Fedora 14 — Easy (Mostly) Transition and no Surprises (Updated)



 

 


Fedora 14 was released on November 2, 2010 and I decided to install and review it much sooner than I have after previous versions first appeared.

Note: After spending some additional time exploring Fedora 14 and doing many more installs, I have updated this document to reflect my new findings.

DB – 02/12/2011

One of my systems barely meets the minimum hardware requirements for Fedora 14, a 400MHz Pentium Pro, 512MB of RAM and 10GB of disk space. My poor little Pentium Pro is 400MHz and has 512MB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. Plenty of hard drive space but right on the bare minimum for CPU and RAM.

Installation and Upgrade

Once again there are upgrade problems but, except for one particular circumstance, they are easily resolvable. I just seem to have problems with performing an Internet upgrade one of my systems, however I think I have determined the cause.

As always, straight-up installations from DVD or kickstart are quite easy, predictable and stable.

Upgrades

Upgrades can be problematic at any time with any OS. You have to weigh the value of the (hopefully) easy path vs the cruft leftover from previous installations and upgrades. Sometimes an installation from scratch, wiping out everything in the process can be the best way to go. It ensures a clean base for the installed OS and minimizes potential issues from leftovers. But a well planned upgrade can save much time in restoring from backups and reconfiguring.

Most of my upgrades have proceeded without any issues whether DVD or Internet, but one gave me a host of problems.

Software RAID Issues

My primary workstation is a home built Intel Core 2 Quad with 6GB of RAM and three hard drives. I install the OS on one 60GB hard drive and the two 1.5TB hard drives are used in a software RAID array managed with the Linux mdadm tools.

I first tried an Internet upgrade using the preupgrade-cli command. The command itself ran without errors and when completed told me to reboot to complete the installation. I did the reboot but the installation hung in the early stages of loading drivers. The install gave an error indicating that it could not find the appropriate media drivers. It is my theory that it could not deal with the software RAID device, but I could be wrong on that.

At any rate, I then deleted the preupgrade data and programs including from /boot/grub and /var/spool/yum/cache. I did an upgrade using the DVD at this point and, for the most part it went fine. I say for the most part because there was an issue with the nVidia display drivers which I had to upgrade manually; that partially resolved the display problem and then installing all current updates with yum -y update resolved the issue completely so I was able to get the run level 5 KDM login and login to KDE. This was not the only system on which this occurred so there does seem to be an issue with video drivers that is resolved by installing all updates.

One annoyance that I have found in doing upgrades is that the upgrade installer seems to leave behind all of the previous version’s kernels. I had several Fedora 13 kernels left on one system and a some Fedora 12 kernels left on another. This is easily solved with the command, yum remove kernel*fc13. You can use -y if you are feeling brave.

Installations

The installation has improved in the last couple releases with some enhanced choices and improved ease of use for the so-called “average” user. The installation program is slick and easy to use if you have a modicum of Linux chops. Unfortunately that ease of use is offset by the lack of certain previously available options for more advanced installers.

I usually install from DVD in my own environment because I have so few computers to deal with. At least by commercial standards; my wife still thinks I have too many. And most of the customers I deal with are relatively small so a kickstart server is out of the question. This means that the installation procedure itself must provide me with all of the options I should ever need in order to be easiest for me.

Disk Partitioning

The default disk partitioning for Fedora for the all previous releases has been an EXT /boot partition of varying sizes, and a / (root) partition of EXT on LVM which takes up the rest of the available disk space in the computer. It created a single Volume Group out of the remaining space on the boot drive and all other hard drives installed in the computer. The EXT version is usually the latest stable, currently EXT4. The /boot partition was originally about 100MB, then increased to 250MB.

Starting with Fedora 13 and continuing with Fedora 14, there is a new default disk partitioning algorithm. For any amount of total disk space less than 50GB, the original algorithm is still used. However for systems with more than 50GB of total disk space, the installer creates a /boot partition of 500MB and a root (/) partition of about 45GB to 50GB. All the rest of the disk space is allocated to /home. The minimum I have seen for /home is about 4.5GB, but it can be quite large in systems with huge amounts of disk space.

I think 50GB is probably as large as the / (root) partition needs to be for any home, SOHO, or small business desktop computer. It is probably way too large for most of those environments. And a /home partition that takes the rest of disk space is probably OK for most users because lots of people download audio, pictures and videos which can take huge amounts of disk space. I also like very much the idea of separating /home from the root partition as it will prevent greater issues of those videos fill /home.

However this default partitioning is not ideal for servers, routers, firewalls or other specialized systems. Manual partitioning using a more traditional partitioning scheme should be used during the installation to achieve a better allocation of disk resources.

I do not like the fact that the new partitions are written to the disk immediately after the disk partitioning menu. This used to be done after all of your selections had been made, during the preinstallation tasks; that made it easier to recover if there were issues later. This is not a big deal, but just a bit annoying.

Network Configuration

The network part of the installation assumes by default that the computer is being installed in a DHCP environment, and it also assumes that NetworkManager will only start the network after a user has logged in. However, with Fedora 14, the Anaconda installer returns the capability to specify a static IP address and to specify that the network will start on boot, whether static or DHCP. This option is on the page used to set the hostname. It appears as a new button in the lower left corner of the screen.

This restored ability to perform network configuration contains far more options than previous installers provided. It is possible to not only configure the wired network, but wireless, mobile broadband, DSL and VPNs. This makes it possible to do a manual installation, i.e., one that is not automated with kickstart or other tools, and perform a configuration of nearly any network environment present.

Minimal Install Returns

I also really like that the Minimal install option returned with Fedora 13. I have two systems of my own that I use for firewalls and routers and this option makes it easy to install a very secure firewall/router. While the Minimal option was not available I would have to customize the installation manually and remove everything that has to do with GUIs and the X11 environment. X, of course, has some security implications that are best not found on routers, firewalls and servers.

The Desktop

Although I am a command line interface (CLI) kind of guy, I use some of my systems for desktop tasks and so a GUI of some type is highly desirable. One of my primary uses for a GUI desktop is to enhance my CLI experience. Many of the tools I use are CLI related.

For example I use the Konsole application to provide me with a GUI enhanced terminal application that combines several terminal sessions into a single, easy to find window. Konsole also allows me to change the name of the tabs for the terminal sessions to make them easily identifiable. Combine Konsole with the screen program and the ultimate CLI experience is all wrapped up in a single GUI window.

My favorite Desktop is KDE and KDE 4.5.3 gives me no reason to contemplate changing. The flexibility and nearly infinite configuration options means that I can make it look and act in a myriad of different ways to suit my needs or desires at any given time. I also think that the default configuration is a very good starting place for users new to Linux or to KDE.

If you have been using KDE 4.x for a while now, there are no significant changes here. In fact, many of the changes you will find in KDE on Fedora 14 were also made available to KDE in Fedora 13 in the last couple months so none of these things should come as a surprise.

Updated versions of OpenOffice and other application level programs are included. It is not yet clear what the fedora team will do about OpenOffice, Oracle and LibreOffice but it should matter little in the long run. One of the really great things about Open Source software is that if Oracle were to take OpenOffice proprietary and close future versions of the code, if that were even legally possible, the LibreOffice team would take their fork down the best path for the entire community.

Usability

The real test of any operating system is its usability. I have always, except for Fedora 9, found Fedora to be very usable; but I am a Linux Geek.

My 90 year-old mother has been using Linux for several years and likes it much better than when she was using winbloze. I started her on Fedora 5 and last summer upgraded her to Fedora 12. There are other folks I have converted to Fedora Linux that are very happy with it. For the most part they are able to do everything they need. The few exceptions are more related to getting them upgraded to more current versions of Fedora than anything else.

Conclusions

After playing with the Fedora 14 installation I finally discovered the Configure Network button. This enables all of the network configuration capabilities I had complained about missing and much more. I also like the new default disk partitioning scheme that kicks in when hard drive space exceeds 50GB.

I really like having the Minimal install option again. Although this option returned in Fedora 13, I like it so much that I have to mention it again. This is a great option for installing systems that are going to be firewalls and/or routers. I have two of these machines and this option makes it very easy.

More upgrades and installations went easily than did not. But I do hope the problems get fixed in the next release.

All in all there are no real surprises here. Regardless of whether you are a CLI or GUI fan things will work pretty much as they have been. This is a relatively painless upgrade for a top-notch, high quality and very solid operating system.