21 Feb 2017

Fedora 25 KDE: disappointing experience

Fedora is not a frequent guest on the review deck of Linux notes from DarkDuck blog. The most recent review was of Fedora 22 back in July 2015. That was a review of the GNOME version, the most native for Fedora.

You are probably aware of the tight link between the GNOME project and RedHat, the Fedora Project main sponsor.

Almost two years have passed, and I decided to check how the Fedora Project is going. Since I looked at quite a few KDE-based operating systems recently (GeckoLinux, OpenMandriva, Debian 8 KDE, Kubuntu 16.10, ROSA Desktop Fresh R8), the choice was for the KDE spin of Fedora 25. It was released in November 2016.

The ISO image of Fedora 25 Live KDE 64-bit is 1.3 GB, which is rather decent nowadays. You get it from the official web site of Fedora Project spins. Torrent links are also available, though they require a couple more clicks to get to.

I wrote the ISO image onto the USB stick using the dd command. This USB stick is in the port of my Toshiba Satellite L500-19X laptop.

Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!


Booting up

Once the Fedora 25 KDE boot process starts, you are presented with a choice of Live system boot, install image validation with a subsequent boot, and Troubleshooting, which hides some more options like boot in graphical mode, memory check and HDD boot. There are no more configuration options at this stage.

My choice was for the Live run.

Once selected, the screen became black and soon a wall of running text appeared. No more questions asked, and after a minute or so the system was ready to use.

First impressions

Fedora 25 Live KDE boots into a simple desktop with only one icon on it - Install to Hard Drive.
The default wallpaper is in light-blue tones. If you don't like it, you can change it to another one with multiple bright colours, which is available out of the box. For more wallpapers you will need to reach external resources.

A panel is at the bottom of the screen. On the left you only have a menu button with a Fedora logo on it. On the right of the panel you find a notification area. This area includes clocks (initially showing my normal time, but then automatically switching to 5 hours behind my actual time!), volume, network and USB indicator, Instant Messaging and Clipboard controls. A few more icons are hidden behind the drop-down menu like battery, notifications, printers and so on.

There are no quick shortcut buttons or virtual desktop switch on the default panel. If you want to create an application shortcut, you can right-click the button of the running application on the panel and select the menu item "Show a Launcher When Not Running". The virtual desktop switch is called "Pager" and available in Add Widgets menu of the panel or desktop.
Fedora 25 KDE welcome screen

Once booted, system took about 570 Mb of memory, which is quite a lot.
Fedora 25 KDE resource usage

If you like technical details, then Fedora 25 KDE uses the Linux kernel 4.8.6 and KDE Framework 5.27.0

Network

My Toshiba laptop has Realtek 8191 SEvB wireless network card. It is now a rare occasion when a driver for this card isn't available in the distribution immediately by default.

Fedora 25 KDE has this driver, and I was able to see my home network when I right-clicked the network button. Type in the password, and I was connected to the Internet.

Network drive

Dolphin is the default file manager in many KDE distributions, and Fedora is no exception here. This file manager has a section Network with some elements on it.

When I tried to click the Add Network Folder icon, the system asked me what I want to do - Open or Execute the file. The Open option opens the file for editing. I’m not sure if a non-developer user should have access to this feature at all. Of course, the Execute should be the only available operation when someone clicks the icon.

Another icon in the Network part of the Dolphin file manager in Fedora 25 KDE is called Samba shares. As long as my remote network drive is working as a Samba share, I clicked that button in a hope to navigate there, as I did in many other distributions. Unfortunately, Fedora 25 failed here.
Fedora 25 disk mounting error

Luckily, the Add Network Folder function was still in place, and I could connect to my network drive typing in the server address and the folder name.

Keyboard Layout

Fedora 25 KDE starts with English US layout by default. As I mentioned above, there are no options to change that before you boot.

If you need to configure another layout or multiple layouts, then my guide is for your service. It works perfectly for this distribution too.

Multimedia

Local MP3 files did not play in the Amarok player. The reason was unclear since Amarok did not complain about anything. And that was even more strange since even Debian includes necessary codecs for MP3 files now.

Some local video files played in Dragon Player, while some others did not. Again, no hint on the reason.

YouTube videos played well in Fedora 25 KDE right out of the box. When I tried to make a screenshot of this, the screenshot utility simply misbehaved. It showed me the previous screenshots, but not what I wanted to actually capture.

Unfortunately videos did not play in Vimeo, 1tv.ru or CNN.
Fedora 25 multimedia failure

The most likely reason for that is the absence of Adobe Flash plugin. I used this guide to install the Flash plugin. Unfortunately, it did not work either, with a long error log that can be summarized in one simple phrase:
Message: "[Errno 30] Read-only file system
Worse, after that installation attempt, all applications started to complain about non-writable configuration files of their own! That drew the system to the strange state to say the least.

Applications

Fedora 25 KDE comes with a decent set of applications available right out of the box. They are both KDE-specific and generic.

Firefox 49 is the default browser. QupZilla and Konqueror are also available. There are KTorrent, KNetAttach, KMail, KRDC and many other KDE applications in the Network part of the menu.

Office applications are represented by Calligra office suite: Calligra Sheets, Calligra Stage and Calligra Docs. I am not sure whether that was due to the issue with read-only filesystem or something else, but the Sheets application could not properly make any calculations for me. The list of available functions was simply empty. In addition to Calligra suite, the office section includes some more KDE tools: KMail, KTnef document viewer, KOrganizer and so on.

The Graphics section of the menu includes Gwenview image editor, Kruler, Kolour Paint, Okular viewer and KColourChooser.

Amarok and Dragon Player are in the Multimedia section along with K3B disk burning utility, AMZ Downloader and Kamoso web camera tool.

There are 3 simple games included right out of the box: KMiner, KMahjongg and KPatience.
A plethora of small but useful utilities is scattered across Utilities and System sections. They include KWrite editor, Krusader file manager, KDE Partition Manager, Discover Software Centre, KCalc.

The Administration section includes Firewall manager, Apper software manager and language selection utility.

There is also a developer tool QDBusViewer in the special menu section of Fedora 25 KDE.

As you have probably noticed, there are 2 application management utilities in the menu: Discover and Apper. When I tried to use both of them, they threw a lot of errors to me, and none of the applications could be found, menu sections navigated or anything installed. That was probably a consequence of the issue with read-only filesystem.

In an attempt to rectify that, I restarted the system. However, it did not help Apper. It still gave me an error, although different this time.
Fedora 25 KDE Apper error

Discover did not give me any error. But the way it was set up was very strange. For example, the only available listed LibreOffice component was Base, and the Chromium browser was not available at all.

General impressions

Fedora 25 KDE Live was disappointing. I mentioned the issues I had in the course of the review, let me now summarize that:

  • Clocks switching to some strange timezone without me asking that
  • MP3 files did not play, as well as some video files.
  • Issues with Flash plugin per se
  • Issues with application installation, for example flash plugin
  • Screenshot utility misbehaviour
  • Strange or non-working behaviour of shortcuts in the Network session
  • Performance issues at certain points.
  • Bugs in software management applications.

It is not how a top-flight distribution should work. If the distribution is in top-20 of the Distrowatch list, and Fedora is #7 now, it should be polished and shiny. But what I saw was shitty. Sorry for my language.

However, if you want to buy a disk with Fedora and try yourself, you can always use the service from the BuyLinuxCDs.co.uk site.

25 comments:

  1. Fedora can't include media codecs for legal reasons.You have to install fusion nonfree repo to get them.

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    Replies
    1. Debian has different legal reasons, doesn't it?

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    2. Well, yes. The goal of the Fedora Project is to create a complete, general purpose operating system **exclusively from Free and Open Source software**.
      Ubuntu, as an example, is absolutely fine with bundling software that's proprietary (like Flash owned by Adobe) or that has licensing and usage restricted by software patents (eg. MP3 codec). But that's a legal and licensing decision.
      While it's totally fine not to like the idea, calling it "shitty" makes as much sense as calling Linux the same because it doesn't include something you're used to having on Windows right after install (eg. Minesweeper).

      Delete
    3. First, MP3 file format is almost completely licence-free since 2012. Even FSF-endorsed gNewSense includes MP3 codecs.
      Second, this isn't the only issue I saw in Fedora 25. It is way too raw.

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    4. Well, MP3 is coming (decoding not encoding, since that's still a legal issue) in the next Fedora release, because things changed. It's not about being "almost" legal (eg. the patent for mp3 expired in the EU in 2012, as you can see under your link, but it was still valid in US, which is the whole point).

      As I said, I'm not going to defend Fedora experience, especially a KDE side-version I never used or intend to. And I totally support people picking whatever they want (I pick i3 windows manager over gnome or KDE any day). It just seems unproductive and misleading to pick a distro with a different software set and approach to licensing and call it shit because you can't use (out of the box) proprietary software you use Debian or Windows. It's very in line with people calling Linux "shit" because their games don't work, and they do on Windows.

      If anyone came down to here and wonders how to install 3rd party software, there's https://folkswithhats.org/.

      Delete
  2. Hmmm, not sure we are comparing apples with apples here. One can hardly fault a distro for not shipping codecs. I mean try install codecs on opensuse as a newbie like me and you quickly end up pulling your hair out. I feel you should at least have followed one of the standard guides to get Fedora ready for work and fun (see Dedoimedo's blog) - and most of all you should have actually installed it not judged it by a live run.

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    Replies
    1. Simon, I'm afraid codecs is not the only issue I saw. All-in-all, Fedora is far from ideal. You can call it bleeding edge, I call it raw and unstable.
      I'm not going to argue about live vs install review, as this topic is closed for me.

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  3. Sorry didn't know you had made a post about your approach to reviews. I use Fedora Gnome and I am happy with it BUT as of recent I have really been wanting to use KDE. Unfortunately, the KDE version doesn't work well on my current generation Thinkpad. So in a way I am not surprised that you didn't have much luck with the KDE spin.

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  4. I'm using mate version. not ideal but after some tunings work well. it's my first try after few years break - I was using fuduntu and fedora 17 (?).
    flash should be installed manually (download flash_player_npapi_linux.x86_64.tar.gz and put libflashplayer.so to $HOME/.mozilla/plugins/ directory).
    codecs. in some distros codecs are not present but there is script to install them almost painlessly.
    comparing to Point Linux fedora needs more memory and starts very slowly. compiz doesn't work for my graphic cards.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your input, Maro!

      Delete
    2. There's also https://folkswithhats.org/ which helps with the installation of all the non-free software you might need from a nice UI.

      Delete
  5. It's a little hard to fully appreciate things if you're only running a Live version. That having been said, I decided to skip over F25, since only recently have things stabilized with my install of F24 some months ago. I use KDE since I've never liked Gnome very much, and I get the impression that there are a lot of things unfinished with KDE when Fedora first upgrades.

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    Replies
    1. I see your position, Greg, thanks!

      Delete
  6. KDE as a whole is a bit buggy, more so than Gnome, Cinnamon or MATE. I dunno what it is about that desktop environment, but almost every time I've tried to run it? Something crashes, hangs, freezes, or just doesn't open or respond at all. Not going to bash it, but its just not for me. I guess call me simple, but MATE, Cinnamon and Gnome are my top picks for a desktop environment. Anything else is either too tricked out and uber-customized to the point of being impossible to use, or else it's so stripped down to the bare-bones essentials that I can't find / do what I need done. Sometimes that KISS principle?...actually WORKS!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, it is a bit unfair to judge KDE going by Fedora or whatever Red Hat's release implementation. RH is a GNOME shop through and through and does little if anything to properly package KDE in its repositories.

      Please note that I'm not puling that outta my behind: I am an active user of RHEL on my company-provided Thinkpad on a daily basis who chose to bypass that stupid Gnome Shell in favor of a slightly outdated and buggy KDE 4 desktop.

      In RHEL, GNOME is fully up to date, slick and fully integrated with the software stack underneath it. For example, the GNOME printing tool will go as far as creating a firewall rule specifically to allow the usage of a network printer while KDE's silently fail to find the same network printer. Making changes to the keyboard layout only stick if you do it from the GNOME front-ends. I could go on and on but the bottom line is that people looking for a superb KDE experience should definitely look elsewhere.

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    2. KDE does tend to redo everything a bit too often. KDE 4 had gotten really good, slick, fast and stable for me on Mint 17.3. I recently upgraded to Mint 18.1, which has KDE5. It's pretty nice too, but not as smooth or stable as KDE 4 was in the prior version. For some reason, the KDE folks don't like to leave well enough alone. They're based on the QT toolkit, and every time there's a major version upgrade to that, there's a corresponding major version upgrade to KDE, which invariably requires a lot of rewriting and takes a long time to stabilize. I guess that's their right, but it results in a '2 steps forward, one step back' experience.

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    3. I specifically mentioned RHEL+GNOME relationships at the very start of this article. But if they release KDE version, should it be half-done? Either polished or not released, my take.

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  7. DarkDuck,

    Here is explanation why KDE Support in Fedora, so dissapointing

    https://lists.fedoraproject.org/pipermail/kde/2015-October/016315.html

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Very useful reading. The most important phrase for me was "the way the Fedora Project has been treating KDE since Fedora 21 makes me feel like a second-class citizen in the Fedora community."

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    2. You might find this interesting for review. Kevin Kofler did not give up.

      https://kevinkofler.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/kannolo-a-pure-kde-fedora-remix/

      P.S Currently I personally stick to Debian Stretch as most DE Independent and KDE friendly distro.

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  8. Debian Stretch did not managed to include 5.8.4 and 4.10 Kernel before freeze, Kubuntu with 5.9 and 4.10 out of the box along with ported some latest KDE Applications looks very nice choose

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  9. Please look at Kubuntu 17.04. I found it very tasty. Your opinion?

    ReplyDelete