This time around I had no dilemma: Fedora 17 GNOME was still waiting for me.
The image size of Fedora 17 GNOME is about 645 Mb, and is available either from torrent or one of many mirrors. However, to look ahead slightly, I should tell you that the image size depends on where you’re looking at it.
I created a Live USB using the Unetbootin tool. So, the USB stick is in the port of my laptop Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505. Reboot. Choose to boot from Live USB. Let’s go!
Booting upBoot time of the Fedora 17 GNOME Live USB was average, maybe a little bit less than average. The first screen had exactly the same issue as I've seen in Fedora 17 KDE: Unetbootin listed both normal boot menu items and .iso files.
The splash screen of the GNOME version of Fedora 17 is the same as in KDE: the small Fedora logo in the centre of the screen. It soon changed to the desktop wallpaper.
At the end of the boot process, I saw a window very similar to the Ubuntu one: a choice between a Live run and installation. Even though I selected the Live run, Fedora 17 GNOME decided to remind me again that installation is possible from the relevant menu item. And then, Fedora left me by myself.
|Fedora 17 GNOME desktop|
uses about 250 Mb of memory when idle
Fedora 17 GNOME runs Linux kernel 3.3.4-5, and the GNOME version is 3.4.
Pure GNOME DesktopThe default screen in Fedora 17 GNOME has exactly the same wallpaper as the KDE version of this distribution: night sky in blue tones with fireworks in the top right corner. There is a choice of 20 alternative wallpapers in the distribution. However, you can't access desktop background configuration from the right-click menu on the desktop itself, simply because there is no right-click menu as such. Instead, there is a Background section in the System Settings.
The desktop itself is empty. There are no items on it.
There are 3 panels available in the Fedora 17 GNOME by default, as in any other distribution with vanilla GNOME 3. They are:
- quick access panel and dock at the left side,
- virtual desktop switch at the right side, and
- system panel at the top.
The left and right panels are not visible until you move the mouse cursor to the top left corner, press the Activities button or hit the Super (Windows) key on the keyboard. Moreover, the virtual desktop panel is half-hidden until you move the cursor over it.
Any of the three actions I named above have the same effect: existing windows become smaller to enable the switch between them, the system Activities menu is called up and both side panels are shown. From there, you can switch to the Applications section of the Activities menu, which will replace the preview images of active windows.
The left panel in Fedora 17 GNOME, by default, has some applications for quick access, like Rhythmbox music player, Nautilus file manager, Firefox browser, Evolution mail client, Shotwell photo manager and the Install Fedora icon. When you run another application, the dock also shows it.
The top panel has Activities button in the top left corner, clocks in the middle and the system status area at the right. The panel itself is black, which cannot be changed, to the best of my knowledge. Clocks showed me my local (London) time minus 4 hours, the same as Fedora 17 KDE. The notification area has a more or less standard set of items: volume control, network manager, power indicator and the button with current user name, which calls up a submenu for notifications, online accounts, shutdown and system settings. As in previous versions of Fedora, there is no Shutdown option in this menu. It appears only if you press the Alt key.
As you can see from here, the appearance of Fedora 17 GNOME gives you a vanilla GNOME 3 experience. Is it bad or good? It depends on whether you like GNOME 3 or not. For example, if you haven't seen the GNOME 3 Shell yet, you can run Fedora GNOME to get your own experience of it. If you don’t know how to create a Live CD with Fedora 17 Beefy Miracle, then you can probably order a Fedora CD using the BuyLinuxCDs.co.uk service.
The "Vanilla" GNOME 3 Shell, like the one in Fedora 17, is not the only incarnation of GNOME 3 functionality. Others are available in Zorin OS, where GNOME 3 is reworked to appear closer to the Windows interface, and the Mint team's Cinnamon, which aims to be closer to GNOME 2 style.
NetworkFedora 17 GNOME automatically recognised and configured my wireless network card, Intel 3945 ABG. My home network was available in the list when I clicked the Network Manager icon on the panel. It only took me a few seconds to type in the security key, and I was on-line very soon.
Keyboard LayoutWhen I searched for "keyboard" within the Activities menu in Fedora 17, GNOME Shell gave me several options. My first choice was for Keyboard. It is quite logical, isn't it? Especially if you’ve tried KDE before. But that's the wrong place to go, if you want to configure keyboard layouts. The correct place is Region and Languages.
The actual process of configuring layouts is not any different from the majority of GNOME or Unity based distributions. The default layout in the system is English US, and I easily replaced it with English UK + Russian, specifying Ctrl-Shift as a switch hotkey.
Fedora 17 GNOME automatically placed the language indicator in the top panel. However, you cannot choose the indicator style between text and flag, as you do in KDE. The only option is text, which is probably OK from the style point of view.
Fedora 17 GNOME automatically configured the touchpad of my laptop. It enabled edge scrolling. Unfortunately, taps were not enabled by default. I easily fixed this in the System Settings item called Mouse and Touchpad.
ApplicationsGNOME 3 Shell does not have a menu in a classical sense of this word, like we used to see it in other desktop environments: GNOME 2, KDE, XFCE, LXDE or Windows. Instead, there is a large list, which includes all available applications in one flat grid. Certainly, there are ways to navigate through the list.
First of all, there are sections, which remotely recall the menu sections. They are listed in the right part of the applications list.
Second, there is a search function. It allows you to search by typing in the keywords. But, as in Unity, the search is far from ideal. For example, a search for the word “internet” gives you zero result, even though there is a whole Internet group on the right. That's not convenient at all, from my point of view.
Another inconvenience is that the menu does not show the application name. For example, Nautilus is shown as Files. You can type Nautilus, and find it, but why not show Nautilus somewhere in the description of the menu item as well, like it is in KDE Kickoff menu? Even here, I found some inconsistency. For example, Brasero is listed under its own name, rather than Disk Burner.
Anyway, let’s leave my rants aside. Let’s check what is available in Fedora 17 GNOME out of the box.
Firefox 12.0 is the only available browser in Fedora 17 GNOME. Other than Firefox, there is Empathy instant messenger, Transmission torrent client, Remote Desktop Viewer and Desktop Sharing applications.
The Office part of the menu includes Dictionary, Document Viewer and Evolution mail. You may wonder about two things here. First of all, why Evolution is in the Office section, rather than in Internet. Unfortunately, I don't know the answer. Second, you may ask where are all the productivity applications like spreadsheet processor, document editor and so on. The answer is in Fedora’s policy or tradition: Fedora GNOME does not include any office suite at all. Of course, you can install your favourite packages from the repository, but they are not available out of the box.
The Graphics section of Fedora 17 GNOME includes Document Viewer, Image Viewer, Shotwell photo manager and Simple Scan. As you see, there is no graphics editor in the default distribution. Even the Screenshot utility is not listed in the this section.
There are a half dozen different simple games in Fedora 17 GNOME, like Sudoku, Miner or Solitaire.
Multimedia applications are represented by Rhythmbox player, Brasero disk burner, Sound Juicer CD extractor, Movie Player and Cheese webcam tool.
There is a usual set of applications in the Accessories section: Gedit, Files (Nautilus), Contacts, Calculator, Archive manager, Screenshot and so on. I was quite surprised to see a Disks item in the Accessories. I would rather see it in the System menu, because this is a very system-critical application. Anyhow, the disk-partitioning tool exists in Fedora.
I should come back to the fact I hinted at the very start of this article. While running Fedora 17 GNOME in the Live mode, I checked the size of the ISO image, which was stored on the hard drive of my laptop. Nautilus showed it as… 675 Mb instead of actual 645 Mb. The same with KDE version: Nautilus told me it is 728 Mb, whereas I was absolutely sure it was below 700 Mb. Is this right? Maybe Fedora / GNOME / Nautilus developers forgot about the fact that 1Kb is 1024 bytes, not 1000; and 1 Mb is 1048576 bytes, not 1000000?
|File size is shown wrongly in Fedora GNOME|
There is a separate section called Other, which includes tools like Firewall, Printing, User and Groups, Software Settings and so on.
In other words, system-critical tools are spread in three different menu areas of Fedora 17 GNOME: Accessories, System Tools and Other. That's a mess.
From my perspective, the organisation of the menu itself in GNOME 3 in general, and Fedora 17 Beefy Miracle in particular, is very confusing. This simple fact may stop me from using GNOME 3 in the foreseeable future.
Because Fedora 17 GNOME lacks some important things you might need in your everyday work, like an office suite or graphics editor, it is very likely that you will use the package manager from the very early stages of your life with Fedora, if you ever run it. The Add/Remove Software tool is the way to manage packages in this operating system. It comes in the distribution without a list of available packages. To make it usable, you need to update the repository. But then, the speed of its work is unacceptably slow. I am not sure whether this was due to the Live run of Fedora 17 GNOME or not, but for me it was still a very annoying "feature". It looked like the package manager queried a remote server for the word I typed in the search field, although I could not prove it.
What I managed to check in the default repository?
- Opera browser - no
- Chrome browser - no
- Chromium browser - no
- Pidgin - yes
- Qutim - yes
- LibreOffice - yes
- GNOME Office (AbiWord, Gnumeric) - yes
- OpenOffice - no
- CalligraSuite - yes
- Skype - no
- VLC - no
- Gigolo - yes
To test the package manager, I installed Gigolo from the Fedora repositories. The installation process went smoothly, and, at the end of it, I received an option to run the freshly installed package: a nice touch.
The Installer properly added the new package in the menu, and I was able to find it either by its name (gigolo) or in the System Tools section.
Network partitionThe Nautilus file manager in Fedora 17 GNOME includes an option to browse the network. Unfortunately, even this feature did not enable the option to see my home file server from Nautilus.
That was a time for Gigolo to come into play. It successfully managed to mount my external network partition as "Windows share". Although, at the same time I got an error message that process /usr/libexec/tracker-miner-fs was killed. Anyway, I have not noticed anything serious after that.
MultimediaEven though I was able to navigate to MP3 files stored on my network share, I was not able to play them in Fedora 17 GNOME out of the box. Neither Rhythmbox nor Movie Player was able to do so.
Movie Player threw me an error about the missing plugin. That was an expected behaviour: Fedora 17 GNOME, as any other version of Fedora, comes without multimedia codecs. You need to activate a separate RPMFusion repository to download and install them.
If Movie Player's behaviour was predictable, the Rhythmbox's one was absolutely ignorant. It did not recognize any files, did not put them into the playlist section on drag&drop, did not throw any error. It simply ignored me. Brrrr!
Of course, Flash player is not in Fedora 17 GNOME. Instead of Flash, I tried to install a free open source alternative (Gnash) from the default Fedora repository, together with Gnash-plugin for the Mozilla browser. The installer listed some dependencies and processed them without any error.
But unfortunately, this did not help to resolve the problem of video playback. Gnash tried to play YouTube videos, but failed. This is because Gnash does not include the necessary codecs, like h264 or audio-mpeg.
What's the way out? Probably the only option is to resort to the RPMfusion repository, which I linked above, and to install the codecs. I believe this operation is not the most difficult one, and I won't describe its result here.
ShutdownAs I have mentioned, the boot screen of Fedora 17 GNOME is very similar to the KDE version. What about shutdown? Unfortunately, it is very similar to the KDE example too. That's not good. If you remember, the only way for me to shutdown the computer running Fedora 17 KDE Live was to use the Power button. I had to use the same method in the GNOME spin too.
The Bitter TruthI spent several hours running Fedora 17 GNOME in Live mode. The truth is that it was quick as flash at the very beginning. But, as I went on, the system felt more and more sluggish. It could probably be the side effect of a Live run. But that's not something I've seen in some other Linux distributions.
Add here the usual Fedora difficulties, or annoyances, if you want, with getting multimedia literally singing and dancing.
Add here the menu structure, which I’ve never gotten to understand.
And, as a result, you probably come to the same conclusion as I do: Fedora 17 GNOME is not the distribution for newbies. It may be a distribution for people who prefer the vanilla GNOME Shell, or like the Fedora way of doing things. But none of those people are newbies. They have enough experience to customize Linux for their wishes. They don't need their operating system to be user-friendly. And Fedora 17 GNOME is not.