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7 Jul 2015

Fedora 22: not obvious excellence

I have recently interviewed a very interesting person: the community leadership manager from Red Hat, Ruth Suehle. Among other tasks, she deals with the Fedora community. DarkDuck had reviewed Fedora distributions before, but that was back in 2011 when Fedora 16 was the freshest release. You can still read those pieces about Fedora 16 KDE, GNOME 3, Xfce and LXDE, Fedora 17 KDE and GNOME 3. Ruth told me that Fedora 22, which was released in late May 2015, contained many interesting features. That's why I decided to give it a go.

Some time ago Fedora Linux's main web site was fedoraproject.net. Now this address redirects to a different domain - getfedora.org. Once you get to the site, you have 3 options for the download: Desktop, Server and Cloud. Obviously, Desktop is the option you choose for your home computer. So I did. And then you get a page with a single green button on it: Download Now. It means that you will get an ISO image of Fedora Desktop from your nearest mirror. It is the version with GNOME 3 desktop environment. If, however, you want to get the ISO with a different DE (called Fedora Spins) or via a different method like torrent, you need to jump through a number of hoops. To save you from that, here are the links: https://spins.fedoraproject.org/ and https://torrents.fedoraproject.org/.

So, I downloaded the ISO image of Fedora 22 GNOME 64-bit, which us 1.4 Gb in size. I "burnt" it onto a USB stick using the Ubuntu built-in image writer.

Memory stick is in the port of my Toshiba Satellite L500-19X. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!



Booting up

Just few seconds after boot starts, you get the first question from Fedora 22. There is a menu with 2 options: Start Live session or Troubleshooting. The latter actually hides several more options, like start Live session with text mode, check ISO image or boot from local harddrive.

I selected the Live session menu option, and the boot process continued. You don't get much interaction, apart from Fedora's logo in the centre of the screen that fills in with white colour.

Then, yet another question from Fedora appears. It now offers you a choice to start a Live session, or go straight into the installation. That is a very strange approach. Why would you make the same choice twice? Could the Installation option be in the first menu at the very start? That's a question to me. Anyway, if you select Live mode, Fedora 22 once again reminds you that installation option is just here on the panel, and leaves you alone with the default desktop.

First impression

Fedora 22's first desktop is in deep-blue colours, recognizable for this operating system.
Fedora 22 GNOME initial screen
Because this is a GNOME 3 edition, you have a panel at the top of it. Clocks and day of the week are shown at the centre of the panel. Although Fedora didn't ask me about the local time or timezone, and showed me my local time minus 5 hours, presumably time in Eastern USA.

On the right hand side of the top panel, there are just two indicators: battery and volume. There is also a drop-down triangle that shows you more options, for example Network connection and shutdown.

The top-left corner of the screen in GNOME 3 edition of Fedora 22 is called Activities. When you move your mouse cursor to that area, more options appear. These are a quick start panel at the left, application search field in the top-middle, previews of open application windows in the centre and virtual desktop switch on the right.

GNOME 3 windows only have one control element in the top-right corner. It allows you to close the window. However, a double-click on the window title usually allows you to maximize or restore the window size. Minimize option is only available through a right-click on the window title.

Fedora 22 comes with a choice of about 20 different images that can be used either for the desktop background or lock screen. You can get this configuration through the right-click on the empty desktop space.
The freshly booted Fedora 22 took about 615 Mb of memory, which is quite a lot!
Fedora 22 GNOME resource usage
Just to compare it with a mere 464 Mb used by Ubuntu 15.04 on the same computer. And even 464 Mb is actually a lot!

Network connection

As I mentioned above, the network connectivity option is not shown on the default panel of Fedora 22 GNOME. You need to click the little triangle button and then get to the Select Network option. You will need to make a number of clicks more before you get to the password entry window.

Apart from that, Fedora 22 had no issues to recognize and configure Wireless network card on my Toshiba laptop, which is Realtek 8191 SEvB.

Keyboard layout

Fedora 22 GNOME starts with English US keyboard layout by default. If you need to change that, the standard GNOME utility to configure keyboard layouts is for you. That is a two-step process in different parts of the system.

First, you need to define Input Sources in the Region and Language part of the configuration panel, and then configure the layout switch hotkey in the Keyboard - Shortcuts part of the configuration panel. Unfortunately, you can use a two-keys shortcuts only if one of these keys is the Super (Windows) key. Otherwise, you need to have a three-keys combination, for example Ctrl-Shift-Z. That is not what I like, unfortunately.

If you want to see a how-to video for that, please click here.

Multimedia

Fedora 22 GNOME comes with Rhytmbox multimedia player. Unfortunately, it is almost useless, because Fedora is very conservative on the multimedia codecs side. You don't get them in the Live session, although it is not very difficult to get all necessary codecs for the installed system.

Firefox browser, on the other hand, comes with necessary tools to play videos from YouTube, which is good news.
Fedora 22 Multimedia

Applications

Fedora 22 GNOME doesn't have many tools in the default distribution. You can get a full list if you click the down-most icon "Show applications" on the left-hand side panel. And "full list" means just one screen of applications, plus two more "subfolders".

Firefox 38.0.1 is the default and the only browser in Fedora 22 GNOME. Apart from it, you get Internet tools: Empathy instant messenger, Evolution mail client and Transmission torrent client.

LibreOffice Impress, Calc, Writer and Draw represent the productivity tools. You don’t get Math or Base parts of that suite by default with Fedora 22.

Shotwell photo manager and Cheese web booth represent the graphical tools. There's no image editing software in Fedora 22 GNOME, apart from LibreOffice Draw.

Of course, there are standard utilities like gedit, System Monitor, calculator, file manager or archive manager.

If you need more applications, then you go to the Software application, which is actually an application manager tool, similar to Ubuntu Software Centre.

Among other applications I'd like to specifically highlight two.

One of them is Maps. It is a free map utility based on MapQuest. One specific of this application is that it can only search for towns' and cities' names if you type them in full. For example, you cannot find London if you only type Lon, or Moscow if you only specify Mosc.
Fedora 22 with Maps

Another one is Weather. It is a free tool that takes weather forecasts provided by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. However, search tools here are even worse than the one for Maps. I could find London or Moscow. But my search for the significantly large English city of Portsmouth was not successful.

General impression

Fedora 22 GNOME felt very snappy for me. All windows opened and closed very quickly in the Live session. There were no bugs or crashes during my Live run. The system was stable.

However, I felt quite uncomfortable in the system itself. I think it is partially because I am not very familiar with GNOME 3, and its concept is not very close to my heart.

But I must admit that in many places Fedora 22 left the impression of something unfinished, still requiring polishing. I've never felt this in recent releases of Ubuntu or Linux Mint. Some applications like Weather or Map still lack features that we take for granted in similar web tools.

I wish the Fedora team success in improving their system in future releases, and see them soon!

Video used on the screenshot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rp4BAxY3C0

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