25 May 2011

Fedora 15 with GNOME 3: better than Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity, but...

I have already written that there were 2 major events in Linux world this year, from my perspective. Second of them was release of Ubuntu 11.04 with controversial Unity desktop. What was first one? You're right: release of GNOME 3 desktop environment.
There are a lot of information about GNOME 3 working on different systems. But the 24th of May 2011 was an important day for Linux community. This was a day of first ever official release of Linux distributive featuring GNOME 3 as default. This distribution is Fedora 15.
Of course, Fedora has lots of "spins" which include other desktop environments, but who can lose an opportunity to play with new toy? Not me, for sure.
Surprisingly, Fedora 15 with GNOME 3 is pretty light in disk image size, even less than 600 Mb. Fedora also features LiveUSB Creator tool. Unfortunately, it did not work for me. I could only see black screen with blinking cursor in the top left corner after its work. Of course, dd command is also supported by Fedora images, and this time round I found myself in the Fedora boot screen.

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Fedora 15 does not ask you any questions, apart from boot method. Boot time itself is quite quick, as you can expect from USB drive.
Finally, I am in GNOME 3 default desktop.
Canonical's (Ubuntu's) Unity and GNOME 3 are based on similar principles. They both aim to provide as much screen real estate to user as possible. That' s why they both have narrow taskbar at the top plus dock on the left. GNOME 3 also has right panel to switch between available desktops.
First impression is the most important one, you know.  From my perspective, GNOME 3 looks more intuitive than Unity.
Number of desktops in GNOME 3 (at least in Fedora 15 realisation) is dynamical. Panel on the right shows currently used desktops plus always one more. The process of switching between desktops is not very convenient from my perspective. If you want to switch desktop, you need to move cursor to the left to "Activities" first, and then across the screen to the right panel with desktops. Quite long way for the little mouse.
GNOME 3 does not have buttons for window maximize or minimize, only to close. Right click on window title can help with this. Double-click also works. Window borders are very narrow, and this makes quite difficult to pick the point where you can resize the window.
Enough about GNOME 3. Let's return to Fedora 15 system. As in previous versions, my WiFi card Broadcom 4311 was found and activated automatically. I only had to chose network and enter security code.
Language indicator and additional layouts are easy to set up. This configuration can be found in "Region and Language" section of Systems settings. I spent not more than a minute to replace default English (US) layout with combination of English (UK) and Russian.
Image by Johnny Ashburn
And again no office tool included out of the box in Fedora 15. I complain about this every time I look at Fedora distributive. The only office application available in Fedora 15 is Document Viewer. Of course, Gedit is also here. If you need office tools like document editor or spreadsheet processor, you have to download and install them separately (that's why Fedora 15 weights less than for example Ubuntu). Libre Office is included into repository. It is easy to pick components you need, but there is no single item to install whole lot. From one side this is good, but from another it can be difficult for beginners to select all the components in correct combination. As another option, GNOME Office is also there - pick and install. If you want to have Open Office, then unfortunately you're not very lucky. OO.org is not available in repository.
This is good time now to have a look at software installation options in Fedora 15. Of course, old friend CLI gives us yum command, which works fine. Fedora 15 with GNOME 3 features Package Manager as graphical tool. From my point of view, this tool is less convenient than Ubuntu Software Centre. But still it is more intuitive than all-mighty yum.
As long as office tools are not included into Fedora 15, let's see what is included.
Firefox 4 is default and the only browser. It works fine. Quite fast and stable. Neither Chrome nor Chromium are included into Package Manager. If Chrome can be easily downloaded from Google's page, then Chromium installation is not an easy task, as per this post. I have not checked any of them in Live version.
Adobe Flash is not included in Fedora 15 out of the box. It means in particular that Youtube videos does not play. You have to install it separately.
Several games come with this distributive.
Graphical tools are represented by few task-oriented programs like Image Viewer, Document Viewer, Shotwell and Simple Scan. No editor included in CD version of Fedora 15.
Movie Player and Rythmbox represent media players. There is also CD extractor.
I would say that Fedora 15 brings bare minimum of software which I would consider useful for average user. It would be nice to include some other tools like GIMP or Libre Office as default. But I think CD restrictions are very tight. These packages most likely can be found in DVD version of Fedora 15, which I have not checked.
My usual task in each system I try is to connect my external network drive to laptop. Nautilis file manager has network browsing option, but it failed to find any other devices in the home network at all. I had to revert to command line interface in this instance.
Fedora 15 boots Live session with user liveuser. This user is not in sudoers file which makes command sudo unavailable. But su command is still there, of course.
Mounting with usual mount command worked fine. It means that Samba is included in default Fedora 15 distribution. Russian characters were also OK in both Terminal and Nautilus even without my usual iocharset=utf8 option. Little bit later Nautilus crashed during browsing of network folder with big list of folders and files in it. Fedora 15 suggested I should send an error report to developers. Why not? I helped Fedora team even in Live mode. Hope, my help was required.
Folder is mounted. Let's try to use files from remote drive. Usual check is with MP3 files. Unfortunately, MP3 playback is not possible in Fedora 15 out of the box, because necessary decoder is not included. Movie player is default application for MP3 files and it suggests to search for MP3 plugin. Of course I want to search. And search is... unsuccessful. Manual search in Package Manager is also unsuccessful. You probably know that MP3 support in Fedora is famous topic. There is FAQ about this. Ditto.
Fedora 15
Another solution for MP3 support could be instalation of VLC player which is my favourite anyway. But there is no VLC in Package Manager.
Instead, VLC installation instructions for Fedora can be found on official site. But these recommendations do not work.
GPG key retrieval failed: [Errno 14] Could not open/read file:///etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-rpmfusion-free-fedora-15-i386
Is it an issue of Live version? Or VLC in general? I cannot tell myself.
Finally, little trick which is not obvious. There is no Shutdown option in the Fedora 15. In order to shutdown the PC, you need to click your username in the top right corner and press Alt button on keyboard. This will change "Suspend" option to "Power Off". This advice is taken from here.

What are my thoughts about Fedora 15? This is another step forward for this operating system. Sure, debates between GNOME 3 fans and haters will inevitably heat up the atmosphere. But from my perspective GNOME 3 is decent software which deserves its future. I think if Unity was as well designed and developed as GNOME 3, it could gain more supporters in Ubuntu camp.
As for Fedora 15 as operating system, I still like it, as I always did. And it is still in the list of possible options for replacement of my any other system on my quadro-boot laptop. When will it happen and if this is Fedora to replace my current systems - only time can show.
Little clue: I have a wish to replace my *buntus with something new since power-off issue in both systems and desktop effects issue in Kubuntu cannot be resolved by myself yet. Honestly, I waited for Fedora 15 release as for one of possible candidates for swap. But today's experience cooled off my desire a little.
And you can stay tuned to read my blog for further updates.

Update 09 November 2011: review of Fedora 16 GNOME3 is available.


  1. I prefer Unity myself as it still has more configurable options and I can still use compiz and gtk themes etc. To me gnome 3 shell is just so dumbed down, which is fine for computer novices and newbies but it's just too hard to personalize it the way I am used to. Maybe in the future it will be but now, not so much.

  2. GNOME 3 has a bit of things that would be nice to be improved on, like having the virtual desktop enable also horizontal spaces and not just vertical. Also keyboard shortcuts are a thing that you just have to get used to using to make faster use of the desktop. A real timesaver already is the notorious Windows key. :)

    My personal feeling is that I prefer GNOME 3 to Unity but neither are as nice on a desktop system with multiple monitors as GNOME 2 or the other choices that are available.

    I think Fedora 15 installs LibreOffice in the default installation.

    Regarding Flash, Adobe has their own yum repository which I personally find preferable to use rather than demand one Flash to be included to Fedora. Of course one could argue that why isn't it enabled by default in 32-bit installations. :)

    For 64-bit Flash, I use:

    Regarding MP3:
    "Fedora is unable to include encoding and decoding support for the MP3 format because it requires patented technologies and the patent holder has not provided licenses that are compatible with Fedora's requirements."
    Legal stuff sucks when it impairs enduser ease but what can you do with these things without having someone to pay the licensing fees. :)

  3. I've had it with both Unity and GNOME 3, those two desktops are just broken beyond repair. Luckily we have plenty of choice in the Linux world and I have completely switched all my computers to Fedora KE spin. I must admit that current KDE 4.6 is even better than the good old GNOME 2.

  4. @bjb1959:
    You are right. Only time is proper judge.
    Some time ago Windows 95 interface with single Start button and Task bar was something unacceptably uncomfortable.

  5. jpalko:
    Of course there is always area for improvement. But from my perspective Unity is less prepared for end-user than GNOME 3.
    Thanks for the links to Fedora resources. I think Libre Office maybe installed by default in DVD version while I used CD.
    Thanks for the set of useful links!

  6. @Slobodan:
    You anticipate my intentions. I plan to review Fedora 15 with KDE in nearest future to see how it compares.
    Stay tuned!

  7. DarkDuck:
    I forgot completely that I did my f15 installs via the DVD images. :)

    I somehow dislike the Live CD installation method in about all distros as they tend to lack some option in installation that other versions have.

    My absolute favourite install method is using a netboot image and choosing then what I really need but sometimes it's just a bit easier to have more directly available.

  8. @jpalko:
    That's OK.
    Netboot is fine if you know your hardware is supported, which is not always true for my WiFi card (Broadcom 4311). To Fedora's honour, all the versions I have tried (since 13) support 4311 OOTB.

  9. Yeah the DVD install is better in some ways, being able to choose software and desktop environment at install, especially for those who don't have decent internet access

  10. @Carl D:
    Those who does not have decent Internet access can have problems even with CD version. In this case, this page can help! ;)

  11. That's not what i meant, i meant if you have the DVD it means that the installer does not have to download so much off the net

  12. there is a way to install the office suite altogether:

    yum groupinstall "Office/Productivity"

  13. @Carl D:
    Sure, DVD installer has much less to download from Internet. But you still need to download DVD itself.

  14. @Anonymous:
    Oh, sorry. I really forgot this feature!

  15. That's "distribution"!

    (not "distributive" -- surely this has been mentioned before?)

  16. @Bernie:
    Thanks for noticing typo. Fixed.

  17. Hello,

    Most of your complaints about Gnome 3 can be fixed by installing some packages such as gnome-tweak-tool.

    With Gnome Tweak tool, you can configure a lot of otherwise hidden options.

    As for switching workspaces, use Ctrl+Shift+Up/Down.

  18. @venemo:
    Thanks for sharing the tweak tool. IMHO, this or similar tool should be part of GNOME 3 package. I don't like to use 3rd party solutions for such an important part of system.
    Same relates to Unity. There are at least half a dozen of different teak tools now.
    Fortunately, that's not Fedora issue. That is rather GNOME 3 / Unity issue.

  19. Gnome and Unity are two display managers, what matters most is the strategy of Fedora and Ubuntu. Both are playing their role in the Linux cosystem.
    Fedora front runner in experimenting new technologies and Ubuntu focussed on stability and user friendliness. GNU Linux needs both.

  20. @shastry:
    I never told "Unity must die". ;) Of course, they both deserve some future.
    But as it stands now, GNOME 3 is better developed IMHO than Unity.

    I kind of disagree re stability in Fedora vs Ubuntu. Yes, Fedora itself is sandpit for Red Hat's technologies. But Ubuntu is based on unstable Debian branch. Not sure which of those is more "evil".

  21. You can add hotkeys to switch between desktops (and move windows between them). I use ALT+1,2,3,4... and CTRL+ALT+1,2,3,4...

  22. @nico:
    thanks for sharing the tip!

  23. I prefer unity because with compiz it is faster on my high end nvidia card then mutter, gnome shell has no easy way to switch between windows without going to a seperate overlay and I prefer to use my mouse. Gnome 3 is dumbing things down I should not need a tweak tool to enable core functionality such as a minimize button. I shouldn't be forced to use different workspaces to minimize clutter. I also like my indicator applets on the unity panel displaying things like weather and other useful things. Certain things are still better on shell and unity feels broken and inconsistent at times.

  24. @Anonymous:
    Everyone has his own preferences... If you prefer Unity, just use it. If not, you have ocean of options, from GNOME 3 to KDE 3 and Enlightenment.
    That's Linux.

  25. Nice review
    there's a guy names "dangermouse" that releases a post install script called "fedoraplus" which provides a GUI to resolved just about everything you got tripped up on.


  26. @Anonymous:
    Thanks for compliments!
    Is it this page you're talking about?

  27. Thanks for the interesting review. I agree with your conclusions about Gnome 3.

    In the dialogue box that informs of the unsuccessful search for an MP3 plugin, there's a "More information" button that will open Firefox at a page giving an explanation and a route to installing the necessary plugin. I did a quick walk-though with screen shots here:


  28. @FreewheelinFrank: thanks for the link to your useful article! I'm sure you help lots of people with this info.
    And special thanks for linking back to my blog. :-)

  29. For Fedora distributive's very usefull to add RPM Fusion repo (http://rpmfusion.org/), it's grant a whole bunch of newly programs including a non-free, and at this point you have access to similar to Ubuntu repos. I also recommend YumEx as graphical suit for yum, very versatile, can use yum-plugins.

  30. @Angmar26:
    Thanks for sharing!
    RPMfusion is one of the famous unofficial repositories for Fedora. you're right. You can get tons from there.

  31. I use to use Fedora, and when I used it, it worked well, however it failed to upgrade smoothly and I had a damaged system that had a non working X. This was about the time that Ubuntu started to gain ground. I dont like unity, but there is no way that I am going back to Fedora. It simply does not have enough momentum behind it; its an old style distro that is very large. In order to get Ubuntu users back, if they even want them, they are going to have to offer something really compelling. Of course, they might not want Ubuntu users back, and if they do not, then this is a perfect example of why I cant consider spending time trying to run a Fedora system. All my stuff works now, updates are smooth, and there is no advantage in running Fedora. Gnome 3 looks like Unitiy; a bad idea, so there is no reason for me to jump ship in terms of the UI. If gnome had not gone this ill considered route, Fedora would have a compelling reason to switch back, but now, there is just no point, no gain and alot of hassle for nothing.

  32. @Anonymous:
    Unfortunately, not all the Ubuntu updates are smooth. I had to do some tweaks after updates when I was using Ubuntu.
    I left it for other distributions and there is no intention to return back.
    Basically, Unity is not my cup of cha, that's why my current installation has systems with GNOME (Debian), KDE (Mageia) and XFCE (Mint).

  33. This look like I fix for the MP3 Thing, havn't tried it as yet though:

  34. @Anonymous:
    Thanks for another solution.
    Have you tried previous one?

  35. Hi DarkDuck!

    I ditched Ubuntu also for Fedora and have been quite happy. Ubuntu made me lazy as a Linux user and when issues would crop up, I didn't know what to do but hit the forums.

    Fedora is complete, but allows you to add what you want and the users are generally a little more technical on the forums when you need help.

    I had a big issue with Ubuntu and Gnome 3 (Will not try Unity EVER :-D) and the guys on the Ubuntu forums basically said that my issue was actually a feature... This turned me off totally.

    Anyway, good review and, BTW, start a forum :-D.


  36. @Anonymous:
    I ditched Ubuntu, but not for Fedora. Fedora 15 has same issues with mounting of network drives as Ubuntu. That's unacceptable for me. See the post.
    My current configuration is Mageia + Debian + Salix.

  37. Ahh, yes, I see that now...

    To fix network issue (Had to do this last night) install samba-client. This will give you smbclient and also integration with Gnome.

    Don't forget to change your /etc/samba/smb.conf to point to your network (Wins services, domain/workgroup, etc.)

    Like I mentioned, Fedora is complete - to a point, and allows you to customize as you wish. Allot more complete than Arch, though :-D.

    Also, you might try adding the rpmfusion repo so you get the latest firefox and other software. I'm on 6.0.2 atm - also, thunderbird 6.

    Hope this helps.


  38. Oh, BTW, if you want auto network discovery, like for HP Printers, other network resources, install avahi.

    Great tool and makes network discovery brainless :)


  39. @Anonymous:
    Samba is already included into Fedora. Actually I meant another issue which I found while looking at Fedora KDE:
    It is linked to shutdown of system with wireless connection to network and mounted network drive. Look at the very end of that article.

  40. One thing you cannot do without: A Taskbar
    Install and run: "gnome-panel --replace".
    This will give you a top and a bottom panel; the top one covered over by the default panel.
    Install and run: "dconf-editor"
    Edit: org -> gnome -> gnome-panel -> layout -> toplevels -> top-panel
    Set option to auto-hide the top panel, and that gets it out of the way at the top.
    Alt/right-click on the bottom panel and choose the Options;
    set Background to "Solid Color"; choose black (rgb:000); set Style to 60% transparant.
    Alt/right-click and choose 'Add to panel'; search for 'Main Menu' and 'Add';
    Alt/right-clock on the new 'Main Menu' icon, and select 'Move', than drag the icon to the leftmost corner on the taskbar.
    Add other items as needed.
    To startup the newly configured taskbar upon login:
    run 'gnome-session-properties' and Add 'gnome-panel --replace'

  41. I use Compiz as a standalone Window Manager on my Fedora 15.
    I installed with the LXDE spin though so that I could fall back on Openbox in case compiz crashes. I only ever use CD's for installation.

  42. Ubuntu 11.1 sucks because of this unity thing and there is no option for using "classic desktop". I tried to install gnome-shell in vain. it gives me error:

    "There seems to be a programming error in aptdaemon, the software that allows you to install/remove software and to perform other package management related tasks."

  43. @Anonymous:
    Maybe the issue is not in OS, but rather in your hardware and yourself? I installed GNOME3 on Ubuntu 11.10 and it worked for me for few days while I was writing this.

  44. As a matter of personal preference I like to have Ubuntu under the hood. I am familiar with Ubuntu and as an advanced desktop user, I can find my way around it. I have no idea how to deal with yum and some other aspects of Linux flavours that I'm not used to. #2 community support on Ubuntu is A.M.A.Z.ING....no two ways about that.

    I really hate the Unity interface, it keeps crashing and it is slow. But I've already installed Gnome-3 shell on Ubuntu 11.10. I have a niggle in the back of my mind that this is not a clean install of the OS, and there is still pieces of code that are there and useless!

    1. Try this link. It is ubuntu gnome shell without unity.


  45. @Parshuram:
    You are right. G3 is like step-son in Ubuntu...

  46. The gnome-tweak-tool is kind of unstable right now. Some combinations of options crash it real bad.
    It will most likely be part of gnome3 by default when they work around some of its issues.
    I have just switched from Ubuntu to Fedora 16 and I am not completely happy with either:

    -Gnome3 feels incomplete, IMHO it wasn't ready to be released, but Unity's release and inclusion in Ubuntu has forced them to release it as it is.
    Still, it is responsive and intuitive. I hope the developement speeds up a bit and it's true potential is brought out.

    -Unity IMHO is just bad design. Unconsistent, ugly and slow. The only design concern seems to be backward compiz compatibility.
    furthermore I loathe those I-product square icons so much I HAD to switch to something else.

    Now, once I overcome the different package names between rpm and deb, I will be happy to stay with Fedora

  47. @Anonymous:
    I think both Fedora and Ubuntu deserve their piece of the pie. Just a different systems, both wih pros and contras.
    For me, neither is good to permanently switch to, and I stay with Mageia.
    Thanks for commenting!