Saturday, 7 March 2015

An Everyday Linux User Review Of Fedora 21

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  20:28 2 comments

Introduction

It has been a long time since I last reviewed Fedora. Many of the distributions that I have reviewed recently are based on Debian and Ubuntu.

I felt that it was time to even the balance somewhat and take another look at Fedora.

The version I will be reviewing is the one provided with the default download link from the Fedora website which includes the Gnome 3 desktop environment.

What Is Fedora?

Fedora /fɨˈdɒr.ə/ (formerly Fedora Core) is an operating system based on the Linux kernel, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and owned by Red Hat. Fedora contains software distributed under a free and open source license and aims to be on the leading edge of such technologies

Fedora contains no proprietary software or drivers and therefore every part of the operating system is free to use, distribute and amend.

Fedora focuses on being cutting edge with all the latest software packages and technologies.

Click here for the Fedora Wikipedia Page.

Installation

Fedora uses the Anaconda installer which has matured to a point where it is fairly straight forward to follow.

I have created a couple of guides to help you install Fedora:

If you have a poor internet connection you can click here to buy a Fedora USB drive.

I did have a few problems during the installation process whilst making screenshots as the installer crashed when taking a screenshot of the users screen.

I don't think this is an issue that will affect many people however as most people just install the operating system and don't bother taking snapshots for their photo albums.

First Impressions



After you have gone through the installation and Gnome setup steps you are left with a simple looking desktop with a panel at the top.

The way modern desktop environments seem to be going is to make good use of the super key (Windows key) and keyboard shortcuts in order to find and run applications.

Unity for example brings up a dash when the super key is pressed and you can enter text into a search box to filter the applications by name. Windows 8.1 is much the same. If you are on the tiled window view you can start typing and the applications you wish to run will appear on the right side of the screen.

Gnome 3 works in much the same way. The super key pulls up the activities window with a search box and a list of favourite icons down the left. Entering text into the search box filters the relevant applications and files.





















The Gnome 3 desktop has been around for quite some time and has matured well. There was a time when people dismissed Gnome 3 because it  wasn't deemed as good as Gnome 2 and it seemed to be going in a direction people didn't like.

I think the developers have been vindicated by their decisions however because Gnome 3 is a really decent desktop environment.

When you bring up the activities window (either by pressing the super key or clicking the activities icon in the top left corner) you are shown an overlay screen with a search box in the middle, a list of favourites in a panel on the left side of the screen and a list of workspaces in the right panel.

The default icons in the favourites panel are as follows:
  • Firefox Web Browser
  • Evolution Email Client
  • Rhythmbox Audio Player
  • Shotwell Photo Manager
  • Files, File Manager
  • Software Installer
  • Show Applications
Clicking on the "show applications" icon brings up a list of all the applications on your system.

Note that there are two tabs at the bottom of the screen:
  1. Frequent - shows frequently used applications
  2. All - shows all applications
There are many things that make Gnome 3 good.

For example pressing the super key whilst you are using an application such as Firefox zooms out to show all the open applications on your system.

There are loads of keyboard shortcuts to help you switch applications, move applications to new workspaces and basically navigate your system.

You can also snap application windows so that they sit side by side.

To bring up notifications and messages you have to press the Windows and M key.


If you preferred the look and feel of Gnome 2 you can change the settings for your user to use Gnome Classic. Gnome Classic has a more traditional menu system.

The one thing that I noticed whilst running the Gnome 3 desktop was that it was fairly sluggish.

One of the other desktop options other than Gnome 3 and Gnome Classic is Gnome 3 with Wayland.

Wayland is developed by a group of volunteers led by Kristian Høgsberg as a free and open-source software community-driven project with the aim of replacing the X Window System with a modern, simpler windowing system in Linux and Unix-like operating systems.[5] The project's source code is published under the terms of the MIT License.[3]
Click here for the Wayland Wikipedia page.

Basically the X System has been around for virtually ever and has been the sole way to display windows within Linux.

Wayland is one of the replacement options being developed and Fedora has a Gnome 3 desktop environment utilising Wayland.

I have to say that it works brilliantly. My system performs a million times better using the Gnome 3 desktop with Wayland than without.

Customising the desktop

Gnome 3 isn't as customisable as Gnome 2 used to be but it really doesn't need to be. You can find what you are looking for and get on with your work with the minimum of fuss.

There is a tool you can install called the Gnome Tweak Tool.





















The tweak tool allows you to adjust themes, change the desktop wallpaper, lock screen wallpaper, icons and cursors.

You can also use a menu instead of the Gnome 3 dash style interface and add a window list at the bottom of the screen.

There are loads of options available within the tweak tool.

If you are just interested in changing the desktop wallpaper you can right click on the main desktop and choose "Change Background".

A window appears with two options available; change the desktop wallpaper and change the lock screen wallpaper.

Clicking on the background wallpaper brings up a settings screen.

























You can choose to use one of the wallpapers provided or choose one of your own pictures. You can also choose to use plain colours.

Connecting to the internet





















To connect to the internet click the icon in the top right corner and click "Select Network".





















A list of available networks will appear. Click on the one you wish to use and enter the security key.

Flash and MP3

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Fedora comes with free software, drivers and codecs and therefore Flash and MP3 don't work out of the box.






















To be honest Flash is dying and not something I am overly worried about except that one of my favourite online games utilises Flash.

Youtube is largely unaffected by the lack of Flash as it uses alternative technologies such as HTML 5 and Web-M.




Installing Flash isn't that difficult. You can visit the Adobe website where there are RPM packages for 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

From within the Gnome Package Installer (which I will come to later on) you can check the Flash add-on box to install it and get it working with Firefox.










MP3s also do not play natively. You have to install the "GStreamer Multimedia Codecs - Non Free package".

In order to do so you need to add the RPMFusion repositories.

The easiest way to install the repositories is to visit http://rpmfusion.org/Configuration.

There are links to RPM Free Package repositories for versions 20 and 21 of Fedora and links to RPM Non Free Package repositories for versions 20 and 21 of Fedora.




Click the RPM Non Free Package repository link and open with "Software Installer" in order to get access to the good stuff.

All you have to do now is click the "Install" button to add the repository.

You will now be able to find the "GStreamer Non Free Package" within the Gnome Package Installer.

Simply click the "Install" button to install the codecs and you will now be able to import and play MP3 files within Rhythmbox.









Applications

Fedora has a good selection of applications and most things the average user will need to get them up and running.

To start off with there is the full LibreOffice suite (Version 4.3.2.2) complete with a word processor, spreadsheet package, presentation package, drawing package and database package.

The Shotwell Photo Manager is also installed which makes it easier to organise and view your photos.

Rhythmbox is the default audio player.

With Rhythmbox you can import your music collection, buy music from last.fm, listen to podcasts and online radio stations.

Rhythmbox also works well with external audio devices such as the Sony Walkman and Samsung Galaxy phones.




For watching movies there is the Totem media player. This is a really up to date version of Totem which integrates nicely into the Gnome desktop.

You have the choice of watching your own videos or choosing from video channels such as Youtube.

The default web browser within Fedora is Firefox (version 33.1) and the mail client is Evolution.



Evolution provides step by step instructions for connecting to your email client. The interface for Evolution is great by the way and more than matches anything provided by Outlook.

If you like to use a messenging application there is Empathy. Empathy can connect to many different types of chat including AOL, Google Talk and IRC.

Fedora includes a tool called "Dev Assistant" which is useful for software developers.

It doesn't matter whether you are a C programmer or a Java programmer, a Perl scripter or a Python guy.

The DevAssistant provides options for installing and using development tools for all of these and more.












The other real application of note is Boxes which is a tool for creating and running virtual machines.

Installing Software








The tool used for installing software is the Gnome Package Installer. Within the menu system it just comes up as "Software".

It is much like the Ubuntu Software Centre and pretty much every other graphical software installer available nowadays with a list of categories depicted with icons and a search box.

One thing I would say about this tool is that it doesn't always pick everything up that is available. For instance I wanted to install Steam and despite having the necessary repositories installed it just doesn't show up in the Gnome Package Installer. I had to use the command line tool Yum to install Steam. I now have Steam installed and it still doesn't show up as an installed package.

(If anyone knows how to help with that I would appreciate it).

Issues

Performance was fairly poor using Gnome until I switched to using Wayland. My experience with Wayland thus far is phenomenal.

During the install phase the installer kept crashing whilst trying to take screenshots of the users screen.

Sometimes when installing packages the package manager said "Cannot install" and then when I clicked install again the package installed correctly.

Trying to get the package installer to show everything is proving tricky. This might be a lack of knowledge on my behalf but this site is all about the everyday linux user and so if it is tricky for me it will be tricky for others as well.

Summary

I really like the Gnome 3 desktop environment now. It looks and feels incredibly professional and polished and the keyboard shortcuts work a treat.

Wayland has been a huge hit with me and if Ubuntu is going to use MIR then it had better be really good in order to beat this.

Fedora itself comes with a decent set of applications and you can get everything that it doesn't have via the graphical installer and by utilising the RPMFusion repositories.

The downsides have all been listed in the issues section above.

How have you found Fedora 21? Have you been left confused by the graphical package manager? Use the comments section below to let me know and to also inform me if you think there are errors with this review.

Thankyou for reading.




















About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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2 comments:

  1. Thanks for all this Gary. I have Fedora on my laptop but only really use the command line interface. I heard Gnome 3 was rubbish, so installed Cinnamon for when I want to go pretty. But I may well give it a go again after reading this. I haven't actually done much, graphically speaking with it. Just a couple of quick surfs. So can't really comment too much, but from the command line, it's great ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I did the opposite - going from Cinnamon to Korora, a variant of Fedora 21 with all the codecs you had to install. Korora is positively gorgeous! I was surprised by how much faster my machine was after the move - it boots in a fraction of the time Linux Mint takes and my applications now just "pop" on the screen. Rock solid it has been. I was also surprised by how fast I adapted to Gnome 3. A few extensions, and I was totally comfortable.

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