Fedora 10

Having installed Fedora 10 I thought I would share some of my impressions. First some comments on installation and setup with a few problems and then some general thoughts.

Installation

I installed from a dvd which is the way I usually do it. I couldn’t use the update option as I was replacing a 32 bit Fedora 9 system with a 64 bit Fedora 10. I had used 64 bit before with F8 but when I updated to F9 I had a 32 bit dvd so I used that.

My only gripe with installation was the lack of an option to install Xfce as my desktop. My memory may be going but I think that was an option in earlier versions. So I installed the Kde version which gave me 4.1. 4.2 has just been released and I understand will be available via the regular Fedora update very soon. As usual I selected, and deselected, several packages. You must select customise now to do this during installation otherwise you will just get a default Gnome system.

Once installed I couldn’t get the internet working on my 3G modem. The Network Manager applet wasn’t appearing in the panel, neither was the Bluetooth applet. I had to reinstall a couple of times. It finally worked after I re-activated wifi in bios. Network Manager was in the panel and when I plugged in the modem I could activate it.

That done I started the update. There were nearly 300 packages to be updated and it took several hours. Not sure if it was an internet problem or slow mirrors, I have had problems with slow mirrors since then and that may be the cause.

Getting things working.

Next was to get things set up the way I like. Although I could select many of the packages I wanted during installation there were still many more to install afterwards. First I added the RPMFusion repos so I could get the good stuff like codecs that are not in the standard repos.

One of the first things I did was install Yumex, the graphical front end for Yum. It is the best package manager for yum systems, much better than the standard “add remove software”. Don’t why it isn’t used as the default.

Next I installed xfce. I have been using it as my desktop for a while now. I have KDE4 but can’t get used to it. It works much better than the F9 version but still doesn’t feel right.

At this stage I had a couple of problems, no sound and no bluetooth. The second was the most of a nuisance as I use a bluetooth mouse all the time and hate the touchpad on my Dell laptop. After some searching I found the command “hidd –-search”. If I pressed the reset button on the mouse as I ran that, as root, the mouse was recognised and worked. It didn’t remember after a restart so I had to do it everytime. Later I added the applet to the panel using the Launcher option in xfce and set it up that way. This seems to have solved the problem as it is remembered after a reboot now. Now I can disable the touchpad. I added gsynaptics to the panel and it works but isn’t remembered after a reboot.

The sound problem I’m not sure about. I tried playing with the settings, checking nothing was muted and the usual things but nothing worked. Then when I restarted one time it gave an error about not finding the sound system and resetting and everything started working so I left it alone after that. Amarok is working fine at the moment so that is all that matters. Almost, next I tried You Tube.

I found You Tube sound worked but was very soft. So soft I first thought there was no sound. The tv was on at the other end of the room and only when it went quiet for a moment did I realise there was some faint sounds coming from the computer. I turned up the volume and could hear something. Again I explored checking the volume control in the Multimedia menu. By chance I found there was a volume control under the Settings menu. It was set to 50% or less. I raised that and You Tube was suddenly very loud. Why is there more than one volume control and which one should we use? I decided to set both to full and use the application’s control to set the level for the current track. This is easiest for me.

One interesting thing is initially I didn’t install the Nvidia drivers from RPMFusion. I used nv for a while. I turned on the compositor in Xfce and some effects worked. They are basic just transparency, the shadows didn’t work as nv is a 2d driver not 3d. I needed to install the nvidia drivers to have Google Earth working properly.

Adobe has released native 64 bit flash and I installed it using a thread on Fedora forums. Although some people have had problems it is working well for me.

I added a few applications to the quick launch bar at the bottom of the screen. To find icons and apps I used the existing ones as a guide. I looked at the properties of the Firefox launcher and found what I was looking for in the same folders.

Impressions

Fedora 10 is a good stable release now. Most Fedoras take a couple of months to settle down so I don’t install as soon as they are released. This seems to work for me. I am liking it after living with it for a few days. That doesn’t mean it is perfect as there are a few things to sort but generally it is a good system

Outstanding issues.

Fedora removed dcop earlier and I was using it in a script for Conky to show the current playing track in Amarok. That doesn’t work and I will look into it too.

The settings to turn off the touchpad don’t “stick”. While typing I find I bump it occasionally and find myself typing in another part of the document. If I am doing a fair bit of typing I turn it off using Gsynaptics.

Fedora on Dell 1520

In a recent post I outlined my purchase of a new laptop, a Dell Inspiron 1520. It came with XP Pro which I need for a couple of applications. However for some time now my operating system of choice has been Linux and specifically Fedora 8. So after checking everything was working on the new machine and installing the Windows apps I would use it was time to install Fedora.

When I ordered the laptop I had selected options that I believed would work without much trouble with Fedora. A search of the Fedora forums and a couple of other sites like Linux Laptop wiki and Linux on Laptops helped with that.

Installation

I partitioned the hard drive giving XP 100 gig and Fedora the rest of the 250G drive. First I had to remove the Dell Media Direct partition they put on the very end of the disk. For some reason this causes problems but can be recreated after the installation of Fedora. I left the Fedora area as free space and let Anaconda, the installation program, set it up. I just selected the Use Free Space option and left it at that.

I used a Fedora 8 dvd I had on hand. This saved downloading a newer copy but didn’t save much as we will see. The installation went without any problems. I followed my usual procedure of selecting just KDE for the desktop environment and also customised the applications to be installed. There are some I wanted that are not part of the standard selection including OpenOffice Base and Krusader.

I left it to do its thing and after a short time I came back to find it was ready for the final stage which includes rebooting and setting up the user(s). After that I had a working system. I proceeded to check what was working to see what I needed to do manually. But first I did a full update, this is where the decision not to download a new dvd image came back to haunt me as there where several hundred updates to get and it took more than a couple of hours on the slow broadband we have here in Oz.

That done it was time to get everything working. Let’s look at each area individually.

Graphics

I had selected the nVidia GeForce 8400M G card with its own 128m ram. It was working but with a default driver so I installed the nvidia driver from the Livna repository. It recognised the card and included a control application. The correct resolution of 1440 x 900 was set automatically. It looks great and works well.

WiFi

The Intel 3945ABG adapter was recognised during installation and the correct iwl3945 driver installed. I simply activated the NetworkManager and NetworkManagerDispatch services and it asked for the passphrase for my WPA2 network and proceeded to link without a problem. I wish I could say the same for XP. I often use the laptop in an area that is on the edge of the router’s range and Fedora works (nearly) every time but XP often refuses to link when the signal is weak and it drops out from time to time.

There is a small problem with the wifi. It will not reconnect after returning from suspend. It did initially but then an update broke it. It is a known problem with the current kernel and iwl3945 driver. A bug report has been lodged by several people so hopefully a future update will fix it. There is a simple workaround just right click on NM applet and remove the tick from Enable Wireless, do it again and put the tick back and finally click on the applet and select the network to connect to.

WebCam

I wouldn’t have ordered a webcam but it is a standard fitting. I was surprised to see the light flash during startup and decided to check it out. Using kdetv it works without a problem. Chalk up another one for Linux.

Bluetooth

I have not found the touchpad easy to use, I am used to the Thinkpad joystck type controller, so I purchased a Logitech Bluetooth mouse. The bluetooth service was already activated but there was nothing to control the devices. After installing KBluetooth the mouse was recognised and I added it as a trusted device and now it works as soon as it is turned on.

Keys

The keys that work with the Fn key all seem to work, at least the ones I have tried which include the brightness and the suspend keys. The Multimedia keys on the front don’t work at this stage but I have read some reports that they can be made to so that is a future project.

Desktop Effects

Using the procedure I outlined in a previous post I soon had Compiz-Fusion working . Just a strange thing with the Pager. It only shows one desktop while there are four. Compiz-Fusion controls these and the pager is usually set to one but shows four. It shows the correct amount on my desktop with the same version so I’m not sure what is happening. If I change the Pager setting to something other than one and then change it back it shows the correct four but it doesn’t stick when I restart. This hasn’t really been a problem as I use Ctrl+Alt+Left(or Right) Arrow to change desktops.

Sound

I had sound working in Amarok and Firefox but not system sounds. This has been a problem on all my machines and is a common subject on the forums. Pulseaudio is standard in Fedora 8 and it seems to be the problem. There are several places I have seen possible fixes (just do a search on the forums) but I have taken the easy (and dirty) method and removed it altogether. This worked for me.

Are there Problems?

It wouldn’t be fair to say there were no problems. I mentioned a couple of issues above plus there is one other that really concerned me for a while. There was a regular clicking noise. A search brought up a few mentions that it is a problem with Powersave and the hard drive trying to park too often. I found details of a script and after installing it the noise has disappeared.

The Result

I now have a working and usable system with minimal setup required. I am pleased with the result and find I use it more than my desktop. If it wasn’t for some special hardware needs I could probably survive with just the laptop. This was the result of carefully selecting the hardware that I knew could be made to work. Unfortunately this is still a necessary step if you want to avoid the hassles of unsupported devices. Although Linux hardware support is improving, thanks to the efforts of a few hardware manufacturers and the hard work of developers within the Linux community, it can be difficult to get some computers, particularly laptops, working.

In summary if you want to run Linux especially on a laptop do your research first and you won’t be disappointed.

New Laptop

After posting so much about my old Thinkpad now I must report that it has died. Well maybe, the screen turned all white one morning and has been that way since. I know the computer itself is ok as it works on an external monitor without any problems. I decided it was time for a new machine. I have since found some info through Google that suggests the problem may just be a loose or faulty connection to the screen. I will get it checked out at some stage and see if it is worth repairing. Fortunately I didn’t have any data on it that hadn’t been backed up.

With the decision to buy a new one came the big choice, what to get? I looked around and found that there are some end of model specials at good prices and was tempted. First though I made a list of my requirements. For an operating system I wanted to run Fedora and the choice of buying one already installed was very limited. There are a couple of people that will sell systems with any operating system you request but they charge a premium over the regular retail price. A few suppliers have a Linux option if you search deep enough on their site but that is nearly always Ubuntu and at least one stated “not all drivers available”. So my option was a Windows system and self install Fedora.

If I was going to get Windows I wanted something I could use as a dual boot. That meant XP as some of the Windows software I use isn’t available for Vista and besides I have used Vista and was glad to get back to XP. That also meant a reasonable size hard drive so I had room for two systems. If I was going to spend some money I wanted something that wouldn’t be out of date straight away, I wanted it to be a while before I need to write another “New Life for Old Laptop”. So I set a budget of around $A1500 and started looking.

I found only a few places would sell with XP but several offered a downgrade option if you bought Vista Business. I looked at the Dell site but the weekly specials didn’t interest me and there were limited XP options. Later in the week I went back to the Dell site after the next week’s specials were listed and found many more XP Pro options and some large discounts. Several models that had been outside my budget now became available to me. They were the only place to charge a fee for supplying XP instead of Vista but it was only $29. My mind was made up.

I ordered an Inspirion 1520 and selected the options that a search of the Fedora forums told me would work with F8. I got the Intel 3945 wireless card and nVidia 8400 graphics. It also has 250 gig Hard drive. plenty of space for dual booting and 3 gig ram, plenty of space to run a virtual system if I get around to setting it up. With a 2 Gig Core 2 Duo processor I knew it would run at a reasonable speed. It had other features that weren’t really needed but they’re free, e.g. a web cam and MS Office 7 license were included. All for less than my budget.

When I placed the order they gave me a expected delivery time of 10 working days but I soon got a message to say it would arrive in 5 and it did. I checked everything was as described and working and proceeded to install the Windows software I use. After years of using a Thinkpad with their stick control I found the touchpad difficult to operate but as that is my only complaint I’m not unhappy.

Next came the Fedora installation. But that is a story for another day.