After I posted about my problems installing the latest Fedora I managed to get several good installs. I’ve tried everything I could think of to reproduce the previous problem so I could report it, but I can’t make it happen.
What was causing my continued failures was that the installer was trying to finish or upgrade the existing botched install. Once I formatted the install partition to start from scratch I had success. Anaconda used to ask if you wanted to upgrade an existing system or do a fresh install (it no longer does) so it hadn’t occurred to me that I was trying to upgrade a broken system.
So I’ve done 5 or 6 installs on my 64 bit system and a live CD install on my 32 bit system and I can say that Fedora is still Fedora. It’s got the latest stuff, it has a nicely integrated visual theme and it’s customized just enough to set it apart. I’m glad they don’t take the Ubuntu route of changing so many things from upstream (like the nautilus modifications and the brain-dead lack of a root account). I love how I can enable repositories during the install so when the install is done I have a completely up to date system with no yum update necessary.
I can’t really do a “review” because most of the good and bad comes down to package details that aren’t Fedora specific. Any distro with these same packages will be roughly the same. I found that many packages were newer than on my Debian/squeeze system, but some were older. When you get this big, it’s really just a matter of how quickly maintainers upgrade to newer versions, and how easy it is to get dependencies resolved.
A few problems are worth mentioning. During the install I chose to let anaconda install GRUB to see what it would do. You can add other operating systems and it asks for a label and a partition to boot. When I later tried to reboot into Debian I just got a GRUB error. I checked things out in Fedora and found this for the GRUB stanza for Debian:
I almost laughed out loud. If you don’t speak GRUB, they just passed the boot process off to my Debian partition rather than booting Debian directly. This works fine for Windows, but Linux distros don’t usually install a bootloader on the partition since GRUB can easily boot any number of OSes from the MBR. It’s a lazy approach but I’m more annoyed by the fact that the installer leads me to believe it’s going to do the right thing then doesn’t. What Debian does is dig through all the other partitions and automatically create GRUB entries for every other OS. Those are the kind of little details you expect from Debian since it’s been around forever. Fedora is more likely to pick the solution that works for most and let you fix it yourself if you want something special.
Also the installer doesn’t kick out the CD at the end of the install so I have to fight the drive during the reboot to keep from booting right back into the installer. Again, it’s just a small detail.
The way Fedora handles non-free software is third party repositories. It used to be that rpm.livna.org was the place to go and there were a few others for some specific packages. It’s all handled by RPM Fusion now.The instructions are simple but graphical/point-and-click. I wound up getting in this lengthy cycle of typing in the root password over and over (a la Windows Vista) to get the system to do what I just told it to do. On later installs I just did it all from a terminal as root and things went more smoothly. This isn’t Fedora’s fault, but considering how important third party repos are to a lot of people they should at least be concerned.
I took the time to set up a desktop roughly like what I already use (FVWM with mostly GNOME apps) and found it pretty easy to do. I’m sure I could live with it if I didn’t already have the perfect Debian system. I’ll add that I’ve NEVER done a Fedora install this close to release (except for test releases on a test system) and a lot of problems get sorted out in the first few weeks. I’m currently running 32 bit Fedora on my number 2 desktop so I’ll see how it goes.