My Fedora 18 Review, part 2

In my previous post, I talked briefly about Fedora 18 features and then reviewed the new installer. Now, lets review the installed OS.

First Boot

After reboot, grub will be loaded. Finally, grub2 has received some love from the artwork team and you’ll see a graphical Grub2 menu rather than the black and white text menu of previous releases.

After selecting Fedora, plymouth will appear with the same animation of recent releases. I really hope to see some fresh animation in the next Fedora release.

Now, FirstBoot wizard appears and let you do some initial setup like creating users and setting up date and time. In this stage, the keyboard layout switching configuring during installation is active and usable. Therefore, I can write my full name in Persian.

Login Screen (GDM)

GDM appears now. It looks good, but maybe it could get a little more colorful. And it is the first point in which you realize that keyboard layouts doesn’t work as expected any longer. As I mentioned in the installer review, keyboard layout switching does not work out of the box. FirstBoot is the last time that it works fine. GNOME doesn’t honor systemwide settings about keyboard layout switching, therefore you can’t change the layout in GDM or Gnome session with the keys you’ve setup in Anaconda. While Gnome has added a (wrong) layout (while ‘ir’ layout is configured in X, I see ‘af’ layout in Gnome), it has not configured any keys for changing the layout. Unfortunately, this bug is not limited to Gnome: Cinnamon which uses the same backend as Gnome, follows its behavior. KDE also doesn’t honor systemwide settings created by Anaconda. KDE has also added the same wrong layout as Gnome, and you cannot change layouts using keyboard shortcuts too. It might be because of GDM though (Not sure but it might change XKB settings too).

Missing Packages

I logged in into my Gnome 3.6. The first thing to do is to install a number of missing packages. Specially due to the new limited package selection method in Anaconda, there are many missing stuff. I install Thunderbird, liferea, KDE and Cinnamon desktops. I usually like to see what different desktops provide, and considering current Gnome development direction I might consider switching to another desktop more seriously. Anyway, I also install TeXLive. And while it is not announced as a Fedora 18 feature, it really is! Fedora was shipping TeXLive 2007 for years, including Fedora 17. It is a long time that there is a feature in Fedora wiki to update Fedora’s TeXLive stack to more recent versions, but it didn’t make it into Fedora because of both upstream packaging changes and more importantly, the legal problems discovered in TeXLive. You can see how much efforts it needed in its Fedora legal audit page. While the feature is not marked as completed yet, and not announced publicly, Fedora 18 now includes TeXLive 2012, which is great sine it provides many features not available in TeXLive 2007. It’s specially useful to write UTF-8 Persian TeX files using XePersian. For me, it is actually a great feature for Fedora 18!

Gnome 3.6

Now, I’m in Gnome 3.6. It provides a number of new features. For example, new input sources implementation. It provides a number of great features, like the one I mentioned in part1 (typing booster). The message try no longer pops up as soon as your cursor reaches the hot corner, which is a good thing. The corner was really annoying in previous versions when you really didn’t want to see the tray but click something there. Now, you should press the mouse on the bottom of screen for awhile to bring up the tray (or Super+M) which is actually not very convenient, but probably better than before. Also, application menus are used more in Gnome applications, and now you really should now that you can use Super+F10 to bring them up using keyboard. New applications such as Boxes are also provided in this release. I tried Boxes only once (and a little in hurry), but I actually didn’t understand how to use it and controll different aspects of the virtual machine. I’d try again, but I might probably use VirtManager instead.

Some applications, like “Files” (nautilus) have changed a lot. Unfortunately, many features are removed! However, it has some nice new features too. To be honest, I did not used most of the removed features (however I know some people used emblems), and I almost like the new interface. But, there is something that doesn’t feel good in such ‘application menu’ oriented applications: closing them using mouse is not as easy as before, since you won’t see any close buttons. You should select the application menu, and then go for the exit menu entry. IMHO, closing should be more handy.

There are also changes in PackageKit package manager. Initially, I was unable to find the updates settings (I prefer to disable automatic update checking, as it could lock yum for a long time when I need it!). There was no entry in applications list for that. Finally, I find it: you should run “Software” application, open the application menu and select “Software Sources”. Yes, unexpected! And actually, you’ll be presented with Update Settings tab, while the actual Software Sources tab is hidden! The menu entry should be something like “Preferences” I think.

Another inconvenience is with the extensions, which is somewhat usual for ‘extensions’! Many of them doesn’t work in 3.6, and some of them have problems. For example, the places status indicator extensions sometimes fails to start.

As before, Gnome Tweak Tool will be needed by most users sooner or later (and this means that gnome standard settings UI sucks). Unfortunately, some options are no longer available there too! The one I’m concerned about is the settings related to laptop lid close behavior. I want the system to be suspended if I’m on battery, but doesn’t suspend when on AC. It is no longer possible to set it up in the tweak tool. You can disable the suspension completely in systemd-logind settings in /etc/systemd/logind.conf, but it is not what I want. I tried to fix it using the approach I mentioned in this bug report, but it didn’t work (while it should). Currently, it is possible to achieve that manually using systemd-inhibit command, but that’s ugly. I wonder why Gnome guys think they should decide for me. :( I’m a real fan of ‘flexibility’, and Gnome is apparently going in the opposite direction.

Finally, lets return back to keyboard layout switching again. It is the most broken part of Gnome 3.6, and apparently most of it won’t be fixed in 3.6. For Gnome guys, this might not be a huge consideration, but for Fedora, it should be. Since Fedora 18 users are going to use Gnome 3.6 for 6 or 12 months, and keyboard layout switching is a small but highly used feature. If these problems remain in Fedora 18 to the end, I will certainly consider Fedora 18 Gnome experience the worst desktop experience someone (which uses more than one keyboard layout!) might have in GNU/Linux world.

First, keyboard layout switching using shortcuts doesn’t work in many places: lock screen, password asking dialog (e.g. when you ssh), the overview mode and probably some other places I don’t remember. You should change the layout using mouse in these situations. Also, there are no convenient ways to define keyboard shortcuts for GDM. It doesn’t honor systemwide settings, and there are no GUI for setting GDM ones. There is probably some way, but that is not a solution!

Second (very annoying), the switching is SLOW. It seems that it has gotten better with recent updates, but initially, it was terrible. Sometimes it took SECONDS for the layout to be switched. And usually, a few milliseconds. Therefore, if you pressed the switching keys and started to type right after that, a few characters were typed using the previous keyboard layout. As I said, it seems that it is better now with latest updates, but still exists.

Third, if you want to use only modifier keys (e.g. Alt+Shift, Alt+Alt, Shift+CapsLock, etc) for layout switching, you should use gnome tweak tool. The main GUI doesn’t support them in 3.6.

Finally, two of my favorite features doesn’t exist/work. The first and more important one is to switch the layout while some key (e.g. CapsLock) is pressed. It is really useful when you want to write a single word or a few characters in the other layout. It doesn’t exist now. The other one is using a keyboard LED as an indicator. While tweak tool includes the possibility of defining an LED (e.g. CapsLock or ScrollLock leds) to show keyboard layout changes, it doesn’t work.

Well, I think it is enough for now. Fedora is certainly my favorite OS, but it can be much better. I generally like Gnome, but I might gave up working around its “feature removals” in future and switch to another DE and accept the costs of switching.

Update: Forgot to mention that new GTK is more beautiful, specially in Firefox!

Good luck!

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18 responses to this post.

  1. The problem is that Fedora is not “committed” to be a consumer product for end users. Some releases are great, while others turn out to be very poor.
    The way Fedora behaves highly depends on upstream projects, mainly GNOME. Fedora packages stock GNOME, and does nothing to improve it or make it more usable.

    That’s why I call Fedora a package of bleeding edge software, rather that an integrated, consistent operating system.


    • Not completely agree. I could argue that Fedora IS integrated, specially when you look at the back-ends. What Fedora lacks is mostly customization, rather than integration. If stock Gnome it not suitable, it should be fixed. Sometimes it might not be, because of some radical changes, but this happens in many other distributions too. About Gnome, I think the problem is with Gnome itself, not Fedora. The Fedora problem is that upstream gnome developers are also active maintainers in Fedora. So, their opinion about what is the right thing to do doesn’t differ much from Gnome’s developers!

      Also, notice that even most of customization done in other distros won’t fix the major problems of Gnome 3.6. For example, the kayboard layouts problem. It’s a bug, and needs bugfix rather than customization like adding extensions or so.
      Personally, I like the position of Fedora towards upstream. I just expect Fedora to have more quality control, to prevent releasing with such important bugs.


      • ” I just expect Fedora to have more quality control, to prevent releasing with such important bugs.”

        Well, look at it from my perspective. I knew about the keyboard switching bugs you mention before F18 release. I’d talked to the desktop team about them. They say that they’d prefer simply to leave the fixes till 3.8, and if we insist on backporting them to 3.6, it’ll take weeks to do properly.

        Is it really a good idea to delay the release for several weeks solely for the sake of those who need to use multiple keyboard layouts in GNOME? What would that result in? People who need multiple keyboard layouts in GNOME keep using F17. Well, okay, but they can do that anyway even if we ship F18. Everyone else doesn’t get a choice to use F18, even though they wouldn’t run into the bug. Is that better, really?

      • Well, I don’t know what to say if Gnome 3.6 is that broken; just sorry for Fedora to be that undependable. Maybe shipping with Gnome 3.4 was much better! I wonder why fixing those bugs is so much complicated (and why Gnome 3.6 has been released!)… So I don’t blame some of my friends who’ve decided to leave Fedora.

  2. Posted by noname on January 30, 2013 at 5:06 am

    It seems to me Gnome is being rewritten for tablets. What I do know is that I don’t like it. The new Nautilus is a train wreck!


  3. Posted by Vassili Leonov on February 2, 2013 at 12:32 am

    The layout switch issue is a TOTAL SHOW STOPPER. How are you supposed to use F18 in a multi-language environment, when you can’t assign your favorite combination? Mine is “both shifts” and I’m blind typing and there is no way I can change that habit. On top of that there is even no default combination for keyboard layout switch. Is that stupid or what? Seems like Gnome authors don’t use multiple keyboard layouts, I can’t understand such a glaring bug not fixed for over a year by now.


  4. Posted by jeffy5 on February 11, 2013 at 2:21 am

    I have had so many problems with Fedora 18 that I just did a clean install and put Fedora 17 back on my laptop. When I began the installation, there would be a disk check that I could not escape from. I also could not add extra accounts on Empathy as I did previously in Fedora 17. Also the gnome-shell-extension-places did not work – a veritable show stopper for me, as I SSH files from various computers.


    • I don’t know about Empathy (since I’m still using Pidgin) but the places extension DOES work. However, 1. it appears beside “Activities” button 2. Sometimes it doesn’t appear!


  5. Posted by mohsen on February 27, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Don’t you think that fedora developing team and community lost many people to ubuntu or other linux dists? and this lost obviously has major effects on fedora quality?
    Honestly I don’t see fedora as a cool different redhat-sponsored dist anymore.


    • To be honest, no. It might be true that Fedora has lost some people, but I don’t agree that it has degraded the quality of Fedora. And most of the annoyances in Fedora 18 comes from Gnome 3.6 rather than Fedora itself. And the installer has undergone major changes so some problems are expected. And some problems are related to some design decisions which is derived from the developers. These problems can cause users to go for other distros, but I don’t think that lack of users has caused them! And IMHO, Fedora is still a cool different distro :P


      • Posted by mosen on February 28, 2013 at 10:25 am

        there’s problems in DE, installer, design and also package lack in installer dvd, still you insist on fedora? god you’re strict!

      • Yes! Notice that DE problems should not be attributed to Fedora (Fedora could use older gnome release but that wouldn’t help much. If someone really prefers old Gnome he can stick with Fedora 17.). Fedora usually uses recent software. It is more risky, but if everybody stick to older software, problems in newer versions won’t be found.
        The installer have some issues, but it is not necessarily worse than others. Fedora installer provides many features that others do not. You talk about package lack in Fedora DVD. What alternative do you suggest? Ubuntu certainly provides less software on their media, and since it is a live distro you have no package selection at all. Fedora DVD is still much better for me in these regards. I certainly prefer using Fedora rather than others. Also, will you change your distro if a version of it is not satisfactory?
        Anyway, these problems are very small compared to Fedora strengths for me. :)

      • Posted by mohsen on April 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm

        Fedora is not compatible with Gnome as good as Ubuntu. I feel performance lag and had problems with compiz when I’m using Fedora, no problem with Ubuntu though.
        for the rest, I have to admit you are right.
        there’s still a little thing, that Ubuntu is spreading vastly among users and every time you need something there’s more support on Ubuntu. More companies are using Ubuntu so they use local repositories and it makes your work so easy. not the same for Fedora. Maybe it’s just in Iran, but when I also search for an application I see more result for Ubuntu rather than Fedora one’s

      • About gnome compatibility, you might be right. Ubuntu is almost always using older packages than Fedora, so it can be more stable. But if everybody wants to stick with stable packages, newer versions will never become stable. Ubuntu is (and was much more previously. It has become better recently) a consumer (technically) rather than a contributor.

        However, I think you are talking about older times. Ubuntu is now using its own Unity and not much compatible with gnome actually. And people do have more problems with Gnome shell on Ubuntu usually.

        About Ubuntu being more popular, you are probably right. And yes, everybody makes sure that it provides Ubuntu versions of their packages. But, I don’t care. And if you really want to consider this, you should use Windows. It is certainly much more popular than any GNU/Linux distro, and have more applications than them too! Specially in Iran… ;)

        Anyway, I never say that Fedora is better than Ubuntu or others in all aspects; or even in most aspects. I say that it is far superior in aspects that “I” do care about. This is what I always say, and this is why I’m a fan of Fedora. :)

      • Posted by mohsen on April 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm

        old Ubuntu + gnome or new Ubuntu + unity are seemed to be lighter and having better performance and of course its just a personal experience. but I’m with you on new Ubuntu + gnome.

        yes I personally don’t have time to build or modify everything I need, sometimes windows is actually good and sure must be used. when I gather up a developer team and I need Linux based OS I prefer to have minimum problem on supporting and having necessary apps with no trouble :)

        I don’t say “choose this not that” I’m saying fedora is missing people in its community of users and developers and I think sooner or later it will pay the price for that. Fedora was always a dist for developers and desktop users but if its community getting smaller, people who will contribute for making apps and reporting and fixing bugs will be much lesser so the quality.
        some of Ubuntu users was using Fedora a few years ago, some that started with Ubuntu potentially could be Fedora users now (These statistics gathered from me and my friends, don’t know about the official ones).
        I think as Fedora lost users to Ubuntu back then, now is losing them to Mint. I hope the best for Fedora. Fedora Core was my first dist of Linux and for years I used nothing but Fedora but today is a different day and competition is getting much harder. I think Fedora team doesn’t see or do the best to preserve Fedora users and expanding its community. I don’t know the solution actually.
        Just the name of Fedora is enough for many unprofessional users -users that’ll be pass on Fedora soon because of apps- I don’t think it will last for a long time. Don’t wanna Insult Fedora developers. Its obvious that developers doing their best but leaders and decision making people on Fedora seems to be asleep compare to their contestants. (where Ubuntu deciding to go on phones and tablets and creates a app store and integrates social activities with OS and etc.)

      • I’m actually agree with most of your arguments. I doubt about some of them though. It is certain that Fedora has lost some users, but I’m not sure if it is constantly losing them (for example, which shows some facts, like fedora loosing some users when switched to Gnome 3. ).
        More importantly, I disagree about the last point: Ubuntu (project) did NOT go to phones and tablets, but Canonical did. Canonical is a commercial company and can invest on this area, and I agree that it is an interesting area for investing. However, a community usually cannot afford going on tablest/phones because of hardware and carrier support needed for it. So, neither Ubuntu nor Fedora community could easily go towards this. AFAIK, Canonical efforts on Ubuntu phone or tablet development was not very open, and done in canonical internally. So, you should look at Redhat rather than Fedora. And Redhat is targeting virtualisation industry rather than phones/tablets. And this IS also an interesting area for business (infrastructure is as important as consumer products). It could result in less users for Fedora, and not very good for it. I agree. So, while I also want Fedora to be better user oriented, I don’t think that it should go after phones/tablets too.

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