Category Archives: Operating Systems

Overarching category for OS’s

A Minty-Fresh Linux Distro

linuxmint.png

Recently I heard about a fairly new distro of Linux dubbed “Linux Mint.” It’s an Ubuntu-based derivative whose claim to fame is the inclusion of many “non-free” codecs and drivers. This adds convenience and reduces the hassle of post-install configuration. In a typical scenario, one installs a flavor of Linux and then spends time configuring package repositories to enable the playback of DVDs, MP3s, Flash plug-ins, and various other multimedia types. This inclusion of non-free software comes with varying degrees of ease (or difficulty!) depending on the disto in question. Continue reading A Minty-Fresh Linux Distro

Run Finale 2007 on Linux with WINE

Linux is a terrific, free operating system whose strength as a server has been proven for years. As a desktop system, Linux will easily suit the needs of people who need a general purpose machine for browsing the web, e-mail, playing music, chatting, typing papers, etc. Linux can easily perform these tasks with the ancillary benefit that the user does not have to worry about the virus and spyware issues that plague Microsoft Windows.

However, one major complaint about Linux is the lack of availability of specific major applications, especially those pertaining to professional video and audio production. Examples of such applications include Photoshop, Pro Tools, Final Cut, and Finale. By no means is this the fault of Linux. Unfortunately, it is a Catch-22 with the developers of these products: they don’t port their applications to Linux because the market is relatively small, and the market is relatively small because major applications such as these do not run natively on Linux.

Fortunately, there exists a project the goal of which is to bridge this gap: WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator). Essentially, WINE is a compatibility layer that allows a growing number of Windows software to run stably and successfully, without having Windows installed at all. While the ideal solution is to convince developers to port their applications, WINE is getting better and better in the meantime.

As a composer of concert music, the Finale software program is an essential tool for me. In this “how-to” article I will describe the steps needed to run Finale 2007 on Linux with WINE. Before we begin, let me make a few assumptions:

  • You are comfortable with installing Linux.
  • You actually have the Finale software available. Do not contact me asking for a copy of mine. Buy your own.
  • I make no guarantees as to your success following this tutorial. You may have good luck, or it may drink all of the soy nog in your refrigerator.
  • You understand that I am NOT a helpdesk. If you have trouble, feel free to comment below. I MAY be able to help you, and maybe not. Please do not e-mail me begging for help.

All set? Let’s get started.

1. Install Linux.

It goes without saying that you need to have a Linux distribution installed. You are on your own here, but I highly recommend the more popular distros, such as Ubuntu, SUSE, or Fedora. For the purpose of this article, I am using SUSE 10.2 64-bit edition. It is far beyond the scope of this article to explain how to install Linux. If you don’t know how to do that, then you are probably not bothering to read this far into the article. 🙂

2. Install and configure WINE.

Once Linux is running happily, you need to install both the “wine” and optionally, the “winetools” packages. This will vary slightly between distributions. In SUSE 10.2, I simply launched the “Install Software” tool from the “Computer” menu, and searched for “wine” from there. In Ubuntu, try “apt-cache search wine” to see what it yields. In Fedora, try “yum search wine.” No matter the distro, install the latest version of the aforementioned packages. You won’t get far without them. At the time of this writing, the latest version of WINE is 0.9.24. (Note: though it’s unlikely, you may need to add additional software repositories to your system. For Ubuntu, see the ubuntuguide. For SUSE, see this article on hacking Opensuse. For Fedora, see the article I recently wrote on fixing common Fedora issues.)

After WINE is installed, configure it. From the command line, type: (without the “dollar” sign)

$ winecfg

Take a look at the options provided. I accepted the defaults, making sure that the Windows “version” was set to Windows 2000.

3. Install Finale 2007.

Now that WINE is installed and configured, let’s get Finale running. Insert your Finale 2007 disc. Once the disc shows up on the desktop, open the disc and browse to the “Finale” folder. You should just be able to double-click the “FinaleSetup.exe” file to open it with WINE, but if it doesn’t work, you can also launch this file from the command line. Try this:

$ wine (now drag the “FinaleSetup.exe” file to the Terminal window and press enter)

finale1.png

After a few seconds, the “Finale Setup” program should launch in WINE. Follow the prompts and do a typical installation, just like you would on Windows.

4. Launch and update Finale 2007.

If all went well, you can now launch the program. To do this, you first need to understand where the program is now located. In your “home” directory you can find a hidden directory where WINE keeps all of its information. That folder is called “.wine” (yes, there’s a period in front of the folder name). The full path to the “Finale.exe” file on my system is:

/home/your-username/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/Finale 2007/FINALE.EXE

finale_wine_path.png

Open that file by right-clicking it and choosing “Open with ‘wine'” or by typing “wine” into the Terminal and following it with the path to the file. With any luck, Finale will now launch and run!

Note: I was also able to successfully install the update to 2007a on my system. Simply download the update and launch it with WINE. Choose “Full Application” update and let it run its course.

finale8.png

Things that work:

  • Opening files, including large files (I opened an concert band score of mine without issue).
  • Playing files with the softsynth. “Human Playback” even works. Scrolling playback works, too (NB: there are occasional audio distortions on my system. Your mileage may vary).
  • Entering notes: both simple and speedy entry (from the computer keyboard) work fine.
  • Entering dynamics and articulations.
  • Viewing from both Page View and Scroll View. I had no trouble changing the viewing size of scores.
  • Opening and saving files works.
  • “Save as Audio” works just fine.
  • Product Activation works.
  • “Dragging” the view with the right mouse button works.
  • I tried a few “Mass Edit” and “Page Layout” options without trouble. Of course, I did not test every available action.

finale_adding-notes.png finale_human-playback.png


Things that do not work:

  • MusicXML export

finale7.png

Things not yet tried:

  • GPO or Smartmusic install
  • MIDI keyboard input or playback (NB: I doubt this will work unless you KNOW your MIDI hardware is supported).
  • Printing
  • Product Activation (Update: activation by phone works just fine)
  • and more….

As you can see, the list of working features is quite long right now. Most importantly, in the hours that I have been using Finale 2007 on Linux, I have not yet experienced a single crash of the application. Of course, more testing is required, but the main aspects, correct display of fonts, basic playback, and overall stability, are working sufficiently. This is a far cry from two years ago when I tried this same procedure with Finale 2004. Though the program installed, some of the fonts did not display at all, playback did not work, and the program crashed every few minutes. By comparison, Finale 2007 is now quite usable on Linux.

Would I use Finale on Linux for my daily work? Right now, probably not. I’ve invested a lot of money in MIDI and audio hardware, as well as in software sample libraries, none of which run natively on Linux. If writing music was just a hobby instead of my main craft, I’d consider it. Looking ahead to the future, I have zero plans to upgrade to Windows Vista, meaning that within a limited number of years I will need to migrate my studio to either Linux or Mac-based systems. I’d like to keep Linux as an option, and the future is looking better and brighter.

Once again, it’s obvious that Finale is not a native Linux application, but WINE allows it to work stably and sufficiently, thus proving that Linux CAN be used for a growing number of “professional” applications. In an ideal world, Makemusic would create a version of Finale specifically for Linux. Until then, we’re getting closer and closer to a Linux-based creative studio, at least for this composer.

© 2007 by Brian Bondari

finale_gnome.png

Fix Common Fedora Core 6 Issues

Fedora Core 1 was the first Linux distribution I used extensively. As a result, Fedora has always felt like “home” to me, and I’ve tried every version since. Recently I installed Fedora Core 6 (Zod) from scratch, and decided to put together this little document on addressing some issues that I found.

Since this is not really a review, but rather a quick “how-to” based on what I did, I make a few assumptions:

  • You have (or will) install the x86 version of Fedora. Of course, there are similarities for the other architectures, such as x86-64, but some of the issues that I address are specific to x86.
  • You have an Nvidia graphics card. I do not use any ATI cards, so I can not help here. If you want to install the ATI driver, I suggest you start by looking here.
  • In my case, I’m using GNOME. If you prefer KDE then understand that some of the menu structures will be different.
  • You are smart enough to know how to install and use Linux. While none of this should break your system, I am not responsible for any damage that may result. That’s my standard disclaimer.

Now, on to business. Whenever you see the sharp sign (or hash) “#”, it means to run the following command as the “root” user. You can become root in the Terminal by typing “su -” and then your root password. If you are reading this, I assume you already know that, so let’s get started.

Add a couple of package repositories.

To enable the installation of some extra software, let’s enable two extra repositories. The first is Livna (rpm.livna.org) and the second is FreshRPMs (freshrpms.net).

# rpm -ivh http://rpm.livna.org/livna-release-6.rpm

# rpm -ihv http://ayo.freshrpms.net/fedora/linux/6/i386/RPMS.freshrpms/freshrpms-release-1.1-1.fc.noarch.rpm

By doing this, you will easily be able to install the Nvidia graphics driver. I believe you need Livna to install the ATI driver as well.
Once they are installed, use “yum” to update your system.

# yum update

Get the correct kernel.

Due to a known bug, the Anaconda installer may install an i586 kernel rather than i686. While the system is still usable, you will run into trouble if you decide to install graphics drivers or any other kernel modules. If this is the case, this is how to fix it.

# yum install yum-utils
# yumdownloader kernel-2.6.18-1.2849.fc6.i686
# rpm -Uvh –replacefiles –replacepkgs kernel-2.6.18-1.2849.fc6.i686.rpm

At the time of this writing, the kernel number ending in 2849 is the latest. Keep in mind that the number may eventually change, and you will need to adjust accordingly. If you have yet to install Fedora 6, I believe you can bypass this bug by booting the installer with the “linux i686” option.

Install the Nvidia graphics driver.

# yum install kmod-nvidia

Once you fix the kernel issue (if you were affected), you can install the graphics driver. You will need to restart X (or just reboot) before the new driver will work. To check if the new drivers are working, open a Terminal and type:

$ glxgears

If the resulting frame-rate numbers are at least in the hundreds (if not thousands), then your graphics drivers are successfully working.

Fix your screen resolution.

After I installed the Nvidia driver, the maximum display resolution on my 19″ LCD was reduced to 1024×768. Thankfully, this was easily fixed by going to System – Administration – Display – “Hardware” tab. In my case, I selected my correct monitor type (LCD Panel 1280×1024) From there I was able to choose my preferred maximum resolution.

Install the Adobe Flash player.

Now let’s add the repository to install/update the Flash player. We’re going to download the file with the repository information to the appropriate directory in Fedora, and then use yum to install the player. There’s more Fedora-specific information on this site.

# cd /etc/yum.repos.d/
# wget http://macromedia.mplug.org/macromedia-i386.repo
# yum update
# yum install flash-plugin

Make DVDs work.

Of course, it is old news by now that a number of Linux distributions do not provide DVD or MP3 support “out of the box” for legal reasons. Still, most users would like option of using this media. One way to make DVDs work is to install Xine.

# yum install xine xine-lib xine-lib-extras-nonfree xine-skins libdvdcss

This will give you DVD support with the Xine player.

And MP3s, too.

Yes, MP3 is a proprietary codec, and Fedora does not provide default support for it based on legal reasons. I don’t blame them at all for this decision, but if you need to play MP3s, that ability is not far away. Provided that you have the extra repositories enabled, execute the following command:

# yum install gstreamer-plugins-ugly libmad libid3tag

Now you will have MP3 support in Rhythmbox.

As an aside, if you want to “rip” CDs in the Gnome environment to either OGG or MP3, then I recommend Grip.

# yum install grip

While we’re at it, I also recommend Videolan-client as a media player, as it can play lots of differing formats.

# yum install vlc

Read NTFS.

If you need to “see” your NTFS drive (if you have one), install kmod-ntfs.

# yum install kmod-ntfs

Mine is a Linux-only machine, so this is all the help I can offer.

Make Nautilus better.

I prefer that Nautilus NOT open every folder in a new window. To simply fix this, open any window, such as your home folder, then choose Edit -> Preferences. Now select the “Behavior” tab. Near the top put a check next to “Always open in browser windows.” Curiously, Ubuntu does this by default.

While this is by no means comprehensive, it should give you a good start in increasing the functionality of your Fedora Core 6 system. If you have any tips that you would like to share, please feel free to comment below.

Here are some additional resources for configuring your Fedora system:

http://www.fedoraforum.org/

http://www.fedorafaq.org/

— Brian Bondari

December 2006

Get Automatix…

Want to know the fastest and most simple way to a complete Linux desktop that I’ve tried?

Ubuntu plus Automatix.

Why Ubuntu? It looks good. It’s easy to install, as one can install it directly from the live CD. Its community support is HUGE. Plus, Gnome suits my fancy. Yes, a number of other distros meet this description as well, but they don’t all have Automatix available.

Continue reading Get Automatix…

Windows XP Setup Guide

For some reason or other, you’ve decided to re-install Windows XP. Perhaps the registry was bloated and corrupted. Perhaps you ran into a bout of spyware and don’t trust the security of your system anymore. Perhaps a destructive virus laid waste to your filesystem. No matter the cause, you’ve said, “Enough is enough, Bill.” If you’re like me, you usually wipe the slate clean and begin with a freshly-formatted hard drive at least once a year. Since 2001, I’ve probably installed Windows XP for myself and others several hundred times. No kidding. The following is a personal guide that illustrates what *I* do upon a clean install. Some of my examples are for security reasons, some will remove bloat, and some are based simply on personal opinion and taste.

I make the following assumptions in this guide:

  • You have a Windows XP installation disk (Home or Pro), and NOT a recovery CD from an OEM builder (ala Compaq). Much of my guide will still apply if you have a recovery CD, but not all of it. I leave it to the reader to discern the differences.
  • You have a legal copy of Windows.
  • You have backed up your critical data and know how to restore it.
  • You know how to partition disks. This is necessary if you want to leave room for a Linux/BSD installation.
  • You actually know how to install Windows.
  • You are smart enough to USE THIS GUIDE AT YOUR OWN RISK. I am not responsible for any harm that you do to your system.

In a nutshell:

1) Create a CD that contains updates, drivers, and essential software.
2) Install Windows.
3) Install the service pack two update (and any other security updates).
4) Install device drivers.
5) Remove certain OS components.
6) Install a decent web browser, antivirus, and firewall.
7) Customize your GUI.
8) Disable unnecessary “features.”
9) Disable irritating sounds.
10) Optimize network settings.
11) Check for disk errors and fragmentation.
(Optional) Tweak registry settings.
(Optional) Create a custom, unattended install CD for future use.

1) Create a CD that contains updates, drivers, and essential software.

While this step could be considered optional, it will save you a lot of time once you’ve finished the initial installation. I recommend using a CD-RW (or DVD-RW) for this task so that you can update it later without using another disc. Data to add to disc includes:

  • XP service pack two plus any other post-SP2 updates that you find
  • All device drivers for your motherboard and peripherals
  • Major updates for applications that you want to install, such as Photoshop, SoundForge, game updates, etc.
  • A good web browser (don’t forget your old bookmarks), security / antivirus / anti-spyware software
  • Other applications that will fit on the CD, such as OpenOffice and iTunes

That is the bare minimum that I would add. Feel free to add to taste.

2) Install Windows.

You’re on your own here, but I will mention that I usually do this with the ethernet cable UNplugged from the computer. I also recommend that you use NTFS as opposed to FAT32. Good luck. See you on the other side.

3) Install the service pack two update (and any other security updates).

Congratulations, you made it through the initial install. The *first* thing that I like to do now is to go ahead and install SP2. At this point, you obviously have the least chance of causing a conflict with an existing application or device driver. Go ahead. This will take a while. When it’s finished, install any remaining security updates from the custom CD if you have any.

4) Install device drivers.

Once the updates are installed, it’s time to install device drivers. You did put these on the CD, right? Install the motherboard chipset driver first, then ethernet, audio, and video drivers (and whatever else you have). When prompted, reboot between driver installs, though I have pushed my luck by installing all drivers before rebooting.

5) Remove certain OS components.

By default, XP does not come with a lot of software, especially when compared to a typical Linux installation. Even so, I like to uninstall / remove access to certain components. Go to the Control Panel, switch to classic view, and launch ‘Add or Remove Programs.’ From there, click ‘Add / Remove Windows Components’ on the left side.

Add or Remove Programs

Uncheck Indexing Service, MSN Explorer (click ‘yes’ button to confirm), Outlook Express, and Windows Messenger.

6) Install a decent web browser, antivirus, and firewall.

Have you read my Windows Security Guide? If so, then you know how deplorable Internet Explorer is. I suggest using Firefox or Opera instead. Hopefully you already put this on your custom CD. For an antivirus, I suggest using an application like Grisoft’s AVG. Service pack two should have enabled the Windows firewall, but I usually disable it in favor of a third-party firewall, such as Zonealarm. To disable the built-in firewall, go to the Control Panel –> Network Connections –> Right click on your device and click ‘Properties’ –> Go to the ‘Advanced’ tab –> Click ‘Settings’ –> Now turn the firewall OFF. The security center will pop up and complain, but this will go away once you’ve installed a third-party firewall. Keep in mind that I do all of this stuff BEFORE plugging in my internet connection in order to give Windows a fighting chance against all the malware floating around on the internet. Sound unbelievable? Take a look at this article. Once your new browser, antivirus, and firewall are in place, go ahead and connect to the internet. Now is a good time to check if there are any other critical Windows Updates. If you’re interested, go ahead and install Windows Media Player 10 from Windows Update as well.

7) Customize your GUI.

Now it’s time to make that Fisher-Price graphical user interface (GUI) a little more livable. Here we go:

Under ‘Display properties’ (Control Panel –> Display):

  • Set your video resolution to its highest setting (Settings tab).
  • Change the color scheme to ‘Silver’ (Appearance tab).
  • Reduce the ‘Caption Buttons’ size to 20 (Appearance tab –> Advanced –> Change the ‘Item’ to ‘Caption Buttons’ and reduce the size).
  • Use ‘ClearType’ smoothing of screen fonts if you have an LCD monitor (Appearance tab –> Effects –> Change the screen font settings from ‘Standard’ to ‘ClearType.’)
  • Set a higher screen refresh rate (Settings tab –> Advanced –> Monitor tab –> Set the refresh rate to the highest supported)

General desktop settings:

  • Use toolbars, such as the Quick Launch and Windows Media Player toolbars. Right-click on the bottom toolbar, go to the toolbars menu, and select the toolbars that you want. If you use the Quick Launch bar, delete all shortcuts except for ‘Show Desktop’ and ‘Firefox.’ If you later install iTunes, you can also use an iTunes toolbar when you minimize the application.
  • Find ‘My Network Places.’ By default, Microsoft does a pretty good job of hiding networking functionality. Why? Stupidity, I guess. Let’s remedy this. Right-click on the start button, go to ‘Properties,’ click ‘Customize,’ and go the the ‘Advanced’ tab. Scroll through the list, making sure to put a check next to ‘My Network Places.’ I also set the ‘Network Connections’ to ‘Link to the Network Connections folder.’ You may also want to set the ‘System Administrative Tools’ to display on the All Programs menu.
  • Set a few desktop shortcuts. I like to have a clean desktop, but I do set a few shortcuts, namely My Computer, My Documents, and My Network Places. To add these, click the start menu, right-click your desired shortcut, and select ‘Show on Desktop.’
  • Find a better wallpaper. You’re on your own again for this one, but some nice places to look include http://wallpaper.deviantart.com, http://www.digitalblasphemy.com/dbhome.shtml, and http://art.gnome.org.

That’s the majority of my GUI tweaks. I like to focus more on functionality than pizzazz.

8) Disable unnecessary “features.”

Now it’s time to adjust some system settings. Some of these will collectively help to speed up your system, and others remove possible chances of security breaches.

Show all file extentions. Open any folder, such as ‘My Documents.’ Click the ‘Tools’ menu, click ‘Folder Options,’ and then click the ‘View’ tab. Look down the list until you see a checkmark labeled ‘Hide Extensions for Known File Types.’ Remove the check from that box. While you are in here, scroll down to the bottom and uncheck ‘Use Simple File Sharing’ (XP Pro only).

Under ‘System Properties’ (Right-click on ‘My Computer’ –> Properties):

  • Disable ‘System Restore’ (System Restore tab –> check the box to turn it off). Though this probably isn’t necessary, in four years I’ve never had a use for it.
  • Change ‘Automatic Updates’ settings (Automatic Updates tab). Select the setting that you desire. I usually tell it to notify me, but don’t download or install anything.
  • Disable ‘Remote Assistance’ (Remote tab). Uncheck the boxes to allow users to send remote invitations and to allow users to connect remotely to your computer.
  • Disable automatic restarts (Advanced tab –> Click ‘Settings’ under ‘Startup and Recovery’ –> Uncheck the ‘automatically restart’ option). This is Microsoft’s sneaky way of hiding the blue screen of death (BSOD). Granted, it occurs much less frequently than in the 98/ME days, but it still can happen, mainly when a device driver fails. When this happens, I want to know.
  • Disable error reporting (Advanced tab –> Error Reporting). I usually leave the option to notify me when a critical error occurs.

Automatic Updates_Error Reporting

While you’re at it, delete unnecessary users. [Right-click on ‘My Computer’ –> Manage –> Expand ‘Local Users and Groups’ –> Select ‘Users.’] I usually delete all users except the Administrator, Guest, and my own account (plus others that *I* have created).

9) Disable irritating sounds.

I get really tired of the Windows default sound scheme and usually opt to disable all sounds. To do so, go to the Control Panel, open ‘Sounds and Audio Devices,’ click the ‘Sounds’ tab, and change the sound scheme to ‘No Sounds.’ Whew. That’s music to my ears.

No Sounds

10) Optimize network settings.

Right-click ‘My Network Places’ and click ‘Properties.’ Now right-click your network device and click ‘Properties.’ Select the QoS Packet Scheduler and click ‘Uninstall.’

11) Check for disk errors and fragmentation.

Though this probably will not affect you after a clean install, it is a good idea to check for errors and defragment now and then, though not as frequently as required during the 98/ME days. To do this, open ‘My Computer,’ right-click your hard drive (usually C:) and select ‘Properties.’ Now select the ‘Tools’ tab. Click ‘Check Now’ to open the ‘Check Disk’ box, and select ‘Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.’ Click ‘Start’ and go get a cup of coffee.

Disk Tools

To defragment, click the ‘Defragment Now’ button. The ‘Disk Defragmenter’ window should open. Select your hard drive and click ‘Defragment.’ Go get a refill on your coffee.

(Optional) Tweak registry settings.

If you are feeling daring, there are a number of registry tweaks that you can do to further customize your system. Hundreds of them can be found here. Be careful with these, as you can destroy your Windows installation by messing with the registry. Make a backup of your old registry first.

(Optional) Create a custom, unattended install CD for future use.

One nice thing to do to speed up this process in the future is to create a Windows XP Unattended Install CD. Instructions for doing this can be found here. In essence, you can create a bootable CD that partitions your drive(s), installs Windows with your serial number, user account name, additional Windows updates, registry tweaks, and additional software ALL without any interaction from you. This is a slick tool to have if you have the time and patience to learn how to do it.

There you go. You are free to install all additional software that you like. Have fun.

—- Brian Bondari —

Fedora Core 2 – Review

05.22.04

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.

FC2 booting FC2 Desktop

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 */

Gnome 2.6 Always use browser Spatial

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:

$ su
[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]
# exit

[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.

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.

Conclusion:
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.