9 Nov 2011

Fedora 16 GNOME: New and Stable

It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Do you think I am going to talk about Christmas? No, not yet. Too early still. Even if shops are already full of Christmas stuff, we are in autumn yet. That's why I am NOT going to talk about Christmas.

What then? It's a wonderful time when most world famous Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora release their fresh versions.
I have already written about Ubuntu 11.10 and Kubuntu 11.10.
And literally yesterday another big event has happened. Fedora Project released Fedora 16, the latest version of their baby.
ISO image of GNOME version of Fedora 16 weights just above 600Mb. It is much less than Ubuntu, I should admit. I downloaded it from BitTorrent and was able to write my own CD in few minutes.
So, CD is in the drive. Reboot. Choose to boot from optical drive. Let's go!

Boot menu of Fedora 16 was not impressive at all. Two simple text lines on the black screen, one of them being Boot Fedora 16 and another Troubleshooting. This Troubleshooting included media verification, boot from hard disk, memory test and some other points. It is good that so many features were hidden from main menu, not to scare first-starters, and to avoid accidental wrong choice. But I would rather see something more visually attractive than text lines on flat black screen. On fair side, there's countdown which means user will boot into Live version of Fedora 16 if he does not touch the keyboard at all.
Next stage is booting the system itself. During this phase splash screen shows Fedora logo gradually being filled in. My screen blinked several times during this phase, but nothing major to worry about. Boot time was average, closer to the long one.
And finally I was logged into the system. It was Fedora 16 with GNOME3. To be precise, GNOME 3.2.1 on Linux kernel 3.1.0.
For some strange reason mouse cursor appeared not in the centre of the screen, as it is usual in most systems, but in the right-bottom part of the screen. Why? I don't know, but that's not so important anyway. Just a little remark.
Fedora 16 automatically recognised my wireless card Intel 3945 ABG. It was correctly activated and configured. My home wireless network was listed straight away. I only needed to enter the passcode. But what? I didn't have an option to review the passcode! It is only available in black dots, not as string of letters! It's not good because you can easily mistype the passcode, especially when several keyboard layouts are activated. And it would much more difficult to find the problem when passcode is not visible at all.

As usual in GNOME, system panel is at the top of the screen. It was default in most GNOME2-based distributions, and it is the only available option in GNOME3. This panel has button Activities on the left to call up menu, set of icons on the right and clocks in the middle. I found these clocks very strange. Fedora 16 did not ask anything about my local time or location, but showed time as -5 hours from my actual local time. I believe this was time of Eastern US coast.
Default wallpaper in Fedora 16 has motives from Jules Verne's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea. As usual in GNOME3, there's no option to change wallpaper by right click on desktop. Right click does not give any result at all!
All configuration of GNOME3 is in System Settings panel. Of course, the configuration includes option to change background image. There are about 15 desktop wallpapers available. Most of them came from GNOME, not Fedora's team.
Same System Settings panel contains Region and Language tool, where keyboard layouts can be configured. It was an easy task, similar to GNOME3 on Ubuntu. Strange, isn't it? Hehe!

Click on the Activities menu in the left top corner of the screen brings in the list of currently running applications. There is an option to see installed applications. They can be either viewed as whole list or filtered by groups, which effectively brings you something like classical menu. This is the same as in GNOME3 on Ubuntu 11.10, and probably most other GNOME3 implementations.
What is available in the menu? Fedora 16 brings you quite ascetic list of applications.

  • Internet section of menu includes latest version of Firefox 7.0.1, Empathy, Desktop sharing, Remote Desktop Viewer and Transmission. That's full list of applications in this section. Not impressive. I usually see at least some Instant Messenger or IRC tool here.
  • Accessories part of menu in Fedora 16 includes usual suspects: Gedit, Screenshot, Disk Utility, calculator.
  • Fedora 16 by default brings in half a dozen of simple games.
  • Graphic part of Fedora 16's menu only includes couple of viewers, Shotwell and scanning application. No graphical editor included I am afraid, even the simplest one.
  • Office tools are only represented by Evolution. It would be logical to see this application in Internet section of menu, but this would leave Office section empty. Probably that was the reason why Evolution was reclassified as an Office application. As you may notice, neither LibreOffice, nor OpenOffice.org, nor GNOME office are included. It is tradition of Fedora - it never includes any productivity suite. Of course, they are available in the software management tool.
  • Rythmbox, Movie Player, Brasero and couple of other applications are parts of Sound & Video menu in Fedora 16 with GNOME3.
  • System tools include software management tool, update checker, disk usage analyzer, terminal and few other regulars which can be found in most other Linux distributions.

As you can see, there are not so many applications available out of the box. That is likely the reason why CD image is only 600 Mb. From my perspective, I would prefer to have more applications available by default. CD capacity is 700 Mb, so 100 Mb could be easily allocated to some useful tools like simple graphic editor, office suite or something like this.

Another part of Fedora 16 menu which I would like to talk about is Add/Remove software. It is cockpit for applications management. By default only Fedora 16 repositories are active here. The tool itself is quite good. It is easy to find applications you need. And it is not overloaded with stuff like "you would also like...", like Ubuntu's recent invention.
What is available in default repositories? Just a quick check. As I have already mentioned, all major productivity suites are there. VLC is not in default repositiory. Skype is not either. Qutim is there.
Absence of some packages is probably not a big deal since Fedora uses RPM package manager, and many applications are available in this format. Of course, it is nice to have all applications listed in the repository, but sometimes it is no possible technically.

Even though both Ubuntu 11.10 and Fedora 16 have same version of GNOME3 available, there are some differences which I noticed. Application switcher (Alt-Tab) in Fedora 16 groups and hides instances of the same application, which is not convenient. You first need to move Alt-Tab focus to necessary group, and then use arrow down to open list of available instances. Then arrows left-right allow to choose the window you need. From my perspective, Ubuntu's implemenation of GNOME3 works better in this case - all available windows are shown automatically.

Nautilus is default file manager in Fedora 16. It has an option to browse local network. Unfortunately, it did not work on my network. That's why I had to do mounting of my external network drive from terminal. This operation requires administrative privileges, in other words rights to sudo. Liveuser (user which is default in Live session) is not part of sudoers file. That's why I had to switch to su - mode first. After that, mounting was pretty much question of typing the usual command mount -t cifs... It means that Samba and smbfs are part of default distribution.
The only thing which spoiled my experience of network partition mounting was crash of some kernel package when I started browsing remote partition.  It tried to report bug to kerneloops.org, but for whatever reason Fedora failed to connect to server, even though other applications were able to work in the Internet properly.
Another mounting excercise was successfully accomplished in Nautilus itself. It was for local Windows (NTFS) partition which was mounted straight away without any issue.
Russian characters were shown correctly in both cases, either in network and local NTFS partitions.

Unfortunately, successful mounting of partitions did not allow me to play music in Fedora 16. Attempt to open MP3 file from network gave zero result. No message, no playback. Just like I did not select file at all. Same file from local Home folder gave me more information. It was an error "Cannot start playback (null)" with only opition to close it. Not very helpful, I should say. Of course, there's solution, but it is not so obvious.

Flash is not installed by default in Fedora 16 either. My attempt to install it was quite interesting. I got a window with options to open or save the file, and no one of options worked from that window. I could not close window at all! That was bug in Firefox, I suppose. But actual installation process was easy enough when I clicked the file in the list of downloaded items.

Fedora 16 plays YouTube video with Flash
And finally I would like to mention one fact which annoyed me significantly. If you remember, I ran my Live session of Fedora 16 from CD. This operating system does a lot of reading from CD, even when similar operation was already done before. It slows down performance, of course.
I understand that most people won't run Fedora in Live version from CD. But this is still important, because reading from CD is still disk operation. And it does not matter whether it is CD or HDD. Any disk operation slows down the system.

What is my general opinion of Fedora 16 GNOME3? I'd say it is as good as GNOME3 system can be. It is stable, solid and has good reputation. If you like interface of "new wave" desktop environments (GNOME3, Unity), then you should be able to use Fedora without many issues.
I am not big fan of this "new wave". I prefer KDE. What does it mean for you? That review of Fedora 16 KDE is also available!
Stay tuned!

If you want to try Fedora 16 (GNOME or KDE version) yourself, why not purchase CD with this Linux distributions from this site?


  1. If you hit Alt+~ you can switch between windows of the same application (instead of having to use the down-arrow after Alt-tab).

  2. "ISO image of GNOME version of Fedora 16 weights just above 600Mb. It is much less than Ubuntu"

    That's because it gives you much less, on the default install, that's all. :)

  3. @tinypliny:
    Alt-Tab is de-facto standard combination for switching windows. Having different combinations in different systems does not help usability, especially when you run several different systems in parallel on different or same computer. That's why all other system-specific combinations (Alt+~, Ctrl-Tab etc) are no-go for me.

  4. @Anonymous:
    Yes, you're right. And I have mentioned this in my review, just further down the text.
    Still, Fedora is better equipped than some distros which claim to be "light", but still just little bit smaller in size. I mean Bodhi.

  5. I'm sure F16 is good, but Ubuntu 11.10 with gnome shell runs perfectly for me, so there's probably no reason for me to switch to Fedora. The review? Meh.

  6. @johnstanton:
    I tried GNOME3 on Ubuntu. Somewhere it is better than Fedora's one. Sometimes other way round. Everybody chooses his own niche. If you're happy with G3 on Ubuntu, let it be. Someone else will go for G3 on F16. That's a Linux, that's all the choice!

  7. For some reason GNOME SHELL on Ubuntu 11.10 is not working on my IBM T30 Thinkpad. I am able to log in, for the most part all i get is a black screen with the panel on the top. When i click Activities i see the wall paper but i am unable to use any applications. Anyone had that experience

  8. FlashAid add-on in Firefox is excellent for smooth installs of Adobe Flashplayer on any Linux system ~ it removes any old versions, inserts the latest 'stable' or beta plugin, configures hardware acceleration if possible and notifies when updates become available.

    Highly recommended when trying out various distributives ";0))

  9. If you find the live cd slow, try using a live usb, it's much faster. Gnome 3 on ubuntu 11.10 runs great, the only thing is that online accounts is not integrated very well, something that is perfectly done in fedora.

  10. @Anonymous:
    >For some reason GNOME SHELL on Ubuntu 11.10 is not working on my IBM T30 Thinkpad
    Unfortunately, I don't have T30 to test...

  11. @UNF:
    Interesting "russian doll": plugin to install plugin. Hm...
    Thanks for advise though!

  12. @Anonymous:
    >If you find the live cd slow, try using a live usb
    Unfortunately, BIOS of my laptop does not support hybrid ISOs for Live USBs. I have tried it. See here.

  13. Ahem ... did I say Flash-Aid "works on any Linux system"? Strike that, have discovered in the meantime that it only works on Ubuntu-based systems at the moment.

    Slightly embarrassed v_v

  14. @UNF:
    It is useless then. Ubuntu-based distros can install Flash directly from web site without any other help.

  15. @DarkDuck Mac OS X also uses alt+' (which is correct shortcut) for switching between windows of the same application, and no ux-freak macuser has ever complained about it..

    (BTW, nice review.. but you should spend less time trying to describe minimal visual details and just annotate it on a screenshot, makes it easier for you and the reader)

  16. @Daniel:
    I only used MacOS for few minutes and can't say I am big fan of it. Rather other way round.

    Thanks for the advice. I try to keep balance between text and images, as some people complain they can't download page with too much graphics on it.