Fedora Core 6 - Batteries Included, make photos and videos...
After working with FC4 for more than a year, I decided that it is now time to upgrade my distribution. FC5 has been available for more than 7 months now and I did some testing on it. But instead of installing FC5 and then again upgrading to FC6, I thought it would make more sense to upgrade only once.
Introduction: The Fedora core team released their latest offering of Linux on 24th October, roughly 7 months after the last release of Fedora Core 5. It has been a phenomenal achievement on the part of the team and the community to get the newest and to my knowledge the version best suited for corporate so quickly. Of course there are some bugs / shortcomings which I am sure will be taken care of in due course. I have been meaning to write this for a long time, but was not able to. Finally I managed to finish it yesterday.
Fedora Core 6 (FC6) is one of the most comprehensive Linux offering I have seen to date. I have worked with Linux distributions starting from Redhat Linux 6.2 and forward. FC6 appears to be running most of the applications that users would need. Be it personal photo and video tools or office productivity suits, these applications will improve your budget by allowing you do things like manage your pictures more efficiently and you can create your own greeting cards, photo birth announcements, even wedding invitations, without spending a fortune. In addition, it also comes with a host of proven network and systems management tools built into the system.
FC6 has moved on to a decidedly 3-D DNA theme which looks absolutely great right from the beginning of the installation right up to the point where you start installation. FC6 has included many new software repositories which were either experimental or optional till FC5. One of the big improvements on the Desktop rendering has been in the inclusion of AIGLX (link here) which aims to enable GL accelerated effects on the desktop.
Installation: Moving on to the installation, Fedora by default installs only the Openoffice productivity suite and nothing else, though you have the option of installation software development, different servers and Fedora Extras (Needs internet connectivity though) on your computer. The applications and installation options are grouped in logical sections so that you can pick and choose all related application from a single section. A new version of operating system generally means bigger footprint and bigger hardware requirements. While this is partly true, you can still use your archaic desktop or laptop with the latest XFCE (A lightweight desktop environment that works well with low end machines).
On the application side the biggest addition to the software suite is the inclusion of the educational software that will help children do their homework and projects on Linux. Now you can buy your daughter a computer with Linux running on it and she can use it for school-work.
I was looking at the packages in Graphics section and was surprised that a Photo management application f-spot was excluded by default. While I agree that GiMP is the best graphics tool out there, but for a plain joe user, a photo management application is must to manage their photos. Of course a user can always select it, but what if the user doesn't know. when we are aiming at the average people, we should be thinking about all this in advance.
Music to ears: For a long time, if I had to listen to my MP3s on Linux, I had to do some kind of hacking by downloading XMMS and enabling some plug-in (I forget which one now). No more. XMMS is now included in the installation source and although it is not selected by default, I think it can be easily found from the add-remore programs. Having said that I think it would make more sense to setup the installation so that it is selected by default. At this time I don't know whether I need to install any additional software for the XMMS to play my MP3s as I had to in old days. I have not completed my testing yet, but I am quite sure that everything should be in order. Update: Based on feedback below and FC6 release notes it is not possible to play MP3s out of the box and it needs a third party plug-in to play MP3s.
Weaving the web: Web-development is now a part of the Development tools suite in Linux. Till now, development in Linux meant software development using geeky tools. But what about the power users who are not software developers but want to build web sites and applications? This is addressed in the this offering of Fedora.
And what about people like me who want to host their webservers and websites? Well this is the best part and what I mean by Batteries included. FC6 comes with a fully functional and pre-configured (If you choose to install it) Zope and Plone. Plone is just a little bit above in packages that start with P. I host my site using the combination of Apache, Zope and Plone and I am sure many of the people do so. This is a great addition for all of us. The installation of Zope takes the root user and password as the manager so you don't have to configure another user account there. However, if you choose to copy your existing Data.fs file to the new one, it will then use the manager that has been defined there. Update: The Zope installation doesn't work with the native root user and password as written above. The correct procedure is updated in a separate weblog post here.
This completed my application selection process and now it was time to unleash the installation process. The installtion process depending on what you include take a long time and I mean really long. I tried with all the defaults and still it took me 45 minutes to install. With my preferred configuration, it took me more than an hour to complete the installation. And my hardware is right up there in terms of processor and memory. But once the installation was complete, I was presented with the cool FC6 login screen (I still feel that the theme is a bit dark: As if we are learning Dark Arts - Too much Harry Potter?).
Post installation: As soon as I installated the OS and started the desktop, I was presented with the "Updates are ready for your computer" warning and the update manager shows up in the system tray in the the top right corner of your screen and on clicking the box, you see the Package Updater screen with all the updates selected.
I recommend that you install all the updates that are available on your first boot. Once the update is complete and you have the desktop environment, you can then install the optional applications if any from the Redhat package manager. You can also search of the applications that you want to install or get all of the applications in a single view in one of the tabs instead of in sections so that you get an idea of what is available for installation.
Some thoughts: Maybe it's my own computer hardware, but the much promised XEN enabled kernel did not install on my computer. I had faced some issues with the FC6 kernel failing to boot on my computer because it is not PAE enabled and I had to manually override it. I have to carry out some more testing on it and will follow-up more on it.
Final thoughts: Linux has made huge strides in usability in the past couple of years and there is no reason why it should be even better and becoming a serious challenger in the desktop market as an alternative to Windows. I would like to see at least some enterprises taking up Linux as an operating system option and install it on computers of users who do not use customised applications that have limited operating system support. Once we have some adoption, the rate at which the applications will be made available will grown exponentially.