabbing your video card at boot up. It attempts to do this to show the funky graphics in the Plymouth bootloader and blocks the binary Nvidia drivers. Changing some options in your grub.conf file prevents this. Not something I’m averse to, I’ve hacked many a config file in my time but this solution didn’t work for me. Most guides tell you to put “nouveau.modeset=0″ in the kernel options. The first time I tried this I didn’t backup the old grub.conf file and the blame for this lies squarely at my feet, see my earlier comments on backups. I installed the Nvidia drivers with YUM as instructed, modified GRUB and rebooted. The Plymouth screen changed but the new drivers weren’t in use. I still had no 3D acceleration. I used the nvidia-xconfig tool to enable them in my xorg.conf and restarted the X server. This was a disastrous move as I ended up with a load of strange coloured lines on the screen and no display at all. I couldn’t event switch to run level 3 using CTRL+ALT+F2 and login. Booting up from the LiveCD again I attempted to salvage things by mounting the home partition. I found the grub.conf file but even after restoring this to its former state it didn’t fix things. I tried reinstalling GRUB on the partition with a few terminal commands but it was all to no avail, I had to reinstall everything. I won’t go into another long winded story but I tried this whole process again a second time, making a backup of grub.conf but as it turned out that didn’t help. I was able to switch into a terminal with CTRL+ALT+F2 but restoring the old config file and removing the binary Nvidia packages with YUM got me nowhere. Onto install number 3 then, third time lucky. I was reluctant to break the system again so left a comment on the blog where I’d seen the guide. The author Rob Stewart was fantastic and couldn’t have been more helpful. He told me to try using “rdblacklist=nouveau” instead of the original kernel option. I crossed my fingers (and toes) and tried again. To my massive relief, it worked. I saw an Nvidia splash screen at boot up and I was finally using the correct drivers. At this point I’d like to say I rode off into the sunset with my fully working F12 install and we lived happily ever after, but that’s not the end of the story.

Compiz Finally Working

Compiz Finally Working

I tried to enable 3D desktop effects with the built in tool but it kept failing. There wasn’t any useful error information but I searched online for some help anyway. I decided to try starting Compiz from a terminal and troubleshoot it like that. From the error messages it seemed the default GUI tool wasn’t using a “–replace” command to replace my window manager when starting Compiz. I tried a modified command and thankfully it worked, my window borders were replaced and I finally had 3D effects. I modified /usr/bin/compiz-gtk to store the new command, once I’d done that the little 3D graphics wizard began to work as it should have in the first place. An oversight in development? I’m not sure. This was all very time consuming, painful and a little disappointing. In Fedora 11 I’d just installed the Nvidia drivers with YUM, clicked a button and enabled 3D effects. I don’t know what went wrong here, but this process really needs to be improved if Fedora 12 wants to be a good option on the home desktop. Perhaps that’s not the goal though. There are some good guides to setting up F12 from start to finish online and I’d recommend following one of these, you may well need it.

Settling In:

Package Kit

Package Kit

Like Fedora 11 this release comes with the Package Kit GUI for managing software on your system. It searches quickly and does the job, but for my money it’s not quite as feature full as other tools yet. I actually prefer Yumex as an alternative GUI for the YUM package manager, the Fedora equivalent of Apt-Get on Debian based systems. Back in Fedora 8 I had some real problems with YUM locking up on me, but I haven’t seen that in years and I’m a big fan of it now. Adding new repositories and getting access to a wider range of packages is pretty easy. The RPM Fusion repos I discussed earlier are a must for anyone wanting to use their system for media playback. If you double click on a file the system can’t play it will prompt you to install the codecs automatically, which is great. You have to ensure you have the appropriate repos set up so you can do this, but after that it’s easy enough. One slight improvement would be a meta package to install all the evil codecs in one fell swoop, you have to hunt around a bit for individual packages sometimes. I don’t suppose this is something the Fedora Project would do themselves for legal reasons, RPM Fusion would have to do it. I had to configure sudo to allow my user to perform root actions. Some distros do this for you automatically, but opinions on whether this is actually a good thing are divided. I had to install Nano to edit the sudoers config file which seemed odd. I thought every system came with Nano (a terminal text editor) these days. I also had to install wget and a few other core utilities I would expect to just be there. It didn’t take long but it all added to the setup process.

Chromium Browser

Chromium Browser

After the mammoth task of getting my video drivers working I was also able to install Avant Window Navigator and move the toolbars around. I reconfigured the desktop layout and also installed Pidgin, Audacity (more on that in a minute), Easytag, VLC, Deluge, gPodder, Gwibber, Chromium (from the Google repo), GIMP, Bluefish, WINE and more. I was pleased to see that Spotify worked well with WINE first time. No audio problems or lag. The Pulse Audio implementation on F12 is really good, it should be I suppose as they’ve had it longer than any other distro but credit is still due. Fedora advocates always point to the fact that it often has new innovations before other distros. The developers work really hard on this and I think they see themselves as trail blazers in a way. They push a lot of their work back upstream and that’s how it ends up in so many other distributions. That’s something they really should be commended for. A good example is the Pulse Audio mixer, which I first saw in Fedora 11. I then heard from many people what a great new development it was 6 months later when it turned up in Ubuntu. This is not a dig at the Ubuntu developers who also do great work, but to me Fedora feels closer to the upstream projects.

The Audacity Of It:

Audacity 1.3.9

Audacity 1.3.9

I used Fedora 12 to do my daily work for well over a week. Part of that involved editing podcasts, for which I normally use Audacity. I installed Audacity from the repos and was pleased to see that it was version 1.3.9, this has vastly improved compressors to earlier versions. I found however that it couldn’t import mp3 files as it hadn’t been compiled for this task. Again, there is a legal/ideological reason behind this. Mp3 is a patent encumbered format. I removed this version and installed the “freeworld” package from RPM Fusion, but this turned out to be Audacity 1.3.7 and the compressors just weren’t up to the job. For the record, Ogg Vorbis sounds far better and I prefer it to Mp3, but the podcasts I produce require Mp3 versions too that’s just a fact of life. I decided to stick with 1.3.9 and convert any mp3 files I needed to import beforehand manually. I used mpeg123 for this. Oddly Audacity would export to Mp3 through LAME, just not import. It caused some extra work but didn’t add too much time to my jobs. I then wanted to use Easytag to tag the finished podcast files as I normally do. This wouldn’t open mp3 files either, cue a double facepalm moment. What use is an ID3 tagging program without support for mp3 I ask you? I was a bit wound up I admit and I let off some steam about this on Identi.ca, where people kindly offered some solutions. There’s a fixed version of Easytag package in the testing repositories for Fedora 12, you have to enable them and install it from there. After that it did work and I realise my use case isn’t normal, but that doesn’t help when I’m seemingly fighting the system just to get some work done.

Conclusions:

Ease Of Use: 2/5
Speed: 4/5
Stability: 3/5
Community Support & Documentation: 4/5
Features: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

More Errors

More Errors

Overall I found Fedora 12 a little disappointing but perhaps that’s because I liked Fedora 11 so much. I’ve only given 2/5 for ease of use because of all the hassle involved in setting up video drivers, terminal utilities and other things. I know some people won’t like that, but for me the real work was only half done once the installer completed, maybe even less than half. I accept the blame for any problems caused by my own mistakes, but I feel it could be a lot easier to use. I’ve given 4/5 for speed because I found the system really snappy. Boot time was also very quick and I liked that. I’m giving stability 3/5 which is average because while I found the system pretty solid, I did get some application crashes frequently. Fedora has something of a reputation for being unstable at times and I don’t know if that’s entirely fair. There were some rough edges but not massive show stoppers like the booting problems I experienced in OpenSUSE. An example would be the firewall tool which crashed every time I tried to launch it, but didn’t affect overall system stability. You can see this in some of the screen shots. On the up side it gave me an opportunity to test out the automatic bug reporting tool, which I liked a lot. It pops up in the notification area and enables you to quickly send reports to the Red Hat bugtracker, all powered by Bugzilla.

The Finished Desktop

The Finished Desktop

I’m giving community support and documentation 4/5 because I received some great help from many quarters. Not least on linuxsoftwareblog.com from author Rob. I’ve also found the Fedora developers to be very helpful and responsive. There’s plenty of tutorials, wiki’s and other resources to dig into. You’re certainly not alone. Features gets 4/5 as well, which might surprise some people given the preaching I did earlier about how innovative Fedora is. It does tend to have new features before other distros but I didn’t see too many in F12. I think this release may have been more about consolidation and fixing bugs from F11, which seemed to have more groundbreaking things in it. There’s still plenty of new toys with the latest versions of all the relevant software. Overall I’m giving 3/5 which is pretty average I’m afraid. I like Fedora and I like the people who make it, but the problems getting it set up detracted from the experience for me. Once I got everything working it was quite enjoyable to use and the closest thing I can compare it too is moving home, moving to somewhere with a lot of stairs to be precise. Once you get all your stuff transported up those stairs and in position it feels nice to be in the new place, but god it was an effort. This isn’t a bad release by any means and I think Fedora fans and experienced Linux users will like it. For the novice and less confident user though, I’d steer well clear. Some people get upset with me taking an end user approach to reviews, but that’s because I consider myself an end user and I think it’s important. If you have more compatible hardware you might find the set up goes a lot easier. Try it out for yourself and let me know how you get on in the comments. I’m still eager to see what Fedora 13 has in store, and the tag line for that has to be “Unlucky For Some”, just for all the bingo fans. Ok maybe not, it wouldn’t be a great tag line to promote your product under I guess. Meh.

Up Next:
I’ll be moving on to Linux Mint 8 very shortly. It’s been out over a week already but the releases have been so thick and fast lately I just haven’t had time to think. I’ll report back on that as soon as possible. After that I have a few other things to look at and you’re always welcome to suggest things to me. You’re also more than welcome to join me for more adventures along the way…

UPDATE: There is now a Belorussian translation of this article, thanks to Paul Bukhovko.

Distro Review: Fedora 12

About Dan

Hi I'm Dan, I'm the nutter who creates the content here and oversees things. You can read more about me on the biog page if you like. Thanks :)
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59 Responses to Distro Review: Fedora 12

  1. Kev Macphail says:

    Good review Dan, I had the same problems with the Nouveau driver, it took me 3 hours to get my NVIDIA 6800GT working. Nano was installed from the DVD, however the one item that I found a bit odd was the lack of the menu editor, I had to search for it with the package manager. So far I have found Fedora 12 a bit more stable than 11 for my machine, for the last few months FC11 was so unstable on my machine that I rolled back to FC10 (my favourite FC so far). Keep up the good work on the blog and the thoroughly excellent Linux Outlaws podcast, truly a great show.

    • Dan says:

      @Kev – Thanks for the comments. I still call it Fedora Core sometimes too but they actually dropped that name many years ago. It’s just been Fedora since version 8 or maybe earlier. I forget the exact number when it changed. I remember using the original Fedora Core back in 2003. I was really new to Linux back then but I managed to convince my boss at our Windows-only workplace we needed to be use Fedora and Apache for some jobs. Happy times :)

  2. Moggers87 says:

    If the NVidia drivers require nouveau to be disabled, shouldn’t it get disabled when by the package when it’s installed? Maybe someone should submit that bug to RPMFusion.

    Speaking of 3D, people who have an ATI r600 card (Radeon HD2600 etc) can try out some experimental 3D support by installing the “mesa-dri-drivers-experimental” package :) It allows me to play XMoto and ManiaDrive so I’m very happy with Fedora 12 :)

    • Dan says:

      @Moggers87 – The package would need to modify the grub config file, I suppose it may be an option though. I never saw this problem in F11, so they must have changed how things work at boot time. Glad you’re happy with Fedora 12, many people will be. I can see why they like it but it has it’s rough side too.

  3. KrGAce says:

    Good review, i have had the same problems with video drivers, but my question is, what makes any Linux pro (I am all for linux and open source) think that any “ex-Windows” user will put up with that. Want to know why M$ holds the market share, that’s a big part right there. Don’t have to deal with problems like this, and others.

    • Dan says:

      @KrGAce – I don’t think any “ex-Windows” user would be happy with that setup provess here, but I don’t think it’s fair to say this represents Linux as a whole. On Ubuntu and Linux Mint you’re prompted to install Nvidia drivers after install, it takes a couple of clicks. They were easy to install on OpenSUSE, and easiest of all was Mandriva where 3D effects just worked right from the LiveCD. Fedora has a different approach. I don’t think they see those users as their core audience, it’s more geared to developers and advanced users. That’s just my impression.

  4. bigbrovar says:

    Thanks for the great Review. :)

  5. JDHP says:

    I dont know why but i get that same feeling from every Fedora release. Its like, “Ok, its install so let me just do this… hey! what the?…. whats going on?” Its like that until you have the aha moment and then things are better. But its never smooth. It’s always like that…

    • Dan says:

      @JDHP – As I said in reply to KrGAce, I don’t think this is the aim. They concentrate more on other things than ease of use. That’s fair enough and I like that they’re not just blindly trying to follow Ubuntu. It’s a different mind set. Whether you like it or not is up to each user to decide.

  6. Gary says:

    Well it’s good to know you can get NVIDIA drivers working properly. I too fumbled around trying to do it and I had to reinstall twice. I finally gave up and am sticking with Fedora 11 for now and I might even not upgrade at all. As far as everything else goes, I was so P.O. I didn’t even get to try out anything on it. Maybe I should go back and try again and give it the old college try. I just haven’t decided yet.

    • Dan says:

      @Gary – That’s understandable. I was pretty fed up myself by the 3rd attempt, if that hadn’t worked that time I wouldn’t have bothered again. It does work though as I proved eventually :)

  7. Great users’ review; thanks for taking so much time and effort to write it. Sorry to hear about your troubles, I’ve been there! I’ve just a couple of points I’d like to make on other parts of the distro I feel are worth mentioning:

    I’m running F12 on a Samsung netbook as you know but it’s with the onboard Intel 9xx chip, thus the 3D effects are OOB. I couldn’t get them on F10 either — funny that F11 played nice, obviously missed the opportunity!

    I’m similarly in love with Plymouth! Did you see the full F logo effect, instead of just the little multicoloured bar? (I needed to append ‘vga=791′ to the GRUB line to make it understand I had a decent graphics mode available.) It’s on OSX style levels of gorgeousness :)

    I’m surprised the the revamped SELinux troubleshooter didn’t come up at some point, as you were doing a few system-level tweaks. I feel it’s cryptic messages would have made it in to the review.

    —–

    Sorry if I’m sounding a bit of a bastard, Dan, I’ve used Fedora since RH 7 so feel like it’s my home distro… plus I’ve only just gotten up :D I must commend you for writing as a user new to Fedora but Linux-competant would see it. It’s those impressions that count as too many people would write the problems off as #crap! Definitely not a distro for Linux newbs but I agree that for those more experienced it’s a good’un.

    • Dan says:

      @Ben – Nothing bastardly sounding in that comment mate, I understand. I know you’re a big Fedora and KDE fan, that’s great. I did neglect to talk about SELinux too much in the text but there’s a screenshot of the warning you mention in the slideshow. I was over 3600 words by the end of the first draft and I probably could have found more things to mention, but I decided that was enough. It’s tough to cram everything in, occasionally things slip through the net. I edited it down to nearer 3000, just trying to tighten things up and make it more readable.

      I did see the Fedora logo effect on Plymouth. It works now with the Nvidia drivers and it does look great I agree. I didn’t get a screenshot of that because I used VirtualBox to get the install screenshots. Not sure how I can grab a screenshot while the machine is booting, camera I guess. I’m glad F12 is working well on your sexy new netbook. It’s a nice machine and I think if you have Intel graphics you’d have a much smoother install with Fedora. My hardware could have caused some problems it’s true.

  8. klanger says:

    Dan, as always great review (well written)!

    There is one thing I just don’t understand – you always say that ogg format is better etc, but at linuxoutlaws.com it is not used as the default podcast format… why is that?

    mp3 file is at the main podcast site, ogg is hidden in a link… and in order to download it, you need to search for it – it is not a problem, but seems unlogical to me :)

    have a nice weekend!

  9. klanger says:

    oh, one more thing – does your blog use openid login?

  10. Fab says:

    klanger: On the Linux Outlaws site, the link to the Ogg and MP3 feeds are directly beside each other! I promote the MP3 as the main format because nearly 80% of our listeners listen that way. Ref.: http://linuxoutlaws.com/blog/2009/07/download-stats

    Like it or not, MP3 is still *WILDLY* more popular than Ogg.

    Dan: That Plymouth screen you show there is the fallback if you don’t have KMS. With KMS it looks much better and you have many more themes available.

    https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Features/KernelModesetting

    Here’s how it looks on my Intel-based machine:

    https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/File:Tours_Fedora11_006_Plymouth_Boot.png

    https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/File:Plymouth-charge.png

  11. Mike says:

    I think you mean ‘cue’, not ‘queue’ when writing about the double facepalm moment.

  12. Fab says:

    Also: I completely agree that not shipping nano or a similar editor by default is crap. Vim is great but not for adding -replace to *one* option in *one* file and it’s bad for newer users coming to the distro. Seriously, how big is the nano package? 10K? Seems like a weird elitist-motivated dev decision to me…

  13. Fab says:

    One last thing. About Easytag: As I told you on identi.ca, that was a bug. It was not intended behaviour by the Fedora devs. Just thought I’d point that out. ;)

    • Dan says:

      @fab – I get the Fedora logo effect in Plymouth once the Nvidia drivers are installed I just couldn’t get a screenshot of it, as I was explaining to Ben. It looks very nice. It also showed up on the initial LiveCD install with the Nouveau driver, it just doesn’t seem to support Compiz yet. Once it does I’ll be very happy :) I have no idea why Nano isn’t on either of the LiveCDs, I’m told it’s on the DVD though. I don’t see how it can take up much space, it’s called Nano for a reason. I know the Easytag thing is a bug but it’s an annoying bug and I don’t see why the package hasn’t been moved into the main repo. I realise they have to test updates first but it’s obviously working and since they screwed up in the first place a working package in the default repos would be appreciated. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how you deal with them that matters. I think they could have done more in this case to rectify things. Most people don’t use Easytag and perhaps it’s not seen as a priority. I know my use case isn’t a standard one.

  14. @Mike
    @Dan

    Nope, you were right the first time:
    Queue:
    –verb (used with object)
    “8. to insert, or direct to come in, in a specific place in a musical or dramatic performance (usually fol. by in or into): to cue in a lighting effect. ”

    :-D

    Good review. This may be my January choice, since I have an ATI card.

  15. Oh. @Mike. I read what you said backwards. Good catch!

    • Dan says:

      @Mike @Dan – Thanks for pointing it out, it was very late at night by the time I finished the 3rd proof read and spell check. I’ll update it now :)

  16. Dylan C says:

    Nice review Dan… If I was writing a review I may just have given it roughly the same scores you did.

    Fedora users always say its great but I have to say this distro has practically no usability features which is a real disappointment.

    • Dan says:

      @Dylan – Thanks for reading. As I’ve said in replies to other comments, I don’t think Fedora is aimed at novice users at all. They expect you to know what you’re doing. Some people prefer this approach and they see other distros as “dumbed down”, personally I don’t agree with that. I don’t want to water down the power or flexibility of Linux but I don’t think we need to just to make it more usable.

  17. Pingback: Links 12/12/2009: More KDE 4.4 and SPICE | Boycott Novell

  18. smit says:

    Excellent, informative review.

    You mentioned both of the reasons that Fedora doesn’t make my short list of favorite distros. First is the emphasis of cutting edge over stability. Second is the extra hassle to use non-free software (mp3-disabled Audacity is an example).

    Fedora does a good job of achieving its goals, and thus should be commended. But its goals don’t coincide with mine.

    • Dan says:

      @smit – A lot of people feel that way. I think that’s why it’s so good that we have a flavour for everyone and freedom of choice in Linux :)

  19. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the F12 review. I was interested in your thoughts because I’ve running it on my MacBook for the last few weeks/months (can’t recall when I installed it.)

    I have been a fervent .deb style distro user, but F12 won me over. Starting from the plymouth startup with the F indicator in the middle, sound, video, and everything else worked/works except I haven’t figured out how to enable the apple/crap isight webcam.

    The only difference I have from you is that I run the KDE version, which is pure awesomeness!

    Thanks for the review, and keep’em coming.

    P.S. on LinuxOutlaws you and Fab were talking about the KDE SC name change. Even though you two didn’t like the change, I must admit that when running the KDE suite on my wife’s Windows XP computer (work laptop) it makes sense to call it a software compilation, as opposed to the desktop environment.

    • Dan says:

      @Erno – I can’t find the ASCII code to make your name show properly as you did, sorry for that. I’m glad F12 works well for you on the MacBook out of the box, but i must say I’m surprised to hear that. Don’t the Macs use Nvidia graphics cards and I thought you’d need to set up the drivers the same? Do the KDE4 desktop effects work with the Nouveau drivers? That would be really cool if they do. Not sure what you can do about the webcam but hopefully it can be fixed.

      As for the comments on KDE4 renaming. I think it’s a petty move, even if it is more descriptive. It sounds like something only a bureaucrat could come up with to me. Changing from a successful brand will only confuse people. I stand by my assertion on the show that people will still just call it “KDE” and not “KDE Software Compilation”, so I don’t see the point. They could be using that energy in better ways in my opinion. Thanks for reading and also listening to the show, I’m really glad if you enjoy them :)

  20. Moggers87 says:

    @Dan I was thinking more along the lines of blacklisting the kernel modules that are getting in the way and/or removing those modules from the initramfs image – the driver has to add its own modules to that file anyway. Of course, I have no idea how to implement these ideas :P

    I think Fedora 12 saw the Nouveau driver get KMS support and may have been the source of some of your issues. Binary drivers are always a problem at the beginning of a release as Fedora uses a fairly new kernel and ATI & NVidia always lag behind with new kernel (and even new Xorg) support.

    Oh and I forgot to say in my first comment:
    Good review :) I don’t really agree with you on some points, but a very good read.

  21. Dan says:

    @Moggers87 – It’s a good idea, it would be nice if RPM Fusion could do that. Once Nouveau is advanced enough to support Compiz I probably won’t worry about the Nvidia drivers. For now though I still find them useful, for dual monitor use as well as Compiz.

    Thanks for the compliment. I certainly wouldn’t expect everyone to agree with me. It would feel odd if they did. This is only my personal opinion I’m giving, no better or worse than anyone else’s.

  22. Tim says:

    It always interesting to me to see distro-reviews like this, because of how subjective, by necessity, they have to be.

    Fedora 11 was nothing BUT trouble for me on all the systems I attempted to put it on (home server, HTPC-type system, laptop, VM instance) and Fedora 12 has, largely, corrected all those issues on the systems I’ve tried so far (home server, VM instance).

    I always felt 11 was a low point for Fedora, and among the group I interacted with, the feeling seemed to be largely the same. The general buzz from each now is that 12 is working out a bit better. Fascinates me that for other people the experienced has been flipped around.

    Of course, it does call into question the general relevance of any such “review” as something that a person can apply to their own situation, but still the anecdotal nature of the review is still of some value, if for no other reason that to point out to people in similar circumstances the potential pitfalls they might encounter.

    Good luck with 13, I guess.

  23. Nobody Important says:

    I’ve been loving all over Fedora 12 since the release date. It’s so much more stable on my hardware than anything else I’ve ever used, and it fits that perfect balance to too easy and too hard.

    I can’t recall where I found the inustructions to get nVidia drivers working, but it took me ten minutes to install them, MP3 drivers, and all of the other software I wanted – no errors, crashes or jitters. I guess it varies. I spend a lot of time stripping Ubuntu of all the cruft that Fedora doesn’t bother with (yay!), so it all accounts to taste.

    Your review was fine and fair considering your issues, and I guess I’m just not happy when somebody doesn’t have the same smooth sailing I have had ever since I threw Fedora 12 on my machine. Ah, well, people and computers – random as can be.

    • Dan says:

      @Nobody Important – I’m really glad you’re enjoying F12 so much and it fits right for you. As I keep saying there’s something for everyone, and for many people that will be Fedora 12. It’s good that you got it all set up so quickly and I guess you were more lucky than I in the guides you found. Enjoy :)

  24. davemc says:

    Hey Dan. Interesting review. Your Nvidia driver woes are actually widespread across at least 2 different distros – Ubuntu and Fedora. I think the latest SUSE is also experiencing issues. I experienced similar issues on Kubuntu Karmic with a very high end card and to this day cant get anything but the 173 drivers working on it properly. The first issue actually is Nvidia’s fault – the nvidia-settings tool wont overwrite the default xorg.conf no matter what you do. The only solution is to delete the file and then save the modified xorg from the nvidia tool (as root user). This actually sounds to me from your descriptions above as part of what happened to you. The other part was Fedora’s attempt to ramrod users into only using free software – Nouvea in this case (they did the same thing with Pulse audio back in the day it pioneered). Two contributing factors – the Xorg version used and Grub2, also combined here to present you with one nasty nightmare of a problem to solve, although its strange that I never heard of anyone experiencing these issues when Archlinux did all their Xorg and Nvidia driver upgrades back in late August/Early September that Fedora is now using. This is the Fedora way though, and one either loves it or hates it. Fedora 10 was was indeed IMO the best release Fedora ever did before and after for stability, usability, and features. That was the release to recommend to the newbies.

    Btw, Fedora 6 was the last Fedora Core that I remember, and that was one fine release also (except for the dual boot nightmare issues it presented at launch).

    I dont remember if you did a review on Kubuntu Karmic or not, but that one actually trumps Ubuntu GNOME this time around, IMO. Its fantastic – extremely impressive for a KDE4 distro. That is, after you weed through all those Nvidia issues and fix the xorg.conf manually. After that, its a true credit to the KDE4 community and I rate it as the best KDE4 release this year – better than Mandriva 2010, which I also tried and had mostly the same issues, but could not fix them due to how heavily Mandriva has scripted their config tools to the core of the system; makes it very difficult to fix things when they fail. Mandriva also does not have a 64 bit ONE image – only 64 bit FREE images or the paid-for versions, so you have to set everything up yourself if you go the FREE route, including the drivers (causing all manner of nightmares as above).

    Oh and also, I agree with you guys that Microsoft patenting Sudo is not a big deal… yet…

    • Dan says:

      @Tim – The reviews are always going to be personal and subjective because I’m only relating my experiences. There are a lot of anecdotes involved yes. That’s my style and I’m glad you think it has “some” value. It’s interesting that you had the opposite experience to me. I found F11 worked better. I guess we are all going to have different experiences and that’s good.

    • Dan says:

      @davemc – Thanks for the thoughts. I’ve installed Ubuntu Karmic and OpenSUSE 11.2 on this machine recently without experiencing the same driver issues. In both cases I simply installed the packages, restarted the X server and saw the Nvidia splash. That’s not to say other distros are perfect and don’t have their own issues, I just haven’t seen this exact thing on others. The last time I had to use nvidia-xconfig or manually edit an xorg.conf file to make my drivers work in any major distro was probably 2006, maybe 2007 at a push. You’re right that Fedora are trying to push people to use Nouveau in some ways, I know why this is from a Free Software standpoint but some people don’t want to be bullied like that. I haven’t reviewed Kubuntu Karmic but I’ll try and make some time to give it a spin based on your recommendation. I was always told by my KDE friends that Kubuntu did a bad job with KDE and didn’t represent it fairly. They don’t seem to like Kubuntu much, I don’t know why. I’ll be interested to see if this is wrong. Thanks for the tip.

  25. isolier says:

    Dan,
    Good review but I am sorry it didn’t go as well for you as you would have liked. I downloaded the XFCE spin and have been very happy with it. I too had problems with my nVidia card. Luckily for me the first option I found was the rdblacklist=nouveau kernel option so one quick fix and I was up and running. I have been running Arch Linux for the last three years so a bit of text editing wasn’t a big deal. For future reference restoring the original grub.conf, uninstalling the conflicting drivers through the package manager and either restoring the original /etc/X11/xorg.conf or deleting that file altogether should get you back up and running in your DE without having to completely reinstall the system. The net install CD for Fedora makes a great system rescue cd for this sort of stuff as you are quickly at a console and mounting your hard disk is a command away. Anyhow I am loving Fedora 12, I wish your experience was as seamless. Thanks for the write up and the other good stuff you do on your blog and on Linux Outlaws!

    • Dan says:

      @isolier – I haven’t tried the XFCE spin but that does sound interesting. I resorted my old grub.conf and removed the Nvidia packages with YUM the second time, I also resorted my xorg.conf and I couldn’t get back into a working desktop. I couldn’t even switch to Run level 3 and do it in some cases as I mentioned. Perhaps I made a mistake somewhere but I’ve run Arch myself in the past and while I’m not and expert, I’m not new to the terminal either. Maybe just deleting the xorg.conf and letting it be rebuilt would have done it. I didn’t try that I admit. It probably could he been fixed somehow but even mounting the drive with a liveCD session as you describe didn’t do it for me. I like Fedora 12, but in this one area it really makes life harder than it should be I think. I suppose in comparison to Arch that’s a bit of a joke, because you have to do everything yourself there. It all depends what you want out of a system. For me this wasn’t quite it but that’s purely personal. As I keep saying, others will love it. Thanks for reading, and listening to the podcast too, that’s very cool :)

  26. Dan: I’m not sure where you found inaccurate instructions about enabling the NVIDIA driver; could you point me to them so I can ask their authors to revise them?

    The official RPM Fusion guide contains accurate information and, AFAIK, always has as long as it’s been up for F12:

    http://rpmfusion.org/Howto/nVidia#head-205aab6f190d363e3915c0fa2e0681fc392aaeb6

    I’m going to talk about two different ‘we’s’ in the upcoming paragraphs – just a note so no-one gets lost :)

    With my Red Hat / Fedora hat on: we (that is, RH/Fedora) will not compromise the functionality of Fedora for the benefit of proprietary code. This has nothing to do with a position of being friendly to end users or not, really – it’s about the free software philosophy. Fedora values free software. Improvements to free software will always trump accommodations of proprietary software. This is what happened here: KMS support was added to the nouveau driver, causing the nouveau kernel module to interfere with the NVIDIA one, unless it’s disabled. We won’t mess with the nouveau driver just to make the proprietary NVIDIA driver happy. SELinux’s policies were tightened to block some actions, because the Fedora-supported stack has progressed to the point where it’s safe to do this. The NVIDIA driver, however, still does something bad which SELinux blocks. We won’t relax SELinux’s policies (and thus its effectiveness) just to allow the proprietary NVIDIA driver to do something it shouldn’t do in the first place.

    With my RPM Fusion hat on: it’s our (Fusion’s) job to try and smooth off issues like the above and make installation of the drivers transparent. We’re still working on exactly what to do with the Fusion NVIDIA packages to make them work smoothly with F12; we need to address the kernel module and SELinux issues in as minimal and safe a way as possible. For now, we have the instructions that I linked to earlier available; following those shouldn’t be too hard and should get the drivers working in ten minutes or so.

    • Dan says:

      @Adam – Thanks for the information. The guide in question has already been updated after my dialogue with the author. I appreciate the 100% Free Software position of Fedora but it’s not always the easiest option for the ordinary person in the street to deal with. I talked to Paul Frields about this in Berlin. His explanation to me then was that Fedora doesn’t want to include anything that can’t be freely redistributed by the recipient downstream. I respect that, I work closely with the SFLC and promote that ethos wherever possible. However, my personal feeling is that this ideal is put ahead of user experience in some cases. We can agree to disagree on that. I realise there is always a fine line when it comes to these issues, where to compromise and where not to. I have apportioned blame on Nvidia for their binary driver policy and as I repeatedly say that in the text. I feel me representation is fair. I would prefer a free driver, right now though the problem is that this free driver isn’t worked well enough and I don’t think it should be pushed onto home users just for the sake of it. I like Red Hat as a company and I mentioned the amount they contribute back to other projects. They do operate in the corporate arena though and I don’t think the average Joe on his home computer is the focus, nor should it be. You may feel differently but I can tell you that most people don’t want to edit config files just to make their drivers work, even if it does only take ten minutes. I referenced that in the review and even defended my position of looking at this from an end user perspective. I hadn’t seen the guide you mentioned when i was doing this but I searched the Internet a lot and it didn’t come up in a prominent position. That’s not an excuse, I missed it, I accept that, but it is an observation. Perhaps the documentation could be more centralised or better publicised I don’t know. I’m not going to tell you how to do your business as I know you have a good record of support from other distros.

      On another note, I’m pleased to see you’ve fallen on your feet and been picked up by Red Hat. When I saw the name on the comment I did a quick bit of searching around online and I didn’t even realise you’d moved to Red Hat after Mandriva. We talked in support of you on the podcast and I also wrote about it. So even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything, I do appreciate your work, and the work of many other good people I know at Red Hat, I said that in the review. Keep it up :)

  27. For everyone having issues with the nVidia proprietary drivers the HowTo on the rpmfusion wiki may help you out.

    http://rpmfusion.org/Howto/nVidia

    Something that many users with ATI/AMD video cards may have noticed is that they had 3d support out of the gate without needing to install the terrible binary drivers from ATI. Fedora 12 is the first distro to deploy 3d support in the Open Source radeonhd drivers. It is still experimental but it does hint that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for high end 3d graphics without problematic binary only drivers.

    • Dan says:

      @Russell – Thanks for the information. Adam linked to that guide before but it’s definitely a good place to go. It’s great too hear that open drivers are working well on ATi cards now, I hope Nouveau has the same success. The fact that ATi published the specs for their cards has probably helped a lot, I don’t see Nvidia being so cooperative. I do wish Nouveau success in future and the day I have the same functionality and performance from an open driver will be a joyous one indeed. I think my next machine will have an Intel card for that reason.

  28. Arturi says:

    You know that autoten from Dangermouse can be quite a help when using Fedora.
    Fedora has the best aesthetics of all the distro around (tho I can’t understand why they dropped their signature Nodoka-look in F12), one can feel very enlightened when logging in in Fedora.

    One the other hand, Fedora can be quite pain in the x when the time calls for configuring things out.

    And the support cycle of 13 months just ain’t long enough. I feel very homey and comfortable when looking at Fedora, I can get around it using help-scripts like autoten, but I am wary that at one time it’ll going to surprise me in not so good way.

  29. Pingback: Weekly Rewind #43 | Adventures In Open Source

  30. JD says:

    I Had The Same issue! The Nvidia Drivers Busted My System! A Lovely Black screen with a blinking cursor , i didn’t feel like dealing with it because i have come to expect them to make there distro compatible with this industry standard freedom hating driver like Ubuntu , OpenSuse and everyone else seems to be able to do with no issues. I’m not sure what Fedora Did but wow they really screwed up! Also Installing mp3 codecs on my x64 Broke GStreamer That was the last straw for me. no 3D no Mp3 ? No Deal!
    I miss fedora 10 ! i hope #13 can deal with these issues as most will want to install these drivers so there system can work at it’s best!
    Anyway,Great Review Dan! Linux Outlaws Rocks!

    • Dan says:

      @JD – Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoy the show and the articles :) I think it’s bit harsh to say “they really screwed up”. I have sympathy with the Fedora position of wanting to have the latest and greatest Free Software on board. There have been cases though were this has broken many other things. I know that Fedora people would argue if having a newer Xorg in the distribution breaks Nvidia drivers it’s Nvidia’s fault for being too slow. There is some truth in that and I’m not here to defend companies releasing proprietary code, but we have to live in the real world. The world where people want to use their video cards. I’m not suggested we hold everything back while waiting for companies to catch up with their binary drivers, but there has to be something in the middle. My feeling is that if it’s a mainstream stable release of the Free Software and the proprietary company isn’t making software that works with it, it’s the proprietary developers fault. I support that view, they need to catch up. However, if it’s a beta or in some cases even alpha version of the Free Software compontent (as we see in Fedora at times), I don’t blame the proprietary company for not being up with it. It’s not even released yet! No case is black and white, it’s complicated, but sometimes people over complicate these things on purpose and it’s hard to keep supporting them.

  31. Martin says:

    Cool review Dan :)

    I suppose Arch review is on the way… xDD

    Best!

  32. Dan says:

    @Martin – I did Arch and Chakra Project reviews just a few months ago if you want to have a read :)

  33. ZBREAKER says:

    Dan, once again a nice insightful objective review for real world users. I installed and really wanted to like Fedora, but after the debacle of wrestling with Nvidia driver installation, gave up the the effort. It’s a shame that with my Slackware install (a distro with somewhat of a rep for being less than user friendly) all I have to do is download the driver then simply “sh NVIDIA..” and presto…3D acceleration. Guess I’ll wait for F13 and hope for the best.

  34. Dan says:

    @ZBREAKER – Thanks for reading

  35. ZBREAKER says:

    A late follow up. Tries installing F12 again (home with a fractured toe!) and followed an excellent Nvidia driver tut from the F forums…worked like a charm. Now to enjoy the distro…

  36. Husnain Rasheed says:

    Overall another nice release of Fedora!
    with some bug fixing and updates, a little bit change in interface!

    Hope best for new release in mid JunE!

  37. caviar says:

    Hi, I really liked this review. Of course as a Fedora user I was a bit disappointed that you were disappointed to Fedora 12.

    Normally after a RPMFusion you can do:
    ‘yum -y install gstreamer-plugins-* gstreamer-ffmpeg -x *devel*’ which makes all codecs to work.

    GNOME 2.30 has a PackageKit module so hopefully projects start to use it more; for example projects like Totem does install codecs automatically when needed. All software should do that.

    I really doubt that Fedora would make proprietary driver installation easier. In the end Fedora is all about open source and the thing that needed to be fixed is Nouveau driver if there’s problems with NVidia cards (of course no VDPAU is supported :( ).
    Proprietary ATI drivers didn’t work at all because of X.Org 7.5 and it seems that it still not supported (Catalyst 9.12) [1]

    But anyway … thanks for a really nice, constructive and well written review.

    [1] http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/linux/Pages/radeon_linux.aspx?type=2.4.1&product=2.4.1.3.36&lang=English

    • Dan says:

      @Caviar – No problem, thanks for reading. I like Fedora a lot and I think for a certain user base it’s perfect. That’s not gonna be people new to Linux but perhaps more advanced users and it’s good they can cater to those people. Nouveau are working hard and doing good stuff but I just don’t think they’re at the point where they can be considered a full replacement for the binary drivers yet. I understand why Fedora are pushing them, they’re Open Source and that’s a good thing. I hope they’ll catch up soon. Much of the work being done in Fedora filters down to other distros and that’s a great service to the whole community.

  38. Carbonbased says:

    Uh, good advise on the Nvidia drivers blacklisting.

    Putting in my GTS 250 was a breeze, once I knew how. Download the drivers at Nvidia, put in directory, drop out of X windows (I just went to Grub repair menu at boot). At the command line:

    1. telinit 3
    2. find you directory containing Nvidia driver
    3. sudo sh (type the 1st few unique letters, hit Tab key to auto complete the name–it’s loooong)
    4.follow the menus during driver install. Easy.

    This is the direct way. Beats depending on panels and someone’s guessing which driver is right for your card.

    Nvidia’s driver download site has easy drop down menus to guide you to your driver.

    Easy.

  39. Carbonbased says:

    Correction:

    3. sudo sh “filename” (type the 1st few unique letters, hit Tab key to auto complete the name–it’s loooong)

  40. Cavan says:

    I think fedora 12 is a great idea since i have 3 multi boot options 1 w-7 ubuntu and kubuntu

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