Greetings everyone. Believe it or not, I’m going to attempt my first Linux distro review. First, allow me to say that I have only been using Linux for about 5 months, so I’m a comparative newbie to many in the Linux world. I don’t make presumptions to know everything. With that in mind, this review is not geared toward the Linux veteran, but for people who have more curiosity than experience with Linux.
First some hardware specs:
Motherboard: MSI “865 Neo2-PFS (Platinum Edition)” i865PE Chipset
Processor: Intel Celeron 2.0GHz (Yes I know it’s lame. I care not.)
Video Card: ATI Radeon 9500 Pro
RAM: 1024MB Kingston PC2700
Sound Card: Soundblaster Live 5.1
Hard Disks: 120GB WD “Special Edition” IDE; 40GB Seagate IDE
Optical Drives: Lite-on DVD-ROM; Sony CD-RW
Mouse: Logitech MX300 (USB)
My brief experience with Linux so far centers mainly around Fedora Core 1. Naturally, I was excited to try FC2 (Tettnang). I downloaded the 4GB DVD iso using BitTorrent, and burned it on my Mac. From there, I did a clean install of FC2. The slick, python-based Anaconda installer is very similar to FC1, and in my opinion is easier than a Windows XP install. I chose a slightly modified “Desktop” install, which took roughly 20 minutes to complete on my system. The installer correctly identified ALL of my hardware, and upon first boot I had full networking, sound, and video. My 3-button mouse had full functionality as well. The only problem is that I do not yet have full 3D-acceleration. FC2 has dropped XFree86 in favor of X.org, and as far as I know ATI has not yet released a driver that will support X.org. If I’m wrong, let me know.
Grub is the default bootloader for FC2, and during the installation it correctly identified that I also had a Windows installation and allowed me to painlessly set up a dual-boot. Somewhat humorously, it labeled the Windows partition as “Other”, but it was simple to relabel it using the “Edit” button.
Some highlights of FC2 include kernel 2.6.5, Gnome 2.6, KDE 3.2.2, Mozilla 1.6, and the GIMP 2.0. The default desktop is Gnome, which is fine with me. If you’ve never used it, Gnome 2.6 takes some getting used to. To explain, Nautilus, the file manager, is now “spatial”, focusing more on drag & drop and productivity. In a nutshell, each folder opens a new window, and files open in their respective applications rather than opening within the file manager. At first, I disliked this “spatial” UI, citing that it felt too much like Mac OS 9/Win95 for me. But, it is slowly growing on me. The best part is that switching back to the older “browser-styled” navigation scheme is easy. Simply fire up GConf (Fedora -> System Tools -> Configuration Editor) and browse to /apps/nautilus/preferences. Now check “always_use_browser”. Voila, you are now back to the old style. /* If you had any windows open, you may have to re-log in to Gnome for the changes to take effect. Also, you can fire up GConf at the terminal by typing $ gconf-editor */
One of the first things I do on any Linux install is add my user name to the /etc/sudoers file. It’s a good idea to do this, because then you can execute the sudo command to make changes outside your home directory instead of running as root in the terminal. Coming from an OS X background, this makes sense to me. Fire up your favorite editor (nano in my case) and proceed as follows:
[enter your root password]
# nano -w /etc/sudoers
[now under "User privilege specification", you should see root ALL=(ALL) ALL. In my case I'll add brian ALL=(ALL) ALL. Substitute your user name for mine.]
[press ctrl+x to exit nano]
[press y then enter to save changes]
[EDIT] Since posting this review, I have since learned that adding your username to the etc/sudoers file is a controversial security risk. Perhaps a better way is to investigate ‘visudo.’
Now when you execute a command that requires root privileges, simply add sudo in front of it and give it your user password instead of the root password.
There are at least three ways to update software packages on FC2. The obvious one is up2date, which notifies you of updated packages by changing the blue check in the bottom right of the “tray” into a red exclamation mark. A less obvious, but more powerful method of updating is through yum. Open a terminal, and type:
$ sudo yum update
[enter your user password]
$ sudo yum upgrade
Voila, your system is up to date. You should also be aware that a port of Debian’s apt is also available for Fedora. One of the first things I do on a Fedora install is download and install apt.
Download the rpm, and install it with:
$ sudo rpm -Uvh apt-[package-name].rpm
Once it’s installed, type:
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install synaptic
Synaptic is a GUI frontend for apt that makes installing software a cinch. Both yum and apt automatically handle dependencies, helping to eliminate the dreaded “RPM Hell.” From what I’ve read, up2date is slowly being phased out in favor of yum or apt.
For legal reasons, FC2 doesn’t come with built-in MP3 support. However, this is easily remedied with synaptic (Fedora -> System Tools -> Synaptic Package Manager). Or type:
$ sudo synaptic
Use synaptic to browse the available packages, and install xmms-mp3 as seen in the picture. You now have mp3 support.
I like to use my computer as an FTP server,so I set one up using vsftpd. I’ve had no crashes or stability problems. One of my biggest pet peeves about FC1 was that I would occasionally have to activate my NIC (eth0) manually after a reboot. I’m pleased to say that I have not had that problem with FC2.
Positives: FC2 is a stable, reliable, professional distro that will only improve in coming months. There’s a plethora of help available on the web, and it’s easy to find support because it’s one of the more popular distros. I appreciate having the power of apt/synaptic available as well. FC2 feels noticeably faster than FC1, due in part to the nature of the 2.6 kernel. I’ve tried a lot of Linux distros, and for some reason I keep coming back to Fedora. Perhaps I’m just partial to the Bluecurve theme.
Negatives: FC2 does not have as much out of the box support and user-friendliness as other distros, such as Mandrake 10 Official. One has to do more installing and configuring of extra packages, such as the Flash player, and obtaining mp3/java support/3D acceleration. Thankfully, none of this is too difficult. Like its predecessors, FC2 is still only optimized for i386. Perhaps I’m out of line here, but who still uses 386s? More importantly, who would attempt to run kernel 2.6 and the latest KDE/Gnome on a 386? Even though FC2 is noticeably faster than FC1, I would really like to see FC2 optimized for at least i586!
Habibbijan’s recommendation and rating:
FC2 is a fine workhorse of a distro that won’t appeal too much to the Arch/Gentoo/Slackware crowd, but is stable and flexible nonetheless. However, unless you enjoy growing pains, wait a month or two to allow it to mature a bit before installing it. 8.5 out of 10.