First Impressions of Fedora Core 6

FC6 is here, at last, and we’ve been busy putting it through its paces to let you see what’s new. There’s lots of information below, along with some freshly taken screenshottery, but you’re probably most interested in the following questions:

  • Is Yum still slow? (Yes)
  • How good is AIGLX? (Excellent)
  • Does it still lack many configuration tools (Yes)

With that out of the way, let’s get stuck in with some real detail (click the images below to full-size them)…


The new FC6 wallpapers have proven widely popular.

Package tweaks

Yum is still to APT what Windows Live Search is to Google: it tries to cover the same ground, but does so rather inadequately and leaves you wondering why it bothers at all. Pirut – the primary package manager for Fedora – has improved a little, though: its GUI has been brought slightly closer to the Gnome HIG standards we’re all used to, and it does seem to cache its package information when you change from the Browse to the List view. Hardly a major innovation, but the lack of this simple feature in FC5 made you want to tear your eyes out with sticky tape.


Pirut is better than it was in FC5, but that’s not saying much.


The new Package Updater has been stripped of its personality, which is obviously more important than adding features.

PUP, the Package Updater, has now been stripped of what meagre identity it had, and is now simple “Package Updater”. The yellow dog – one of the last reminders that Red Hat filched Yum from somewhere else – has been put to sleep, with a generic box picture taking its place.

With a 3.3GB DVD, it seems clear that the Fedora team still hasn’t quite gotten around to slimming down their Core package selection. If you have a fast connection this won’t be a problem; if not, hold up for Linux Format issue 88, as we’re featuring a double-sided DVD with Fedora Core 6 and Ubuntu 6.10.


Fedora stands largely idle, but System Monitor shows that something (probably makewhatis) is chewing up 100% of one CPU core.

Look and feel

A new distro release inevitably means a tweaked look and feel, and FC6 doesn’t let us down: the “bubbles/infinity” look and feel from FC5 has morphed into a DNA string effect that looks much brighter than FC5 ever did. The icons, however, remain as lacklustre as ever – someone at Fedora needs to take a good look at the excellent work the Tango folks are doing.


The GDM login screen is brighter than FC5’s, but keeps its serious tone.


The Firefox home page is smart and refined.

AIGLX is here in all its 3D glory, but not installed by default. That said, adding the “compiz” package automatically added a shortcut to the Gnome System menu to let you enable the visual effects. The Desktop Effects configuration tool contains just three widgets: a button marked “Enable Desktop Effects”, and two checkboxes for “Windows wobble when moved” and “Workspaces on a cube” – easily the two most obvious Compiz effects. Click the button and – without your screen going black or otherwise haywire – Compiz springs to life, replete with transparency and the usual slew of visual effects that we’re all now used to.


Click that one button and Compiz springs to life.

I’m not going to bore you with dull shots of the Compiz cube – you’ve all seen it before, and doubtless the novelty wore off some time ago. Oh, go on then, but just the one…


Your desktop. On a cube. As a side note, if you haven’t tried Beryl (the Compiz fork yet), we highly recommend it.

One drawback to Compiz on FC6 is that Fedora didn’t install Gconf-editor by default, so there’s no way to have a play with some of Compiz’s (many) options without installing it yourself. We’re secretly hoping that Fedora (and other distros) will switch to Ubuntu soon enough.

Gnome 2.16 is Gnome 2.16: a slightly shiner file dialog, better power support, some new widgets, a Mono dependency and a Cairo upgrade. Not much new to see here…


“du” is dead: long live Baobab!


Power management is flawless on my Dell laptop – even suspend and hibernate work without any hassle.


Everyone loves Tomboy, even us. As more apps use Mono, the resource usage of all the extra libraries should become unnoticeable.

Virtualisation

A few months ago, Red Hat blasted Novell over its early use of Xen, and at the time I thought Red Hat was quite wrong – I had been using Xen just fine for almost a year, and it seemed to work fine for me. Now I see exactly where Red Hat was coming from, because FC6 takes a massive step forward for virtualisation that – at last – promises to make Xen as easy to use as VMware Workstation.

Yes, I know SUSE 10.1 had a GUI for working with Xen, but it worked so rarely that it was pointless to rely on it. What’s more, the new Virtual Manager system that ships with FC6 does far more than the SUSE 10.1 GUI ever did. The default view shows you all the virtual machines that are running, along with their current CPU and memory usage, and a brief resource usage graph for the last few minutes. Nice, yes, but only the tip of the iceberg.


The virtual machine’s new clothes: Xen in FC6 is the best we’ve seen it so far.

Along the bottom of the screen there you can see the “New” button, which walks you through creating a new virtual machine. As in the SUSE YaST Xen tool you can can choose between paravirtualised or fully virtualised (ie making use of Intel VT/AMD Secure VMs), specify how much RAM and disk space you want to allocate, then it just goes ahead and creates the VM for you. If you have the hardware (Intel Core/Core 2/Xeon 5100+/some Pentium 4s and older Xeons; very new AMD chips) you can use the full virtualisation mode and run Windows XP on top of FC6 just fine. When you create the virtual machine, Fedora just opens it up in a window so you can watch it boot and start interacting with it, which is ideal.

However, Virtual Machine Manager isn’t flawless. If you get a string of errors along the lines of virDomainCreateLinux() failed, what it actually means is probably “you have SELinux installed, and it still doesn’t seem to play nicely with Fedora despite being enabled by default.” Also, paravirtualised guests still need to have their packages downloaded from the web or an NFS server, which is rather frustrating when you’re holding the FC6 DVD in your hand.

One interesting tool to watch for the future is virsh, which is designed to be a virtualisation abstraction layer that can communicate with VMware, Xen and other tools through a standard command-line system. A nice idea, and one we’ll be watching closely.

Versus Ubuntu

Ubuntu 6.10 is due out in a week or two, and, like FC6, is hardly a revolutionary release. Ubuntu’s install process is undoubtedly better (we still had to fight with FC6 to get it to use 1440×900 on our Intel laptop), and it certainly boots a lot faster thanks to its init replacement, Upstart. But Fedora is much closer to a power user’s desktop: they’ve got AIGLX nicely honed, the virtualisation system blows the competition out of the water, and there is – ahem – little chance of you seeing undressed people in one of the wallpaper packages.

 — Paul Hudson

For a complete run-down on the new Fedora release, get a copy of Linux Format 87 (on UK newsstands 16th November) and check out our six-page feature.

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