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Fedora 7 "Moonshine": Freedom vs. Ease-of-Use (Part 1)

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History

Red Hat Linux, now Fedora, is one of the oldest surviving distros. Red Hat, the company, was founded in 1994, and its distro gave users a way to install Linux without having to collect and compile all the pieces by themselves. It also gave users a package management system, "RPM" (Red Hat Package Manager), that made installing and removing software relatively easy.

Red Hat Linux was both an officially-supported consumer- and business-oriented OS. Red Hat Linux as a consumer-oriented OS was discontinued in 2003, in favor of a non-supported, community-driven distro named Fedora Core. (Red Hat still offers officially-supported commercial solutions for its business customers.) Fedora Core was a repository of the base system; there was also a "Fedora Extras" repository. The two have now been merged — thus it's now simply named "Fedora."

Features

Fedora 7, a.k.a. "Moonshine," released on May 31, is an odd duck. On the one hand, it's hugely popular. If you need to be convinced of that, take a look at the number of people viewing the officially-sanctioned FedoraForum.org at any given time - as I write this, it's almost 7,000 people. Visit your local Barnes & Noble Booksellers (that's a big bookstore chain in the U.S.) and you'll see quite a few books about Fedora on the shelves. (This, by itself, is a big plus for Linux newbies — Fedora may be the best-documented distro available).

On the other hand, these days, there seems to be an emphasis on being user-friendly (think "Ubuntu"). But Fedora's creators have consciously limited what it can do out of the box. For example:

  • Because Fedora includes only software with "free/libre" licenses, the user will not find such popular software such as the Adobe Flash plugin, support for proprietary streaming audio and video drivers, or Microsoft Web fonts in the Fedora repositories.
  • Because Fedora includes only software they deem to be free of patent encumbrances, the user will not find MP3 support or support for watching commercial DVDs in the Fedora repositories. Fedora doesn't even include support for read-only access to NTFS partitions.

All this software is available through third-party repositories, such as Livna, essentially both a) leaving it up to a group of volunteers to produce working software for each successive version of Fedora; and Cool leaving them to "take the heat" for any legal repercussions.

In my opinion, the entire issue of free vs. proprietary and patent-protected vs. patent-free is the biggest one facing Linux as a whole right now. I certainly understand and respect Red Hat's wishes to be free of all the legal repercussions that could arise if they were to be sued; after all, they've got a business to run, and Fedora doesn't earn them any money. I also respect and understand the open-source philosophy. Meanwhile, I want to listen to my MP3s, and watch my movies and YouTube clips, like anyone else.

Fedora 7 includes the following software versions:

  • Kernel 2.6.21-1.3194.fc7
  • X.org 1.3.0.0-5.fc7
  • KDE 3.5.6-9.fc7
  • GNOME 2.18.0
  • OpenOffice.org 2.2.0
  • GCC 4.1.2

Installation

Installation via the Anaconda installer is dead simple. (For a walk-through of the entire installation process, see this series of screenshots.) As previously mentioned, there's no support for mounting NTFS partitions. One thing that's new is the opportunity to add third-party repositories before making package selections. I added "http://rpm.livna.org/fedora/7/i386" and was able to select the proprietary NVIDIA driver — which was configured automagically — and read-write support for NTFS ("ntfs-3g") — although I had to manually configure that one later.

There are a few configuration steps to be performed upon first boot. But that's when I encountered a show-stopper: It booted into (the non-existent) runlevel 7! After engaging in some hair-pulling and a furious bout of Google searching, it turned out that the problem was this GRUB entry:

title Fedora 7 (on /dev/hda2)
root (hd0,1)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.21-1.3194.fc7 ro root=LABEL=/ vga=791 splash=verbose
initrd /boot/initrd-2.6.21-1.3194.fc7.img

Long story short, what was happening was that the kernel was picking up the "7 " (that's 7 with a space after it) as a boot parameter, and trying to boot me into runlevel 7! This wasn't exactly Fedora's fault, as I'd changed the "title" value from "Fedora" to "Fedora 7 (on /dev/hda2)" during installation all by myself. After changing the title from "Fedora 7 (on /dev/hda2)" to "Fedora (on /dev/hda2)", it booted normally again.

You are given the option of sending your hardware profile anonymously to Fedora, in order to help them determine what hardware works. (Note that the default is not to send it — you have to choose to do so.)

For the first time since I've been playing with Fedora, my Audigy soundcard actually produced sound when presented with the Sound Card Detection screen. In the past, it didn't work simply because one of the available switches — the A/D output jack — was enabled by default, and I'd have to use KMix to turn it off. This was a pleasant surprise.

     

When you boot into Fedora, you're greeted with some very pretty artwork. This is the GDM logon screen.

(End of part 1.)

*>> Part 2 >>*





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Bad

I had been using Fedora Core 6 on my office machine for quite a while now, and was totally unhappy with the kind of out-of-the box experience fedora gives. As mentioned in the above article, installing mp3/flash/divx supports, fonts etc. is left to the user and wastes a lot of time. In fact, fedora people think that they are so much smarter than the users that they don't even provide Firefox 2.x rpm on yum (unless and until you turn on the development repo)

It is sad that distros like fedora drive users away from Linux community and force them to switch to alternatives like Windows.

PS: I switched to PCLinuxOS last week, and I am absolutely happy with it.

Summary: Fedora 7 ? Who cares??
Fedora sucks!

re: bad

BnB wrote:
It is sad that distros like fedora drive users away from Linux community and force them to switch to alternatives like Windows.

Congratulations - That's one of the dumbest things I've ever read. You might want to slow down on those Trepanation experiments.

Ohhh You're So Smart..

Hello Mr. Smarter-than-me guy, I've just one ques for you: can you go to the home of each n00b (who has just switched to Fedora from Windows) and spend an hour trying just to get his system to play mp3s, access ntfs, enable divx support? Can you try explaining this to him why his system won't do all these BASIC things by default?
Me and you may be technical people and have absolutely no problem doing this on our machines. What about the rest?
Give this a thought - NOTE: You need a brain to think. Hope you meet the minimum system requirements here.. Smile

re: BnB

I see you're not familiar with my work.

I'm neither a religious door-knocker or a fervent fanboy, therefore I could care less what a noob runs, why they felt the urge to try any flavor of Linux, or if they have problems making THEIR choice work.

OS's are simply a tool to get computing jobs done - chose whichever one works best for you and your application needs.

ESR Wannabe?

If a system with proprietary bits out of the box is what you want, then go with OS X. Never mind your freedom. Never mind people's choice not to be getting a binary shovelware.

Feodra respects the values of GNU/Linux. It also makes happy those who care about digital freedom.

Fedora has an important role. You seem to dismiss that.

It's not that black-and-white, bub

Do you watch Flash videos in your web browser? Do you access an NTFS partition? Do you watch DVDs or listen to MP3s? Do you use a proprietary video driver? If so, then what you wrote is just hyperbole.

The distro I use every day is Debian. If you'll recall, they decided that the copyrighted logos for Firefox, Thunderbird, and SeaMonkey violated the DFSG. They also decided they didn't want to submit their patches to Mozilla for approval, in order for Mozilla's permission to use the copyrighted names "Firefox," "Thunderbird," and "SeaMonkey." So they created their own logos and changed the names. For that, Debian was ridiculed, including by some posters on this board. Is that "pure" enough for you?

And yet, Debian includes support for MP3 playback out of the box. It's GPL'd. Fedora doesn't. Debian includes support for both read-only NTFS support out of the box, and read-write NTFS support is available in the repositories. Both are GPL'd. Fedora doesn't.

Add the "non-free" branch of the Debian repository with a quick edit, and you can easily download popular things like the Flash plugin and the MS core Web fonts, via wrapper scripts. Apparently, no Debian developer's been sued for that yet. Fedora won't even take that chance.

Why? I find it hard to believe that Fedora just wants to be pure, like RMS.

"Open gedit as root, copy and paste these lines, and save the file to /etc/yum.repos.d/macromedia-i386.repo," my ass.

There's 2 points here. The first is that there's software -- much of it GPL'd (hell, even libdvdcss is GPL'd, AFAIK) -- that almost every Linux user wants to use. There could be patent-related problems with that software, or it's proprietary, so Fedora makes you jump through hoops to install it. I question their motives. Sounding like RMS may be good PR, but RMS is not a Red Hat employee.

The second, and more important, point is this: How do you reconcile the desire to use only open-source software, with the reality that you have to use proprietary software to accomplish some important things?

You make valid points and

You make valid points and you seem to have misinterpreted the intent of my reply. Smile

Fedora has a role. It has a certain character. It's not for everyone. Is it "bad", as the OP would like to suggest? No. And neither is gNewSense. These distros serve different people with different tasks in mind. Must we assume that everyone needs the same distros and call the others "obsolete" or "bad"? I think not. I, for one, appreciate software that honours one's (digital) rights. Fedora is probably not for me. Neither is Debian. But they are not bad.

Analogy: I like vanilla. Some people like chocolate, but I still prefer vanilla. Does it mean chocolate is bad? Bad for me -- maybe.

Vis-a-vis tradeoffs, Susan chose a good headline which highlights the balance between Free and convenient. Beats the hell out of _security_ versus convenience, which is a problem Linux does not really have.

You're exactly right

(Didn't mean to insult you, either.) It may sound like a cliché, but one of the best things about Linux is how it can be configured in a gazillion different ways. It's all about choice.

The OP's statment that Fedora drives people to use Windows is completely ludicrous.

(I made up the headline too -- can't blame any part of this on Susan. Smile )

Not so Hard

1. ntfs-3g is on install disk
2. for everything else install livna rpm
3. install vlc and all multimedia works
4. browse add/remove software for everything else

next

re: Bad

BnB wrote:
I had been using Fedora Core 6 on my office machine for quite a while now, and was totally unhappy with the kind of out-of-the box experience fedora gives. As mentioned in the above article, installing mp3/flash/divx supports, fonts etc. is left to the user and wastes a lot of time.

Eh...Might I suggest you take the time to understand the reason for this situation, instead of being an ignorant about it?

Its better to UNDERSTAND a problem, then to look like clueless fool infront of hundreds or thousands.

BnB wrote:
In fact, fedora people think that they are so much smarter than the users that they don't even provide Firefox 2.x rpm on yum (unless and until you turn on the development repo)

Again. Understand WHY they do this BEFORE you shoot your mouth off. The majority of distros that respect opensource values do it.

No one thinks they're smarter than others. It sounds like you just pulled that reason out of your butt as an excuse to justify shooting your mouth off.

BnB wrote:
It is sad that distros like fedora drive users away from Linux community and force them to switch to alternatives like Windows.

Force them? I want you to step back and actually THINK about what you're saying.

Who is forcing who here? How about you look at Windows?

MS has solid contracts with system providers like Dell, HP/Compaq, Toshiba, etc such that, if they were to provide alternative OSs or systems without OSs, it would be deemed to be in some sort of breech to it, and they would be punished for it! (as in higher license fees to supply Windows).

Why do you think Dell has obfuscated prices such that it requires people time to tinker with their online ordering system to actually work out how much someone saves without using Windows? (Its no different to HP and Lenovo).

Essentially, the average Jane/Joe PC user has no choice but to have Windows in their brand new desktops or notebooks. So who is exactly forcing who here?

And then you have MS doing all these things to try to get people onto Vista! (OEM versions of XP will be canned by the end of the year, DirectX 10, Halo 2, etc). Again, who is forcing who now?

Linux is about CHOICE. The freedom to choose what you want and what you want to do with it, as long as you provide the same freedom to others. The GPL is written expressly to provide everyone that kind of freedom. (The very kind that Microsoft wants to subvert anyway they can...Didn't you see the details of Novell-MS deal and its delibrate intentions?).

BnB wrote:
PS: I switched to PCLinuxOS last week, and I am absolutely happy with it.

Kind of ironic this statement. PCLinuxOS is a distro provided by the community. Does that look like its "forcing you to switch to alternatives like Windows"?

Have you not noticed that you have been given a choice to try another distro and that no one has forced you to do anything? You have been given the freedom to choose, and yet, your failed to register that!

BnB wrote:
Summary: Fedora 7 ? Who cares??
Fedora sucks!

You refuse to understand a situation, or even think for one moment of what you're saying. And then you spread this nonsensical wallop about something that you have no idea of using!

Are you gonna say Ubuntu, Debian, Slackware, etc sucks as well? *rollseyes*

Gee Thanks..

By quoting snippets from my initial comment, you have ACTUALLY highlighted all the main points in my comment. Thank you for that dude.. LOL Smile)

Oh well, I would like to apologize also that I don't have time right now to read your longish comment above. But I promise to do that in the near future... Smile

Interesting view....

There's some very good replies here. Why does it always seem like the new converts from another OS are so fanatical. Maybe being free from brainwashing is so liberating they freak out. He does bring up a good point though. I wonder how many new users have tried Gentoo as there first distribution and been chased off. It really relies on the end user doing his own research to find what would be the easiest for there configuration. Then to assume the New user knows their configuration is a whole another story. For those of you who do care about new users in the Linux community, maybe there needs to be a sight to clear things up. That puts distributions into categories based on there intended purposes, so maybe some semi-smart new user will find it and get plugged into the right community.

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