Updated: December 2, 2016
In French, Chapeau means chap. A good ole chap. Which is why it is based on Fedora, a distro so sharp you could cut yourself using it, hence the term bleeding edge. Now, now, relax. On a more serious note, Chapeau is an attempt to make the pure-free Fedora more accessible to masses (in Spanish, known as pura vida) by offering all sorts of common, everyday goodies out of the box. Remember Fuduntu? Remember, remember, the distro November. Or something. There.
Cancellara is based on Fedora 24, which I liked quite a bit. Recently, Gnome 3 has been behaving a little more sanely than in the past, even though it is still pretty heavily chromosomatically challenged. Nevertheless, Fedora gave me a good, pleasant experience, and Chapeau might, too. Let's see.
Living la vida divida
DVD, cause thumb drives are too mainstream. Much like Fedora, Chapeau refused to boot from a stick, so I had to use olden media to get into the live session and start testing. At a first glance, apart from the screensaver extension and some pretty icons, there's nothing special about it. Looks as Gnomey as it gets.
I wasn't all too impressed, I must say. I mean, it's okay, but if you are going for being a friendly and accessible superlative of Fedora, you need to nail it. Not being able to use Samba using WINS is a problem. Only IP addresses work. This is so mega. The printing piece worked just fine. Bluetooth is a test for after the install, as my USB ports are streaming juice into the noisy DVD tray. The Realtek driver was behaving well, and the network remained stable throughout the review session. This is something that we will be able to fully and finally (hopefully) put behind us with the new kernel 4.8.7 and beyond, but it wasn't something that was relevant when I wrote this review.
More on looks
So overall, Chapeau is a nice little beast. But Gnome 3 just isn't setup for normal use, even now many years since my early criticism, and the scent of touch is making it inferior to other distros out there. No permanently visible dock, panel or launch, no desktop shortcuts, the minimize and maximize buttons are disabled by default, and you cannot create text files using the right click option in the file manager, nor edit time & date stamps to use a different format.
I mean what's the point? Why not make these available, and let users change or disable them as they see fit. The current setup is just self-defeating and fairly moronic. And in this sense, Chapeau has no advantage over stock Fedora, as the same usability issues are there. All that said, we will have a guide on how to extra-tame Gnome 3, similar to what we did with Fedora in our ultra-sweet pimping guide. Stay tuned.
You get most of it right there. MP3, HD video for sure. Some formats are missing though, so you might as well as take a look at my pimping guide, linked above, and grab all of the codecs and plugins. But the basics work just fine. On a side note, Rhythmbox does not close to tray, it exits completely.
The procedure was painless. Well, the installer still has that non-linear functionality that makes me want to drill a hole in my own temple every time I use it, but it did its job relatively safely, given the plethoraful setup of many a distro and a lone Windows 10 co-existing on the 1TB hard disk of my somewhat problematic G50 test laptop.
But it was fine. Relatively slow and boring, no pretty pictures, but it did what it should, and the setup seemed to have completed successfully. Except ... the bootloader was all broken. Only Chapeau itself worked but none of the other linked distros. We will actually have two very lengthy tutorials on this piece, and how to fix borked EFI setups. This is not just recovery as we discussed in my GRUB2 & EFI guide, this is a partial implementation of the GRUB2 tools, which is a really amateurish move on behalf of the Chapeau team, and possibly even upstream. Hint: linux versus linuxefi. We will talk about this in more detail.
I spent a little while fixing the issue, and then I was able to resume testing, including being able to boot into the remaining 7-8 operating systems that pollute my hard disk. In general, this is a HUGE issue, and if you're into multi-booting, be careful. Not as bad as the problem affecting Solus, which I tested recently, and which completely corrupted the boot partition. Fixed in the latest release, I am told. But it is still in a fairly big omission, and I will not begrudge you if you stop reading now. The only reason I continued was because I wanted to show you the full picture, and create a handful of new recovery tutorials that should help you one day. With Solus, there will be a similar work forthcoming.
Oh, last but not the least, Chapeau does NOT see the BTRFS-formatted openSUSE install, which is actually the Geckolinux setup, based on openSUSE. There might be a tutorial there as well, on how to actually fix this.
Let's see what Chapeau 24 can do. It did pick up the Wireless configuration from the live session, check. It spent about two minutes downloading some 400 MB worth of data, but when I tried to update, every single provided package management tool spent time rebuilding metadata, cache, whatever and re-downloading the same stuff.
Chapeau 24 ships with the useless Gnome Software tool but also Yum Extender. The latter isn't the prettiest tool, but it works well for Red Hat based distros. The Software is a new and crippled replacement for the likes of whatever came before. At the very least, it did show Steam, but the application was already installed as part of the rich default set of this distribution.
The OOB selection is huge, but then, the distro weighs a whooping 2.9 GB, so it's not surprising it can offer more than others. A lot more. Most of it, good stuff. Some of it, useless and broken stuff. For example, I have no idea what Sound Juicer does or why the Hardware Helper Tool (hht) needed to crash and complain so much. There's a little bit of too much color. And then not enough at the same time.
You get the basics - Firefox, LibreOffice, VLC, Rhythmbox, Transmission, but then the list grows to include Steam but not Skype, Dropbox, Boxes, Cheese, and oddities like Clam anti-virus scanner and darktable. W00t. PlayonLinux and WINE are also included, but I'm not really sure why, given the quality and success levels of compatibility they offer Linux users. I guess someone chose whatever works best for them. Some of the choices could easily be stripped away.
What do I do here?
The default Gnome applications still remain controversial and all too simplistic. Documents is quite weird. And Music was pretty and almost functional, but the question is, do you really need it, if you already have proper media players, not one but two, installed in the system? The wallpapers tool also always switches back to the main screen, after choosing any one, which makes it tedious to go back if you change your mind. However, the default collection is very colorful, very pretty.
I am pleased that one of the provided utilities is a backup software. You do get a bunch of other tools, however among so much noise and color, a few of the options make good sense after all.
Weird. First, iPhone was detected and mounted, but I could not access the DCIM folder. PTP only, of course, because Linux loooves regressions. It also complained about the phone being locked, even though it was not. I had to unmount and remount to get it to work, and this is NOT something that affects Fedora 24. Silly. Pointless.
Ubuntu Phone - not bad, but then Rhythmbox crashes trying to play songs off the device, and it couldn't do this even when I double-clicked on a song through the file manager. All in all, not the best implementation in the world, I must say. Inferior to Fedora. If anything, spins and remasters must be superior, otherwise, what's the point?
Worked fairly well - no button or toggle in the system area menu, mind. Sending files to the Ubuntu Phone still does not work quite as it should, but this is not a fault with how Chapeau behaves.
Samba sharing is still no go unless you use IP addresses. Bloody hell. The Realtek card was behaving really well, and it only crashed after many hours of testing, when I finally installed Google Chrome and started downloading like mad. Till then, it was doing all right. Unlike Ubuntu, it recovers without a need to HUP the DNS service or the network manager utility.
The functionality is there - lots of options, but then it fails when you do actually try to use it. This is the kind of thing that separates amateur attempts from professional products. Unless you're dead certain it works, do not include it. Errors are a million times worse than missing components. Because people have expectations once they see shiny buttons, and if you let them down, they go mental.
Resource utilization & performance
Not the sharpest tool in the box. The baseline hunger runs at 1.4 GB memory and the CPU ticks at about 2-3 %, but the distro has a definite sluggishness to it, which is not as apparent in Fedora, for some odd reason. The swap isn't detected by default, and I find this to be quite silly. In fact, you cannot install Fedora and friends well if you do not manually mount /boot/efi, so I guess you also need to select the swap partition, too. How very 1999. Why not do this auto-magically? Why force users to do this pointless thing on their own?
Overall, ok, I guess. Well, Realtek and iPhone issues are a pain, but other than that, there wasn't much difference compared to Fedora. Suspend & resume worked fine. I am still angry at the GRUB2 fiasco, too.
50% screen brightness, lightweight usage and some good karma will grant you about three hours of juice. This is slightly better than some distros, better than most of our early 2016 achievements, not as good as Windows 10 or MX-15. Most Xfce distros also offer better results.
I spent a lot of time fiddling. Luckily, I was successful. Compared to Plasma, at the very least, Gnome actually lets you make changes. Plasma is readier for immediate use, but if you want to diverge from the template, you will be in trouble, as we have recently seen in the Kubuntu Yak review. And then, I have just recent shown you all the fine and elegant goodies you can achieve on CentOS 7 Xfce and MATE with Numix icons, but this also applies to Gnome, so I guess I will be doing some more mix 'n' tape here. Be ready.
Fedora plus Moka icons plus some extra software, mainly coming from proprietary sources. I guess that's the best way to describe Chapeau. But then, what separates one distro from another if not a collection of decorations, as software is essentially the same, apart from a very small number of standalone distributions trying to develop their own identity with their own desktop environments and app stack, re: elementary or Solus + Budgie? Except they struggle, too.
Chapeau 24 is a nice effort to make Fedora friendlier, but then it does not achieve the needed result without pain. The biggest issues included a botched smartphone support. Samba woes and the horrible bootloader bug. Other than that, it behaved more or less the same way as the parent distro. Then again, why bother if you can pimp up Fedora without any loss of functionality?
I do like Chapeau Cancellara, but I cannot ignore the fact Fedora does the same with fewer problems. All in all, it's a welcome effort, but it needs more polish. It does not quite capture the heart the way Fuduntu did. And with some issues looming high above the distro, the grade can only be about 6/10. Most importantly, the bootloader setup must be flawless, and there's not excuse for small app errors that we've seen. We know it can do more. Anyhow, if you're not keen on any self-service round Fedora, this could be a good test bed for your games. A moderately worthy if somewhat risky and flawed experience.