Fedora 7: a short review

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Two days ago I decided it was time to try Fedora 7, the latest operating system released by the Fedora project. Previous versions of Fedora proved to be seriously inept at setting up wireless interfaces with anything better than WEP encryption, and one of the goals of Fedora 7 was to provide “rock solid” wireless support. So this time, when I tried the Live-cd with GNOME, I was very curious. Have they succeeded?

Well, yes and no. While the gnome network manager is now completely functional right after the installation, Fedora still offers no support out-of-the-box for some wireless devices, such as the one I own. Mine is a Netgear WG511T, which functions perfectly if you have the madwifi module. Fedora did not ship that particular module, as it contains closed source firmware. I think they should have taken a leaf out of Ubuntu’s book.

Because the solution Ubuntu provides is vastly superior to Fedora’s, as it offers the driver by having the user select it from a special menu interface and warning him of the dangers. Why can’t Fedora adopt a similar mechanism? And not just for the wireless driver, but for any closed source driver, such as the nVidia driver for example?

In any case, if you download the correct drivers from the livna or atrpms rpm repositories before installing Fedora, you can have the network up and running in no time flat. Just think ahead and not only download the drivers for the kernel on the live-cd, but also for the latest kernel, which is installed after pup completes the updates of your system.

I also installed the Microsoft fonts from my Windows XP installation. This required recompiling Freetype, since the bytecode interpreter and subpixel rendering are disabled by default due to patent issues. It also requires a custom local.conf file in /etc/fonts to disable anti-aliasing for certain fonts, so that only the right size and type of font get non-antialiased. I think you can find examples of such fontconfig files by searching fedoraforum.org and other fedora help sites.

On the whole, I am quite pleased with my Fedora system and the installation procedure. The only problem I had when installing from the live-cd was when forgetting to unplug the 256MB USB drive returned the following cryptic error:

Assertion (cyl_size <= 255 * 63) at dos.c:598 in function probe_partition_for_geom() failed

The size of the error message, coupled with displaying a big red “Do not enter!” road sign, is completely inappropriate for such a small and trivial matter as leaving a tiny usb drive in it’s slot. People who do not understand that kind of error message are only going to look at that error symbol. Although I understood the message enough to realize my mistake, the first thing that crossed my mind, when I continued anyway, was that I was committing a traffic violation ;)

I know it’s simply the GTK error item, but it still looks ridiculous. They should have used a different sign.

The package manager, called “yum”, works very well. Installing the nvidia module from the livna repo was easy, and it even adjusted xorg.conf for me. I did find, however, that I needed to add the following to the device section in xorg.conf, in order to have the right DPI setting for my monitor

Option “DPI” “96 x 96”

But users with different video drivers may not have this problem at all, and it’s a minor problem anyway.

Other than that everything seems to be working great. All my external drives mount and unmount without problems, all software I install works perfectly, etc, etc. In my humble view, this is without a doubt the best release of Fedora to date and definitely one of the best GNU/Linux distributions available right now.


The new solution to the blogging crisis

Saturday, 9 June 2007

I’ve decided on a better solution: Henceforth, all posts on this blog will be written in English again, whereas the posts on my blogspot weblog will be in Dutch. I see no reason why they should not be able to coexist.


I’ve also updated the layout, although the color in the title may have changed slightly. I think it still retains some of the elegant simplicity of the old layout.