Fedora 13 — Upgrade Issues Mar Otherwise Solid OS



 

 


Fedora 13 has been available for a few weeks now. I have started installing it on some of my systems and, for the most part, it seems to work very well. There are some issues with Internet upgrades but overall I have run into few problems.

Installation And Upgrade

Installation and upgrades are always the first thing encountered with a new release of Fedora. The Anaconda installer has undergone significant changes in Fedora 13. Most is for the better but some not so much.

An ongoing quibble with the installation is that some choices I used to like having during installation have been moved to the first boot. One of these is the ability to choose the desired default desktop if more than one is installed. I always install and use KDE as my preferred desktop. It would be nice to have the default choice available during the actual installation as it was at one time. Also, there should be a choice during installation to specify the SELinux control state of enabled, permissive or disabled, which might prevent a reboot at the end of the first boot. That just makes it a little less seamless than I like. Reboots are for Winbloze.

Here is a link to the Fedora 13 Installation Guide produced by the Fedora Documentation Project. There is a huge amount of information in this guide but nothing I could find on upgrading via the Internet.

Upgrades

Upgrading from Fedora 12 to Fedora 13 seems to be a mixed bag; sometimes they work well and about half the time upgrades fail miserably.

The Internet upgrade procedure from Fedora 12 to Fedora 13 can work well but it does take a bit of time. You won’t want to use this method unless you have a fast Internet connection. There can also be problems with the Internet upgrade, but these can sometimes be circumvented by using a local upgrade from DVD after a failed Internet upgrade attempt.

One system I used the Internet upgrade on, an older Pentium 4 that I use as a firewall and router upgraded quite nicely with no problems. The procedure is quite simple; refer to the article Upgrades with Preupgrade for details.

After multiple Internet upgrades failed on other systems, I tried upgrading from the DVD. About half the time the upgrade from DVD worked fine and the other half it totally failed while looking for local installations on the hard drive. This is not a very good track record. To minimize downtime I was ultimately forced to “upgrade” by performing a new installation on a spare computer and configuring it to replace the one with the failed upgrade, then changing the IP Addresses on both boxes so that the “new” machine took over for the old one.

The only good news about this is that the machines which experienced failed upgrades were still able to run and perform their originally intended functions until I could rebuild another computer to replace them or reinstall them from scratch.

Installations

A standard installation from DVD or the five-cd set works well. There are some differences in the installation procedure over previous releases, but they are welcome ones including the restoration of the “minimal” install option, which will be good for creating routers and other appliances. I missed the availability of that feature when they removed it and am glad that it has been restored. Thankfully the “Everything” install has not been restored as an option.

Using Fedora 13

Once installed, Fedora 13, like its predecessors, is extremely usable. I am able to do all of the things I need to on a daily basis. Using Thunderbird for email and Firefox for web browsing; OpenOffice for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations; and GnuCash for my personal and business finances provide me with everything I need in my main applications.

I use Krusader and Midnight Commander (mc) for file management in the GUI and the CLI respectively. Krusader is designed to work in a GUI like Midnight Commander does in the CLI. These programs all work well and as expected.

KDE

The latest version of KDE, 4.4.5,  is very nice and provides a couple interesting new features as well as some new and improved widgets. For the most part, however it is a minor upgrade of recent previous versions. One interesting new feature of KDE is the ability to drag an open window to the top of the screen and cause it to maximize. Dragging it to the top-left or top-right causes the window to “tile” or maximize into the right or left half of the screen.

KDE 4.4.5 is now very stable and provides everything most folks could want in a desktop manager. With lots of configuration options it can be a bit daunting for new users, but then most folks should only have to make a very few changes to the KDE configuration to make it work the way they prefer.

Desktop Lockups

I have experienced several lockups of the KDE desktop. These lockups apparently began after a kernel upgrade. This was very frustrating, but I was able to recover by performing an SSH login from another host on my network and killing all of the running X11 processes and the KDM (KDE Display Manager) which provides the login screen. I could then restart X and continue; however this was a time-consuming and frustrating exercise.

The resolution to this was located after much searching on the Internet. It turns out that, as has happened in the past, the default nouveau nVidia drivers installed by Fedora 13 are at fault and many people have been experiencing problems with them. Installing the kmod-nvidia accelerated kernel modules resolved the problem with lockups. This required installing the RPMFusion non-free repository as these are not GPL’ed modules.

Conclusions

Fedora 13 is a flawed release, much more so than is usual for Fedora; but not fatally so. The problems I encountered can be resolved, but many, especially newcomers, may be put off by the need to spend so much time resolving problems that should not exist in the first place.

Once the problems are fixed, Fedora 13 works splendidly. None of the issues I encountered were enough to cause me to consider not using Fedora 13 on any of my hosts. I am very happy with Fedora 13 overall and look forward to many hours of trouble-free computing on my favorite OS.