Review of Fedora 13 on my ThinkPad thingy

I've been running Fedora 13 Goddard on my ThinkPad X40 for the last few days. Aside from some rendering and install issues, things are pretty smooth sailing.

Fedora 13 is the latest version of the Fedora operating system sponsored by Red Hat that I switched over to from Slackware as my Linux of choice last year. On the whole I prefer it to Ubuntu because they keep more of the original Gnome interface in tact, and I've grown to like YUM for installing packages. Pkgsrc works great on Slackware, but being able to simply enter "yum update" is a real boon.

Installation

Since toying with Red Hat Linux 5.0 in the bad old days, for some reason the Anaconda installer and my computer hardware have generally not played nicely. I remember wanting to use Red Hat's then-new Bluecurve theme back in the day but I couldn't get past the timezone screen without it crashing, despite the BSDs and Mandrake Linux installing without any issues.

Fortunately Anaconda has worked reasonably well for me since Fedora 12, and aside from the internal ThinkPad TrackPoint mouse not being detected throughout the entire install process (necessitating a ton of [TAB]-ing) things went fairly smoothly.

Of note, I like to configure my own partition layout but for those who just want it installed fresh or to have it overwrite an existing Linux install, Anaconda's new layout was very slick. I also noticed Joe was available as a pre-installed editor option on the software screen; not sure whether that's always been there but throwing that out there for what it's worth :).

Interface nastyness

A fresh install and a yum update later, Fedora 13 was booting just fine on my ThinkPad X40, the mouse had even been detected which Anaconda couldn't do. The document icons look suspiciously Mac-like, but that's okay because I'm also a Mac user and find them rather fetching!

Now for the bad news. I'm not sure whether it's the new open intel X11 video drivers (with otherwise work beautifully), but unfortunately the interface looks terrible. Icons displayed in menus and toolbars are either poorly rendered with jaggered, ill defined edges or in some cases not even existent. All the default Gnome icon sets and icon sets I've installed myself (I like Nimbus and Tango) look this way.

On a Windows machine I would diagnose this problem as being caused by a low colour depth, but photos and Metacity render gradients and colour just fine, so I'm thinking it must be a GTK issue. Lending support to this theory is that icons in Firefox look the way they should too, which means (I'm assuming) Cairo is okay but plain GTK isn't.

These visual artefacts are not present on the FreeBSD 8.0 partition on this machine, nor were they there in Fedora 12. To make sure the installer didn't do anything funky or forget to install a package, I reinstalled Fedora 13 from a DVD and a USB key from different sources with the same results.

Oh yeah, and Metacity still can't handle double width characters in window titles. I suppose this is an issue with the Gnome folks and not Fedora though, so I'll leave it at that.

The compliment sandwich

As Stewie Griffin would do, I thought I'd structure this review as a compliment sandwich, with positive things on the outside and the negative things in the middle so we end on a high note :).

Firstly, kudos to the Fedora team for continuing to reduce their dependency on Mono! Fedora 12 implemented the beautiful Gnote in place of Tomboy, and with 13 they replaced F-Spot with Shotwell. I have to admit I'd never heard of the Vala language until I read up about Shotwell, it looks really interesting and the perfect antidote to Mono which has always made me feel uneasy. Could Gnome finally be able to compete with KDE and Qt in this regard now?

And of course I'm delighted that a fully featured Python 3.0 stack is now available in the default install! Granted my primary Python haunt is Django, but my personal scripts have been running on 3.0 on my Mac for a long while now, so it'll be great to port them over.

Conclusions

Overall aside from a couple of glitches on my specific hardware, Fedora 13 looks like a solid release.


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